Juan Gone (for now)

Juan Gonzalez gave up his comeback attempt this spring, but the Cardinals say that he has an open door to return. Gonzalez had an impressive spring, batting .308 with a homer off of Johan Santana, but an abdominal strain prematurely ended his spring training and made his making the team a long shot. This is unfortunate for both Juan and the Cardinals. The team’s trainer said Gonzalez was in excellent fitness and his stats show he was still has his swing. But injuries have long plagued the slugger, as he has not played in a Major League game since 2005. At age 38, it looks that he is running out of time to keep rehabbing injuries and making comebacks.

If Gonzalez’s is indeed over, there will be a debate as to his Hall of Fame worthiness. Over his career than has spanned since 1989, he accumulated a .295 batting average, 434 home runs, and slugged .561. This garnered him two MVP awards, three additional top 10 finishes in the MVP voting, six Silver Sluggers, and a few All-Star appearances. In the postseason, he batted .290 with 8 homers. These are impressive stats, but there are some things the writers will use against him. I am not a huge fan of milestones, but baseball writers can’t get enough of them. I think 499 homers is just as good as 500, but Gonzalez fell 66 short of the 500 milestone. Still a great total, but 500 has historically been the number to have, especially as a power hitting outfielder. Writers will also use the fact that while his postseason total numbers were above average, he stunk up the joint in two of those series, batting .083 in 1998 and .182 in 1999. Also, his teams never got past the division series in his four attempts.

He definitely is not a first ballot Hall of Famer, and quite possibly, not even a Hall of Famer at all. But Gonzalez still had a great career and was one of the most feared hitters of the 1990s. The fact he did not get to 500 homers will be his downfall when it comes to Cooperstown, but today, even 500 homers is not the guarantee it once was. Jim Thome is considered a borderline Hall of Famer, even though he has been a dominant power hitter his entire career. And of course Mark McGwire is a 500 home run club member, but the accusations of performance enhancing drugs have almost entirely overshadowed his remarkable time in the Majors.

Gonzalez abandons comeback but has invitation to try again (STLtoday.com)

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