Best season ever…
I had the honor of pitching in front of Cal Ripken. I got to pitch in front of Craig Counsell when he was at a Gold Glove caliber of play in Arizona. Scott Rolen, Mark Lewis, Mickey Morandini, all of them.
I never pitched in front of a player that had a better defensive season than Alex Gonzalez did when I was in Boston. Not sure what the defensive statistics say about that year, but I know as a staff we were all in love with the guy every day he was at SS.
Great shortstops, much like great center fielders, take athleticism to a new level, Alex certainly did that. Pokey Reese was another one. Their play in and around the bag, their ability to go into the hole, do things other guys never attempt, effortlessly, is one of the magics of the game of baseball.
Pitchers are selfish in this sense. I never EVER cared whether Jason got a hit or not when I was pitching. Sure I wanted him to go 4-4 and hit 4 bombs, but if he didn’t it did not matter to me. I just needed to know, had to know, that he was committed to every pitch he was putting down. He always was.
The same thing applies to defense in the field. Sure you want everyone to get 4 hits a night, but that’s not going to happen. So recognizing that, what I wanted above all else was that guy who took as much, if not more, pride in his glove work and defense as he did in hitting. That’s Alex.
In addition to being a fantastic teammate, he can flat out play defense as well as anyone I ever suited up against, or played with.
It may not get the coverage it deserves, since he’s not hitting 350 and doesn’t have 20 HR’s or 100 RBI’s, but he’ll win games, he’ll make the staff better, and he’ll make a difference.
Getting both he and Kotchman (even with Youk being a Gold Glover) reminds me of bringing in Cabrera and Dougie M in ’04. Theo understands the dramatic shift in approach an above average defense can give a team.
I can remember pitching TO the left side of the infield with Alex and Pokey out there, same with Orlando. That’s huge. You cannot quantify it in numbers, but it has a direct impact on pitchers that control their fastballs.