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November 22, 2011

Pebble Hunting

Can I Interest You in a Juan Gonzalez Hall of Fame Brochure?

by Sam Miller

One of the strange things about praise is that it sometimes works in reverse. You tell me Muse is the best band in the world, and I’m compelled to dispute this craziness, and before I know it I find myself saying and thinking horribly mean things about Muse, even though Muse is perfectly fine, just not my cuppa tea.

And this is what I found myself feeling as I read Juan Gonzalez’ Hall of Fame brochure. Yes, Juan Gonzalez has a Hall of Fame brochure. It is 12 pages, it is extremely glossy, it came in the mail, and in about 25 seconds I’m going to show it to you, because you should get to see what a Hall of Fame brochure looks like. But before I do, I want to say this: Juan Gonzalez was really, really good at baseball. He was way better at baseball than Chris Sabo and Mark Portugal and Bobby Higginson, and nobody is saying mean things about them today. Whereas I am quite likely to say mean things about Juan Gonzalez and about the brochure that is supposed to be helping him. I would say this means Juan Gonzalez’ Hall of Fame brochure has failed. But let’s consider it together. (Note: click on images to expand.)

Page 1: The Cover

There’s not much to the cover, so there aren’t many places to go wrong. But it is a curious decision, which we will see repeated time and again in this brochure, to make “Igor” the biggest word on the page. Did you know that Juan Gonzalez’ nickname is Igor? Does it make you more likely to support his Hall of Fame argument? Do you think it should be enlarged, bolded, made to overlap and partially cover his actual name? Do you think it should be so on every page of the brochure? Juan Gonzalez’ Hall of Fame brochure designers do.

Here’s the backstory on Juan Gonzalez’ nickname: when he was a kid he liked wrestling. There was a wrestler named Igor the Magnificent. Juan Gonzalez, as a nine-year-old, decided his friends should call him Igor. And so they have, ever since. As far as Hall of Fame nicknames go, this one has flaws. One is that he gave it to himself, which invalidates it completely. Another is that he went with Igor, which isn’t descriptive or promotional, instead of Juan the Magnificent, which would have totally fit on a Hall of Fame brochure.

Hall of Fame voter 1: You going to vote for this guy?
Hall of Fame voter 2: Depends on the nickname.
Hall of Fame voter 2: And the RBIs.

Pages 2 and 3: The Introduction

I’m mostly unconcerned by any typos or errors in Juan Gonzalez’ Hall of Fame brochure. We all make typos, and whether or not the person who wrote this brochure knows how to spell Hank Greenberg doesn’t really matter as much as Juan Gonzalez’ on-base percentage and Juan Gonzalez’ nickname (“Igor”). But this sentence is accidentally very honest:

“If it is a question of sheer numbers, it would be hard to argue that Gonzalez belongs in the Hall.”

Yes, it would be! Juan Gonzalez’ sheer numbers would make it extremely hard to argue he belongs in the Hall. This is why somebody had to make an entire brochure.

Also: Time for No. 2.

Page 4: Testimonials

Every quote on Juan Gonzalez’ testimonials page comes from before 2000, before Gonzalez turned 30. Nolan Ryan is quoted in 1993. Rod Carew is quoted making a prediction. And George W. Bush! Some other quotes they could have used:

“Pretty good for a rookie.”—Manger Bobby Valentine, 1990

“A future superstar! Probably as good as Kiki Jones and Eric Anthony!”—Baseball America, 1990

“‘It’s the year 2011, and Juan Gonzalez is, in my mind, a certain Hall of Famer,’ is something I expect I might say in 2011 unless he never learns to take a walk or stay healthy.”—Willie Mays, Hall of Famer, 1993

“Juan Gonzalez is the greatest player I’ve ever seen. A no-doubt Hall of Famer.”—The kid who first started calling him Igor, 1979

“Aw crud.”—Rod Carew, Hall of Famer, 2006

“Juan Gonzalez should absolutely be in the Hall of Fame.”—Sam Miller, 2011

“If he comes back and hits about 250 more home runs in his 40s.”—Sam Miller, 2011

