Alex Gonzalez (gonzaal02)
Alexander Luis Gonzalez
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 0", Weight 170 lb.
- High School Liceo Ramon Bastidas
- Debut August 25, 1998
- Final Game April 17, 2014
- Born February 15, 1977 in Cagua, Aragua, Venezuela
Alex Gonzalez played his first major league game for the Florida Marlins at the end of the 1998 season. It was the year after the Marlins' surprise World Championship, which the front office had celebrated by putting on a fire sale and getting rid of most of the stars that made the title possible. Gonzalez was immediately installed as the team's starting shortstop, playing almost every day for the last few days of August and all of September after his August 25th debut. He hit only .151, but added a pair of doubles and 3 homers. In 1999, he played 136 games as a 22-year-old rookie, hitting a career-high .277 with 28 doubles, 8 triples and 14 homers and scoring 81 runs. On the downside, he drew only 15 walks while striking out 113 times, revealing what would be his Achilles' heel his entire career. Still, his decent offensive production combined with solid defense made him the Marlins' representative in the 1999 All-Star Game, and led to his being named to the 1999 Topps All-Star Rookie Team. Alex kept the starting job with the Marlins until 2005, although he was never an All-Star again. He fell to .200 in 2000, but bounced back to hit 36 doubles and 9 homers with a .250 average in 2001.
On May 18, 2002, Alex dislocated his shoulder diving for a ground ball in a game against the San Francisco Giants. He had to undergo surgery and did not play again that year, ending with a .225 average in 42 games. He came back strongly in 2003, playing 150 games, while hitting .256 with 33 doubles, 18 homers and 77 RBI. The Marlins came out of nowhere to win the National League wild card that year, with Gonzalez forming a solid keystone combination with Luis Castillo. He did almost nothing in the first two rounds of the postseason, going a combined 4 for 40, but hit a pair of doubles and a homer in the 2003 World Series when the Fish upset the New York Yankees in 6 games. In 2004, he played 159 games and hit 23 homers, driving in 79 runs, but fell to 5 homers, although with a .264 average, in 2005, again playing as the regular shortstop.
After the 2005 season, the Marlins made a big trade with the Boston Red Sox, acquiring a number of youngsters in return for P Josh Beckett and 3B Mike Lowell, including young SS Hanley Ramirez. They no longer had use for Gonzalez, and let him go as a free agent. He signed with the Red Sox himself, taking the place of Edgar Renteria, who had also preceded him with the Marlins. He only played one season for the Sox, hitting .255 in 111 games in 2006, but with less power than usual (24 doubles and 9 homers), when the Sox expected him to take better advantage of the Green Monster at Fenway Park. He became a free agent again after the season and signed with the Cincinnati Reds. He had a very solid season in 2007, when he hit .272 with 27 doubles and 16 homers; his .468 slugging percentage was a career high. However, he had a big setback in 2008 when he suffered a compression fracture in his left knee during spring training and missed the entire year. He came back in 2009, but hit only .210 with 3 homers in his first 68 games for the Reds. The Red Sox re-acquired him in return for minor league infielder Kristopher Negron and cash on August 14th. The Sox had been struggling to find a shortstop all season, after young Jed Lowrie went down with an early-season injury, and his replacement Nick Green proved not to be of major league caliber. Alex took over and did much better, hitting .284 in 44 games, with 10 doubles and 5 homers. He returned to the postseason, but only went 1 for 6 in 3 games as the Sox bowed out to the Los Angeles Angels in the ALDS.
He was acquired by the Toronto Blue Jays in November 2009 after the Boston Red Sox declined their 2010 contract options on him and Jason Varitek. In 2009, his salary had been $5,375,000. The Blue Jays' 2009 shortstop, Marco Scutaro, moved to Boston as a free agent that same offseason, so the two teams ended up - in effect - trading shortstops. Alex had a great first half for the Blue Jays in 2010, banging 25 doubles and 17 homers in only 85 games. The Jays cashed in by trading him to the Atlanta Braves along with youngsters Tim Collins and Tyler Pastornicky in return for Yunel Escobar and Jo-Jo Reyes on July 14th. He cooled off a bit with Atlanta, but still ended the year with 42 doubles and 23 homers, 74 runs scored and 88 RBI in 157 games. He then went 3 for 15 in the NLDS.
Alex returned as the Braves' shortstop in 2011, playing another 149 games, when he hit .241 with 27 doubles and 15 homers. He showed his usual weakness with OBP, at .270, but was otherwise a solid contributor to a team that only missed the postseason on the last day of the season. He was a free agent once again after the season, and the Braves decided to move on, as Pastornicky was now ready to take over the position. Gonzalez moved to the Milwaukee Brewers, where he replaced Yuniesky Betancourt in 2012. He was off to a good start, hitting his usual .259 with 4 doubles, 4 homers and 15 RBI in 24 games when he tore a ligament in his right knee on May 5th. He underwent season-ending surgery, leaving the Brewers with a huge hole in their infield. Alex was back with the Brewers in 2013, but hit only .177 in 41 games while playing essentially at first base and third base. His season ended when he was released on June 3rd.
He signed as a free agent with the Baltimore Orioles before the 2014 season, but during spring training, on March 24th, he was dealt to the Detroit Tigers for Steve Lombardozzi. In his Tigers debut on March 31st, he drove in the winning run against the Kansas City Royals, lining a single off closer Greg Holland in the 9th for a 4-3 win. Alex had been at the center of the action all game, making a costly error that led to all three Kansas City runs in the 4th, and then hitting a game-tying triple in the 7th. His stay with the Tigers was short-lived as he was given a pink slip on April 20th. He was hitting .167 in 9 games, but the Tigers were even more preoccupied with his lack of range at shortstop and decided to call up Danny Worth instead.
Gonzalez was regularly able to find a job as a starting shortstop somewhere, even though his career OBP was below .300, because he was a reliable fielder with an excellent arm, and contributed more power than the average middle infielder. He moved around a lot, and missed significant time to injuries in three different seasons, but otherwise was a major league regular upon his late season debut in 1998.
The other Alex Gonzalez was also the Blue Jays' starting shortstop for a number of years in the 1990s. The two famously faced each other in the 2003 NLCS, when this Alex was the Florida Marlins' shortstop, and Alex S. started at the same position for the Chicago Cubs.
- 1999 Topps All-Star Rookie Team
- NL All-Star (1999)
- 20-Home Run Seasons: 2 (2004 & 2010)
- Won a World Series with the Florida Marlins in 2003