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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

September 8, 2010 at 12:01 PM

Where would the A’s be with Triple Crown candidate Carlos Gonzalez?


(Colorado’s Carlos Gonzalez homers last night against the Reds. Photo by Associated Press).

Here’s today’s Mariners minor-league report.

Early in the season, Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers seemed poised for a Triple Crown bid, but Josh Hamilton (.366 batting average) and Jose Bautista (43 home runs) took care of that.

More recently, the speculation centered on Joey Votto and Albert Pujols, who both seemed to be in position for the elusive Triple Crown — provided the other one didn’t stop them.

But now, with less than a month left in the season, there’s only one person who has a realistic chance to win the Triple Crown, a distinction that’s gone unfilled since Carl Yastrzemski of the Red Sox did it in 1967 — one year after Baltimore’s Frank Robinson. To earn a Triple Crown, a player must lead his league (or tie for the lead) in batting average, home runs and runs batted in.

It has happened just 13 times since 1900, and no National Leaguer has turned the trick since Joe Medwick of the Cardinals in 1937. But lo and behold, Colorado’s sensational young outfielder, Carlos Gonzalez, has a chance.

After knocking a three-run homer last night to beat the Reds, Gonzalez currently leads the NL in batting at .340 — enough of a cushion over runnerup Votto (.321) and especially Pujols (.308) to all but eliminate their chances of the Triple Crown.

Gonzalez also took the National League RBI lead with 100 — two ahead of second-place Votto, three ahead of third-place Pujols.

In home runs, Pujols and Adam Dunn lead the NL with 34, followed by Gonzalez, Votto and Mark Reynolds of Arizona all at 32. Prince Fielder, eminently capable of a homer binge, sits at 30.

Gonzalez, 24, has largely flown under the radar in his first full major-league season. Part of the reason, I suppose, is the suspicion that he is a Coors Field phenomenon. Gonzalez’s home-road splits are outrageous — a .394 average, .440 on-base percentage and .801 slugging percentage in 60 games in Denver, with 25 homers and 66 RBI, compared to a .288/.310/.450 line on the road, with seven homers and 34 RBI.

But there’s no denying that Gonzalez is a dynamic young player — one who started in the Arizona organization before being traded to the A’s (along with Brett Anderson, Dana Eveland and Greg Smith) in December of 2007 in the Dan Haren trade.

The A’s then sent Gonzalez and Smith, along with reliever Huston Street, to the Rockies for Matt Holliday on Nov. 12, 2008.

A’s general manager Billy Beane makes every trade with one eye toward how he can use it to spin the next deal. It’s part of his genius. Sure enough, he traded Holliday that very season to St. Louis for Shane Peterson, Clayton Mortenson and the key player, third baseman/first baseman Brett Wallace. The A’s then spun Wallace to Toronto last winter for Michael Taylor, one of the prizes of their farm system and a player they believe will be a star.

Beane could still come out looking good when all these permutations of trades play out. But on an Oakland team in which Beane has built an extremely promising young starting rotation but remains offensively challenged — they’ve hit just one more home run than the Mariners this season — you’d have to think that Carlos Gonzalez would look very, very good in their lineup.



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