CLEVELAND -- Carlos Santana did not know when he grabbed a bat last September in the home clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park that one of his last swings with the Phillies would be one to smash a TV.
Last season was difficult, Santana said. The frustrations of a late-season collapse had boiled over. He told ESPN this spring that his teammates were leaving the clubhouse during games to play video games. So Santana took out their TV set.
Nine months later, he’s a first-time All Star at 33, in his home ballpark. Maybe it was the TV.
“It’s something that happened,” said Santana, who will start Tuesday as the designated hitter for the American League. “We were fighting with Atlanta and we had lost eight straight games and I was a little frustrated with that. Everyone knows that that’s not my personality.”
Santana said he never smashed a TV before that final weekend of the season. The Phillies traded him to Seattle three months later in the Jean Segura deal. Ten days later, he was dealt to Cleveland, where he still owned a home despite leaving after eight seasons to sign with the Phillies. Besides a cracked TV, Santana’s one season with the Phillies was rather nondescript. He batted .229 with a .766 OPS. A return to Cleveland seemed to revive his career. Santana is batting .297 with a .958 OPS and 19 homers.
“I don’t have any problems with any coach or the manager,” Santana said of the Phillies. “It was a little hard for me because I played in Cleveland for so long. Everything was new for me. New team, new league, new staff, new players. It was a little bit to figure out and I was affected.”
Santana said he was lured last season by the short right-field fence at Citizens Bank Park and tried to hit everything to right. His home runs, batting average, slugging percentage, and on-base percentage were all below his career averages.
Santana still registered a high walk rate, but he did not produce the power the Phillies needed from the cleanup spot. The Phillies gave him a three-year, $60 million contract, but his heart was in Cleveland. Santana said he missed everything about the city he left behind. And now, one smashed TV later, he’s happy to be home.
“You guys know how I feel about Carlos Santana. You know that I really like the player,” Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said last month when asked why Santana is playing so much better once he left Philly. “Carlos Santana’s career has been characterized by high walk rates, more walks than strikeouts, and power, and a pretty good defender at first base.
"That’s exactly what he is this year. His walk rate is about the same as it was last year. His strikeouts are actually up a little bit. And he’s running a [batting average on balls in play] that’s about 75 points higher. What comes with that is additional batting-average points and additional slugging-percentage points. He’s the same guy.”