It all started with the one, the only, Nomar Garciaparra. Then it transitioned over to Orlando Cabrera, a fan-favorite who brought us home a World Series trophy. But after Cabrera's reign, the Sox went out and signed high-priced shortstop Edgar Renteria who didn't live up to expectations.
Now we turn to Alex Gonzalez. The guy that played for the Marlins, yeah.
Gonzalez won't hit .372 like Garciaparra did in 2000. He probably won't be a spark like Cabrera was through his short tenure with the Red Sox. He probably won't even top Renteria's .276 batting average. But you know what? The guy has got some upside!
The advantage he has over all this guys (except maybe Cabrera) is his fantastic glove that he uses deep in the hole at shortstop. People rant and rave about his ability to make a throw from his knees, or how he can scoop up the balls like a vacuum cleaner:
He's one of the best in the business. The guy's a vacuum cleaner. He's a magician. He can make that (double play) coming across the bag like no one you've ever seen. I've had a lot of great shortstops play for me but this guy was right up there with the best. He should have won a Gold Glove every year but he doesn't have the charisma that others have and he doesn't sell himself. But Boston will love him.
We better love him, Jack. Or he'll be hearing boos before he can blink an eye.
But let me state this: defense is important. It's been proved by baseball statisticians all over the world that defense is an extremely crucial facet of the game. You don't score runs on defense, but you prevent runs, which is just as important. And when it comes to fans, specifically in Boston, defense will make or break you.
Maybe it roots back to when Bill Buckner let when go through his legs. Maybe it was the reminder during the ALDS last season when Tony Graffanino let a routine grounder slip by his grasp. But Boston sure does love their vacuum cleaner. Whether you hit or not.
Example number one, and probably the best example: Calvin Reese Jr. Or, as you might know him, Pokey.
Think back to when Pokey played for the Sox. You remember that time. He was the Coco Crisp of the Red Sox before Coco Crisp was a Red Sox. He had the cool name, the crooked hat, and defense that just dropped your jaw. The man would dive, crawl, and leap (shame on you if you don't remember when Pokey jumped up 13 feet in the air to catch that ball) to snag that little red-stitched ball. And we loved him! We still do! All because of his defense. Did he do some things on offense? Yeah. Some things. Like his inside the park home run (which was followed by another home run, but the more routine kind). But can you name anything else? Nope.
That's how I think Gonzalez is going to be. If he wows us with his defense but hits only .250, then he'll be the new 'Nomah!' of the town. If he picks up a grounder, does a little flip, lands on the second base bag, and then throws a bullet to Kevin Youkilis at first base, he'll live in the "Big Book of Red Sox History."
But if he doesn't, he's not going to last long. If he's an average shortstop -- even worse, plays like Renteria -- then he's not going to get far in Boston. It doesn't matter if he hits a remarkable -- for him, at least -- .280 on the season. Odds are Alex Cora will take his place and we may see Dustin Pedroia there even sooner.
So the moral of the story is this: Gonzalez has great defense and he really needs to show it. If he doesn't, then Boston fans will start a "Ren-Tah-Ree-Ah" chant, and that's probably the last thing he wants to hear in Fenway Park. Because remember, Renteria came to Boston with the label of "great defense" and we certainly didn't receive that. So if it happens twice, in back to back years, there will be a lot of people questioning that front office of ours.