Fan Foils By The Numbers: Alex Gonzalez

Sporting News via Getty Images

Limited skills and wrong place, wrong time.

Baseball history is full of great players. And flawed players. Five-tool players and those with more limited skill sets. All types are needed and help make up a quality baseball team.

The 2003 Cubs were a quality baseball team. They were pitching heavy with a somewhat limited, but capable, offense. They featured a number of shaky fielders, so having a slick-fielding shortstop made sense.

Enter Alex Gonzalez. He had been acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for lefty reliever Felix Heredia and some spare parts.

Gonzalez was regarded as a strong fielder, which made up for his sub-par bat. As a hitter, he topped 100 wRC+ just once. He struck out a lot (over 20% K%), but did have a little pop. These were all features of his time as a Cub. Many fans might be surprised to know that Gonzalez' first year on the North Side was one of his best offensive seasons.

'02: 142 games, .248/.312/.425 with 18 HR (21 errors)
'03: 152 games, .228/.295/.409 with 20 HR (10 errors)
'04: 37 games, .217/.241/.364 with 3 HR (5 errors)

In his two full seasons as a Cub, Gonzalez was worth 0.7 and 1.0 WAR (Fangraphs), respectively.

None of those numbers would have been surprising, even to the Cub front office heading into the 2002 season. He made about $12M in two and a half seasons (more on that in a moment) as a Cub. So why is he a Foil?

C'mon. You know.

To many fans, Gonzalez' error in Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS against the eventual champion Florida Marlins was the real unraveling of that fateful 8th inning.

That single mistake wiped out any memory that Gonzalez was excellent at the plate that postseason, posting an .857 OPS in the series win against the Atlanta Braves and a 1.012 OPS against those Marlins. I'm willing to bet you didn't remember Gonzalez as an offensive hero of that postseason.

Gonzalez struggled mightily in 2004 (see above) and lost playing time to Ramon Martinez. Gonzalez was sent packing midseason during something awesome: a four-team trade. There should be more four-team trades. This particular deal involved the Montreal Expos, Minnesota Twins, and Boston Red Sox. The Cubs traded away Gonzalez, Francis Beltran, Brendan Harris, and Justin Jones and received Nomar Garciaparra and Matt Murton from Boston. Outside of Nomaaaaaaaaaaaah's injuries, that was an awfully good deal as the Cubs didn't give up anything they would end up missing.

Gonzalez was later dealt from Montreal to the San Diego Padres later that season. All told, he played for six different clubs during a 13-year career, producing a slash line of .243/.302/.391 with 137 home runs.

I really don't like to bury a guy for one physical mistake that could happen to anyone. But Gonzalez bobbled the ball when Cub fans needed him to be most sure-handed.

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