Geremi Gonzalez wasn’t the best pitcher, so why is he on our MLB player spotlight?
Though Geremi Gonzalez was not a memorable pitcher, a string of bizarre and unusual events make him worthy of being the subject of the inaugural forgotten MLB player spotlight series. Here’s why:
Gonzalez was as mediocre as MLB pitchers get, but strange coincidences surrounded both his playing career and his life. He was born in Maracaibo, Venezuela. In 1991, the Chicago Cubs signed him to an amateur contract at age 16.
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When he finally reached the majors in 1997 at age 22, he showed reasonable potential as a starting pitcher. In 23 starts, Gonzalez finished with an 11-9 record, 4.25 ERA, and a ninth-place finish in NL Rookie of the Year voting.
However, Gonzalez failed to improve in 1998 with the Cubs. Plagued with the injury bug, he did not pitch another game in the majors until 2003. Now with the Tampa Bay Devils Rays, Gonzalez resurfaced as a reliable starter once again. Despite a 6-11 record, he finished with a team-best 3.91 ERA in 25 starts.
Despite his modest success that year, his most memorable appearance was on June 3rd, when he faced off against his former team for the first time. In the first inning, he gets his former teammate and world-renowned cheater Sammy Sosa to break his bat and ground out to second.
However, the home plate umpire soon discovers that Sosa’s broken-bat was corked, and he is swiftly ejected from the game. After this event, people started to view Sosa’s career achievements with an asterisk.
But Gonzalez’s strange encounters with famous cheaters do not end there. He was also the greatest foil to MLB’s home run king, Barry Bonds. Bonds produced some of the most absurd stats the game has ever seen. Geremi Gonzalez did not. His career 30-35 record and 4.93 make him a below-average pitcher at best.
However, for some unknown reason, Barry Bonds couldn’t touch him. He went 0-6 against Gonzalez, who went by “Jeremi” at the time until he informed the Brewers in 2006 that the spelling was wrong.
That may not seem like significant sample size, but Geremi was the only pitcher in MLB history to face Barry Bonds six times and prevent him from reaching base at least once (via Cespedes Family Barbecue). Now, that’s a pretty crazy mark to leave of baseball.
So, by some strange coincidence, Geremi Gonzalez is one of the biggest giant slayers in MLB history. He was truly a man that was in the right place at the right time.
Or was he?
Following a short stint for the Yomiuri Giants of Japan’s Nippon Professional League in 2007, Gonzalez returned to Venezuela. Then, on May 25, 2008, he was struck by lightning in Punta Palma, Venezuela. He died at age 33.
For a man who’s baseball career was highlighted by random occurrences, his freak death seems eerily fitting. Geremi Gonzalez was truly a forgotten anomaly in the MLB history books, both in life and death.