Assessing Adrian Gonzalez’s Padres and MLB HOF case

May 30, 2009; Denver, CO, USA;San Diego Padres first basemen Adrian Gonzalez (23) follows through on his three run home run to left field wall in the first inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Adrian Gonzalez is on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America Hall of Fame ballot for this class, his first appearance. Does he deserve to get inducted into Cooperstown? If not, is he worthy of at least the Padres’ own team Hall of Fame induction?

Cooperstown houses three players who played at least a large chunk of their careers in San Diego- Tony Gwynn, Trevor Hoffman, and Dave Winfield. Does Adrian Gonzalez have what it takes to make it to Cooperstown?

He finished his career with 317 home runs, which ranks 41st among first basemen. His 43.5 career WAR ranks 43rd. Baseball-Reference has a JAWS metric. It is explained as “JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score system) was developed by sabermetrician Jay Jaffe as a means to measure a player’s Hall of Fame worthiness. A player’s JAWS is their career WAR averaged with their 7-year peak WAR. Note that only batting or pitching WAR are used in determining the averages at a given position. The current Hall of Famers are then grouped by position, and a position average JAWS is computed.

Thus, when Gonzalez’s JAWS is compared to that of fellow elite first basemen, his case is less than encouraging.

The average JAWS metric of first basemen elected to the Hall of Fame is 53.4. Gonzalez is at 39.1

For current context, there are three active first basemen with a higher JAWS metric than A-Gone- Freddie Freeman, Paul Goldschmidt, and Joey Votto. All three of which will have compelling Hall of Fame cases when their careers are over.

Gonzalez finished with five All-Star appearances, four Gold Gloves, and two Silver Sluggers. The majority of his hardware he won in San Diego.

While his resume for Cooperstown puts his chances at very slim, his chances to become a Padres Hall of Famer are much higher.

The Padres currently have 17 people in their team Hall of Fame, including eight former players of the San Diego Padres organization.

Credit: Getty Images

Obviously, some of the best and brightest people to be associated with the Padres franchise have been inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame. The Padres inducted two more deserving members in 2022, in radio host Ted Leitner and former president Larry Lucchino.

Jake Peavy and a former All-Star first baseman come to mind.

Adrian González grew up in Tijuana, Baja, California, as well as Bonita, California, and attended Eastlake High School in Chula Vista, less than 20 miles from Petco Park. The Florida Marlins drafted him No. 1 overall in the 2000 MLB June Amateur Draft.

After being moved to the Texas Rangers’ organization in 2003, he broke into the big leagues with Texas in 2004. Before accruing 60 big league games, he was part of an influential trade that sent him towering starting pitcher Chris Young and Terrmel Sledge to the Padres in exchange for Adam Eaton, Akinori Otsuka, and Billy Killian ahead of the 2006 season. The Friars immediately plugged him in as their starting first baseman after they parted with slugger Phil Nevin during the previous year.

The Eastlake alum blossomed thanks to an unhindered chance at playing time. He turned in a solid opening season with San Diego in 2006, batting .304 with 24 home runs, 84 RBI, a 127 OPS+, and 3.0 WAR. That was just the beginning.

From 2007 to 2010, he boasted four straight seasons of at least 30 homers and 99 RBI. He earned his first career All-Star bid in 2008 and finished that season with 36 home runs, 119 RBI, and a 140 OPS+. In 2009, he became just the fourth Friar ever to reach 40 home runs. He also led the majors with 119 walks, flexing his keen eye at the plate, which buoyed his .407 on-base percentage and stellar .958 OPS. He also set a career-high that season with 6.9 WAR, ranking fifth among National League hitters and fourth in Padres history. His 162 OPS+ that season ranks seventh in Padres history.

The lefty slugger played a vital role in the 2006 National League West Division championship, as well as winning seasons in 2007 and 2010. He even hit .357 during the 2006 NLDS against the Cardinals.

He didn’t just do it with his bat, as he also earned back-to-back Gold Gloves in 2008 and 2009, one of just seven Padres to win consecutive Gold Glove Awards.

In his final season in San Diego 2010, the Padres surprised many with their 90-72 record. Gonzalez was in peak form, with 31 home runs, 33 doubles, 101 RBI, .298 average, .904 OPS, and 152 OPS+.  He earned a fourth-place finish in MVP voting for his efforts, becoming the first Padre since Greg Vaughn in 1998 to be in the top four in MVP votes.

It is rare for a local product to become a star for his local big-league team. Before being traded to the Boston Red Sox ahead of the 2011 season, González rose to stardom in his hometown.

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He finished his Padres career with 161 home runs, just two shy of Nate Colbert’s franchise mark. González also ranks third in franchise history in WAR by hitters, OPS, OPS+, and Runs Created, as well as fourth in RBI. Clearly, he was a top-four hitter in franchise history. Should that garner him an induction into the team’s Hall of Fame?

There are some who may be hesitant to induct him based on his six seasons with the Dodgers, where he personally tortured the Friars, along with an All-Star selection in Dodger blue in 2015.

A tenure with the Dodgers certainly didn’t stop the Padres from retiring Steve Garvey’s number. González’s numbers in San Diego dwarfs those of Garvey’s as a Padre.

Let’s start by comparing him to those already enshrined in San Diego. There are six position players in San Diego’s Hall of Fame. Here is where Gonzalez stacks up among those players in various statistics during their respective careers for the Padres.

WAR
Tony Gwynn 69.2
Dave Winfield 32.0
Adrián González 20.4
Ken Caminiti 17.5
Nate Colbert 17.2
Benito Santiago 14.2
Garry Templeton 10.0

 

HR
Nate Colbert 163
Adrián González 161
Dave Winfield 154
Tony Gwynn 135
Ken Caminiti 121
Benito Santiago 85
Garry Templeton 43

 

OPS
Ken Caminiti .924
Adrián González .888
Tony Gwynn .847
Dave Winfield .821
Benito Santiago .705
Nate Colbert .632
Garry Templeton .632

 

wRC+
Ken Caminiti 144
Adrián González 136
Tony Gwynn 132
Dave Winfield 131
Nate Colbert 124
Benito Santiago 94
Garry Templeton 71

 

All-Star App.
Tony Gwynn 15
Dave Winfield 4
Adrián González 3
Benito Santiago 3
Nate Colbert 3
Ken Caminiti 2
Garry Templeton 1

 

Clearly, González is right in the same company as the other hitters in the Padres Hall of Fame. He belongs.

While they do not need to go as far as retiring number 23 quite yet, as the current number 23 in San Diego, Fernando Tatis Jr., may one day earn that prestigious honor, González did enough to be enshrined to the franchise’s Hall of Fame.

Along with his solid numbers, he made a huge impact in his local San Diego and Mexican communities. He and his wife, Betsy, founded The Adrian and Betsy Gonzalez Foundation, empowering underprivileged youths around San Diego. He also paid for the refurbishing of a youth baseball field in the Tijuana area, where he played in his younger days.

Plus, let’s be honest, there is a far better case for González’s inclusion in the Padres Hall of Fame than one for retiring Steve Garvey‘s No. 6, who spent 14 seasons with the Dodgers. He deserves a place at Petco Park among in the greatest players to ever don a Padres uniform.

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