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Sunday, 16 April 2017

Carlos Santana and the new leadoff prototype at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario

There’s Carlos Santana frustration brewing at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario, and it’s really starting to get old. This isn’t anything new, as Santana has been the most misunderstood baseball player on the North Coast since the day he was called up to Progressive Field in 2010. This goes far beyond the fact that he’s always the second “Carlos Santana” that shows up on any internet search. Santana isn’t your traditional “power hitter,” as many labeled him immediately after the 2008 trade that brought him to Cleveland. He isn’t your traditional .300 hitter, even though the minor league version of Santana hit .290. It just goes to show you that perception is often the rule, even if it isn’t true.
Instead, Santana has masked his offensive brilliance in a package that makes him hard to define past this: he’s one of the Top 30 hitters in all of baseball. Even Indians’ manager Terry Francona has sometimes struggled with finding a place in the line-up for Carlos. Consider this: while his predominant spot in the line-up has been as the clean-up hitter, he only had 38 PAs there since the start of 2016. Overall, since Francona joined the club as manager prior to the 2013 season, Santana has, dependent on year, spent the majority of time hitting fourth and fifth, with a dalliance at the six-spot… until last year. That’s when Francona, almost begrudgingly, allowed Santana to hit first, but only against righties.
Santana responded with an elite 17% walk rate, a .385 OBP, a .381 wOBA and a 140 wRC+. While some may think this overvalues the walk, remember, the No. 1 priority for the leadoff hitter is to get on base and score runs. Santana scored 57 runs batting first in only 86 games. So check and check.
While Santana split time with Rajai Davis as the lead-off hitter in 2016, many in statistical circles were wondering why Santana didn’t get full-time at bats there. Davis, he of World Series home run heroics, wasn’t a great lead-off hitter, minus his plus speed. While Santana’s power dips from the right side of the plate, he’s still elite in every other category that’s important to a leadoff hitter. His career walk rate is slightly worse as a right-handed hitter (14.6% L versus 15.9% R), but almost all the other important intangibles as a lead-off hitter improve. His career OBP as a right-handed hitter is .383, versus .356 as a lefty. His slugging is nearly identical (.441 as a righty, versus .446 as a lefty). His career wOBA is (.361 as a righty, versus .350 as a lefty), and his career wRC+ is (130 as a righty, versus 122 as a lefty). Minus the home run power, Santana’s numbers as a right-handed hitter better suit leading off.
What’s most impressive about Santana is how he altered his approach hitting from the left side to better suit leading off. All of his numbers improved in the important lead-off categories, as opposed to his career numbers. And to the traditionalists out there, Santana belted 34 total homers, satisfying that mystical shelf that so many “old-school statisticians” have been craving. While Santana’s overall walk rate dropped to a career low of 14.4% (still pretty damn good), his strikeout rate also dropped to a career low 14.4%. Like many Indians in the line-up, his offensive IQ is outstanding. Santana finds a way to mold into every opportunity placed in front of him, regardless of comfort level.
But even with the loss of Rajai Davis, and with the wildly successful 2016 for Santana as the unconventional lead-off hitter, that national media has taken an interesting approach to the 2017 versions of the unconventional lead-off hitters.
Big surprise, right?
I suppose we have to take a look at the conventional lead-off hitter, before we get to Carlos Santana in 2017. In Cleveland, the prototypical lead-off hitter roamed centerfield for the Indians throughout much of the 1990’s with the speed and grace of a player that was built to be there. Kenny Lofton was exactly what the doctor prescribed, and what every baseball bible predicated.
Lofton was fast, and in the era prior to, well, today, that’s really all you needed. Hell, that’s why Rajai Davis was leading off so much in 2016. But Lofton was more than fast. His career OBP was .372, and in his prime with the Indians, he had three seasons in which it was over .400.1 He hit for average2, and scored a ton of runs. The fact that he played center and was fantastic defensively only helped finish off the stereotypical picture.
Lofton was the dream, and while the Hall of Fame-voting-idiots bounced him out of the voting after one year, you could legitimately make a case that Lofton was a Top 5 lead-off hitter of all time.
But players like Lofton are unicorns. Too often, while speed is enticing, it doesn’t often get to first base to allow it to be effective. When you combine that with metrics, there are other, interesting avenues to consider when pondering hitting first.
You also have to understand that hitting leadoff isn’t always about hitting leadoff. Percentages increase throughout a season regarding how many times in an inning that you hit first. Consider this: of Santana’s 688 plate appearances in 2017, only 228 led off an inning, and 85 of those were the first inning. Francisco Lindor had 106 leadoff innings, Jason Kipnis had 118, and Jose Ramirez had 143. Sure, Santana was afforded more opportunity, but there are other things to consider.
Santana would get more first inning opportunities with the full-time leadoff gig, but what’s especially interesting is how often he’ll actually be able to drive runners in from the bottom of the order. With one of the deepest lineups in baseball, Santana reverts back to his “clean-up” self after that first at-bat.
