Randy Booth from SB's Red Sox blog Over the Monster sent me an email this morning asking what I thought about their new shortstop, our old one, so I asked back about our new shortstop, their old one. Of course, I was glowing in praise for Scutaro. And Randy is equally glowing with praise for Alex Gonzalez:
Alex Gonzalez was brought to the Red Sox in 2006 because defensively, the Red Sox needed a savior. And he did that. Extremely well. While I'm sure there are more pitchers that would attest to this, Curt Schilling has said in the past that Gonzalez was the best defensive shortstop he has ever played with.
But that was in 2006. What about 2009?
When the Sox re-acquired Gonzalez in 2009, it was for the same purpose: save the left side of the defense. Although some stats had dropped considerably since '06 -- his UZR/150 in 2006 was 16.9, in 2009 for the Reds, 5.8 -- Theo Epstein brought him on board because he figured he could play even better.
That move was met with a lot of frustration from Red Sox fans. Evidence is in the comments here:http://www.overthemonster.com/2009/8/14/989480/red-sox-trade-for-reds-shortstop
But something happened when Gonzalez jumped on the plane from Ohio to Logan Airport in Boston. His defense just got better. Much better. He played like he did in 2006. Actually, he played even better with an 18.3 UZR/150 in his limited time with Boston. Maybe it was the pennant race. Maybe it was being back "home" where he loved to play. Whatever it was, Gonzo was perhaps the best defensive shortstop in baseball when he was wearing the 'B' on his hat.
Offensively, no one expected anything. We expected a Mendoza Line batting average. We actually wanted a Mendoza Line batting average. That would have been nice. Instead, Gonzo goes out and bats .284 with five home runs in 44 games. He had hit three in 68 games with the Reds. Gonzo was hitting, fielding and, from all accounts, was a great teammate. The Red Sox couldn't have had a better shortstop for the time.
While most Sox fans doubted he could keep up his production throughout the rest of the season, there were supporters:http://www.overthemonster.com/2009/9/11/1025662/the-ballad-of-alex-gonzalez
Who knows what Gonzalez will do in Toronto? He seems like he could be a little two-faced defensively. When he was in Boston, we saw the best of him -- twice -- although his numbers the second time showed he should have been on the decline. Offensively, you do not have a Marco Scutaro on your hands. He'll plug away at the plate, but he's not going to do anything special. I'd be happy if he bats within 20 points of his .284 batting average that he had with the Sox.
But Gonzo will do his job, day in and day out. He'll field, he'll be a good teammate and he'll try to hit. I, for one Red Sox fan, will definitely miss the guy. I missed my opportunity to buy his shirt when he was a Sox (twice), but now I'm thinking I might have to buy the Blue Jays version instead. That's how much I'm going to miss watching Gonzo play.
I think we should all chip in for that Blue Jays Gonzalez jersey for Randy. I am curious to see him play. Sounds like his defense will be fun to watch, and maybe we can hope some Cito magic works with his bat.