(Long Island, NY) Juan Gonzalez has hit many big home runs throughout his 16-year major league career. Winning two American League MVP awards will make that fairly obvious. But as far as Long Island Ducks fans are concerned, the one he hit on Tuesday at Citibank Park versus the Bridgeport Bluefish is the most important so far.
The former Texas Rangers outfielder was signed by the Ducks on June 1st and he had missed a few games after starting out well. He had not hit a home run until the Bridgeport game, and he also added another base hit in a comeback 4-2 victory. The Ducks and Bluefish have been rivals for practically every half season since 2000. The current season’s first half championship will be decided by July 9th. After defeating Bridgeport for the second straight game, the Ducks are one and a half games in the lead.
Gonzalez may pay large dividends if he can even be a fraction of the player he was. He holds a career average of .295 with 434 home runs and 1,404 RBI in 1,689 games with the Texas Rangers, Detroit Tigers, Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals. He has earned American League All-Star honors on three occasions and won the AL MVP in 1996 and 1998. He had one at-bat with the Indians last season before missing the remainder with an injury.
The obvious destination for the 36-year old Gonzalez is the major leagues. And the best way to show the scouts that he still has what it takes would be to tear up Atlantic League pitching. Ducks fans would like nothing better to see him do well, but the problem is the better he does, the faster he will be signed. That is the way it works. They have already lost some players since the season started to the big leagues. But they have maintained either first place or just behind. They can take win their second first half in franchise history if they keep playing the way they have so far.
There have been many big names that have played in the Atlantic League. Some of the more popular ones that have gone back to the majors are Ricky Henderson, Carlos Baerga, Jose Canseco and Jose Lima. Others, such as John Rocker, have not worked out as well. In the short period of time that ‘Juan Gone’ has spent here, it may be a good bet to say that he will excel and move on. Hopefully he will do enough damage before then.