You see, it’s that out of the box thinking that can alter the Indians’ 2017 fortunes, but could even change the landscape of baseball. So, Santana provided this shift in thinking, right?
In case you haven’t heard, Kyle Schwarber is Major League Baseball’s new prototype for a leadoff hitter. The World Series media darling, and Joe Buck’s man-crush, has gotten the nod in Chicago at the top of the order. Since then, every quirky outlet, from Ringer, to ESPN, to CBS Sports have jumped on the “Joe Maddon-is-brilliant” bandwagon, for thinking so outside the box.3
This experiment has been tried a variety of times over the years, but Maddon is given credit for creating the 2017 leadoff model.
Except he didn’t create it. He watched it.
Santana wasn’t a major factor as a lead-off hitter in the World Series, but his overall .380 OBP, and Maddon’s Santana fascination likely was a motivator for the Schwarber move this year. The Cubs roster is loaded, and while a guy like Ben Zobrist might be a good fit there (Maddon has used him in the lead-off role in previous seasons with the Rays, and the Cubs) as well, Schwarber does get on base a lot.
But he’s no Santana.
Santana’s walk rate has historically been 15% or better, and while he does strike out, it’s not at Schwarber’s near 30% in his rookie season.4 Sure, Schwarber possesses perhaps more home run power, but Santana is just a smarter hitter. As I mentioned already, his offensive IQ is substantial, and his extra base power is unquestioned. When you combine it with a career .365 OBP, you have something pretty special.
In Cleveland, Terry Francona was ahead of the curve, whether he wanted to be or not.
Carlos Santana can’t buy a break. In Cleveland, he’s been somewhat of a media-pariah throughout the duration of his career. The Indians stole him in a trade for Casey Blake in 2009, which was a heralded move at the time, but since then, he’s had to overcome some odd stereotypes at every step of the way.
  1. He wasn’t Victor Martinez behind the plate, even though his offensive numbers were every bit as good.
  2. Yan Gomes supplanted him at catcher, so Santana volunteered to try playing third base, because he wanted to play in the field badly. Instead of being heralded as a team player, he was criticized for “having to play at a primary position.”
  3. He’s played hurt, because he figured playing was more beneficial to the team, rather than sitting. He was then somewhat chastised by manager Terry Francona, who said, “I don’t quite know how to respond to that (Santana playing hurt). I think he’s had some back tightness for sure. He just didn’t want me to tell anybody. I guess he took care of that.”
  4. There have been rumblings that Santana doesn’t want to DH, that he’d rather play in the field. This stems a bit from his run at third base, but also coexists with his desire to play first base. While other players are heralded as gamers, it’s been insinuated by various sources that he can be a malcontent. This has also tied together with his leading off. While some comments have come from Santana about “having to learn how to hit first,” much of it is simply an ‘I’ll do whatever it takes’ mentality.
But enter Santana in 2017. Joining the Indians’ line-up is good friend Edwin Encarnacion, who will lock up the clean-up spot for the duration of the year. Re-joining the line-up is arguably the Indians best overall hitter in Michael Brantley, who missed the entire 2016 season.
With Rajai Davis gone, the line-up depth locked Santana in as the full-time, 2017 leadoff hitter. Santana currently leads the league with three doubles, and also has a home run. He’s scored five runs in six games, and hasn’t yet kicked into full gear regarding walks (super-small sample size alert… 10.3% BB rate). But still, Santana feels like a game-changer at the position, even if the rest of the mainstream media is focusing on the darling Chicago Cubs, and Kyle Schwarber.
How many games will the Indians start off with the lead, if Santana hits 30-plus homers?5 How many games will a runner start off in scoring position, without Santana having to steal a base?6 And what if he does pick up his stolen base game?7
With Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Michael Brantley, Edwin Encarnacion and Jason Kipnis having chances to drive him home, it could revolutionize the game. Yet hitters like Santana are every bit as unicorn as the Kenny Loftons of this world, so perhaps Santana is less a prototype, and more a singular force of nature. And with Jason Kipnis returning soon from rehab, and with Austin Jackson playing solid early on, Francona could begin to get itchy to go traditional again.
Kipnis has hit lead-off before, and so has Brantley. JRam’s OBP was up as well, and Lindor may be the future lead-off hitter, since he has more of those “traditional” skills that people love so much.
But Santana’s career has been a study in perseverance, and breaking traditional stereotypes is something that he’s become accustomed to, even if Kyle Schwarber gets all the credit.
  1. Four times, if you include his lost season with the Atlanta Braves [↩]
  2. over .300 during five of his Indians’ seasons, and .300 for his career with the Indians [↩]
  3. Joe Maddon is brilliant in many ways, and he did try John Jaso there a few years back, followed by Matt Joyce. But in the end, he continued to utilize speed guys, such as Demond Jennings and B.J. Upton. [↩]
  4. It’s 40% this year, in a super small sample size [↩]
  5. Well, somewhere in the realm of 30, duh [↩]
  6. Santana had 68 extra base hits, for what it’s worth [↩]
  7. While not speedy, Santana is one of the smartest baserunners in the game. [↩]

