Alexander Scott Gonzalez | SS | 1994-2001
So, this is Alex Gonzalez, the first one to play shortstop for us. Not Sea Bass, who played half a season for us and then was traded for Yunel.
Alex Gonzalez was born April 8th, 1973 in Miami, Florida. He was drafted in the 14th round of the 1991 amateur draft and turned out to, easily, have the best career of any player taken in that round of that draft. He rose very quickly thru the Jays minor league system and started the 1994 season as the Jay's starting SS at the age of 21 but after 15 games he had a .151 batting average and the Jays gave the job to Dick Schofield.
He was on Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects list 4 straight years moving to as high as 4th in 1994. To give you some idea Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez were 6th an 7th on the list that year, though I doubt that Baseball America brags about that. He did have good power and speed potential with a terrific glove. The bat just didn't come around like they figured it would. He just never figured out how not to chase bad pitches and struck out way too much. And, to show they weren't alone in over-estimating him, in the 1995 Bill James Player Rating book Bill said ‘My guess is he'll be an All-Star'.
At the start of the strike delayed 1995 season he took the SS role and held it for 7 seasons. Driving in 4 runs the first game of the season didn't hurt, making a good first impression is always a good idea. Alex also had 2 games where he hit 2 home runs. Of course, that was part of his problem with the bat, he thought of himself as a power hitter and swung hard at everything, whether it was near the plate or not. In 1995 he played in 111 games of the 144 games the Jays got in, hitting .243/.322/.398 with 10 homers, but 114 strikeouts in 367 at bats was a bit much.
He was never good with the bat, but he deserves a spot on our list for his glove. He should have had two or three gold gloves in his career.
In 1996 Alex got into 147 games and hit 14 home runs, but hit just .235/.300/.391 with 16 steals. His defence is what made him a useful player, Alex did make 21 errors but he led AL short stops in total chances with 765 and double plays with 122 double plays. Alex also tied a MLB record with 13 assists in one game on April 26. Fangraphs has 1996 as his best season, with the Jays, listing him as having a 2.5 WAR, though he had 2 other seasons with WAR of over 2.0.
In 1997 he missed some games with a fractured finger but still led AL shortstops in fielding average at .986 and had a 39 game errorless streak. He hit .239/.302/.387 in 126 games with 12 home runs. Then in 1998 he set career highs in games played with 158 and stolen bases 21 but hit even worse than normal with a OPS+ of just 66.
The 1999 season for Alex started great, hitting .292/.379/.416 in 38 games before he suffered a torn labrum in his right shoulder and missed the rest of the season. In 2000 he played in 141 games and hit .252 with 15 homers and 69 RBI and had a career high 15 game hitting streak too. He also led the AL with 16 sacrifice bunts.
2001 Alex got into 154 games and hit 17 home runs to set career highs in runs (79) and RBI (76). He hit a big .253/.313/.404, his highest batting average, for the Jays, in a full season. He also stole 18 bases but was caught 11 times. Alex again led the AL in chances, assists and double plays at short. For some reason he batted mostly in the 2nd spot in the order. No matter how much you don't like Buck Martinez as a play-by-play man, just be thankful he isn't manager anymore.
After the 2001 season, JP Ricciardi became the Blue Jay GM and wanted to cut salary. Gonzalez was traded to the Cubs for Felix Heredia and James Deschaine. He spent 2.5 seasons with the Cubs getting into the playoffs with them in 2003, losing out in the NLCS to the Florida Marlins (the Bartman series). Gonzalez had a great NLCS hitting 3 home runs driving in 7 runs in their 7 game loss. But he also made the big error in the 8th inning of game 6 that allowed the Marlins to score 8 runs.
In 2004 he was traded to the Expos as part of the 8 player, four team trade that sent Nomar Garciaparra to the Cubs and Orlando Cabrera to Boston. He also played for San Diego, Tampa Bay and Philadelphia before retiring in 2006.
Omar Vizquel won the Gold Glove 9 years in a row from 1993 to 2001 but some of those seasons Alex really was the best shortstop in the AL. Getting Gold Glove voters to look at statistics isn't easy and, let's face it, if they did they wouldn't understand them. For a player that didn't hit well Alex had a long career in the majors, playing 13 seasons. Gonzalez was a favorite of female fans, "Marry Me Alex' signs often appeared at Skydome.
Alex is married and he has two children. He does charity work for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
Alex Gonzalez' place among Blue Jay batting leaders:
Games: 17th, 890
At Bats: 14th, 3258
Runs: 16th, 407
Hits: 19th, 798
Home Runs: 19th, 83
RBI: 20th, 350
Walks: 20th, 257
Strikeouts: 5th, 758
Stolen Bases: 11th, 85
Run Created: 24th, 382
Sacrifice Bunts: 2nd, 64