Let’s Face It: Gio Is One Of The Game’s Best Pitchers
I get a kick out of those who continue to insist Gio Gonzalez battles “emotional demons” occasionally when he pitches. Listen, I don’t dispute the fact that the A’s lefthander is a high-energy extrovert, and that he had trouble controlling his emotions earlier in his career. But to still dig up that characterization is not only inaccurate, it’s unfair and discredits what he’s accomplished. Let’s face it, Gio has blossomed into one of the game’s best starting pitchers. And that’s not just me saying it; the numbers suggest it. Since the start of last season, the “Cuban Cannon” has rattled off a 24-15 record (.615 winning percentage) and 2.89 ERA while muzzling opposing hitters to the tune of a .224 average. His ERA and opponents’ batting average over that span both rank 5th in the American League, with only well-known names like Weaver, Verlander, Lester and King Felix perched above him. Additionally, our All-Star southpaw has exhibited some of the more electric stuff in the league during that season-and-a-half period, striking out 290 batters in 320.2 innings while allowing only 267 hits. When the A’s score three runs or more in his starts, Gio is absolutely money; money, as in he’s a whopping 26-1 in his career when he has three or more runs to work with. That’s right—TWENTY SIX wins, ONE loss. And even though he’s toed the rubber for an offense-challenged Oakland club, his 24 wins since the start of 2010 still rank eighth most in the American League.
It’s always nice to recall the early days of Gonzalez. I still remember that 2008 afternoon in Toronto, sitting on the team bus outside our hotel when a wide-eyed young man walked on board. Actually he kind of bounced on board. I had never met Gio, yet it was quite obvious that it was him, right there in the flesh, about to make his Major League debut that night at Rogers Centre. You might recall the story about how he had left his passport back in Hialeah, Fla. and had to meet his mother at the airport en-route to Canada so he could enter the country–and the first chapter of his big league career. To see Gio grow up before your very eyes, not only on the mound–where he learned, more than anything, to trust your stuff and also to minimize damage in making deep-in-the-game performances commonplace–but also in becoming just a fine young man. No one on the team is more caring or giving to others and no one is more grounded in this crazy hero-worship world of professional sports. It was a rare treat to watch Kate Longworth’s post-game Comcast interview on the field at Chase Field with Gio, his brothers and father, just minutes after the All-Star Game ended. Clearly, this is a tight-knit family and extremely proud of “little Gio.” We saw how one of his brothers was sporting a No. 47 AL batting practice jersey with the word, “Hialeah” on the back above the numerals. And that’s not the only place you’ll find the Gonzalez’ hometown. Gio has it stitched on his glove so he can see it before every pitch he throws. Talk about never forgetting where you came from. Reminds me of another effervescent lefthander who once shined at the Coliseum. He also had a cool name, hailed from a small southern town and was a real fan favorite. His name was Vida Blue.
Yesterday was truly MC Hammer Day at the ballpark, but it could have just as easy been Gio Day. He blanked the Angels on a workman-like four-hitter through seven innings that netted his ninth win of the year. The A’s crack marketing department unleashed something called “Celebrity Heads” during the game in celebration of 80′s Weekend, as these gargantuan heads of President Regan, Sylvester Stallone and Don Johnson raced across the field between innings. Johnson was clothed in wardrobe reminiscent of his role in the TV hit series, “Miami Vice.” Also, only appropriate, as our same marketing department was also selling the current issue of Athletics Magazine in the stadium. On the cover? Gio Gonzalez, with palm trees in pastel colors incorporated in the cover design. The cover headline? Miami Nice. Indeed.