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Carlos Santana; All Around The Diamond

It is no secret the Cleveland Indians’ manager Terry Francona loves versatility on his team. Tito prefers players like Mike Aviles and Jose Ramirez that can play multiple positions without skipping a beat. Over the past three seasons this has been tried with Tribe first baseman Carlos Santana.
Although Santana has seemed to have found a home at first base, this year marked the third different opening day position in the past three seasons for the Tribe clean-up hitter. His time spent at each position has brought varied levels of success, not only defensively, but offensively as well.

Behind The Dish

Santana spent his first three seasons in an Indians uniform as the primary catcher. While Santana was never the best catcher on the defensive end, he was a very good hitting catcher. In his four seasons spending time behind the plate Santana caught 325 games and stepped to the plate a total of 1,341 times. Santana has kept an average of .241 with 43 home runs and 156 runs batted in. The other number worth noting for him would be his on-base percentage of .364. No matter where he has played, Santana has always done a great job taking pitches. While his offensive numbers are good for a catcher, it seems as if his catching days are over, at least unless there is an emergency.

The Hot Corner

The emergence of Yan Gomes forced Carlos Santana out of the primary catching role in the Spring of 2013. Inconsistent play at third base led to a transition to the hot corner for the former back stop. Santana beat out Lonnie Chisenhall for the Opening Day start at third base. Looking back on the start of the 2014 season, it is safe to say that the Carlos Santana experiment at the hot corner was a failure. Not only was the defense played by Santana atrocious, but his hitting was less than stellar as well. The experiment lasted a total of 113 plate appearances. Even though the sample size was small, the numbers that Santana posted were some of the worst of his career. Santana hit an abysmal .129 with only two home runs and seven runs batted in. The lone bright spot of Santana’s time while playing third base was that his on-base percentage still was near the .300 mark, so even with the terrible batting average, he still found a way to get on base and see pitches.

Santana’s On First

Carlos has always spent sometime at first base, but it wasn’t until the second half of the 2014 season where he was anointed as the team’s full-time first baseman. The move was made partly because Santana had become a better defensive player at the position than Nick Swisher, although Swisher’s injured knees needing surgery also helped make Santana the everyday starter. Of the positions played, Santana has posted his best offensive numbers while playing first base. In Santana’s 961 plate appearances, he has hit .267 with 42 home runs and 133 runs batted in. His power numbers are very similar to his numbers while catching, however he has played almost 100 less games at first base than he has caught. The one trend that has kept no matter where he has played is his OBP. First base is no different to this trend as Santana has an on-base percentage of .389

There may be a number of different reasons that can attribute to the differences in how well Santana has hit in his different positions. My opinion is that the less thinking he has to do in the field, the better he hits at the plate. People tend to underestimate the mental ability that it takes for a catcher to handle a pitching staff, as well as be successful as a hitter. The move to third base forced Santana to focus on his defensive abilities on a daily basis, which definitely took a toll on his hitting ability as well. First base is by far the easiest position of the three mentally, and that has shown in his numbers. The best case scenario for the team, and Santana, would be to keep him posted at first base.

On the Indians, Tito values versatility. While Carlos Santana has shown the willingness to be versatile, it is in the best interest of the team, and the player, to keep him as the everyday first baseman.

Carlos Santana, Pitbull in pro-immigrant song

Pitbull (L) and Carlos Santana, pictured performing on November 20, 2014, launched a music video in celebration of immigrants (AFP Photo/Mark Ralston)

Miami (AFP) - Latin music stars including Carlos Santana and Pitbull on Monday launched a music video in celebration of immigrants, voicing alarm at the harsh turn of US political discourse.

"We're All Mexican," in English and Spanish with a Latin beat and mariachi brass, features images of famous Mexicans such as painter Frida Kahlo as stars say the song's title.

With US and Mexican flags waving, the video also shows images of immigrants' contributions to US society ranging from farm labor to Mexican cuisine.

Cuban-American producer Emilio Estefan led the initiative given the popularity in the Republican presidential nomination contest of tycoon Donald Trump, who denounced undocumented Mexicans as rapists and drug dealers.

"'We're all Mexican' is a metaphor symbolizing that we can all become the victims of racism and bigotry at any moment," said a statement accompanying the video.

Without referring directly to Trump, the statement denounced the vilification of Mexicans but said their situation was not unique.

"Around the world, different immigrant groups are harassed and made to be scapegoats for the ills of their respective countries of residence," it said.

"The song celebrates the positive contributions of immigrants in the United States as a balance to the negativity being expressed publicly," it said.

Stars involved in the song include the Cuban-American rapper Pitbull, Chicano rock legend Carlos Santana and Mexican American actress Eva Longoria.

Other stars in the project include Haitian-born rapper Wyclef Jean of Fugees fame and Oscar-winning actress Whoopi Goldberg.

Trump, the property mogul and television star who has defied all political odds to lead the Republican race ahead of the November 2016 election, stunned many across the United States when he described Mexican immigrants as rapists.

Hispanic-Americans are the largest and fastest growing US minority; most Latinos are of Mexican descent or origin.

And Republicans need to court Hispanics' votes to win the White House.

Trump, 69, also wants to build a wall along the US-Mexican border.

