Adrian Gonzalez: Mr. Unpopularity

BOSTON, MA - Adrian Gonzalez #28 of the Boston Red Sox reacts after he struck out with the bases loaded in the seventh inning against the Oakland Athletics at Fenway Park. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

When the Red Sox collapsed last year, there was a little grumbling when Adrian Gonzalez suggested that injuries were the reason, but his individual season was a success. He finished seventh in the AL MVP voting last year, made the All-Star team, won a Gold Glove, and hit .338/.410/.548 in his age-29 season. That's a productive first baseman.

He would have been a free agent after the 2011 season, but the Red Sox signed him to a seven-year deal that took him through 2018. Everything was just ducky on the ol' Adrian Gonzalez front. And then the season started.

In the first month of this season, Gonzalez hit .271/.337/.400 with two homers in 115 at-bats. Not Pujolsian. Not Bautistastic. But still not to his standards. Over the Monster took a look at his Sunday performance, a hitting non-masterpiece which included this …

… and OTM concluded that Gonzalez was pressing. Maybe he's a little overanxious and chasing pitches out of the zone. Seems rational. It also seems like an easy fix compared to other problems hitters can go through.

Except now some other factions of the Boston media smell blood. Gonzalez is joyless and the face of a franchise with no soul. Even worse, he got the one-sentence-paragraph treatment.

You know, one of the columns that starts like this.

Where every thought is isolated.

And that makes each line more cutting.

Including the scathing bits about Gonzalez's salary.

Which are put in to make the common folk realize how awful of a human being Gonzalez is.

If I write two sentences in this paragraph, Dennis Hopper is going to blow up the bus.

Please send help.

On May 8, when just about everybody knows to breath into a paper bag if they start reading too much into a player's performance, Gonzalez is getting a lot of attention for a guy who hit .318 with a .455 on-base percentage during the Red Sox' September collapse. His post-collapse comments weren't a collection of carefully selected wisdom pearls, but that was his only sin during that dark, dark time. He's earned more than a month of mediocre -- not even awful! -- hitting before the hounds are released. Maybe the best way to remind everyone about Gonzalez's value is with a few numbers:

Fielder's first season with his new club was his age-28 season. Votto will be 30 in the first year of his extension. Gonzalez is 30 in the first year of his new deal. His deal was for seven years and $154 million.

Stack it up in comparison to the other two. Fewer years. A lot less money. Votto is probably better, but is he $60 million better? That difference is about the price of a Mark Buerhle or C.J. Wilson. Just a little less than a Brandon Phillips or Ian Kinsler. It's a significant chunk of payroll, even for a big-spending team like the Red Sox.

If Gonzalez's contract were voided today, he could sign for a bigger contract, even with the slump. He has over 4,000 plate appearances that suggest he's one of the best hitters in baseball. He has 130 that suggest there's a problem. You know what that means. You have an idea which scenario is more likely. It's much, much more likely that Gonzalez is still great, still productive, and still a relative bargain when compared to other superstar first basemen around the league.

I get that the sharks are circling as if the Red Sox were a sinking ocean liner made of meat*. That happens with an under-performing team in a large market. But of all the people to blame, I'd think that Adrian Gonzalez would be the backup plan to the backup plan to the backup plan. The manager is somewhat insane! Clay Buchholz has an ERA+ of yuck! Two of the team's best hitters are hurt! Four out of the five pitchers in the rotation have walked more than four batters for every nine innings they've pitched!

And Adrian Gonzalez had a slow month. How dare he. But the odds are still pretty good that he's one of baseball's better players.

* The Meatanic!


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