BOSTON (CBS) — The Boston Red Sox took one step closer to .500 last night with an 11-5 win in Kansas City. Adrian Gonzalez had two hits and an RBI.
Yet, just as the Red Sox’ victory won’t be enough to turn the season around, the two-hit performance likely won’t be enough to shake the wolfpack-like sect of Sox fans that has been out to get Gonzalez for the past two weeks.
And that is, for lack of a better term, just plain stupid.
Adrian Gonzalez — the same Adrian Gonzalez who finished second in all of Major League Baseball with a .338 average last year and the same Adrian Gonzalez who played 159 games last season and has played in all 28 of Boston’s games this season — has somehow become “the perfect face for these free-falling Red Sox,” according to Boston.com blogger Eric Wilbur. Wilbur’s story is fraught with ridiculousness — i.e. complaining about a 2011 MVP-worthy campaign, stating plainly that “he doesn’t belong here” and taking a cheap shot at the man’s faith — it is hardly the only instance of Red Sox fans expressing frustration with Gonzalez these days.
Boston Globe beat reporter Peter Abraham has heard from so many fans via Twitter about the failures of Gonzalez that he’s had to respond several times with facts that just don’t jibe with people who simply want to hate Gonzalez.
Abraham went to Gonzalez on Monday to discuss the season thus far, and the first baseman pledged he’d get his numbers back to normal by the end of the season. Even that, though, was interpreted as selfish comments by a selfish player by those who simply want to believe Gonzalez is no good in Boston.
Yes, Gonzalez went 0-for-8 on Sunday and yes, he struck out on three pitches from a position player on the mound who was throwing in the mid-80s. And yes, he’s hitting just .270 with a .705 OPS thus far.
But this is baseball. Baseball players are not judged based on the performance of one afternoon, and they’re not judged based on the performance of one month. They’re based on their bodies of work, and in Gonzalez’s case, his is as good as anyone’s. Since becoming a full-time player in 2006, he’s never hit lower than .277 in any season and has hit .296 overall with an .894 OPS.
Adrian Gonzalez is one of the best hitters in baseball.
He does play Gold Glove defense (ask Mike Aviles how many more errors he should have to his name this year alone).
Has his slow start to the season impacted the Red Sox negatively? Sure, but does that mean he needs to be run out of town and sent back to San Diego? Come on.
One of the most common complaints about Gonzalez this season has been that he cannot come through in clutch moments, that he’s not David Ortiz when it comes to seizing the big moment. That may be true, but how many players are David Ortiz? How many players have more walk-off hits than they can count on both hands? There aren’t many, so again, the fact that Gonzalez hasn’t yet beaten the Yankees in Game 4 and Game 5 of the ALCS should hardly count against him.
Others consider him guilty by association for the Red Sox’ historic collapse last September. Gonzalez himself hit .318 with a .977 OPS in September, and if you took him off last year’s team, they wouldn’t even have gotten the chance to collapse. No, not after he hit .382 with nine homers and 46 RBIs from May 30 through Aug. 4, a stretch when the Red Sox went 38-19.
If you want a scapegoat for the Sox’ 12-16 record, you could find a dozen before you need to arrive at Gonzalez.
Let’s start with the rotation. Clay Buchholz ranks dead last in the majors with a 9.09 ERA, and Josh Beckett is already sitting out starts for some soreness. The starting staff has a 5.88 ERA and the average starter lasts just 5 2/3 innings. If you’re new to baseball, here’s what that means: the Red Sox don’t even have a chance to win most nights, thanks to the starting pitchers.
That problem is exacerbated by the bullpen, which has a 4.41 ERA, good enough for sixth-worst in baseball.
You can blame Theo Epstein for throwing too much money at players they did not need (John Lackey, Carl Crawford) just before the team tightened its budget and all of a sudden became concerned about spending, thereby crippling the team from improving in areas that actually needed help.Blame the owners for seemingly applying that spending limit out of the blue. Blame Ben Cherington for not being creative enough to find a way around it and instead being forced to use a player like Darnell McDonald in 22 of 28 games and being forced to go out and trade for Marlon Byrd and his .070 average with the Cubs. Blame Bobby Valentine for very much looking like a 61-year-old man who’s spent the past decade outside of Major League Baseball.
You have a lot of people to blame for the current state of the Red Sox. You don’t have to blame Gonzalez.
The man doesn’t show a ton of emotion, but you don’t have to paint him as the next J.D. Drew. He’s calm, and every single time he steps into the batter’s box, he does so with a plan. You don’t have to understand that plan, but you at least have to understand it’s there. It won’t always result in a home run or even a hit, but it’s the same approach that’s made him one of the most consistent hitters in the majors for the past six years.
“I can’t control what people write and what people think,” Gonzalez told Abraham. “So why should I worry about it? Nobody is going to look and try and get to know me. They just want to make assumptions about me.”
That’s certainly been the case lately, and if we previously weren’t aware of what happens when we assume, we’re all seeing it pretty clearly now.