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Why Carlos Santana Shouldn’t Hit Leadoff

Indians Manager Terry Francona made some waves recently when he suggested he was considering the possibility of using Carlos Santana to bat lead-off in the team’s lineup. Admittedly, Francona knows a lot more about baseball than I do and probably has what he feels are good reasons for such a consideration, however, I think this is a bad idea.
Santana spent most of the 2015 season as the cleanup hitter mostly by default because there weren’t any other candidates who could have done better. With that said, I thought he would have been served better elsewhere in the lineup. Ideally, I think he’s a better fit in the fifth or sixth spot in the lineup or perhaps even as low as seventh.
Yes, Santana does get on base and had 113 walks to lead the league in 2014 and had 108 walks in 2015 with a .357 OBP in 666 plate appearances in 154 games last year. Those certainly look like good numbers.
Keep in mind, as a former catcher Santana isn’t a fast runner, perhaps considered to be pretty slow when compared to the average player. He did have 11 steals in 2015, but to me that’s really an inconsequential statistic because it’s not a really true measure of his speed. Would anyone really want Santana to try to steal a base when the game is on the line? Maybe if you have a two or three run lead in the fourth inning, but in a critical situation, he’s staying put. That’s why his steal total is inconsequential.
Santana scored 72 runs in 2015 and 68 in 2014. In 2015, he had 19 home runs and in 2014 he had 27 home runs. That means Santana scored just 53 times when he didn’t hit a home run in 2015 and only 41 times in 2014 when he didn’t hit a home run. He also hit 29 doubles in 2015 and 25 doubles in 2014, yet he’s not crossing the plate very often and that’s not to be overlooked when someone walks more than 100 times per year.
He ranked fifth in MLB in 2015 in walks trailing only Joey Votto (143), Bryce Harper (124), Paul Goldschmidt (118) and Jose Bautista (110). When comparing the top 25 hitters in walks, Santana ranks 22nd out of these top 25 in walks with 72 runs scored ahead of only Joc Pederson who 7th in walks drawing 92 walks and scoring 67 runs, Miguel Cabrera who was tied for 15th in walks drawing 77 and scoring 64 runs, and Joe Mauer who was 25th in walks drawing 67 walks and scoring 69 runs.
A statistic called Runs Better Than Average measures the number of runs a player is better than a league average player. Santana was a -12 in Runs Better Than Average in 2015, and in 2014, he was a +4 in this category and in 2013, Santana was +16. Not a good trend.
Santana isn’t especially great at scoring from second base when a batter hits a single. For his career, Santana has scored 52 times out of 98 times or 53 percent of the times when he was on second base and the hitter got a single. To compare, Jason Kipnis scored 70 percent of the times when he was on second base and the batter hit a single in 2015. This is important because Kipnis hit 43 doubles in 2015, whereas Santana hit 29 doubles and the odds of Kipnis getting one hit from double and then scoring on a single are much greater than Santana.
What I’m trying to point out is Kipnis has a much greater ability to use his speed and power to score a run without the benefit of two hits or a sacrifice bunt or a “productive out” via a ground ball or deep fly ball.
It’s possible that Santana, and all the glory of his walks, might need a combined two or even three hits/walks from his teammates to come around to score when he gets a base on balls.
Picture a scenario where Santana gets a lead-off walk while facing the Tigers in Detroit. Francisco Lindor gets a single and runners are on first and second as Santana fails to get to third. Kipnis batting third gets a single and Santana fails to score from second and Lindor is prevented from using his speed to go from first to third and instead remains on second base. Bases are loaded with no outs. Cleanup hitter Mike Napoli hits a medium fly ball to left field. Santana can’t score on a sacrifice fly opportunity and no runners advance with one out. The number five hitter comes up and hits into a double play and no runs have scored and the inning is over.
Let’s try this with Kipnis as the lead-off batter. He gets a walk and then Lindor gets a single and Kipnis moves to third. The number three hitter (whoever that might be with Michael Brantley out) gets a single and Kipnis scores and Lindor also moves over to third. Napoli hits a medium fly ball to left field and Lindor scores on the sacrifice fly. Score is 2-0. The number five batter (perhaps Santana) comes to bat and with no one on base so there is no double play in order and just one out. The starting pitcher has to work harder that inning and is behind in the game and the potential remains for more runs. Even if the next two hitters go down in order, the score is still Indians 2-0.
I understand this scenario isn’t necessarily going to happen and certainly could turn out differently. There are parts individually that could occur more often such as failing to score on a sacrifice fly or going first to third etc, but the idea here is to illustrate that the speed of Kipnis and Lindor could be impaired with a guy like Santana clogging up the bases in front of them. It also means the potential to scratch out runs at the beginning of the game drops a bit. When a team that has a lot of offensive shortcomings doesn’t use some of the assets it has such as the speed at the top of the order with Kipnis, Lindor and eventually Brantley, then it makes it that much harder to score.
It’s important to note that Kipnis played well as the team’s lead-off hitter in 2015. He led off the game 121 times and hit .302/.331/.526 and came around to score 35 times in the first inning or just under 30 percent of the time (28.9 percent) for each plate appearance. When he was the lead-off hitter, Kipnis hit .311/.385/.476 for the season in 562 plate appearances. When he batted elsewhere in the lineup, Kipnis hit just 18-for-73 (.247) in 79 plate appearances.
Kipnis seemed to flourish in his role as the team’s leadoff hitter, plus quite simply, he has a higher on-base percentage overall than Santana (.372 to .357). Why mess with that success?
An argument can be made that maybe the Indians can just use Santana at lead-off while Brantley is out and slide Kipnis down to the number three slot in the lineup. I’d rather see someone like Lindor or even Rajai Davis or perhaps Jose Ramirez bat lead-off before Santana if you want to move Kipnis down to the third spot while Brantley is out, even though I’d rather he stay put in the lead-off position. That, however, is an argument for another time.
Simply put, there’s a reason that speedier guys like Kipnis have traditionally led off baseball games and that’s because it is easier to get them across the plate.

