During his years with the San Diego Padres, the big first baseman went relatively unnoticed here on the east coast. He would continually run roughshod over the Phillies – to the tune of a .350 average, 13 home runs, 29 RBI and a 1.143 OPS in just 33 games – but never really got people talking because, who cares; we see him a few times per season and he plays for a lousy team. No more.
Adrian Gonzalez is finally turning heads on a national scale and as someone who enjoys his free and easy left-handed swing, I couldn’t be happier. (I’m a lefty too with a sweet Wiffle-ball swing, myself).
This is me fawning over a player who does not play for the Phillies – once in a while I’m allowed to. If there is a hitter out there who deserves extra attention, it’s this guy.
It has been a coming out party of sorts now that A-Gone plays in a major media market. But if you’ve looked closely, this guy has been a machine in a bad lineup and large ballpark for several years. With little protection around him, Gonzalez has averaged 31 homers and 103 RBI with a .291 average per 162 games.
The focus tonight, and for the entirety of this series, should be on Gonzalez.
His approach at the plate is second to none; his stroke is comparable to Ryan Howard’s 2006 swing – the one where he would calmly flick his wrists and crush the ball to the opposite field. Rarely will you see Gonzalez try to swing as hard as his arms will allow through a ball. He knows he doesn’t have to, and that’s why he’s leading the majors in RBI (71) and average (.361), along with a bunch of other categories, too, including pummeling the Green Monster with doubles. Not to mention, he’s one of the few players making us forget that runs are down and the decade of the pitcher is in full bloom.
Playing the “if” game; “if” Adrian Gonzalez swapped spots with Ryan Howard for the five years he suffered in San Diego, he’d be an MVP already and his numbers would be even more monstrous. The talent level that surrounded Howard for his years here dwarfs that of the Padres, who placed the likes of Jody Gerut, Tad Iguchi, Khalil Greene, and Kevin Kouzmanoff in the lineup either in front of or behind Gonzalez.
And please, don’t take that as a shot at Howard. His tenure with the Phillies has been nothing short of incredible, posting power numbers that few have previously. Still, Adrian Gonzalez, for my money, has always been the better of the two, and more rounded as well. We just didn’t see a lot of him. For the past five years, you could make the argument that he was the second best first baseman in the game, behind Albert Pujols. Full disclosure, I would probably take Adrian Gonzalez over every player in the league right now.
In today’s Boston Herald, our buddy Scott Lauber (formerly of the Wilmington News Journal) highlights the stroke that has made A-Gone A-very rich man. Lauber calls it the “Scarlett Johannson of swings, beautiful and desired by all who see it.” Couldn’t have put it better myself.
Keep an eye on Gonzalez tonight (and Wednesday and Thursday, as well) if you want to see how the best player in the game works his magic. It’ll be worth it, I promise.