New York Mets first baseman Adrian Gonzalez has been better than expected. Doubters like me owe him an apology.
It takes a big man to clobber a grand slam and lead the New York Mets to victory in their first week with the team. It takes an even bigger one to apologize to the first for doubting his abilities.
When the Mets signed first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, I had my doubts. I still do, but my convictions about how bad the signing was have wained. He’s proving me wrong often, making a case to help the Mets regularly in 2018.
So, before we get into the meat of my apology, let me tell Gonzalez that I am sorry.
I feel a little better now.
Gonzalez thriving early with the Mets
For Gonzalez, the key this year is staying healthy. He didn’t do it last year with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He appeared in only 71 games for the National League Champions, often struggling when he did play.
At nearly 36-years-old, healing quickly is a challenge. One errant pitch or a stretch too far at first base could land him on the disabled list for an extended period of time. This is the main reason why I ever had my doubts about him.
Gonzalez is fragile right now. It’s a known fact that he’s dealing with excruciating back issues. It’s the kind of injury that many men would retire from.
However, until he does shatter, Gonzalez will keep getting at-bats. His early performance has given manager Mickey Callaway ever reason to keep him in the lineup regularly, too. Through his first 27 at-bats, the former first overall pick has hit a robust .296/.406/.444 with eight RBI.
A strong start indeed, I’m convinced his body will hold up for a full season.
The Best Expectations for Gonzalez
Gonzalez can have 20 home runs at the All-Star Break and I won’t budge on how quickly it can all disappear with one injury. His poor health is the main reason why the Mets were able to sign him so cheaply. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s getting paid over $20 million by the Atlanta Braves to play for the Mets.
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Speaking strictly value based on the paycheck and production, Gonzalez may easily beat out other “bargain” first basemen who signed this offseason. He’s cutting into the Mets’ payroll so little, anything above replacement player level will make it look like a good signing.
Regardless of how well Gonzalez is playing, the Mets must sit him regularly. He should never start against left-handed pitchers. Resting him against the occasional righty is also wise if only to keep him fresh and on the field. The Mets have no excuse with Jay Bruce and Wilmer Flores on the roster able to take his place for twice a week.
Last year, the Washington Nationals did something similar with Ryan Zimmerman. The star first baseman had a career-year yet he often sat at minimum once a week. Because they had Adam Lind on the bench behind him for this purpose, the Nationals could afford to sit Zimmerman regularly. This helped preserve him for the full year.
There’s no doubt Gonzalez can still hit. It’s everything else that concerns me. Without the luxury of a DH spot often, Gonzalez may eventually shift into a larger part-time role with his biggest hits coming in a pinch-hitting role. Hopefully, fewer plate appearances will not mess with his timing and anything he has left in the tank doesn’t go to waste on the bench.
Doubters like me hope we’re wrong about Gonzalez. Every time A-Gon drives in a run, it’s a bittersweet feeling to know you’ve scouted incorrectly and have to cheer at the same time.
Let’s hope I apologize to Gonzalez plenty more in 2018.