Carlos Santana and Sri Chinmoy

"This shit is not for me--I don't care how enlightening it is."

Renowned musician and multi-Grammy winner Carlos Santana was a follower of Guru Sri Chinmoy for nine years (1972-1981). In a recent interview (Rolling Stone March 16, 2000) he discussed his time as a devotee within the group. His name while a member was "Devadip" ("the eye, the light of the lamp of God"). That name, given to him by Chinmoy--is inscribed on a guitar strap he still keeps at his home displayed as an apparent memento.

His wife of many years Deborah also joined the group and was then named "Urmila."

Carlos Santana was first introduced to Sri Chinmoy by guitarist John McLaughlin, but soon his experience in the group became a regimented "West Point approach to spirituality." That regimen included daily meditation at 5:00 AM (Chinmoy's followers meditate on his picture). Because Chinmoy liked running Deborah Santana ran marathons. Though she once ran a "devotional vegetarian restaurant" for the group in San Francisco Deborah says now they did "ridiculous things" to "prove [their] devotion" (e.g. "who could sleep the least and still function"). She adds, "I once ran a forty-seven-mile race. It wasn't enough just to run a marathon."

Carlos Santana didn't run claiming, "This shit is not for me--I don't care how enlightening it is." He offered his help through music--often playing Chinmoy's songs at meditation. But he was somewhat annoyed by group announcements that these were "Santana performances."

Santana used to describe his guru as a graduate of "many Harvards of consciousness" who sat "at the seat of God." He once said, "I'm still in [spiritual] kindergarten [and] without a guru I serve only my own vanity…I am the strings, but [Chinmoy] is the musician." However, now the accomplished musician explains "everything about [Chinmoy] turned to vinegar."

The guru apparently once preached sternly against champion tennis player Billie Jean King's homosexuality and Santana didn't like it. Something seemed to snap and he thought, "What the fuck is all this--this guy's supposed to be spiritual…mind your own spiritual business and leave her alone," he remembers thinking.

After leaving the group it seems Sri Chinmoy "was pretty vindictive," recalls Santana. "He told all my friends not to call me ever again, because I was to drown in the dark sea of ignorance for leaving him." Despite all this Santana still claims, "It was a good learning experience."

Note: Originally published in the March 16, 2000 issue of Rolling Stone Magazine, "The Epic Life of Carlos Santana,&quot By Chris Heath

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Carlos Santana American musician

Carlos Santana,  (born July 20, 1947, Autlán de Navarro, Mexico), Mexican-born American musician whose popular music combined rock, jazz, blues, and Afro-Cuban rhythms with a Latin sound.

Santana, Carlos: Santana and Brown performing at Woodstock, Aug. 16, 1969 [Credit: Tucker Ransom—Hulton Archive/Getty Images] 
Santana began playing the violin at age five; by age eight, however, he had switched to the guitar. As a teenager, he played in bands in Tijuana, Mexico, where he was exposed not only to the local Norteño music but to blues, especially to guitarists T-Bone Walker and B.B. King. Although his family moved to San Francisco in the 1960s, Santana returned frequently to Tijuana. Influenced by the San Francisco Bay Area’s burgeoning rock scene, in 1966 he formed the Santana Blues Band, which came to the attention of rock music impresario Bill Graham. The band began performing at the legendary club Fillmore West, and, though largely unknown, it triumphed at the Woodstock festival in 1969.

Signed to Columbia, Santana’s band—by then known as Santana, “Blues Band” having been dropped from the name—released a series of hit albums that infused rock with a Latin feel rooted in Afro-Cuban rhythms and that centred on Carlos’s extraordinary lead guitar playing, characterized by the distinctive sustaining of individual notes that became his trademark. Santana, featuring the Top Ten hit “Evil Ways,” peaked at number four on the album charts in 1969. Abraxas, with the hits “Black Magic Woman” and “Oye Como Va,” reached number one the next year. Santana III (1971) and Caravanserai (1972) followed.

Santana, Carlos [Credit: Reuters NewMedia Inc./Corbis]
Over the next two decades, however, the group’s output was more uneven—and less commercially successful—as Santana led ever-shifting personnel toward a jazz-rock fusion that reflected his admiration for Miles Davis and John Coltrane and resulted in collaborations with jazz artists such as Buddy Miles, Stanley Clarke, and John McLaughlin. Having earlier shown an interest in spirituality, particularly the philosophy of Sri Chimnoy, Santana became a born-again Christian in 1992. Meditation and mysticism became central to his life, and he began to see himself as a musical shaman whose pursuit of songs that offered hope and healing culminated in Supernatural (1999). Supernatural—crafted with the support of such notable collaborators as pop rocker Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty, hip-hop luminary Lauryn Hill, fellow guitar legend Eric Clapton, and former Arista Records head Clive Davis—helped Santana launch an important comeback. In 2000 he won three Latin Grammy and eight Grammy awards—including album of the year for Supernatural and song of the year for “Smooth.”

