Adrian Gonzalez has arrived


Adrian Gonzalez has arrived

By Rich Levine

This is what weve all been waiting for, even if we never knew exactly what this was.

But after 40 games, its official: Adrian Gonzalez has arrived.

From the moment Theo mortgaged the farm to bring A-Gon to Boston, and even after the team invested 154 million to ensure that hed stay, there was something about Gonzalez that Sox fans couldnt understand.

Gonzalez was the Great Unknown. Which is to say, we knew he was going to be great, we just didnt know how.

Of course, in the general sense, we did. For years, we watched the highlights, saw the stats, and then, once the deal became official, listened as every one of baseballs most respected minds wet themselves over how unbelievable Gonzalez would be in this lineup, in this stadium, with that big, fat wall in left field. We came into this season with every expectation that Gonzalez would be the best hitter on the Red Sox, if not in the entire American League.

Still, something about him remained a mystery. Despite the resume and the references, it didnt feel real.

The problem was this: For all wed read and seen and heard about Gonzalez, wed yet to really live it.

Can you say that about any major acquisition? Sure, but this was different.

Unlike Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett or even John Lackey, Gonzalez had never excelled on the big stage. He has as many career playoff home runs and RBI as I do. Hes also only played in four career postseason games, but really, thats the point. Hed just never been there. Wed never heard Bob Costas or Joe Buck deliver a drawn-out, sappy, romanticized monologue on the wonders of Adrian Gonzalez. Wed never seen him take a team to typically unattainable heights. He has a catalog of great seasons, but no moments that define his greatness.

Also, unlike Manny Ramirez or Carl Crawford, Gonzalez had never faced Boston in a big situation. Hed never instilled the fear of God in Sox fans. We never knew what it was like to be faced with his greatness, so it was hard to have as much respect for what he could do. Gonzalezs played three career games against Boston, and had one hit. And considering that came in the seventh inning of a game played out in San Diego, theres a good chance you didnt see it.

And thats the overriding theme. Gonzalez was a guy whod spent the last five years emerging, and then solidifying his spot among the greatest hitters in all of baseball. And for the most part, you just didnt see it.

Its strange to have that experience with a superstar in this day and age, with the 24-hour sports cycle haunting our every move, Baseball Tonight and the MLB Network making every team important, fantasy baseball making every player important, and the Internet making the whole world feel as cramped as a Fenway Park bathroom, but Gonzalez slipped through the cracks.

You knew he was there (especially if he was on your fantasy team), and that he was always on the Sox radar, but you never really knew him. There were no big sponsorships, or cool commercials. He did the Home Run Derby once, hit two homers in the first round and faded back into the crowd. He lived, breathed and succeeded in obscurity.

None of that mattered once he came to Boston. Regardless of anything you didnt know about him then, you knew what he was supposed to be now. He was the present and the future of this team. He was amends for Teixeira. At Fenway, he was maybe even better. You knew what to expect, you were just waiting for it to happen.

And at first it didnt.

For his first month in Boston, Gonzalez, again, was unlike any superstar weve had. He wasnt outspoken or quirky or flashy or really, much of anything. In fact, while we spent most of that time lamenting Crawfords struggles, Gonzalez remained in obscurity. He did nothing great, nothing awful. He hit .314 in that first month, but he had as many home runs (1) as Darnell McDonald. When he took the plate, there was nothing special or unique. Nothing to separate him form the pack. He didnt fidget psychotically like Nomar; he calmly stepped into the box. He didnt wave the bat menacingly like Manny; he set his feet, rested the bat on his shoulder and didnt move until the pitch was on its way. He didnt spit fire and glare angrily at the pitcher like Ortiz; Gonzalez looked out at the mound with a focused, non-descript stare, like an MIT student honing in on an algorythm. He was just blah. We learned nothing about him . . . or, in retrospect, maybe we learned everything about him. Regardless, unlike Crawford, there was never any concern over what Gonzalez might do.

We were never exactly sure what we were waiting for. We just knew it was coming, and that thered be no questions once it arrived.

Needless to say, the wait is over.

In 13 games this month, Gonzalez has more home runs (8), than any other Red Sox has for the entire season, and only Kevin Youkilis' season total of 22 RBI can top the 19 Gonzalez has knocked in since the first of the month. He leads or is tied for the team lead in hits, runs, batting average, doubles, homers, RBI, slugging and OPS. Hes kept the same demeanor, but instead of looking like a college kid attacking a math problem, it's now more like a nuclear technician diffusing a warhead. What once looked stoic and unaffected is now unflappable and you can see how much that scares the hell out of the other team. You can see how we works, how he will work, and how much better Boston will be for it.

Now, we're finally learning what Adrian Gonzalez is all about.

