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Oscar Gonzalez put in the work and made himself a postseason hero

SpongeBob Williams, perhaps?

New York Yankees v. Cleveland Guardians Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Oscar Gonzalez made his MLB debut on May 26. He slapped two hits, one for a double. He did the same in his next game. Excitement.

Brian Hemminger and I followed Gonzalez for years on the Around the Corner podcast. At times, Gonzalez drew walks so infrequently that it felt like a personal goal of his. Add this to his free-swinging ways, tack on a cannon for an arm, and blast the SpongeBob Squarepants theme over the PA. Boom. Oscar Gonzalez in a nutshell pineapple.

Many other prospect evaluators wrote Gonzalez off because of his plate discipline. Brian and I always acknowledged this but pointed out that the man never really stopped hitting. It is possible to keep hitting and never stop with an unorthodox approach. People thought Ted Williams had an unorthodox approach at first, too. Then they asked him about it and realized he was a genius.

Let us consider Oscar Gonzalez’s finest moment this season. You may believe that it is the following walk-off.

You may also believe that it is this walk-off.

For me, the most important play Oscar Gonzalez made this season actually came at Triple-A. I continue to over-emphasize it because I saw it in person, but Gonzalez threw a strike to home plate from Huntington Park’s Pedialyte Porch and annihilated a runner. Killed him dead. It wasn’t close. That’s the cannon you want on a slugging right fielder. That fielding ability and the work he has put into it since joining the system, which is significant, may have influenced his promotion this summer.

Putting in the work matters.

Even beyond the work Oscar Gonzalez puts in on the field, he just rules. He has a meme song and embarrasses pitchers by slugging their best breaking ball the other way for a double. That’s swagger, which is unteachable. You cannot fake that until you make it.

His final slash line for the regular season reads .296/.327/.461. Look at that OBP. My man drew 15 walks and leaned into three pitches. Look at that SLG. Our guy mashed 38 extra-base hits.

He can spend the entire offseason working on his eye, his patience, and his approach. All of that would be sensational, but Gonzalez showed up as a rookie and provided this team with some of the most memorable moments of the entire season. There aren’t many hitters that can do damage without really threatening to take a pitch. Next season should be a lot of fun. I think we’re going to see a few more bat flips.

I’ve spent most of this article writing around the fact that Oscar Gonzalez might have been my mother’s favorite rookie this season, may she rest in peace. I am pleased that she did not have to watch the Yankees end our season again.

Let’s talk about what baseball means, for a minute.

The only playoff game I have ever attended was with my mother. We watched Francisco Lindor blast a grand slam off of the foul pole in right field — against the Yankees. From our seats way up above the third base line, we only knew it was fair because everyone in the Corner immediately went ballistic.

We high-fived, we hugged, we danced. The Guardians went on to win.

That she passed away right as Gonzalez briefly returned to Columbus this season breaks my heart. I remember telling her that he would be back; Cleveland often sends young players up for an initial stint to figure out what they need to work on next.

She did not see Gonzalez propel the Guardians to the playoffs, never saw Mustard win a race, never saw the flowers she planted bloom. I am here to bear witness for her. There will be many game recaps to provide when we reunite. Bat flips to recount. Full scorecards to share.

While she was not here to witness Gonzalez’s heroics, her spirit high-fived, hugged, and danced all summer.

Oscar Gonzalez’s 2022 Stats

PA HR SB BB% K% Slash wRC+ WAR
PA HR SB BB% K% Slash wRC+ WAR
382 11 1 3.9% 19.6% .296/.327/.461 122 1.6

Total MVP points: 16
First-place MVP votes: 0

We’re reviewing (almost) all the Guardians players from 2022 now through November, starting with the top-10 MVPs as voted on by eight Covering the Corner staff members. Players were awarded points based on their one through 10 individual rankings and were ranked as such. You can find all the Year in Review posts here.