In 1998 Santana’s lasting contribution was marked by his group’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Among his later releases were the albums Shaman (2002), which won a Grammy for “The Game of Love,” and All That I Am (2005). In 2013 he was named a Kennedy Center honoree.

Carlos Santana

In the late 1960s, when acid rock reigned and the British Invasion was still raging, Carlos Santana and his band introduced the music scene to a new Latin-based rock sound featuring an Afro-Cuban beat. This would effectively usher in the concept of “world music” years before the description would catch up with the style. After soaring in popularity and becoming one of the biggest acts of the day, the group went through various personnel changes, but they continued to make music together even as Santana, finding new spiritual and musical paths, began to record jazz fusion on his own with many other top names. Though his rock records continued to sell vigorously, he would not have a radio hit after 1982.

Then, in 1999, Santana became one of the most often-heard performers on the airwaves. He teamed up with some of the hottest young acts of the day, including Lauryn Hill, Dave Matthews, Everlast, and Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20, along with the legendary Eric Clapton, to produce a work that harkened back to his early Latin sounds, but with a contemporary slant. With an irresistible hook and Thomas’s cool vocals, the single “Smooth” began racing up the charts, and the album, Supernatural, sold an astonishing 14 million units. The project overall won a phenomenal total of eight Grammy Awards, tying Michael Jackson’s 1983 record for most Grammys won on a single night. Some wondered if his comeback could be attributed to the sudden boom in Latin music beginning in the late 1990s that helped create the popularity of artists such as Ricky Martin, Enrique Iglesias, Jennifer Lopez, and others. Santana, however, credits a force more high-minded than a fad or marketing appeal. “It’s not really chance or luck,” he remarked to Jeff Gordinier in Entertainment Weekly.“It’s something more paranormal like divine synchronicity.”

Santana was born to Jose and Josefina Santana on July 20, 1947, in Autlan de Navarro, a small village in the state of Jalisco, Mexico. His father, a traditional violinist who played mariachi music, exposed him to the basics of music theory when he was five years old and tried to teach him violin. “My father’s a musician, his father was a musician, my great-grandfather was a musician,” he told James Schaffer in Down Beat.San-tana added, “Dad taught me the violin for almost seven years, and I could never get anything out of it. I always sounded like Jack Benny no matter how hard I tried. Only Jack Benny could really play, but I sounded like Jack Benny when he was fooling around.”

Began Playing Nightclubs at Age Eleven

More interested in rock ’n’ roll than the mariachi sounds anyway, Santana began to learn the guitar at age eight, imitating the style of greats such as B.B. King, John Lee Hooker, and T-Bone Walker. However, he still credits his father with teaching him to appreciate music in general. After the family of 12 moved to the border

For the Record…

Born on July 20, 1947, in Autlan de Navarro, Mexico; son of Jose (a traditional violinist) and Josefina Santana; adapted religious name Devadip (means “the light of the lamp of the Supreme”), 1973; married Deborah Sara King, 1973; children: Salvador, Stella, Angelica.

Began performing in Tijuana, Mexico, 1961; lead guitarist of group Santana (founded as Santana Blues Band in San Francisco, CA), 1966; recording artist with Columbia/CBS, 1969-91; recording artist with Polydor, 1991; founded Guts and Grace record label, 1994; appeared at Fillmore West, 1968, Woodstock Music and Arts Festival, 1969, Altamont Festival, 1969, California Jamil, 1978, LiveAid, 1985, first Amnesty International concert tour, 1986, Woodstock ’94, 1994; released album Supernatural, which won eight Grammy Awards, 1999; released Shaman, 2002.

Awards: Latin New York Music Awards, Latin Rock Band of the Year, 1975; Bay Area Music Award (Bammy Award), Best Guitarist, 1976-77, 1980-81, 1994-95; Bammy Award, Best Album for Moonflower, 1977; Bammy Award, Best Group, 1980; Grammy Award, Best Rock Instrumental Performance for Blues for Salvador, 1988; Bammy Award, Musician of the Year, 1978, 1988, 1993; Billboard Century Award for distinguished creative achievement, 1996; received star on Hollywood Rock Walk of Fame, 1996; induction, Bay Area Music Awards Walk of Fame, 1997; Chicano Lifetime Achievement Award, 1997; Nosotros’ Golden Eagle Legend in Music Award, 1997; induction, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 1998; National Council of La Raza, Alma Award, 1999; Grammy Awards, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Album of the Year, Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals, Best Pop Instrumental Performance, Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, Best Rock Instrumental Performance, 2000, Best Pop Collaboration, 2003.

Addresses: Publicist—Jensen Communications, Inc., 230 East Union St., Pasadena, CA 91101.

town of Tijuana in 1955, he began playing in nightclubs along the strip there when he was just eleven years old.

Around the early 1960s, Santana’s family moved to San Francisco, California, but he soon ran away to return to Tijuana and play the circuit again. His older brother came to retrieve him, though, and he ended up in San Francisco with the rest of his family, where he went to Mission High School and learned English. There he also discovered a thriving cultural scene with a diversity of musical styles, including jazz, blues, international folk music, and classical salsa by the likes of Tito Puente and Eddie Palmieri.

