Most media outlets are based on the east coast and as such, little focus is paid on teams like the Seattle Mariners, San Francisco Giants or the San Diego Padres. Sure, once in a while some high profile players such as Junior Griffey, Barry Bonds or Trevor Hoffman will bring one of those organizations to light. But answer this: When is the last time the San Diego Padres were on national television? Yeah, the Fan can't remember either. So it is no surprise that one of the league's best players excels outside the spotlight. He is a slugger named, Adrian Gonzalez.
Gonzalez is now 27 and in the prime of his baseball career. Drafted in the first round by the Florida Marlins in the 2000 draft, he somehow found his way to the Texas Ranger organization where he saw limited activity in 2004 and 2005. It seems they had a first baseman there by the name of Mark Teixeira. So the Rangers traded him to the Padres.
The Padres play in one of the more famously pitcher oriented parks. And yet the past three seasons have seen Adrian Gonzalez increase his slugging percentage and his home run total. He hit 24 in 2006, 30 in 2007 and 36 last year. The Fan was perusing the league leaders a couple of days ago and saw that Gonzalez was leading the majors in homers. The Fan's response was probably typical of most fans: "Really!?" Yup. He's hit 19 thus far and is on pace to eclipse last year's total.
The last three seasons have also seen increases in his walk total, his OPS+, his RBI total and his Runs Scored total. Again, his early season starts this year all indicate that he will rise for the fourth straight year in all of those categories. On top of all that, he won a Gold Glove for his work at first base and it was no fluke. His Range Factor, RTOT and Fielding Percentage are all above league average.
And the guy just seems to love playing baseball. He played in the Caribbean League for Mexico and starred for Mexico in the WBC. In what has become a really nice story, he also has the added bonus of playing with his older brother, Edgar, who plays second (among other positions) for the Padres. Edgar isn't the player Adrian is, but he is useful and after playing with Edgar for years on Mexico's squad, Adrian suggested to the Padres that Edgar could help them and they picked him up. Edgar batted .274 in 325 at bats last year. He is struggling this year though.
Adrian Gonzalez is probably the second best first baseman in the league behind Pujols and has eclipsed Berkman who held that title for many years. He is a force at the plate and in the field and is only getting better. Maybe someday soon, more fans will know about this great player in San Diego. Hey, if the Fan finally noticed, others will too.