Six wins in four weeks. 1 Four of those wins came in their final at bat. It appears the Royals may indeed suck this year. You can feel the enthusiasm waning as frustrated fans mutter “Same old Royals.”
Danny Duffy can’t throw strikes. Joakim Soria looked lost (but may have been found). Alcides Escobar can’t hit and Ned Yost refuses to pinch hit for him late in games. Outfielders let fly balls drop. Base runners fail to move up. Maybe they are the same old Royals.
For this week’s baseball post, instead of focusing on the Royals I want to write about my current baseball man-crush, Adrian Gonzalez.
Every so often there is a roster move that everyone sees coming years in advance. It was no surprise when Scott Rolen left the Phillies for the Cardinals. He grew up in Southern Indiana2 in a family of Cardinals fans. It wasn’t a matter of if but when he would become a Card.
The Red Sox have openly coveted Adrian Gonzalez for years. As each of the last two trading deadlines approached, experts wondered if San Diego would cave and send him to Boston during the season. It didn’t really matter, because the Red Sox were expected to spare no expense in signing him if he eventually hit the free agent market.
The trade finally happened last off-season, and the low key, smooth swinging Gonzalez was a big reason why most people picked the Red Sox to win the World Series.
Things didn’t go as planned, initially. The Red Sox were awful early and Gonzalez didn’t set the world on fire in the first few weeks of the season. But he settled in, began hitting, and soon the rest of his teammates followed. Boston is now in first place in the AL East, despite some pitching woes and several players who aren’t hitting as well as expected.
Gonzalez is a joy to watch. He’s the ultimate combination of professional hitter and superstar, his easy going manner making you forget what a monster talent he is. He can crush home runs and shoot a ball the opposite way with equal ease. He exudes calm. While the term clutch has largely been debunked by stat heads, he sure seems to get a lot of big hits at important times. He looks like he’s having fun on the field. And no one says a bad word about him.
Some wondered if he could transition from ultra-laid back San Diego to high intensity Boston. So far, that hasn’t been an issue. He leads the league in hits, RBIs, and total bases, and has an OPS+ of 157. For people who don’t follow the numbers, that means he is pretty damn good.
It’s a lot harder to like the Red Sox than it was a decade ago. Their fans have become insufferable after finally getting the 86-year monkey off their backs. They spend almost as much money as the Yankees. A contract like Daisuke Matsuzaka’s would have crippled most organizations, but the Red Sox have still been able to resign Josh Beckett, David Ortiz, and JD Drew and nab Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and John Lackey despite Dice K’s massive deal.
I try to avoid Red Sox games whenever possible these days. But if I know Adrian Gonzalez is coming to bat soon and the Red Sox are on, I make sure I catch his plate appearance.