While working full-time as a dishwasher in a restaurant, Santana continued to play music, performing on the street for change in the evenings and jamming with others to try to get a band together. With mentoring from Jerry Garcia of the successful hippie group the Grateful Dead, he quit his job. Joining with bassist David Brown and keyboard player Gregg Rolie, he formed the Santana Blues Band, eventually abbreviating the name to simply Santana.

In the thriving scene of the San Francisco area in the 1960s, new bands were sprouting up all the time, so it was not easy to get noticed. For three years, Santana played small clubs around town, particularly in the Mission District, a predominantly Hispanic area. Before long, though, promoter Bill Graham noticed their unique sound and began to book them at his Fillmore West and Winterland clubs. Blending an Afro-Cuban beat with a fast-tempo rock and blues base and low-key vocals, Santana created the new style of Latin Rock.

Achieved Success with Santana

Although they were approached by several record companies in the late 1960s, the band declined a contract. Therefore, when they played for half a million people at the legendary Woodstock festival in 1969, they did not even have an album out. There, they performed a piece titled “Soul Sacrifice,” written specifically for the event. By now Santana included drummer Mike Shrieve and percussionists Jose Chepito Areas and Mike Carrabello. After getting a warm reception at Woodstock, they were booked on the popular Ed Sullivan Show, then signed to Columbia Records by the end of the year. Their first effort, Santana, stayed on the Billboard charts for two years, eventually selling more than four million copies. It spawned the hits “Evil Ways” and “Jingo.”

The next year, 1970, Santana continued to ride a wave of success, releasing its second hit album, Abraxas. This featured the classic rock staples “Oye Como Va” (written by Tito Puente) and “Black Magic Woman” (penned by Peter Green), and went platinum in sales. In 1971, the group had a gold album with Santana III, and in 1972 it saw platinum again with Caravanserai. Meanwhile, Santana became more fond of jazz, and recorded his first effort without the rest of the band in 1972, pairing up with Buddy Miles. The band also began to experience a shift in members, as musicians came and went from the group. Guitarist Neal Schon had joined in 1971 and later left, along with original member Rolie, to form Journey. Eventually, Santana was the only initial member who remained.
After the much-publicized drug-related deaths of several prominent musicians in the late 1960s and early 1970s, including Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison, Santana began to reassess his lifestyle. He had skyrocketed to fame in a short time, like the others, and found himself indulging in the familiar trappings of a rock star, including excesses of drugs and casual sex. Finding a religious path, he became a devoted follower of Sri Chimnoy, a spiritual guru and proponent of meditation. In August of 1973, he changed his name to Devadip (meaning “the light of the lamp of the Supreme”) Carlos Santana. In April of that year, he married Deborah Sara King, founder of a health food shop in San Francisco and daughter of a guitarist known for his work with blues singer Billie Holiday. The couple has three children, Salvador, Stella, and Angelica.

Through his association with Sri Chimnoy, Santana got to know guitarist Mahavishnu John McLaughlin. Together they created a spiritual jazz-fusion album, Love, Devotion, and Surrender, released in 1973. Throughout the 1970s, Santana would release four more albums with spiritual themes, recording without his band but in collaboration with others such as Ron Carter, Herbie Hancock, and Wayne Shorter.

Returned to Latin Rock Sound

By the mid-1970s, Santana began to drift back toward his Latin rock sound. Promoter Graham took over as his manager in 1975, and he began to record again with the group, even though Santana himself found more meaning in his spiritual efforts. Despite the fact that all of the group’s works continued to hit either gold or platinum, they did not have another top-ten hit until 1976’s Amigos. After that, CBS records re-signed San-tana to a seven-album contract.

During the 1980s, Santana and the band recorded less frequently, only putting out five albums throughout the decade. However, they toured prolifically, selling out stadiums and appearing at high-profile events like LiveAid, the US Festival, and on the first Amnesty International concert tour. He also helped organize the “Blues for Salvador” concert in Oakland, California, in 1988, which benefitted children in El Salvador. That year, he won a Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance for “Blues for Salvador.” 1988 was especially active as he toured with saxophonist Wayne Shorter and also embarked on a tour with the original Santana band members Rolie, Areas, and Shrieve, who had not played together since the early 1970s. In addition, in 1988 he released a 30-song retrospective album which featured previous hits as well as unre-leased studio tracks, live cuts, and sound checks.

Back in 1982, Santana discontinued his association with Sri Chimnoy, and he and his wife converted to Christianity in the early 1990s. In 1992, ending his lengthy association with Columbia, Santana signed a deal with Polydor Records which included forming his own label, called Guts & Grace. John Swenson in Rolling Stone called Santana’s first effort for this label, Milagro, “one of the finest sessions he’s done,” and added, ’The album reaffirms Santana’s position as the standard-bearer for fusion music.” In 1993, he toured with folk icon Bob Dylan, and in 1996, he toured with guitar great Jeff Beck. Though Santana still sold seats, he noticed that radio stations no longer played any of his music besides his early hits, and the media was not paying him much attention. He received a star on the Hollywood Rock Walk of Fame in 1996, but it would take him until 1998 to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Therefore, by the late 1990s, Santana was looking for a comeback. He explained to Andy Ellis in Guitar Player that in his meditation and dreams, he had received instructions telling him the following: “We want you to hook up with people at junior high schools, high schools, and universities. We’re going to get you back into radio airplay.” He felt his music could have a positive effect on youth of the day. Along with producer Clive Davis, who had first signed him to his contract at Columbia in the 1960s, Santana devised a plan. He told David Wild in Rolling Stone, “I didn’t want Santana to sound like a Seventies jukebox. I wanted to be relevant today or as Wayne Shorter would say, ’Completely new, totally familiar.’”

