As the Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers battle back-and-forth in what has surely been the craziest World Series in recent memory, one can’t help but notice that a familiar face is missing from the festivities. Dodgers first baseman Adrián González has not made an appearance during the Fall Classic, partly due to a lingering back injury suffered earlier this season, and partly due to being usurped by 22-year-old mountain of a man Cody Bellinger. At least, that’s what you would be led to believe by the surface-level story, but beneath the seemingly obvious absence is a timeline of passive-aggressive behavior between the Dodgers and the Mexican slugger. Let’s dive in, courtesy of the Los Angeles Times.
After going on the disabled list–for the first time–González was quickly usurped in the Dodgers’ pecking order by Bellinger, who played at a phenomenal level this season (.267/.352/.581). It didn’t help that El Titán González wasn’t playing at his usual All-Star level, especially in a year where the Dodgers were set up to be real World Series contenders. That was the story of the regular season: as he rehabbed his back and his game, the Dodgers were tearing it up, leaving the rest of the National League in their dust. There was still hope for the 35-year-old San Diego native: he could cede his starting job with grace and make the postseason roster as an emergency option for first base, designated hitter, and even pinch hitting. Unfortunately, that was not to be.
Dave Roberts, the Dodgers’ manager, informed González that he would not, in fact, be on the playoff roster. Fine, that’s a decision that is within the realm of normalcy, given González’s injuries and struggles. Here’s where it gets weird, however. After being told that he wouldn’t make an appearance in what would turn out to be a World Series run, González requested time off from the team to help his wife settle in Italy; she is taking a design class there this winter. His absence was noted by media during the NLCS, where it was stated that he wouldn’t be back for the Fall Classic, although he did return for Game 1 of the World Series, working as a TV analyst. Nothing wrong there, but games 2 and 3 brought some tension, according to the Times story.
“Gonzalez was not in the dugout once the games began, but his presence still rankled some Dodgers, according to people familiar with the situation. Roberts downplayed that notion, but indicated he spoke with Gonzalez on Saturday in order to avoid a distraction during the final days of the season.” Once a centerpiece and star on this Dodgers team, it appears now that he is considered not only an unnecessary part, but even an unwanted one. And as González isn’t even considered as a backup to the backups right now, Roberts has asked him to not even come to pregame workouts or meetings. For all intents and purposes, El Titán is now as much of a spectator as you or me.
González, who will turn 36 in May, is still under contract with the Dodgers for another year, at a whopping $22.4 million; it’s the last season of a 7-year deal he signed while a member of the Boston Red Sox in 2011. While Bellinger is versatile enough to play in the outfield, he’s likely the Dodgers’ first baseman of the future, which leaves González as a very expensive backup. Given that Los Angeles does not play in the American League, where he could at least moonlight as a DH, it leaves the team with a decision: pay him the last year of his deal and let him walk, or trade him at a time when his value is as low as ever. For someone who had made himself an invaluable part of both the Dodgers and the Latino MLB community, it feels like a disappointing end for González.