BOSTON (CBS) — Adrian Gonzalez is fed up, and that’s a good thing. The target of his anger, though, is problematic.
The Red Sox’ first baseman, off to a somewhat slow start by his standards, lashed out Wednesday night at home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt.
“I do have a question — how are you supposed to have a professional at-bat with these umpires nowadays?” Gonzalez said after the Sox’ 2-1 loss, according to ESPN’s Joe McDonald. “Gosh. The first pitch in my last at-bat wasn’t even close. You’re up there, trying to have a professional at-bat and look for a pitch to hit and that’s called? So it puts you in swing mode, the guy throws a good split and all of a sudden you’re 0-2. It should have been 1-0 and then he probably [wouldn’t have thrown] a split. Unbelievable.”
The at-bat in question came in the eighth inning against Joel Peralta, with the bases empty and two outs. Gonzalez ended up striking out swinging. The Sox would go on to lose 2-1.
Look — nobody should go out and crush Adrian Gonzalez for this. It sounds like whining and complaining, but really, he has a point. Brooks Baseball shows that Strike 1 was indeed out of the zone, and Wendelstedt doesn’t exactly have a history of perfection regarding his balls and strike calls. Gonzalez has already received too much flak this season for coming up short in clutch situations, so his complaints about one strike call shouldn’t be used to add fuel to that fire.
Yet regardless of the truth behind his statements, he shouldn’t be making them. Fair or unfair, the perception will be that Gonzalez yet again is making excuses — for himself, for the team, and for the losing record. The memory of Gonzalez telling reporters that “God has a plan and it wasn’t in his plan for us to move forward” after the Sox’ historic September collapse is still fresh in everyone’s mind, and firing off some angry thoughts about an umpire after a loss is not a great strategy to make it go away. It wasn’t their fault for choking away their division lead last September, and it’s not his fault for striking out now, right?
On a team obsessed with public relations and image, complaining publicly about an ump just doesn’t work to that end. So why not just tell the umpire directly?
“It doesn’t do any good,” he said, according to McDonald. “You want to say something, but then it starts getting into your head then it messes with your at-bat and your approach and what you’re trying to do.”
As evidenced by his lengthy postgame comments, it’s clearly too late to save himself from messing with his own head, so he might as well have gotten a word in to the man making the calls rather than reporters in the locker room.
He doesn’t need to hoot and holler on the field, and he doesn’t need to get kicked out of a game in order to show he’s got that “fire” that fans love to see. He doesn’t have to do anything to prove he’s not J.D. Drew. But he shouldn’t be doing this.
Not after his team fell to 17-20 on the season, not after the first game of an absolutely vital road trip, and really, not after anything. There’s no good time to complain about strike calls, but this one has to qualify as one of the worst.
The bottom line is this: Gonzalez has a point, and as a career .293 hitter, he has the clout for us all to believe his case. But that doesn’t mean he should — it’s just not what anybody wants to hear.
It wasn’t all bad, though, as Gonzalez did his best to turn a negative into a positive.
“I’ll start hitting home runs,” he said when asked about his two home runs in 147 at-bats this year.”I’ll hit a homer [on Thursday].”
Perhaps he’s got a good feeling about facing Matt Moore, or maybe he’s just fired up enough to go into Home Run Derby mode. Whatever the case, even if he doesn’t launch his third homer of the year on Thursday, it’ll be best for him and best for the Red Sox if Wednesday’s complaints about umpiring are his last of the season.