“But that’s unlikely.”— Sam Miller, 2011

Page 5: Bio

Intern: OK, so we’re running out of things for this bio page. I’m going to put the steroid allegation stuff here now.
Editor: No! No steroids. Find something else. His favorite football team is the Ravens. Put that.
Intern: OK, but we still have a bunch of space left, so allegations about steroids…
Editor: He donated money to charity for every RBI he got.
Intern: Wow, he had 1,400 RBIs…
Editor: No, he only did it for, like, three years.
Intern: OK, still have blank space. Screw it, let’s just put the steroid allegations—
Editor: He played Little League when he was a kid! He got an award from a chamber of commerce! All his kids are named Igor! Are you listening to me? ANYTHING BUT STEROIDS!

Pages 6, 7 and 8: Year by Year

There’s really nothing in these pages to pick on. It’s his accomplishments. He accomplished a lot. He was really good! So we should just skip ahead, except this might be a good time to address the bottom two inches of each page.

This pattern is on the bottom of each page. Do you recognize it? It’s a bunch of his stats, cropped from his Baseball-Reference page. But they made a curious decision to use his defensive stats. It’s curious because Juan Gonzalez was a horrible defender. It’s more curious because none of these numbers would intuitively mean anything to anybody. They could just as easily be from anywhere—college football, the stock pages of USA Today, a receipt from a donut shop. It’s just a jumble. In my opinion, this would have been so much stronger:

You’ve got numbers bolded because they led the league, you’ve got .300 averages, you’ve got the string of MVP finishes on the right, and you’ve got a pretty recognizable sequence of numbers—runs, hits, doubles, triples, home runs, RBIs, just like every baseball card that Hall of Fame voters grew up memorizing. Instead, on every page of Juan Gonzalez’ Hall of Fame brochure, valuable real estate has been given over to Juan Gonzalez’ range factor per nine innings.

Page 9: In Fine Company

This is actually my favorite page, because for about four minutes I actually started thinking Juan Gonzalez might be a deserving Hall of Famer. I once watched Loose Change and, for an afternoon, I thought 9/11 was an inside job. I believe everything. Juan Gonzalez played more games than Jackie Robinson? Shoot, I can’t think of any reason why that’s not a solid argument!

But then I started thinking about creating some of these lists with Juan Gonzalez at the bottom, rather than at the top.

Runs scored:
Jay Bell—1,123
Bobby Bonilla—1,084
Ruben Sierra—1,084
Ron Gant—1,080
B.J. Surhoff—1,062
Gonzalez (1,061)

Marquis Grissom—2,251
Orlando Cabrera—2,055
Mark Grudzielanek—2,040
Todd Zeile—2,004
Jeff Conine—1,982
Gonzalez (1,936)

On-Base Percentage:
Ryan Theriot—.344
Fernando Tatis—.344
Marty Cordova—.344
Michael Cuddyer—.343
Randy Winn—.343
Phil Nevin—.343
Otis Nixon—.343
Gonzalez (.343)

Ohhhh I get it now. Juan Gonzalez is a terrible baseball player*. Or else creating lists like these, and having them stand in for a comprehensive evaluation of a player’s overall performance, is a terrible and misleading way of comparing players.

*Juan Gonzalez is not a terrible baseball player. He was really, really good.

Page 10: Community Service

Intern: What are we going to do with this blank page?
Intern: Steroi—
Editor: What is wrong with you?

Page 11: Career Batting

Nothing to complain about here. Just a screengrab of his Baseball-Reference page. (The player value section—where we learn that Juan Gonzalez produced 39 WARP in his career, same as Don Buford and Steve Finley—didn’t make it in.) Career batting averages against various teams is a nice touch.

Hall of Fame Voter 1: You going to vote for this guy?
Hall of Fame Voter 2: Depends on how he did in two career games against the Marlins.
Hall of Fame Voter 2: And his nickname.

