PEORIA, Ariz. -- You've gotta have a whole lot of patience not to go crazy when the trade rumors have you surrounded.
Quick, name the hitter who led the National League in walks last year. Hint: It ain't Albert Pujols.
"I walked all year, but mainly because pitchers were walking me as opposed to pitch selection," says Gonzalez, who wants to establish an even better eye this summer. "It's something you can work on. The more pitches you see, the better."
Gonzalez walked 119 times last season, including a crazy 24 times over an 11-game span immediately after the Padres shipped Scott Hairston, Gonzalez's main protector in the lineup, to Oakland.
It was right around then that the slugging first baseman (40 homers, 99 RBIs) lost a little of his patience and began taking a whack here and there at pitches he couldn't reach very well.
He still had a sensational season -- All-Star, Gold Glove, career-high .407 on-base percentage -- but his midseason funk still bothers him. Surrounded by upheaval in the organization at midseason, Gonzalez knocked in only eight runs and hit just .235 during the month of June, then batted just .198 during the month of July.
Gonzalez says this "personal funk" helped reiterate to him that he must take his walks.
"[Patience] is one of the parts of the game you have to learn," he says. "Sometimes the best thing you can do for the team is to take the walk rather than expand your strike zone."
The great ones have done it. Barry Bonds. Pujols. Alex Rodriguez.
Gonzalez, already a superstar, is looking to get better.
Sunblock Day? Ah, maybe it's time to open that bottle of SPF. Predicted highs in the 70s all weekend in Phoenix.
Likes: Former Padres general manager Kevin Towers to the Yankees as an assistant to New York GM Brian Cashman. But the best part is, after the Padres tried to extract $250,000 from the Yanks while attempting to recoup some of the fired Towers' 2010 salary, the Yankees stiff-armed them and the Padres settled for only $50,000 in compensation, according to a source. ... Can't wait to see Reds' lefty Aroldis Chapman sometime in the next few days. He may be the most exciting thing to hit Cincinnati since Skyline Chili. ... It is amazing how much Tony Gwynn Jr. sounds like his Hall of Fame father. If you haven't heard him speak yet, check out our video interview. ... Did you see Evan Turner's game-winning 37-foot buzzer beater as Ohio State avoided getting upset by Michigan on Friday? Unbelievable. Let the March Madness begin. ... And on a smaller madness note, a huge congratulations to the Monroe (Mich.) St. Mary Catholic Central Falcons, who stunned 20-2 Dundee for a Class C District title Friday in the boys' high school basketball tournament. Great win for first-year coach Randy Windham, who replaced the legendary Ray Lauwers this year. ... Pretty good sour cream chicken enchiladas the other night at Los Olivos in Scottsdale. But alas, no spotting this year of actor Timothy Busfield. ... First John Hiatt (Thursday) then the Drive-By Truckers (Friday) on the Late Show with David Letterman. The man is on a roll.
Dislikes: Nomar Garciaparra's tenure in Boston ended unceremoniously with a trade, and after he bounces around the game like a foul ball for several years, he and the Red Sox get together so he can "sign" a minor-league contract and "retire" as a Red Sock? And he hated dealing with the media, and now he's headed to become a talking head on ESPN? Look, I have no personal ax to grind here -- I've always gotten along just fine with Nomar -- but count me out of this entire dog and pony show. The Red Sox, of all organizations, should be above a publicity stunt like this. And Nomar on television after avoiding the media as often as possible? Whatever.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"There ought to be a law with no bail
"Smash a guitar and you go to jail
"With no chance for early parole
"You don't get out until you get some soul"
-- John Hiatt, Perfectly Good Guitar