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Going gonzo: Why Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez is a different kind of slugger


Adrian Gonzalez stands on first base after singling in a game against the Balitimore Orioles in April

When Adrian Gonzalez was traded to the Red Sox, the first feeling that came over hometown fans was happiness. Because for two years, Theo Epstein & Co. have flirted with Epstein protégé Jed Hoyer, executive VP and general manager of the San Diego Padres, regarding the availability of a guy Epstein has coveted since before the 2004 season.

The man who once high-tailed out of town in a gorilla suit wanted nothing more than Gonzo mashing up the Green Monster for the 2011 season and beyond. So the Sox dealt three top prospects (Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo, Reymond Fuentes) for the four-time All-Star last December in what will be recorded as one of the best deals Epstein has ever made.

But it still begs the question, did Hoyer one-up Epstein by stealing away Casey Kelly, the shortstop turned pitching phenom (relax, he isn't on Mike Trout's level yet) or did Theo acquire the rights to a hitting machine disguised within the pitcher-friendly Petco Park?

It was no secret that Gonzalez would become a threat if allowed to milk Fenway for the hitter-friendly park that it is. Nearly everyone, from scouts to players to executives hailed Gonzalez as a perfect fit for Boston. Though I wouldn't say anyone made any ridiculously expensive bets like the $20,000 wager Terry Francona made when he bet Red Sox president and CEO Larry Lucchino that he could quit chewing tobacco in 2007.

Gonzalez has been nearly superhuman this season. Heading into the All-Star Break, the San Diego native has put up numbers that suggest he may be the best in baseball. Gonzo leads the majors in batting average (.354, tied with Jose Reyes), RBIs (77), hits (128), doubles (29), and total bases (214). He's playing Gold Glove-caliber first base and he's the number-three hitter on the team with the best record in the American League.

"We expected him to be good after what we gave up for him," said Josh Beckett in an interview with the Boston Globe. "But I don't think anyone expected this. Not even our guys."

I mean, did you see him launch 31 home runs into the stands in Monday's Home Run Derby? How about the solo home run he hit in the fourth inning of last night's 82nd MLB All-Star Game?

Sure, Robinson Cano outslugged him in the end, but his talent really showed Monday night. A-Gon didn't just pull the ball, he showed power to all fields. He wrenched balls over the left field fence, to deep center and upper-decked his fair share of balls into the right field grandstands. While most sluggers would rather wait for the hanger over the heart of the plate, Gonzalez swings at everything.

What separates a good hitter from a great hitter is the ability to use every part of the field. And nothing has ever been more clear than it was Monday night: Adrian Gonzalez is a great hitter.

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