And it was definitely worth the wait.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on Rich can be reached at Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

New MLB labor deal: All-Star Game no longer determines home field in World Series

New MLB labor deal: All-Star Game no longer determines home field in World Series

IRVING, Texas -- Baseball players and owners reached a tentative agreement on a five-year labor contract Wednesday night, a deal that will extend the sport's industrial peace to 26 years since the ruinous fights in the first two decades of free agency.

After days of near round-the-clock talks, negotiators reached a verbal agreement about 3 1/2 hours before the expiration of the current pact. Then they worked to draft a memorandum of understanding, which must be ratified by both sides.

"It's great! Another five years of uninterrupted baseball," Oakland catcher Stephen Vogt said in a text message.

In announcing the agreement, Major League Baseball and the players' association said they will make specific terms available when drafting is complete.

"Happy it's done, and baseball is back on," Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Brandon McCarthy said.

As part of the deal, the experiment of having the All-Star Game determine which league gets home-field advantage in the World Series will end after 14 years, a person familiar with the agreement told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal had not yet been signed.

Instead, the pennant winner with the better regular-season record will open the Series at home.

Another important change: The minimum time for a stint on the disabled list will be reduced from 15 days to 10.

The luxury tax threshold rises from $189 million to $195 million next year, $197 million in 2018, $206 million in 2019, $209 million in 2020 and $210 million in 2021.

Tax rates increase from 17.5 percent to 20 percent for first offenders, remain at 30 percent for second offenders and rise from 40 percent to 50 percent for third offenders. There is a new surtax of 12 percent for teams $20 million to $40 million above the threshold, 42.5 percent for first offenders more than $40 million above the threshold and 45 percent for subsequent offenders more than $40 million above.

Union head Tony Clark, presiding over a negotiation for the first time, said in a statement the deal "will benefit all involved in the game and leaves the game better for those who follow."

Key changes involve the qualifying offers clubs can make to their former players after they become free agents - the figure was $17.2 million this year. If a player turns down the offer and signs elsewhere, his new team forfeits an amateur draft pick, which usually had been in the first round under the old deal.

Under the new rules, a player can receive a qualifying offer only once in his career and will have 10 days to consider it instead of seven. A club signing a player who declined a qualifying offer would lose its third-highest amateur draft pick if it is a revenue-sharing receiver, its second- and fifth-highest picks (plus a loss of $1 million in its international draft pool) if it pays luxury tax for the just-ended season, and its second-highest pick (plus $500,000 in the international draft pool) if it is any other team.

A club losing a free agent who passed up a qualifying offer would receive an extra selection after the first round of the next draft if the player signed a contract for $50 million or more and after competitive balance round B if under $50 million. However, if that team pays luxury tax, the extra draft pick would drop to after the fourth round.

Among other details:

-For a team $40 million or more in excess of the luxury tax threshold, its highest selection in the next amateur draft will drop 10 places.

-While management failed to obtain an international draft of amateurs residing outside the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada, it did get a hard cap on each team's annual bonus pool for those players starting at $4.75 million for the signing period that begins next July 2.

-There is no change to limits on active rosters, which remain at 25 for most of the season and 40 from Sept. 1 on.

-Smokeless tobacco will be banned for all new players, those who currently do not have at least one day of major league service.

-The regular season will expand from 183 days to 187 starting in 2018, creating four more scheduled off days. There are additional limitations on the start times of night games on getaway days.

-The minimum salary rises from $507,500 to $535,000 next year, $545,000 in 2018 and $555,000 in 2019, with cost-of-living increases the following two years; the minor league minimum for a player appearing on the 40-man roster for at least the second time goes up from $82,700 to $86,500 next year, $88,000 in 2018 and $89,500 in 2019, followed by cost-of-living raises.

-The drop-off in slot values in the first round of the amateur draft will be lessened.

-Oakland's revenue-sharing funds will be cut to 75 percent next year, 50 percent in 2018, 25 percent in 2019 and then phased out.

-As part of the drug agreement, there will be increased testing, players will not be credited with major league service time during suspensions, and biomarker testing for HGH will begin next year.

Negotiators met through most of Tuesday night in an effort to increase momentum in the talks, which began during spring training. This is the third straight time the sides reached a new agreement before the old contract expired, but a deal was struck eight weeks in advance in 2006 and three weeks ahead of expiration in 2011.

Talks took place at a hotel outside Dallas where the players' association held its annual executive board meeting.

Clark, the first former player to serve as executive director of the union, and others set up in a meeting room within earshot of a children's choir practicing Christmas carols. A man dressed as Santa Claus waited nearby.

Baseball had eight work stoppages from 1972-95, the last a 7 1/2-month strike in 1994-95 that led to the first cancellation of the World Series in 90 years. The 2002 agreement was reached after players authorized a strike and about 3 1/2 hours before the first game that would have been impacted by a walkout.

The peace in baseball is in contrast to the recent labor histories of other major sports. The NFL had a preseason lockout in 2011, the NBA lost 240 games to a lockout that same year and the NHL lost 510 games to a lockout in 2012-13.