Adrian Gonzalez after making an out at the plate last week, throwing his bat and yelling. Not pictured: Caring. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
People are upset that Adrian Gonzalez isn't hitting. This has shown up in plenty of sports writing in the Boston area the last few days, with questions attached: Does he care? Is he a disappointment with a long-term contract, teetering on the edge of failure? What's keeping him from hitting?
Kirk Minihane asks the right questions in his take, when he wonders if Gonzalez is a disappointment, and also admits when he's being unfair. The answers, however, aren't always on target:
The Padres suffered a 10-game losing streak that began in August, and missed the playoffs on the last day of the season in 2010. Adrian Gonzalez hit .308/.377/.513 in August (145 sOPS+) and .294/.416/.480 in September (154 sOPS+). You know the story with the Red Sox the following season, but Gonzalez hit then, too, to the tune of .318/.455/.523, good for a 170 sOPS+ that beat out his season's rate.
As said, right questions, but not necessarily the right answer. Even with his poor start to 2012, Gonzalez has a line of .328/.398/.521 with Boston, and that includes the quality defense he provides at first as well. The last month has been disappointing, sure, but Gonzalez isn't a disappointment, and he's certainly not a few steps away from failure, either.
Minihane is right when he addresses what Gonzalez hasn't done this year, though. There's no defending Gonzalez's 2012 to this point, other than to say that, based on history, it's going to improve. That's the angle that Gonzalez took while talking to Peter Abraham earlier this week:
In a way, that has added to his puzzlement at the plate. Because he feels so good, Gonzalez has tried to elevate the ball, which goes against his usual line-drive approach. When he catches himself swinging under the ball, he over-adjusts and ends up pounding it into the ground.
"I get frustrated by the back and forth. You try and make it happen instead of letting it happen. You get caught in the middle,'' Gonzalez said. "That's the battle I'm fighting. I don't want to hit the ball on the ground ever. Now that I have a healthy shoulder, I'm expecting myself to do things. I'm kind of forcing it a little bit.''
"I know where I'll be at the end of the year,'' Gonzalez said in a firm voice.
Gonzalez's career gives us no reason to doubt this, and the season is still young enough where there's nothing that says he's in denial about his abilities. Being told to have patience and wait for things to even out is never fun, but that's where we are with Gonzalez right now. He's in a funk now, but give it some time before declaring him a disappointment.
Ben Cherington traveled with the Red Sox to Kansas City for the three-game set, giving Brian MacPherson the opportunity to ask him about how Mike Aviles ended up in Boston last July.
"In Kansas City's case, they made a big trade and got a young shortstop back," Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said. "When you trade Zack Greinke and one of the prime pieces you're getting back is a shortstop who's a pretty good young player, you're going to commit to that guy. Maybe that means a guy like Aviles is a little bit more available.
"You take note of those things to try to figure out, ‘OK, here are the guys who might be more available.'
Aviles certainly was available, and for the low price of Yamaico Navarro. This got Navarro off of the 40-man, and a few months later, off of the Royals, too, as he's spending his time with Pittsburgh now. Aviles, on the other hand, is Boston's starting shortstop, holding his own defensively while the power in his bat makes him worth the playing time. To the Royals' credit, Alcides Escobar has shown his promise playing in Aviles' stead.
Cherington also mentions how, with a player like Aviles who used to have success in a more full-time role, there's always the possibility that consistent playing time brings them back to that point. The Sox bet on him being that kind of player, with a little help from former Royals GM Allard Baird, and that bet has paid off to this point. With the savings from the Marco Scutaro deal turning into Cody Ross and a (likely) a future transaction, and the new-look Clayton Mortensen now in the Sox' possession from the same deal, this is a little bet on a player stuck on the bench that looks like it will pay significant dividends.
Vicente Padilla throws an eephus. Well, sort of. As Grant Brisbee points out, it's not really an eephus, so much as a slow curve, but it's the closest thing we've got these days. At first glance, Brooks Baseball doesn't split that pitch into a separate category, mixing it in with his standard curve.
Brisbee breaks down Padilla's version of the eephus, then shows an actual eephus, not only in video form, but also with a frame-by-frame breakdown and corresponding player meditation.
As usual, you should be reading Brisbee.