By Tony Massarotti
Let’s get right to the point: if you were to ask all professional athletes in America who the most spoiled, entitled and selfish athletes are, they’d almost all come back with the same answer. Baseball players. As Exhibit A, we now offer you Adrian Gonzalez.
In case you missed it, the Los Angeles Dodgers opened the World Series last night with a 3-1 victory over the Houston Astros. Incredibly, despite never having been on a team that reached the World Series, Gonzalez was not present for the game. Though he is on the disabled list, he left the country. According to yesterday’s Los Angeles Times, Gonzalez was in Europe. With his family. On vacation. (He returned in time to be a studio analyst for regional TV coverage.)
This is the same Gonzalez billed as a team guy and clubhouse leader, which is one of the great southern California con jobs of all-time. What Gonzalez is, in retrospect, is the epitome and embodiment of the me-first, stat-driven baseball player, who takes his hacks, cashes his checks and calls it a day.
Sorry, but those are the facts.
Let’s back up here for a second. Entering this season, only Ichiro Suzuki, among active players, had played more games than Gonzalez without appearing in the World Series. (Brandon Phillips has since passed Gonzalez on the list, too.) Then the 2017 Dodgers reached the World Series — essentially without him — and Gonzalez was so ecstatic about the proposition that he left the continent.
Before anyone even suggests it, can we stop with the idea that remaining here for the World Series was too emotionally painful for Gonzalez to tolerate? Given his veteran status in the game, Gonzalez could have had value to the Dodgers in the clubhouse and on the bench. He could have been announced during introductions and enjoyed the applause he has earned during his career. Instead, he jumped ship. And in a gesture as symbolic as any you will ever see, he left the country.
The truth, as we all know, is that the 2017 Dodgers were better without Gonzalez, on the field and off. Read into that what you will. As stacked as the Dodgers were this season, they were 39-32 when Gonzalez played. They were 65-26 the rest of the time — not counting their 8-1 postseason. And that only begins to tell the story.
After Gonzalez went on the disabled list for the first time this season, the Dodgers responded by going 46-9. Yes, you read that correctly. They went 46-9, a winning percentage of .836 that translates into 135 wins over a 162-game schedule. After Gonzalez returned late in the year, the team went into a spin.
Tell you what: read the Times story and pay close attention to the wording. The story notes that after homering in his last regular at-bat, Gonzalez was placed again on the disabled list “because of what the Dodgers said was a recurrence of a back injury.” Got that? What the Dodgers said. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but it certainly sounds like the Times wonders whether Gonzalez is actually hurt, particularly when he got on a transoceanic flight to Europe. With a bad back.
Once again, in the interest of disclosure, you should know that I’m a Boston guy. Gonzalez was part of the 2011 Red Sox team that historically collapsed down the stretch, and he didn’t exactly cover himself in glory. Despite having arguably the best roster in team history, the 2011 Red Sox deteriorated into a selfish collection of losers. Gonzalez was among those who scrambled behind manager Bobby Valentine’s back and complained to ownership — OK, so Valentine is a weasel, too — and he lamented the fact that the Sox played too many Sunday night games. Which, of course, was a product of them being, you know, good. (Apparently, Gonzalez longed for his San Diego days, when the Padres stunk and you went home at 4:30 on Sunday afternoon and, more importantly, September 30.)
Less than a year later, Gonzalez was traded to Los Angeles, where the championship-starved Dodgers have underachieved year after year after year. Until 2017. When Gonzalez went on the DL, the team blossomed.
Now, finally, the Dodgers are in the World Series.
Gonzalez opted for Europe.
If that doesn’t tell you everything you need to know, then I don’t know what does.
Tony Massarotti is an avid Boston sports fan and has covered sports in Boston for more than 15 years for both the Boston Herald and Boston Globe. He now serves as a co-host on afternoon drive on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston. He was a two-time Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year as voted by his peers and has written four books, including “Big Papi,” the New York Times-bestselling memoirs of David Ortiz. You can follow Tony @tonymassarotti.