The Los Angeles Dodgers are currently 60-49 and are first in the NL West riding 13 consecutive road victories for the first time since 1924.
After having a poor first half, 47-47 at the All Star Break, Los Angeles has been on a surge, being led offensively by Cuban sensation Yasiel Puig and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. Puig is batting an astonishing .376 with 11 HR and 25 RBI in only 53 games played.
Gonzalez has led the team all season long both offensively and defensively, batting .300 with 15 HR and 66 RBI. Despite his stellar on field performance, the question for the Dodgers should now be: is Gonzalez a clubhouse leader?
Better known as a “West Coast” guy, Gonzalez had some of his best years with the San Diego Padres, averaging 32 HR, 100 RBI and a .288 AVG in five seasons. Padre’s general manager Jed Hoyer knew that the team had no chance of re-signing him beyond his final contract season; Gonzalez was traded to the Boston Red Sox for a package of right-handed pitcher Casey Kelly, first baseman Anthony Rizzo, outfielder Reymond Fuentes and a player to be named later. Later determined to be Eric Patterson.
Gonzalez and the Red Sox agreed to a seven-year contract extension worth $154 million through the 2018 season.
Gonzalez contributed right away at Fenway hitting 27 HR with 117 RBI and a career high .338 AVG. Adrian finished in seventh place in the AL MVP ballots with his teammate Jacoby Ellsbury in second (both losing to Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander).
Despite having a great regular season with a 90-73 record, the Sox lost 18 of their final 24 games, ending up in third place in the AL East. They missed the postseason after having a nine game lead, and a 99 percent chance of making the playoffs at the beginning of September. The Red Sox completed their historic collapse, losing to the Baltimore Orioles in the ninth inning to end their very forgettable season. What caused this drastic turn of events?
The Red Sox then proceeded to “clean house”, getting rid of manager Terry Francona and general manager Theo Epstein, but the following 2012 season began no different under new manager Bobby Valentine.
2012 was Boston’s first losing season since 1997, their first season with 90 or more losses since 1966 and their worst season since 1965. The Red Sox finished with a 69–93 record, and last place in their division.
Being in the midst of clubhouse issues, on Aug. 25, the Red Sox decided to trade Adrian Gonzalez in a mega-deal that included the Sox sending right-handed pitcher Josh Beckett, outfielder Carl Crawford and infielder Nick Punto to the Dodgers in exchange for first baseman James Loney, infielder Ivan De Jesus Jr., right-handed pitcher Allen Webster, right-handed pitcher Rubby De La Rosa and first baseman/outfielder Jerry Sands.
Los Angeles was hoping that Gonzalez would provide the spark that they needed to get into the postseason. Though he batted .297 with three HR and 22 RBI, the Dodgers missed out on the playoffs for the third consecutive year, playing worse with Adrian Gonzales, Hanley Ramirez and Josh Beckett than they did in the first two months of the season.
They also incurred $262.5 million in future salaries in the Red Sox blockbuster deal, proving that money doesn’t buy championships. Gonzalez had a forgettable year as well, as he saw his numbers diminish considerably batting .300 with 15 HR and 86 RBI on the season.
Though he can lead the team on the field, with career averages of a .294 AVG, 23 HR and 82 RBI, the question remaining is whether he can lead the team in the clubhouse. In Boston, Gonzalez was beginning to be labeled “clubhouse cancer” in the Red Sox locker room, and also missed out on the playoffs with the Dodgers last season. Now, with Los Angeles in first place in their division, Gonzalez will hope that he can turn things around for the better, in his second year in Dodger blue.