Thursday, September 15, 2005

Beware the Ides of September 

I come not to bury Gonzo, but to praise him.

Congratulations to Luis Gonzalez for receiving the 2005 Branch Rickey Award for his humanitarian efforts this year and over the years.

The award was timely, because it comes on the heels of what is new for Gonzo -- trade talk.

On the afternoon of July 3, Gonzalez was named to the All-Star Game. At the time, Gonzo was hitting .302, with an OPS of .874. While I could've made strong arguments for Brandon Webb, Tony Clark, or Craig Counsell to make the All-Star Team based on their first-half performance, there was nothing wrong with Gonzalez' selection. But since that afternoon? Hitting .224 with an OPS of .705. Not a collapse of Ortiz-ian proportions, but certainly not worth $10 million or so per year.

So now people are beginning to openly discuss the possibility of Gonzalez's trade. Jim, who has weathered these arid days of September much better than I have blogging-wise, gives his typically cogent summary of the situation (hey, how's that for a pull quote! -- "typically cogent"), all but pleading for a trade.

And the problem is that it's not going to happen. This isn't Randy Johnson, an expensive Hall-of-Famer, who really wanted to leave. It's not even Matt Williams, a fringe Hall-of-Fame candidate who was uncermoniously trashed for not wanting to uproot his family to Colorado.

This is Luis Gonzalez, Face Of The Franchise. Gonzo doesn't want to leave. The organization might want to move him, but who, realistically, needs Gonzo and would be willing to pay part of his salary, say, $3 or $4 million? St. Louis, maybe? Anaheim? I think those are the only two teams willing to pay that much for a 3rd or 4th outfielder that Gonzo might be willing to go to (and given the whole Gonzo-La Russa history, the Cardinals probably aren't set there).

And here's where the analysis leaves the ballfields and board rooms and enters unquantifiable territory like the human heart. Meaning, if the Diamondbacks enter a protacted and public trade dance, and ultimately fail, how does that affect public perception of the team? It's not like these Diamondbacks have captured the Valley's heart, and with a resurgent Suns team, a fun Coyotes team, and the Cardinals getting a stadium, getting rid of the one player with a well of goodwill with the public might not even be a wise move in the board room.

Look, I've made it clear that Gonzo is my favorite player, and I'd much rather see him play one final year here in 2006. I recognize, however, that Gonzo's skills do appear to be declining, and that 2006 should be a year of 300-400 PAs for him, with a lot of player-mentoring and newspaper puff pieces on his schedule.

But setting aside my biases, I think the potential risks -- on and off-the-field -- significantly outweigh the benefits.

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