Here's the timeline of the recent soap opera starring Luis Gonzalez:
6/16: Ken Kendrick makes his infamous "whispers" comment.
6/19: Scott Hairston is brought up from Triple-A to start for Gonzo against lefties. Hairston gets injured during his first game, and Gonzalez holds his tongue.
7/20: Carlos Quentin gets the call as Gonzo's unspoken platoon partner. This time, he goes public with his anger.
Gonzo has the best OBP among Diamondbacks regulars since June 16. During this current 9-2 stretch, Luis has hit .405 with seven doubles in 37 at bats. He has struck out just twice in that span. 118 degrees is nothing compared to Gonzalez right now.
Maybe someone should have pissed him off sooner.
It is entirely possible that Gonzalez just became too complacent. He suffered through back-to-back losing seasons, his first ones in a D'Back uniform, the past two years. Those Diamondback teams combined for the worst winning percentage in the National League over that span. Luis had signed a $30 million contract, was a media darling, fan favorite, and the face of the most successful expansion franchise ever. Going to work every day must have been like a walk along the beach even despite the lackluster team around him.
And so in 2004 and 2005 he put up his worst numbers since his pre-Diamondbacks days, and he endured a humiliating 56-game homerless drought earlier this year. But he had everything he wanted: World Series ring, financial security, and fans who adored him. He had nothing to prove. Nothing pushed him to excel.
That has all changed. He has to prove to club management and to fans that his earlier success with the Diamondbacks was not a steroid-induced fluke. He has to prove to himself that he still has the drive and desire to win. He has to prove to everyone that he still has the skill and athleticism to outperform all of the hot young outfielders piling up in Tucson. He has to lead his teammates through a season full of distractions and disappointments.
So far, so good. Luis Gonzalez has carried the team on his back for these past eleven games. If he carries them all the way to the postseason, it still might not cause management to pick up his $10 million option for 2007. But it might make them want to renegotiate an incentive-laden deal. More importantly, it would bookend his career with the Diamondbacks and ensure that he is remembered as the outstanding player and person that he was.
Or rather, still is.
Read more from Keith Glab at www.baseballevolution.com