Nation STATion: Sox revolve around Gonzalez

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Nation STATion: Sox revolve around Gonzalez

By Bill Chuck
Special to CSNNE.com

It all revolves Adrian Gonzalez.

I dont mean, the sun, the moon, and the earth (but they may as well). I mean the success of the Red Sox.

Dont get me wrong, this is not a one-man team, but this is a team whose achievements can be traced to the accomplishments of one man, and that man is Adrian Gonzalez. (Save that last sentence, because if there is any controversy at seasons end as to who the AL MVP is, this should provide the support that is necessary for A-Gon.)

I have great respect for Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays, who leads the American League in Wins Above Replacement at 4.6, but his presence in the Toronto lineup is minimal compared to that of Gonzalez, who is second in the league with a 3.6.

I respect the fact that Adrian barely leads Jose in the batting race, .341 to .338 and Bautista leads the league in OPS (On-base Slugging) at 1.190, over David Ortiz who is second at 1.019 (Gonzalez at .977 is fourth in the league, also trailing Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers who has a 1.004 OPS). But, the Toronto Blue Jays are under .500 at 32-34 while the Sox, and Gonzalez, have played 65 games and their 39-26 (.600) record heading into Tuesday night's game is only exceeded by the 40-26 Phillies (.606).

The Sox are a team reliant on hitting, because truth be told, their pitching is mediocre. The full staff has the eighth-best ERA in the league at 4.08. The starters and relievers ERA strangely are the same at 4.08 and both are only good for the ninth in the league, so its clearly the Sox bats that have led them to the top.

The Red Sox are first in the A.L. in runs, hits, doubles, total bases, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging, and OPS, and their leader has been A-Gon. You do not need to be a stats maven to appreciate the numbers of Gonzalez. A quick look shows that he leads the A.L. with 91 hits, 22 doubles, 37 extra-base hits (tied with the ChiSox Carlos Quentin), 156 total bases, and most importantly, 60 RBI.

We were pleased when on May 7 he was hitting .303, but in the five weeks since that date he has hit .374 with 10 of his 13 homers (oh, did I neglect his power?) and 38 RBI. His presence in the lineup, particularly with runners on base, has a dramatic effect on every game.

Looking for a delicious stat? (For the newly initiated to Nation STATion, those are numbers that are so yummy that I gain weight thinking about them.) Try this: Gonzalez is hitting .310 with no one on base; with men on, hes hitting .369; with men in scoring position, hes hitting .376; and with men in scoring position and two outs, hes hitting .405.

So what is the Gonzalez influence?

The consistency of Gonzalez means that the pressure is off another member of the lineup who might be slumping or experiencing highs and lows. Take Dustin Pedroia, who has scuffled all season. His .262 average is far below the .305 lifetime average he had entering the season. But Pedey is protecting the plate for Jacoby Ellsbury, who has stolen a league-leading 24 bases and has scored 49 runs, driven in 18 times by Gonzalez.

You cant help but appreciate the confidence exhibited by Ellsbury as hes regained his role as a premier lead-off batter after a washed-out 2010. Ellsbury, the current AL Player of the Week, had an OBP of .294 on April 26 as he was hitting .221. Hes played 44 games since then and hit .356, with an OBP of .407 with 19 stolen bases and, most importantly, 37 runs scored. His season-long OBP is .376.

On the other end of the lineup, the Sox, thanks to Gonzalez and Big Papi, have been able to be patient with Jarrod Saltalamacchia who, since May 5, has raised his average from .194 to .252 by hitting .289 with five homers and 32 RBI.

The same is true for Carl Crawford, who returned to his baseball roots in Tampa on Tuesday. Had he gone on May 5, the fans would show no regret over his departure as he was hitting .197. Since that date, hes hit .290, with an .805 OPS and raised his average to a not embarrassing .246.

Thanks to Kevin Youkilis and, particularly Ortiz, pitchers cant and dont issue a lot of walks to Gonzalez. He only has received 22 so far this season which is same as the As Josh Willingham who is hitting .235. But when on May 9, Papi was hitting .280 with four homers, everyone in Red Sox Nation was content. Since that date, Ortiz has hit .355 with 13 homers and 27 RBI and Gonzalez has hit .369 with nine homers and 36 RBI. Oh, and the Sox were 17-18 on May 9 and since have gone 22-8.

Look up at the standings, or in the sky, and you will see it all revolves around the magnificent Gonzalez.

Jones-Molina WBC spat is a clash of cultures . . . and that's great

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Jones-Molina WBC spat is a clash of cultures . . . and that's great

The Adam Jones-Yadier Molina verbal skirmish is as predictable as it is annoying.

