Including his numbers from 2011 and this season, Adrian Gonzalez is batting .326 with 40 home runs, 197 RBI, 81 doubles and a .906 OPS in 1,201 plate appearances for the Boston Red Sox. Most fans would be ecstatic with production like that from a heart of the order hitter, but not in Boston, where success is measured now more than ever by wins and losses, and post-season visits.
Projected to win the World Series last year by many media outlets in spring training, the Red Sox had one of the best records in the game heading into September, and then they experienced a monumental collapse that saw them lose a nine-game wild card lead and fall from the playoffs on the last day of the regular season.
Underperforming starting pitchers like Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and John Lackey were the primary culprits, especially after it was discovered they were drinking beer and eating fried chicken in the clubhouse during games on days they were not pitching instead of supporting their teammates in the dugout. Gonzalez caught flack, too, when he told the media, “I’m a firm believer that God has a plan and it wasn’t in his plan for us to move forward” in the wake of Boston’s September meltdown.
Overall, in the first season of a seven-year, $154 million contract, Gonzalez batted .338 with an American League-leading 213 hits, 27 home runs, 45 doubles, 117 RBI and a .957 OPS. With runners in scoring position, he hit .337 with a .924 OPS. Still, Gonzalez endured criticism about the way the year ended.
Fast forward to 2012. In the midst of a disappointing season that has seen the Red Sox mostly hover around .500, Gonzalez has once again taken heat. At the All-Star break, he was batting .283 with six home runs, 45 RBI, a .416 slugging percentage and a .745 OPS. Since after the 2011 All-Star break, the left-handed hitting slugger had produced just 16 home runs and 85 RBI – acceptable numbers for a player on a short-term, inexpensive deal, but not ideal for one of the wealthiest contracts in the game. “Gonzo is a $ 154 million slap hitter,” many Red Sox fans sarcastically proclaimed.
Gonzalez was acquired from San Diego after the 2010 season for a package that included highly regarded first base prospect Anthony Rizzo, who was eventually traded to the Chicago Cubs and is opening eyes at the Major League level. There was speculation at the trade deadline that Boston would consider shipping Gonzalez somewhere else. The Dodgers reportedly inquired, but the Red Sox said, “No, thanks.”
Though the team remains around the .500 mark in August, it is not a result of Gonzalez. The 30-year-old San Diego native has a .393 average (42 of 107) with even home runs and 35 RBI in 107 at-bats in 28 games since the All-Star break. Overall, he is hitting .309 with 13 home runs, 80 RBI, 36 doubles and a .831 OPS.
With David Ortiz on the disabled list with an Achilles tendon injury and 23-year-old rookie third baseman Will Middlebrooks likely out for the season with a broken wrist, Gonzalez is the chief run producer.
The Red Sox will be making multiple changes in the off-season. The contracts of Daisuke Matsuzaka and Kevin Youkilis will leave the books; young players like Middlebrooks, shortstop Jose Iglesias, catcher Ryan Lavarnway and outfielder Ryan Kalish will likely have prominent roles in 2013; and chances are the club will eat a chunk of Josh Beckett’s remaining salary in an extended effort to move on from the negativity surrounding the end of 2011.
Gonzalez expects to remain a potent middle of the order presence and a Gold Glove caliber first baseman, and give the Red Sox what they anticipated when they signed him to the seven-year, $152 million deal.