My Favourite Player: Ben Carter on Carlos Gonzalez

Whether they’re willing to admit it or not, every baseball fan has a favourite baseball player. Maybe it’s their favourite team’s current ace, the random right fielder whose jersey they received as a Christmas gift when they were eight years old, or a promising prospect whose career was cut short by injury.

In this series, we ask British baseball fans to tell us how their favourite player came to be their favourite player and a whole lot more. Next up, member of the Bat Flips and Nerds founding four Ben Carter, aka @ukbaseballben, tells us about his love of Carlos Gonzalez.

“Why the Rockies?”

A question I have grappled with for the 10+ years that I have followed the doomed Colorado franchise, and one usually uttered to me with something between pity and disdain.

I’ve never been to Coors Field and chances are I won’t make it out there in the next few years. Of all the teams in Major League Baseball, I can think of maybe one (hello A’s!) less likely to be on the billing for a future London Series.

They are, by all accounts, a laughable franchise. Zero division titles in 31 seasons. No winning record since 2018. Their last few franchise icons discarded without a moment’s hesitation. A big purple dinosaur as the mascot.

The reason I chose the Rockies in that fated moment back in 2009/10, was a recent ski holiday that took me into the Rocky Mountains. A wonderful childhood memory that will now be forever tainted.

But the real reason that they stuck with me? A free-swinging Venezuelan outfielder named Carlos Gonzalez.

So why Carlos Gonzalez?

Let’s get the statistical analysis out of the way first. We are Bat Flips & Nerds after all, and though it’s the Bat Flips side of CarGo’s game that made him unique, a career triple-slash of .283/.343/.500 shows the calibre of hitter that we are talking about. For context, Austin Riley hit .281/.345/.516 in 2023.

“But Coors Field!”. Totally fair. For his career, Gonzalez had a 129 wRC+ at home, compared to just 93 on the road. The nuance of fully analysing the effects of Coors Field on home/road splits are a little too complicated to get into here, but suffice to say that he always seemed more comfortable within the confines of Denver.

Defensively, CarGo was nothing special. Splitting time between all three outfield positions in his youth, he had the range initially to be at least somewhat competent in centre – where his bat made him a star. But as injuries plagued him, the legs gave out and he became something of a liability in the cavernous Coors outfield.

The ‘why’ though, comes down to aesthetics. I’m not sure I have ever seen a prettier Major League swing than CarGo’s, with the obvious exception of Ken Griffey Jr.

When Gonzalez was locked in at the plate, hitting never looked easier. The sweet, smooth lefty swing was never hurried and had an unbelievable ability to hit the ball to all parts of the field. Gonzalez wasn’t a bat flipper, he was a bat dropper, almost simultaneously finishing his swing and starting his home run strut when he really got hold of one.

He was, in a word, cool.

What’s your earliest memory of watching him play?

I think I started following baseball during the 2010 season and really got into the sport in 2011. The Rockies were bad in 2011 (the sky was also blue that year), but they had two players who immediately captured my attention: Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki.

The pair were almost opposites on the field. Where CarGo made everything look easy, Tulo made everything look incredibly hard. His swing was max effort, his jersey always dirty and his glove looked like it had survived a nuclear apocalypse.

But the two combined with dazzling effectiveness. Joined by an exciting rookie that season named Charlie Blackmon (feel old yet?), the Rockies were bad but they were fun. Night games at Coors Field had energy and Gonzalez was mashing the ball in a way that made him feel like one of baseball’s best kept secrets.

Tell us about your favourite Carlos Gonzalez moment

Well this one is easy. It’s still the highlight I watch the most, and it remains – in my view – one of the most electric walk-off moments in MLB history.

On July 31st 2010, the Rockies hosted the Cubs at Coors Field. Gonzalez entered the game with eight hits in his previous 14 at-bats, including home runs in back-to-back-to-back games. When he was hot, he was HOT.

He’d go on to hit for the cycle that day. There have been 18 cycles at Coors Field, most of any ballpark in the Majors, despite only opening in 1993. A cycle isn’t easy, but it’s easiest in Colorado.

What made the cycle special was the way that CarGo achieved it: with a walk-off home run into the third deck, on the first pitch of the ninth inning, lefty-on-lefty in front of a sold out Saturday night crowd.

A proper, jaw-dropping nuke of a home run.

Do you own any Carlos Gonzalez merchandise?

I don’t. Embarrassingly, I didn’t even own a Colorado Rockies jersey until last year’s London Series when I cracked and bought myself one at the impressive store by London Stadium.

I’ve always felt that the Rockies jerseys are one of MLB’s more underrated designs: with a white, black and purple colour way, how could you really go wrong? But the sleeveless vests that they sported in the early 2010s were an absolute slam dunk in baseball aesthetics and it never looked better than with Gonzalez and the number 5 on the back.

What’s your favourite highlight?

Beyond the aforementioned walk-off cycle (a feat that would be famously repeated by a bloodied Nolan Arenado on Mother’s Day 2017), Gonzalez enjoyed a four home run in four at bats stretch in 2012, as well as a monster 40-homer campaign in 2015 after two years blighted by injury.

But Gonzalez always seemed to have a special dislike for Cincinnati pitchers. This was something I just anecdotally felt to be true, but after looking into the splits it holds up well. CarGo went 67-for-205 against the Reds, good for a .327 batting average with 18 home runs. I can’t imagine any of the 18 were as majestic as this one that almost left Great American Ballpark:

In summary, Gonzalez made baseball fun. The streaky nature of his production meant there were some maddening lows but also unbelievable highs, during a period where the Rockies at least feigned interest in being a competitive team. The lefty swing never seemed to get the adoration that it deserved, as one of the most pleasing sights in baseball, but it made me fall in love with the sport that I still follow and play to this day.

CarGo won’t be a Hall of Famer, and may be forgotten by all but a few nostalgic Rockies fans in the not-so-distant future. But the stats will never tell the true story: the eye black; the sleeveless jerseys; the bat drop and the roar of the crowd will always be a reminder that Carlos Gonzalez delivered some of Colorado’s best baseball moments, in an era where Rockies baseball was fun – maybe even cool.

Photo: Getty Images

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