Also, the credits. These brochures aren’t very common, I’m told, and they usually come from third parties pushing the player’s candidacy. In this case, Luis Rodriguez Mayoral did the research and writing. Luis Rodriguez Mayoral is a baseball historian who worked as a Latino liaison for the Rangers and Tigers during most of the 1990s. According to Juan Gonzalez’ Wikipedia page, he accompanied Gonzalez to a meeting with President Bush in 2007. He was a confidant of Roberto Clemente, and wrote Clemente’s biography, and established a Roberto Clemente Award for the Latino baseball player who best carried on Clemente’s tradition. He’s way more knowledgeable about baseball than I am, and he is probably nicer than I am, and he actually cares about this. So now I want Juan Gonzalez to make the Hall of Fame because I find myself liking Luis Rodriguez Mayoral.

Page 12: Back cover

“These photos will be the last thing voters see when they read through our brochure. They need to be perfect. They need to tell the entire Juan Gonzalez story, and we have only nine spots, so we can’t waste a pixel. So let’s get one of him on the Rangers, because that’s where he had his best seasons. And one of him with Manny Mota, for some reason? Do we have any pictures of Juan being crowned by an old white man? What about his Detroit days? We absolutely must remind everybody of the year he spent with the Tigers. Also, all the good work he did. Show him working with kids. Then get another photo of him working with kids, but make it super obvious that it’s the same photo session with the same kids, because we don’t want people thinking he worked with kids twice. And another one of him with the Rangers. Use the center square to remind everybody of his nickname—big letters! And, finally, round it out with a picture of him in a Cleveland Indians uniform, with the number 16, because that was the year he missed the first two months of the season, then hurt himself running to first base in his very first at-bat, and never played again. Oh, yeah. That’ll tell the Juan Gonzalez story.” 

Sam Miller also writes for the Orange County Register.

Sam Miller is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Sam's other articles. You can contact Sam by clicking here

41 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links


Thanks for a fun piece.

Nov 22, 2011 04:48 AM
rating: 1

Good read, but a little mean. Easy and undeserving target. Sort of reminds me of some Daily Show skits in that sense.

Maybe next year's version can mention that he was as feared in his day as Jim Rice (and had a higher career TAv to boot!).

Nov 22, 2011 05:19 AM
rating: -2

Anyone who puts together a brochure touting Juan Gonzalez' HOF case deserves all the mean-spirited ridicule and insults they get.

Nov 22, 2011 11:37 AM
rating: 4

Thank you, Sam Miller. Indeed, Gonzalez was a really good player.

You make an interesting read (though I agree with Yarky's point, above). To be honest, I sorta felt guilty enjoying your review/criticism/shredding of the brochure. Maybe you can reach out to Luis Rodriguez Mayoral and offer to help with next year's effort...

I'd definitely like to see Page 7 (at least that's what it's labeled on the brochure, not page 9) from Barry Bonds' brochure.

Nov 22, 2011 06:05 AM
rating: 4

Hahhahahahahahahaahha. Wonderful.

I'd never heard of "Igor" as a nickname, but I'll always remember it now. Mission accomplished.

HoF what?

Nov 22, 2011 06:09 AM
rating: 0

You wrote "Juan Gonzalez was a horrible defender." Wow, you must have failed reading comprehension. Didn't you learn that he had a higher fielding percentage than Mays, DiMaggio, and Clemente?

Fun article: thanks.

Nov 22, 2011 06:13 AM
rating: 8

I was a huge Igor fan in his day, and I've always been of the opinion that he would have been viewed far more highly if he would have just listened to people who tried to steer him away from terrible choices. The snarky part of this feature is entertaining, and there's been a lot of entertainment for writers over the years regarding Gonzalez because he made it pretty easy. Besides, I called my fantasy teams "Igor's Wives Club" for at least 10 years until he finally left the baseball scene. His "Igor" commercials in Puerto Rico were quite entertaining.