Made Huge Comeback with Supernatural

Though many acts were not interested in working with someone they perceived to be old and washed-up, Santana, working with his band, managed to assemble a collection of some of the biggest talents in the industry, including Lauryn Hill, Wyclef Jean, Eagle Eye Cherry, Dave Matthews, Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20, Evertasi, and the Dust Brothers, producers for Beck and the Beastie Boys. Even Eric Clapton made an appearance. The result was 1999’s Supernatural, which reached number one on the Billboard album chart and generated the number-one single, “Smooth.” Supernatural also became one of the most critically acclaimed CDs of the year and sold 14 million copies by 2003. The title, Santana told an Entertainment Weekly interviewer, “deals with the paranormal relationship between Lauryn Hill, Eric Clapton, and myself. Most of my collaborators said, ’I knew I was going to work with you because you were in my dreams.’” Surprisingly, Supernatural got nearly all of its airplay on pop and rock radio, with little support from Latino stations, despite the fact that five of the tracks are in Spanish.

In February of 2000, Santana won a whopping total of eight Grammy Awards, including Record of the Year for “Smooth,” and Album of the Year and Best Rock Album for Supernatural. He also won an American Music Award that year for Best Album. He waited three years to release Shaman, his follow-up album to the phenomenon that was Supernatural. Santana followed the same blueprint that led them to success with Supernatural, assembling a stellar group of popular musicians to contribute to the album. Musiq, Seal, Michelle Branch, Dido, Placido Domingo, and many others make appearances on the album. All Music Guide reviewer Stephen Thomas Erlewine praised the album, but noted that with such a large ensemble of players, its success may stem from “reasons that have nothing to do with Santana.”

For Santana, it is not about the recognition as much as it is touching people with his art. “I want my music to clue my listeners into something beyond the song itself,” he once related to Dan Ouellette in Down Beat. “For example, this guy who had considered suicide wrote me a letter. He had seen the video of John Lee Hooker performing ’The Healer’ and it inspired him to seek another way of dealing with his problems. Now that’s more important to me than how many Grammys I get or how much money I could make selling Pepsi.”

Selected discography


(With Buddy Miles) Carlos Santana & Buddy Miles! Live!, Columbia, 1972.
(With Mahavishnu John McLaughlin) Love, Devotion, Surrender, Columbia, 1973.
(With John Coltrane) Illuminations, Columbia, 1974.
Oneness, Silver Dreams-Golden Reality, Columbia, 1979.
Swing of Delight, Columbia, 1980.
Havana Moon, Columbia, 1983.
Blues for Salvador, Columbia, 1987.
Spirits Dancing in the Flesh, CBS, 1990.

With the group Santana

Santana, Columbia, 1969.
Abraxas, Columbia, 1970.
Santana III, Columbia, 1971.
Caravanserai, Columbia, 1972.
Welcome,Columbia, 1973.
Greatest Hits, Columbia, 1974.
Borboletta, Columbia, 1974.
Lotus, Columbia, 1975.
Amigos, Columbia, 1976.
Festival, Columbia, 1976.
Moonflower, CBS, 1977.
Inner Secrets, Columbia, 1978.
Marathon, Columbia, 1979.
Zebop, Columbia, 1981.
Shango, Columbia, 1982.
Beyond Appearances, Columbia, 1985.
Freedom, Columbia, 1987.
Viva Santana!, Columbia, 1988.
The Sound of Carlos Santana, Pair, 1989.
Milagro, Polygram, 1992.
Sacred Fire, Polydor, 1993.
Brothers, Polygram, 1994.
Dance of the Rainbow Serpent, Columbia, 1995.
Live at the Fillmore 1968, Sony, 1997.
Best of Santana, Columbia, 1998.
Supernatural, Arista, 1999.
Shaman, Arista, 2002.



Dictionary of Hispanic Biography, Gale Research, 1996. Newsmakers, Issue 2, Gale Group, 2000.


Arizona Republic, January 18, 2000, p. A10.
Down Beat, January 1981, p. 13; February 1988, p. 16; August 1991, p. 28.
Entertainment Weekly, September 10,1999, p. 151; December 24, 1999, p. 36; October 25, 2002, p. 73.
Guitar Player, January 1993, p. 58; January 1996, p. 61; August 1999, p. 74.
Hispanic, October 1992, p. 80; March 1996, p. 18.
Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, March 22, 2002; October 2, 2002;
Latin Beat, September 1999, p. 20.
Music & Media, November 9, 2002, p.3.
Newsweek, February 14, 2000, p. 66.
Rolling Stone, February 21, 1980, p. 26; September 22, 1988, p. 27; August 24,1989, p. 65; September 3, 1992, p. 68; December 9, 1993, p. 24; October 28, 1993, p. 30; August r9, 1993, p. 47.
Star Tribune(Minneapolis, MN), February 8, 2000.

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