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Whither Gonzo?

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It is unthinkable that the executives of the Diamondbacks are even considering letting Luis Gonzalez go. This is a man who was instrumental in winning the 2001 World Series. Who mentors the new kids on the team. Who has deep ties to the community and is generous to a fault. Who has given his heart and soul to baseball. Yes, he is getting older (who isn't?). Yes, his numbers have slipped, the big hits are fewer. But a more faithful team member you won't find anywhere.

Should he be tossed out like an old shoe? No, he deserves better. He deserves to finish his contract with our team. We send out a plea to all Gonzo fans: Write to the owners and anyone else who might have influence and ask them to honor Gonzo's contract. Ask them for once to think with their hearts and not their wallets. We are with you, Gonzo, all the way. - Mr. and Mrs. Ed Tucker, Chandler
    -- Letter in Republic this morning

There is much I'd agree with in the above letter. Luis Gonzalez has, for much of the past decade, been a gem, the face of the franchise, a great ambassador for the team, and baseball. He is, and always will be, an absolute SnakePit hero. But this is not 2001 any more, and five years after that, it's time to move on, or we will be forever stuck in the past. Or maybe we should trade Quentin for Steve Finley - hell, he's only 41. And waive Jackson, so Grace can come down from the broadcast booth. But Mark Grace is 42, and has accepted that's not going to happen.

Gonzo, however, seems to think he is still the player from that year, who should not be benched unless his count of functioning limbs sinks below three, when the truth is - and I can see why it's hard to swallow - that we now have younger, cheaper, better alternatives. Going to the media and - there's really no other word for this - whining about being given a day off, does no good whatsoever. Melvin even went out of his way to stress that Gonzalez would be back in the lineup today, but that wasn't enough to keep our former All-Star happy.

Something has changed, between Spring Training Gonzo, who said, "I told them to run 20 kids out there in left field during spring training, and I'll beat all of them. I'm not afraid of competition. I've had to deal with it my whole life", and the July version, where he thinks the club needs veteran leadership as it contends for the NL West title. What it actually needs as it contends for the NL West title is players who produce - and especially against left-handed hitters, that is not Luis Gonzalez, now more than ever before. If he was still beating all the kids, aggrieved fans would not need to be writing to the newspapers.

There will come a day when the team has to function without Luis Gonzalez, one way or another. When that day comes, may not be when Gonzalez wants it to come, but an appreciation of that is almost essential in dealing with the situation. It's interesting to look at his attitude in terms of the K?bler-Ross's Five Stages of Grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. Luis seems to have moved from the first, pre-season, into the second one right now. I guess we'll see whether or not he enters the third one before the trade deadline... :-)