What the flier should say is he was a great and feared player - feared as much as any of his contemporaries when he played. He was just a guy who made a lot of very poor choices.

I'm amazed you didn't find a place to comment on the huge contract he turned down from the Tigers.

Nov 22, 2011 06:34 AM
rating: 0

That was just plain cruel. But very funny.

Nov 22, 2011 06:34 AM
rating: 3

Loved this.

Nov 22, 2011 07:21 AM
rating: 0
The Beef
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Sam, it's perfectly fine to blast something like this. I can't believe these people who lack the sense of humor to laugh at this. The pussification of America continues. Thanks for having the sand to make fun of this in public...we need more of this hiliariously honest writing.

Hey, If you're going to send out a brochure to promote a borderline, steroid-era, oft-injuried, low OBP, power hitter..that damn thing better be perfect. Looks like they hired a computer graphics senior from Universidad de Puerto Rico to handle this all important push for a plaque.

Juan...I mean Igor...you don't have a snowballs chance in hell of getting in.

Nov 22, 2011 08:53 AM
rating: -4
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

Totally agree with Jordan. **** 'em if they can't take a joke. Some people don't consider their day complete if they don't find something to call politically incorrect or offensive. Great article, and great line by Jordan.."pussification of America." Man up, people.

Nov 22, 2011 09:34 AM
rating: -9

WTH? I liked the piece and complimented it, while also noting that it was a cheap shot at an easy target. Sounds like you're the one straining to find something to be offended about.

Nov 22, 2011 13:48 PM
rating: 6
BP staff member Sam Miller
BP staff

I think it's pretty fair to call it a cheap shot at an easy target. I considered not writing about it at all, for that reason.

Nov 22, 2011 14:06 PM
John Carter

It was an easy target, but not cheap. It was wonderfully done.

Nov 22, 2011 14:11 PM
rating: 2
John Carter

And, it was easy for you, perhaps, but not so much for us. We don't get sent Hall of Fame promotions - so, at the least, you exposed us to something interesting we would never have known about.

Nov 22, 2011 14:15 PM
rating: 2

love the comments on the pictures....just awesome. "Do we have any pictures of Juan being crowned by an old white man?"

Nov 22, 2011 09:52 AM
rating: 1
John Carter

I'm usually pretty sensitive to undeserving, unfair, or overdone cruelty. Nothing here struck me that way. This is criticism, yes, but what's wrong with making criticism with humour?

Yes, it is like the Daily Show - compared to David Letterman in the way they attacked Cheney and G.W. The Daily Show in a clever way would deservedly make fun of their policy or something they said and move on. Letterman would attack over and over meaningless but more obvious flubs - and was really just annoying - even for me who thought that presidency in several way sank the country down a big hole.

This was one deserved good laugh after another. Thanks for the piece.

As for Gonzalez's year with Detroit, as a Tigers fan I can say it sure wasn't a selling point for me. They gave up their farm to have him for one year - and thank goodness he turned them down for more.

Nov 22, 2011 10:09 AM
rating: 0

To be clear, I'm not saying anything about politics. I'm talking about Daily Show pieces where they get some regular person with a nutty obsession or something and have an elite team of comedy writers make them look stupid for our amusement. Those segments often are amusing, but it's a little uncomfortable watching them, too.

Nov 22, 2011 13:50 PM
rating: 1

How the hell do you name your kid Igor Jr. when your name isn't actually Igor??? WAFI.

Nov 22, 2011 10:17 AM
rating: 0
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

As a conservative, the only liberal humor I find amusing is the Onion (the newspaper, not the TV show). Check out their sports page on their website. This is an equal-time response to the above.

Nov 22, 2011 10:19 AM
rating: -9

How is The Onion liberal? It's anti-absurd.

Nov 22, 2011 16:59 PM
rating: 1

oops, hit return too quick.

It's anti-absurd, not anti-conservative/Republican. I'm shocked someone would think it was partisan.

