A long-time fixture on the Astros’ roster has officially moved on. Let’s take a moment to wish him a fond farewell.
Let me set the scene: Only one game into their AL tenure, the Astros were playing the Rangers on April 2nd, 2013. The second game of that largely forgettable season was notable for just about one reason, which was Yu Darvish‘s near-perfect game. In the bottom of the ninth, with two out, Marwin Gonzalez stepped up to the plate and hit a fastball up the middle on the first pitch of the at-bat. In sudden fashion, Darvish’s perfect game was no more, and I was jumping in the stands yelling like a freaking moron.
Yes, I rooted against a perfect game, which has only occurred 23 times in Major League history. Forgive my foolish soul.
Anyway, Gonzalez kinda established himself as a local hero in Houston, because the Astros weren’t expected to do much in 2013. Spoiler alert: They didn’t accomplish much. I remember conversing with a friend that the hero of that night could develop into a useful player if the given the opportunity. While I was wrong about plenty of the players coming through Houston from 2011 through 2014, I’ll quietly boast that I wasn’t wrong about Gonzalez.
Fast forward to today and we are still processing the news that Gonzalez agreed to a two-year, $21 million contract with the Twins. On the surface, it is a great deal for Minnesota, who, like most teams, could really use a player like Gonzalez. It is debatable whether the Astros could use a player like Gonzalez, but I won’t dig into that too much. All I have to say is that the acquisition of Aledmys Diaz, who is both cheaper and younger than Gonzalez, is the primary reason why the Astros moved on. Essentially, the Astros are hoping to recreate Gonzalez through Diaz to a certain extent.
But in light of this news, I found myself being quite reflective on Friday afternoon. For one, I, like most fans, saw Gonzalez transform himself from Jeff Luhnow’s first acquisition as Astros’ general manager to one of the club’s most versatile players. My life, like Gonzalez’s career, also transformed greatly since his major debut on April 6th, 2012. I felt like an era of my life unofficially ended in a way when the news broke about Gonzalez agreeing to terms with the Twins.
From a performance standpoint, Gonzalez made consistent strides most seasons. Considered a light-hitting utility player at the time of his debut, the 29-year old posted a 100+ wRC+ in four of the past five seasons. He also developed a power stroke, with 64 home runs since the 2015 season. For context, Gonzalez only had 12 home runs from 2012-14. Combine the offensive improvement with his considerable versatility, and Gonzalez became one of the key cogs on the Astros. His 2017 season, in particular, was likely his career season when he was worth four wins. And who can forget the most clutch home run in Astros’ history in Game 2 of the World Series?
If it wasn’t for his solo shot in the bottom of the ninth against Kenley Jansen, one of the top closers in baseball, the World Series may have ended differently.
So, in a long-winded way, let’s take a moment to reflect on what Gonzalez has meant to this franchise, city, and fans. We grew up with him for a time of baseball history in Houston that is truly unforgettable. Thank you, Marwin, for the memories. Best of luck in Minnesota, and you’ll always find a warm Texas welcome awaiting in Houston.