Was every cultural nuance for the 16 World Baseball Classic teams explained in a booklet the players had to memorize before the tournament?

No? Then it’s amazing there weren’t more moments like this.

Jones, the Orioles outfielder, said Team USA's championship game win over Puerto Rico was motivated by Puerto Rico's choice to plan a post-tournament parade for the team before the final game.

As Jones and his teammates know, parades in pro sports are for championship teams. Red Sox fans are likely aware of this.

As Jones and his teammates know, discussing a parade before a title is secured suggests overconfidence. Rex Ryan fans are likely aware of this.

After an 8-0 win for the U.S., Jones revealed the parade was used as bulletin-board material.

"Before the game, we got a note that there was some championship shirts made -- we didn't make 'em -- and a flight [arranged],” Jones said. “That didn't sit well with us. And a parade -- it didn't sit well with us."

But apparently, Jones didn't know the full context of the parade. It was reportedly planned regardless of whether Puerto Rico won.

One Team USA teammate of Jones whom CSNNE spoke with didn't believe that, however.

"It was called a champions parade that got turned into a celebration parade once they lost," the player said. "I think they just don't like getting called out by Jones, but all Jones did was tell exactly what happened."

Jones’ comments weren’t received well.

Puerto Rico's going through a trying time, a recession, and the entire island rallied behind the team.

“Adam Jones . . . is talking about things he doesn't know about," Molina told ESPN’s Marly Rivera. "He really has to get informed because he shouldn't have said those comments, let alone in public and mocking the way [preparations] were made.”

No one should be upset Jones explained what he was thinking.

Jones actually asked MLB Network host Greg Amsinger, “Should I tell the truth?”

Yes. It’s better than lying.

Look at the reactions across the WBC: the bat flips, the raw emotion. Honesty conveyed via body language.

People in the U.S. are starting to accept and crave those reactions. The WBC helped promote a basic idea: let people be themselves.

Jones said what was on his mind. We can’t celebrate bat flips and then say Jones should keep his mouth shut.

But there's an unreasonable expectation being placed on Jones here.

He heard about a parade -- which is to say, a subject he wouldn't normally think twice about or investigate before a championship baseball game.

Plus, it gave him motivation.

Why is Jones, or anyone with Team USA, more responsible for gaining an advance understanding of Puerto Rico’s parade-planning conventions -- we're talking about parade planning! -- than Puerto Rico is responsible for keeping U.S. norms in mind when making and/or talking about those plans?

No one involved here was thinking about the other’s perception or expectation. It's impossible to always do so.

But that’s how these moments develop: what’s obvious to one party is outlandish to the other.

Now Molina, Puerto Rico's catcher, wants an apology.

"He has to apologize to the Puerto Rican people," Molina told ESPN. "Obviously, you wanted to win; he didn't know what this means to [our] people."

Jones can clear the air with an apology, but he doesn't owe one. And he definitely doesn't owe one after Molina took it a step further.

"I'm sending a message to [Jones], saying, 'Look at this, right now you're in spring training working out, and we're with our people, with our silver medals,' " Molina said. "You're in spring training and you're working . . . you have no idea how to celebrate your honors, you don't know what it means.”

Team USA had no parade. Manager Jim Leyland made clear how the U.S. was celebrating, by recognizing those serving the country.

The silver lining here is how much attention the WBC has drawn, and how much conversation it can drive. People care, a great sign for the sport -- and its potential to foster better understanding across cultures.

Internationally, the sport is on parade.

Wright extends scoreless streak to 9 1/3 innings in Red Sox' 10-7 win over Pirates

Wright extends scoreless streak to 9 1/3 innings in Red Sox' 10-7 win over Pirates

The angst surrounding the David Price- and (possibly) Drew Pomeranz-less Red Sox starting rotation may have eased a little -- or a lot -- on Thursday.

Steven Wright extended his string of scoreless spring-training innings to 9 1/3 by blanking the Pirates for 4 1/3 innings in his third spring-traing start, leading the Sox to a 10-7 victory over the Pirates at SkyBlue Park.

Red Sox-Pirates box score

Wright allowed two hits -- the only two hits he's allowed this spring -- with one walk and three strikeouts.

Several of his pitching brethren, notably Heath Hembree and Robbie Ross Jr., didn't fare nearly as well. (See box score above.) But the Sox -- using what may be their regular-season batting order for the first time -- bailed them out with a 16-hit attack, led by Dustin Pedroia (3-for-3, now hitting ,500 for the spring). Mookie Betts, Hanley Ramirez, Jackie Bradley Jr., and, yes, Pablo Sandoval each added two hits. Sandoval also drove in three runs and is now hitting .362.

Xander Bogaerts went 1-for-4 in his return to the Sox from the World Baseball Classic.