Some players, like Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera, the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig, the Angels’ Mike Trout, Baltimore’s Nelson Cruz, Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt, Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton, Boston’s David Ortiz, Philadelphia’s Ryan Howard, and Texas’ Prince Fielder, who is out for the season, make a big splash because they take huge swings and aim for the fences.
Then there is Adrian Gonzalez, the Dodgers’ steady first baseman, who goes about his business under the radar, but also produces significant numbers.
Though Gonzalez is batting .253, he has a team-best 13 homers and has driven in a team-high 50 runs.
Gonzalez’s success is partially due to staying away from injuries, which has allowed the 32-year-old to play in 156 games or more in eight seasons.
Gonzalez, the first overall pick by the Florida Marlins in 2000, has been with the Dodgers since late August 2012, and along with outfielders Puig, Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, were key contributors in 2013 when the Dodgers ran off a 42-8 record beginning in early June, and reached the National League Championship Series.
Last season, Gonzalez, who played for the Texas Rangers (2004 through 2005), San Diego Padres (2006 through 2010), and Boston Red Sox (2011 and part of 2012), totaled 22 homers, drove in 100 runs for the sixth time, high of 119 in 2008, and batted .293.
Despite losing to St. Louis in six games in the NLCS, the Dodgers were one of the favorites to reach the World Series this season, however, this didn’t look realistic after they trailed the San Francisco Giants by nine and a half games, but are now tied after taking three of four from the Cardinals this past weekend at the Stadium.
“There’s always those usual ups and downs of the season,’’ said Gonzalez, a four-time All-Star, who had two hits with a run batted in and two runs scored in Sunday’s 6-0 win. “You come together as a team. We don’t give up any extra runs. With this pitching staff, we don’t need a lot of runs.”
The mood in the Dodgers’ clubhouse these days is upbeat after getting to 47-37. “When you start winning, you’re allowed to do more things,’’ Gonzalez added. “When you’re losing, you can’t really have too much fun. You have to keep it a little more serious.”
In Saturday’s 9-1 rout, Gonzalez contributed one hit with a run and an RBI, while in Friday’s 3-1 loss, he finished with a single, and in Thursday’s 1-0 victory, he went hitless in three at-bats.
The current baseball fad is for the defense to use an exaggerated shift, so for Gonzalez, a left-handed hitter, the infield plays him to pull the ball to the right side.
“I’ve been trying to bunt for a long time,’’ said Gonzalez, who did just that on Sunday. “If it’s a fastball, I’ll lay down a bunt to the left side.”
Gonzalez, a three-time Gold Glove winner, has smacked 20 homers or better seven times with a high of 40 in 2009, and has scored 100 runs or more three times, with a best of 108 in 2011.
There’s no doubt that Gonzalez, at 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds, has enough power to be a slugger, but is more interested in getting on base.
Call it safe, or call it consistent, but that’s Gonzalez’s modus operandi, and so far it’s worked out just fine.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.