Magadan: Gonzalez 'as good as it gets'


Magadan: Gonzalez 'as good as it gets'

By Sean McAdam

Dave Magadan was Adrian Gonzalez's first hitting coach in the big leagues. Now, five years later, they're about to be reunited and Magadan can't wait.

"He's as good as it gets," said Magadan, the Red Sox hitting instructor, from his Florida home Saturday. "He was very advanced when I had him in San Diego and that was his first full year in the big leagues. He was very smooth, very smart. Even then, he had a real good feel for how he was going to get pitched."

At the time, in the spring of 2006, Magadan took Gonzalez's confidence and self-awareness the wrong way.

"I didn't say anything at the time," Magadan recalled, "but I remember thinking to myself: 'This guy thinks he's really smart.' I thought, 'Wait until he faces big league pitching.' But you know what? He was really smart. He was very advanced for a guy his age."

At the time, Gonzalez was not yet 24 and was ticketed for Triple A. But when incumbent first baseman Ryan Klesko elected to undergo shoulder surgery, Gonzalez stepped in as San Diego's everyday first baseman.

"He had a real good sense of his own swing," said Magadan, who was fired midway through the 2006 season. "He knew what makes a good hitter. In that way, he was very coachable. He could sit on pitches, and he had the discipline to swing at the pitch he was looking for.

"He was very advanced for a guy his age. I liked him from the get-go. Maybe he didn't open as many eyes right away because he hit the ball the other way so much and at his position, people expected him to pull the ball more. But he had the power the other way; he wasn't just hitting singles (to left field) -- he could hit the ball out."

From afar, Magadan admired how Gonzalez adapted to Petco Park, perhaps the least inviting ballpark in the big leagues for hitters.

"It got to the point where I think he could keep his head above water at Petco and do most of his damage on the road," said Magadan.

Indeed, over his career, in a breakdown that includes 59 games played with Texas in 2004 and 2005, Gonzalez has hit 107 homers on the road, compared to 61 at home; slugged .568 on the road and .440 at home; and compiled an .943 OPS away and .800 at home.

And now with the trade sending him to Boston, Gonzalez will go from one of the toughest hitter's ballparks to Fenway, one of the best.

"I think Fenway just plays right into what his strengths are," said Magadan. "He's got great power the other way. He can drive a pitch away and hit it out. He's got very good pull power, too; he's not a guy who just inside-outs the ball."

Gonzalez will be making a transition of another sort, too, going from San Diego, which made the postseason just once in his five seasons and where crowds are often modest, to Fenway, where expectations and fan involvement are far greater.

"He's got a good, even personality," said Magadan. "It's going to be different for him, but different in a good way. I know some guys struggle in Boston, but he's got that personality where he's got a passion for the game. I don't see it being a problem.

"There was a lot of pressure on him in San Diego, but it was a different kind of pressure. He was the big go-to guy in that lineup. Here, he's part of a deeper lineup and he doesn't have to be The Guy all the time."

Sean McAdam can be reached at Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

NLCS: Cubs eliminate Dodgers, reach Series for first time since 1945


NLCS: Cubs eliminate Dodgers, reach Series for first time since 1945

CHICAGO -- Cursed by a Billy Goat, bedeviled by Bartman and crushed by decades of disappointment, the Chicago Cubs are at long last headed back to the World Series.

Kyle Hendricks outpitched Clayton KershawAnthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras homered early and the Cubs won their first pennant since 1945, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 Saturday night in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series.

The drought ended when closer Aroldis Chapman got Yasiel Puig to ground into a double play, setting off a wild celebration inside Wrigley Field, outside the ballpark and all over the city.

Seeking their first crown since 1908, manager Joe Maddon's team opens the World Series at Cleveland on Tuesday night. The Indians haven't won it all since 1948 - Cleveland and Cubs have the two longest title waits in the majors.

"This city deserves it so much," Rizzo said. "We got four more big ones to go, but we're going to enjoy this. We're going to the World Series. I can't even believe that."

All-everything Javier Baez and pitcher Jon Lester shared the NLCS MVP. Baez hit .318, drove in five runs and made several sharp plays at second base. Lester, a former World Series champion in Boston, was 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two starts against the Dodgers.

Deemed World Series favorites since opening day, the Cubs topped the majors with 103 wins to win the NL Central, then beat the Giants and Dodgers in the playoffs.

The Cubs overcame a 2-1 deficit against the Dodgers and won their 17th pennant. They had not earned a World Series trip since winning a doubleheader opener 4-3 at Pittsburgh on Sept. 29, 1945, to clinch the pennant on the next-to-last day of the season.

The eternal "wait till next year" is over. No more dwelling on a history of failure - the future is now.

"We're too young. We don't care about it," star slugger Kris Bryant said. "We don't look into it. This is a new team, this is a completely different time of our lives. We're enjoying it and our work's just getting started."

Hendricks pitched two-hit ball for 7 1/3 innings. Chapman took over and closed with hitless relief, then threw both arms in the air as he was mobbed by teammates and coaches.

The crowd joined in, chanting and serenading their team.

"Chicago!" shouted popular backup catcher David Ross.

The Cubs shook off back-to-back shutout losses earlier in this series by pounding the Dodgers for 23 runs to win the final three games.

And they were in no way overwhelmed by the moment on Saturday, putting aside previous frustration.

In 1945, the Billy Goat Curse supposedly began when a tavern owner wasn't allowed to bring his goat to Wrigley. In 2003, the Cubs lost the final three games of the NLCS to Florida, punctuated with a Game 6 defeat when fan Steve Bartman deflected a foul ball.

Even as recently as 2012, the Cubs lost 101 times.

This time, no such ill luck.

Bryant had an RBI single and scored in a two-run first. Dexter Fowler added two hits, drove in a run and scored one.

Contreras led off the fourth with a homer. Rizzo continued his resurgence with a solo drive in the fifth.

That was plenty for Hendricks, the major league ERA leader.

Hendricks left to a standing ovation after Josh Reddick singled with one out in the eighth. The only other hit Hendricks allowed was a single by Andrew Toles on the game's first pitch.

Kershaw, dominant in Game 2 shutout, gave up five runs and seven hits before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the sixth. He fell to 4-7 in the postseason.

The Dodgers haven't been to the World Series since winning in 1988.

Pitching on five days' rest, the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner threw 30 pitches in the first. Fowler led off with a double, and Bryant's single had the crowd shaking the 102-year-old ballpark.

They had more to cheer when left fielder Andrew Toles dropped Rizzo's fly, putting runners on second and third, and Ben Zobrist made it 2-0 a sacrifice fly.

The Cubs added a run in the second when Addison Russell doubled to deep left and scored on a two-out single by Fowler.


Maddon benched slumping right fielder Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.

"Kershaw's pitching, so I wanted to get one more right-handed bat in the lineup, and also with Albert I don't feel like we're losing anything on defense," Maddon said. "I know Jason's a Gold Glover, but I think Albert, given an opportunity to play often enough would be considered a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder, too."

Heyward was 2 for 28 in the playoffs - 1 for 16 in the NLCS.


Kerry Wood, wearing a Ron Santo jersey, threw out the first pitch and actor Jim Belushi delivered the "Play Ball!" call before the game. Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder and actor John Cusack were also in attendance. And Bulls great Scottie Pippen led the seventh-inning stretch.