As Spring Training winds down, it’s becoming more and more obvious that Juan Gonzalez might not make the team. Witness these quotes by manager Eric Wedge:
“I want someone who has the total package, the total game,” Wedge said. “I want the offense, the defense, the persona, the attitude, the energy, the whole nine yards.”
“I’ve got to know I can count on [Gonzalez],” Wedge said. “I’ve got to know he’s going to show up and play on a daily basis. He’s got to be able to play the outfield and handle himself out there.”
Now maybe I’m reading too much into things, but quotes like that seem to be code for “Gonzalez hasn’t been good enough.” Granted, his recent hamstring injury may have something to do with Juan’s Lawton-esque fielding this spring, but Juan being health is almost as important (or maybe moreso) as Juan hitting. If it were my decision, I’d probably keep him around, knowing that Sizemore, Ludwick, and (eventually) Gerut could pick up the slack if Juan ends up on the DL again. You also can’t discount Grady’s play, who has done nothing but impress team officials this spring. Casey Blake’s smooth transition to the outfield probably plays a part in this decision as well; from what I saw yesterday, he looked pretty good in left field.
What part does defense play in this decision? Scott Elarton and Cliff Lee are fly-ball pitchers, so placing Sizemore in center, Crisp in left, and Blake in right probably helps them out. The “attitute and energy” probably favors Grady as well. I don’t know how much the team will credit Sizemore for his “intangibles,” but it’s kind of interesting that the younger player in the battle might win a spot because of them. The offense is firmly in Gonzalez’s favor; although Grady should eventually become a nice weapon at the plate, Juan is still the better hitter. Placing him behind Hafner and Martinez would be nice protection for the two third-year players, and would take some pressure off them as the league adjusts.
I personally think this uncertainty is due more to Sizemore’s positives than Gonzalez’s negatives. Yes, the hamstring injury was the event that put Juan’s roster spot in doubt, but without Sizemore, Juan probably makes the team anyway.