Now, all Red Sox fans are hoping for is that Gonzalez reaches double-digit home runs.
Power-wise, it has been a lost season for the Sox first baseman. The once-feared slugger is still a reasonably competent hitter, sporting a .351 OBP for the season. However, although Gonzalez once flashed 40-plus-home-run power in pitcher-friendly Petco Park, he has managed to hit just two long balls in 147 at-bats and 168 plate appearances this season.
As The Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham pointed out today, Gonzalez has managed just 12 home runs in 411 at-bats since last year’s All-Star game. His slugging percentage for the 2012 season stands at just .415, putting him in the company of prolific sluggers like Michael Saunders and Alcides Escobar.
Gonzalez is in the first season of a seven-year, $148 million contract extension. He is not getting paid to dribble soft singles into the outfield. The Sox need him to be driving the ball to the gaps and hitting home runs in order for the team to be successful, and the fact that Gonzalez has a lower slugging percentage than Ryan Sweeney is deeply troubling.
All of this brings us to last night, when after issuing a myriad of complaints about the umpires, Gonzalez went on to guarantee to the gathered media that he’d hit a home run in tonight’s game.
While this type of promise is essentially meaningless in sports—of course, everyone guarantees they’re going to win, so why would they play if they thought they were going to lose?—it is especially hollow coming from Gonzalez.
How many home runs will Adrian Gonzalez finish with this season?
Given his lack of power this year, why would anyone believe him?
Despite hitting in the heart of a talented Red Sox order, Gonzalez has been unable to find any kind of rhythm at the plate. The tremendous start of David Ortiz, consistency of Dustin Pedroia and emergence of Will Middlebrooks should be providing Gonzalez with all the protection he needs to reach the lofty heights expected of him.
And yet, he continues to struggle, as we are left to wonder just what is going on. Gonzalez himself does not seem too terribly concerned with this power outage, and his attitude has become a source of consternation amongst Sox fans.
Gonzalez has been quite an excuse-maker in his time in Boston. The September collapse of last season? “It wasn’t in [God’s] plan.” As for his struggles this season? “How are you supposed to have a professional at-bat with these umpires nowadays?”
The Red Sox and their fans may need to start asking themselves just what they think they can get out of Adrian Gonzalez. He has yet to give off the impression that he has truly embraced being a member of the Red Sox, and it is fair to wonder if he ever will.
For all the griping that fans (myself included) and Bobby Valentine have done about the antics of Kevin Youkilis, at least we know he cares. Where after a controversial call Youkilis will bark at the umpire, kick some dirt around and throw his helmet, Gonzalez will simply walk back to the dugout quietly.
While this difference in personality doesn’t make one a better player or person than the other, the reality is that Youkilis’ enthusiasm plays much better in Boston than Gonzalez’s level-headed coolness. Just ask J.D. Drew.
The reality is that Gonzalez, though a great player, may not be fit to play in Boston. If he fails to come through on his home-run guarantee against the Rays tonight, the beginning of the “trade Gonzalez” movement may not be far behind.