Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Arizona Tries Hard to Forget Luis Gonzalez

I had to laugh when I read the Arizona Republic headline "Diamondbacks-Gonzo divorce is final, folks; it's really time we moved on".

Let's sign the papers, divide the property, pound the gavel and call this a no-fault divorce. Luis Gonzalez's return to Chase Field on Monday was a welcome reminder that fans should embrace the past but not live in it.

The anticipation of Gonzalez's arrival in his Los Angeles Dodgers uniform inspired a high volume of old regime vs. new regime debate. Jerry Colangelo was a savior. Jerry Colangelo was guilty of reckless fiscal behavior. Ken Kendrick is a mercenary. Ken Kendrick is a visionary.

In Gonzalez, we have a symbol of both sides. The truth is there's no bad seed in this debate. Gonzalez was well-suited for old ownership's vision and is ill-suited for new ownership's vision. This has become too personal, serving nobody's best interests.

If you don't think so, consider what happened before the game, when Gonzalez was asked about the wall near the Diamondbacks clubhouse that had displayed year-by-year lineups and All-Star selections but has been painted over.

"To me, that's the most disappointing thing when I walk into the stadium," Gonzalez said before LA's 5-1 victory [Monday]. "It's me speaking, but I'm sure if you ask Steve Finley, Jay Bell, Matt Williams, Randy (Johnson), Curt (Schilling), all of the guys that were a part of that tradition - you try to build a tradition by winning, and I think we did that for those years, and for them to erase that, that's the hurt part about it."

No one's blaming Gonzalez. He returns to his old stomping grounds and finds someone pulled an extreme makeover. Even the uniforms, which Gonzalez mused were "Houston Astros colors," have changed.

But the decision to change the lower concourse walls was hardly sinister. They were painted because the entire facility received a new look. The lineups were always going to return, team President Derrick Hall promised, but were just at the bottom of a long to-do list.

Look, I'm not going to say that I was thrilled with the Dodgers' Gonzalez signing. He's a great guy and all but his weak arm is a left-field liability that has (so far) been balanced by the assets of his .300 batting average and .884 OPS.

But at this early stage of the season, we've got the house and the car and the kids and a two-game series sweep. We're now looking back at the Diamondbacks from our first place position and best record in the major leagues. Eric Byrnes (and a reasonable .841 OPS) may not be so bad of a replacement for Gonzalez in Arizona. Maybe both sides can be happy.

Rather than dusting itself off from the past, though, Arizona may want to replace those 2001 World Series Champion photos, fast. And while they're at it, revel in the fact that they aren't as faded and old as the 1988 photos we've got.