In his nine years in the majors, Gonzalez has already established himself as an elite first baseman en route to becoming a three-time Gold Glove award winner. He’s posted a .995 fielding percentage, validating his claim as one of the game’s best defensive first basemen.
Despite his slow start this year, he’s also one of the top sluggers in baseball. The Red Sox recognized that fact, signing him to a lucrative seven-year, $154 million during the 2011 offseason.
With a hefty paycheck and his superstar credentials, Gonzalez didn’t have to propose a switch to right field in interleague play, let alone American League action in the wake of Cody Ross‘ recent foot injury.
But it’s admirable that Gonzalez accepted the duty. It’s a selfless attitude that — barring any costly, defensive errors in the short term — could pay dividends down the road, should the Red Sox potentially advance to the postseason.
For one, it temporarily silences the debate between keeping either Will Middlebrooks or Kevin Youkilis at third base. By sliding over to the outfield, Gonzalez enables the Red Sox to keep both Middlebrooks’ and Youkilis’ potent bats in the lineup.
It’s certainly a better alternative than starting Che-Hsuan Lin, who is regarded as a defensive specialist, in the outfield and only capitalizing on just one pinch-hit at-bat from either Middlebrooks or Youkilis.
As a result of Gonzalez’ altruistic attitude, the Red Sox’ offense could benefit in the long run.
And Gonzalez has looked at playing the outfield as a positive challenge. After playing right field at Citizens Bank Park, Gonzalez reminded us that he’s practiced there and exuded confidence in his abilities to perform capably.
In fact, Gonzalez said his mantra is that fly balls are just bad hops. It’s certainly a positive spin on a negative situation, considering the Red Sox have six outfielders sidelined on the disabled list.
In the process of the position switch, Gonzalez is also alleviating some of the backlash that he endured from pundits because of his offensive struggles to start the season. Now, he has bought himself even more goodwill — not that he necessarily needed it — moving forward.
The team needed some flexibility and Gonzalez is giving it to them.
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