Nov 22, 2011 17:00 PM
rating: 3

Sure, they're anti-absurd, but they find conservative ideas absurd a whole lot more often than liberal ones. I'm pretty far left myself, and I'd definitely call the Onion liberal. It's less of a partisan thing than a general worldview thing.*

*Note: This observation applies primarily to 1997-2006 or so. I guess it's possible things have changed.

Nov 22, 2011 18:19 PM
rating: 0

Reality has a well-known liberal bias

Nov 22, 2011 18:52 PM
rating: 14

Is that Rickey Henderson or Manny Mota?

Nov 22, 2011 10:30 AM
rating: 0
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

Sam asked my opinion on whether that was Rickey before this piece went up, and I agreed that it appeared to be. Manny Mota didn't cross my mind. Now that you mention it, that might very well be Mota. The scary thing is that Rickey is 20 years younger than Mota and it's still so hard to say.

Nov 22, 2011 10:41 AM
BP staff member Sam Miller
BP staff

It could be!

Nov 22, 2011 10:41 AM

Pretty sure that's not Rickey Henderson.

Nov 22, 2011 10:38 AM
rating: 0

You're right, it's definitely Mota.

Nov 22, 2011 10:39 AM
rating: 0

Now pinch hitting for Pedro Borbon...Manny Mota...Mota

Nov 22, 2011 11:15 AM
rating: 7
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

Edited the article to clear up the case of mistaken identity, though the picture selection still makes the same amount of sense.

Nov 22, 2011 11:29 AM

Great! I actually didn't think it was cruel, as you pointed out he is a great player and are just poking fun at the rationale behind the brochure. Most entertaining piece I've read on BP in recent memory.

Nov 22, 2011 10:52 AM
rating: 1

It's not mean toward Gonzalez. He is what he is. A very good hitter with no defensive value, who wasn't quite good enough for long enough to be a HOFer. But the guy who put that brochure together is basically a well-meaning fan.

Nov 22, 2011 13:51 PM
rating: 0

I'm wondering who Gonzalez' is with in the top right photo. Is he holding his MVP Award on his head?

Nov 22, 2011 11:12 AM
rating: 0

This was excellent. Please do more takedowns (maybe an unfair word choice) of people who send out brochures? Do agents do this for the end of the year awards? I'd love to see a John Lacky 2011 Cy Young Award brochure.

Nov 22, 2011 12:08 PM
rating: 1

How many Hall of Fame candidates actually have brochures sent out on their behalf? I had never heard of anything like this, so I'm wondering how common it is.

Nov 22, 2011 13:15 PM
rating: 0
BP staff member Sam Miller
BP staff

It's very rare. I've never seen one. I asked some other guys who have been around longer, and I heard that there was a guy who used to send stuff out pushing Dale Murphy, and a group supporting Ron Santo, though I think those materials were more modest.

Nov 22, 2011 14:03 PM
John Carter

I recall Bill James telling his Abstract readers about a group of ex-players who sent him material touting Ken Keltner for the Hall of Fame.

Nov 22, 2011 14:09 PM
rating: 1

I started seeing red as soon as they showed a picture of Gonzalez wearing a Royals uniform. THIEF!

Nov 22, 2011 20:43 PM
rating: 0

This article was just plain good fun. It made me laugh a bunch of times. I'd love to be able to write funny stuff like this. Very entertaining as I kill what is left of my last day at work before a 4-day weekend!

Everyone put your political angst aside and remember this is about baseball and sometimes people involved in baseball do silly things...like send out HOF brochures that are a little half baked. Or was it fully baked?

Nov 23, 2011 13:23 PM
rating: 0

A friend of mine and I read this while at lunch at work. If anything, this brochure actually made me think he doesn't deserve to be in the HOF rather then swing us towards pulling for him.

A few of the stats were head scratchers too. We were both pretty shocked 'Igor' had less then 2,000 hits.

And most sports leagues, at least to my knowledge, don't put stars in if they do community service. If the NBA did that, Adonal Foyle would be a basketball hall of famer.

Nov 23, 2011 20:57 PM
rating: 0
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