Posted: Mon Sep 18, 2006 9:51 pm Post subject: Steve Gilbert addresses the Gonzo hysteria
From this week's bonus mailbag...
And to Paul, Tim, John, and Ed, "It's not personal, Sonny. It's strictly business."
Steve Gilbert wrote:
With the news that veteran outfielder Luis Gonzalez would not be returning to the Diamondbacks in 2007, the mailbag was overflowing this week, so we've decided to do a bonus edition of the mailbag. Just two weeks remain in the regular season, but keep those e-mails coming as we'll be doing mailbags throughout the offseason.
Why would the D-Backs let Luis Gonzalez go unceremoniously like that? I mean, over breakfast? After all these years didn't he deserve better?
-- Paul B., Phoenix
Almost anytime a franchise parts with a player as popular as Gonzo is here in Arizona, it's going to be difficult. It just isn't an easy thing to do and the game's recent history is littered with examples. I'm not sure where you would have preferred they give Gonzo the news, but I think his departure will be anything but unceremonious that last weekend of the season.
Why did the organization get rid of Gonzo so quick? Why not make an offer to him at the end of the year?
-- Tim M., Tempe, Ariz.
Gonzo requested Thursday's meeting so that he could have his situation clarified before the end of the season. That way he would have time to say his good-byes and, more importantly, the fans would have their opportunity to say good-bye. The Diamondbacks could have waited until after the season, declined to pick up his $10 million option for 2007 and given him a lowball offer that they knew he wouldn't accept. Then they could have said, "Hey, look, we tried to sign him, but he wanted to leave." I don't think that would have been a very classy move and it would have deprived the fans of a chance to say good-bye.
Luis Gonzalez should be back in 2007. He has hit 50 doubles this year and is still more productive than most guys in that lineup. Without him, who are we going to have play left field next year? What about the rest of the outfield? If we are going to go with the kids out there, shouldn't we have at least some veterans?
-- John P., Phoenix
Right now, it looks like the D-Backs are committed to playing Eric Byrnes in left field next year with Jeff DaVanon getting some playing time there, as well. Byrnes, who leads the team in home runs and RBIs, made quite an impression in his first year with the team. Chris Young will be the starter in center with Carlos Quentin in right. Going with rookies or near-rookies at multiple positions always carries with it some risk John, and only time will tell what kind of players Young and Quentin turn out to be. Teams such as the Dodgers had success this year playing youngsters, among them Andre Ethier. Even in a short period of time this year, I think it's easy to see why they were regarded as such top prospects.
I don't know why we didn't just keep Gonzo around for a few more years to help coach these young players. A guy with his experience could be a big help to them, don't you think?
-- Ed M., Glendale, Ariz.
I don't think Gonzo is ready to be a coach yet, Ed, either a full-time coach or as someone who plays just a few times a week. Gonzo wants to play every day and I think his performance this year suggests that he still has a lot left in his tank. Let's say the D-Backs had decided to bring him back for another year and let's assume that Gonzo said he'd play for less money but wanted assurances that he would be the starting left fielder. What would happen if, say, he hit .210 during April and manager Bob Melvin decided to sit him down because Byrnes was hitting the ball extremely well? How would Gonzo take that? How would the fans take that? You want to talk about unceremonious exits, how about sitting on the bench or being released midway through the season?
Gonzo has been a fan favorite and an icon to those of us who live here. If it weren't for him, we wouldn't have that World Series trophy. With that being the case, will the Diamondbacks retire his jersey Oct. 1? No one else should ever were No. 20 for Arizona purple or soon-to-be red.
-- Sandy R., Mesa, Ariz.
Sandy, I don't know for sure whether the D-Backs will retire his jersey on Oct. 1 when he plays his final game here, but I would doubt it. They may elect to do so in the future after he retires, but it might be a little soon to do it in a couple of weeks. Retiring numbers is always a tricky business for a franchise. Some organizations will do so only if the player has been elected into the Hall of Fame; others operate on more of a case-by-case basis. My personal opinion is that I like the concept of a "Ring of Honor" or some way of recognizing players who have an impact on your franchise or community without retiring their numbers. Even if Gonzo's number is not officially retired on Oct. 1, I would think the organization would wait a while before letting another player wear No. 20 and may end up retiring it.
Will Gonzo come back to the Diamondbacks as a coach or maybe in the television booth like Mark Grace? I heard Jeff Moorad say something about that the other night, but then Gonzo made it sound like he didn't want to. I think he would be a great broadcaster.
-- Sara J., Phoenix
The D-Backs made it clear that they want Gonzo to be part of the organization in some way when he's through playing. Gonzo said he didn't know if he would be interested in that and that's understandable given that the question was asked of him one day after they told him he wasn't coming back. I'm sure that Gonzo is not happy with the organization at the moment, but time tends to heal those things and, when all is said and done, I would bet he'll be back with the organization in some way. Matt Williams was not happy with the organization after he was let go in 2003 and some thought that he would not be back, but a little more than a year later he had an ownership stake and was part of their broadcast crew.
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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