Adrian Gonzalez is playing good baseball right now.
I figure it’s best to start with facts and then move into opinion. Even the most strident Red Sox naysayer will agree Gonzalez is hitting extremely well these days, going 10 for 15 on the weekend against the Cubs and OPSing .938 on the season.
As a Sox fan I’ve absolutely developed a baseball crush on him. A 4 for 4 performance on Sunday Night Baseball gets you a nice SportsCenter mention, but it was last Monday that did it for me. Down six runs after five innings the Sox stormed back to get within a run and take it to the ninth.
Jacoby Ellsbury somehow works a walk and is followed by Dustin Pedroia, who worked a truly impressive at bat into another walk that brought Gonzalez to the plate. You could actually feel it coming, and the first baseman went down and got the first pitch curveball, bouncing it off the Green Monster and sending Pedroia home.
It was one of those moments of sheer joy only baseball can provide. Grown men running around on a field to tackle each other. David Ortiz pouncing on a celebrating Kevin Youkilis at home and then racing to second to grab Gonzalez on second base while the Fenway crowd goes nuts.
Hundreds of miles away I sat in a car watching the game end on my phone, but you couldn’t get the smile off my face if you tried. Watching that team come through after so many struggles early in the spring was a great moment in a still-young season. You could feel things change in that single swing, and months from now I’ll remember that double off the wall with added meaning.
Tonight I realized something about my love of Adrian Gonzalez. He’s so good that it looks like he’s not even really trying. The Sunday Night Baseball crew discussed this briefly at some point during an at bat and it was easy to call the discussion hyperbolic.
Then he ripped another hit.
Gonzalez is in a good place as an athlete, somewhere he can’t explain to a reporter or anyone else, really. He’s doing what he wants with the ball and winning games and wooing fans. Sox supporters have been giddy watching Gonzalez over the last few weeks, comparing his at bats to Little Leaguers hitting the ball off a tee.
But what makes him great is not that his talents are effortless, but that he makes it look easy. Because nothing ever is. He’s worked his ass off to get to where he is, but when you’re on the couch marveling at how good he is you tend to forget that.
Fans don’t get to see the hours and hours of work Gonzalez has put in at the plate Gonzalez, and they rarely remember the struggles either. What we want is to be blown away by talent, by pure ability that separates the common man from Those Who Achieve Things.
As ordinary people we seem to focus on the struggle, the hardships that define our lives. We want things to appear “simple” or “easy” so badly that we’ll work like crazy to create the illusion, so hard that we never really get to the point in the first place.
I know when I watch Gonzalez I appreciate the player he is not because of how easy it looks, but why it looks that easy. Because I can’t make things look that easy in my own life, either.
Adrian Gonzalez has something we mere mortals can only dream of. Or cheer for. Right now I’m just happy I can do the latter.