harry how/Getty Images/File 2017
LOS ANGELES — The World Series is back at Dodger Stadium.
The Cooler is not.
The Dodgers played in their first World Series in 29 years and Adrian Gonzalez was not with his teammates for LA’s 3-1 victory in Game 1 Tuesday night.
Gonzalez went on the disabled list with a back injury Sept. 28 and has not played an inning since. He still has a year left on a contract that pays him $21.5 million.
It’s probably a good thing for the Dodgers. Gonzalez, after all, is The Cooler. He rides shotgun with bad karma.
Gonzalez was “cheering on the guys’’ from the SportsNet studio in Los Angeles. I know this only because others have told me. For some reason, The Cooler has blocked me on Twitter.
Red Sox fans certainly remember Gonzalez. He was the sweet-swinging middle-of-the-lineup guy who inspired Theo Epstein to trade prospect Anthony Rizzo to San Diego after the 2010 season.
In Boston, Gonzalez was the sour clubhouse contrarian who complained about Sunday night games, said it was “God’s will’’ when the Sox perpetrated the greatest choke in September history, then explained the 2011 chicken-and-beer fiasco by saying, “A man’s got to eat.’’
Gonzalez also organized the New York Palace Coup against Bobby Valentine in 2012 (he gets points for that one) before he was traded along with Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett in the infamous salary dump that paved the way for Boston’s 2013 championship.
Meanwhile, championships have eluded Gonzalez despite five All-Star appearances, four Gold Gloves, and a .288 career batting average. Among active players, Gonzalez has played more games without making it to a World Series than everyone other than Ichiro Suzuki and Brandon Phillips.
But it’s more than that. Gonzo’s mere presence seems to guarantee late-season failure. He is Eddie Mush from “A Bronx Tale.’’ He is Bernie Lootz (played by William H. Macy) in “The Cooler.” For those who may not know, the 2003 film “The Cooler” featured a sad sack character hired by a Las Vegas casino boss to stand near lucky gamblers with the expectation that the sad sack’s negative vibe would cool a hot hand.
Gonzalez has had this effect on each of his last three teams.
By any yardstick, Gonzo has been part of three of the biggest folds of baseball’s wild-card era. In the 2007 NL wild-card chase, the Padres led the Rockies by five games with 13 to play, but finished in a second-place tie with Colorado and lost a one-game playoff.
In 2010, Gonzalez’s Padres led the Giants by six games on Aug. 26, then went 14-22 down the stretch and finished out of the money. A year later, Gonzo’s Red Sox blew a nine-game lead in a mere 22 days, went 7-20 in September, and got everybody fired.
The common denominator? Adrian Gonzalez.
Bad luck has accompanied him to Chavez Ravine. On the day the Dodgers acquired Gonzalez in the biggest trade in franchise history, they were one game out of wild-card contention. They lost five of six after the deal was done and did not make it to the postseason.
Largely led by Gonzalez, the Dodgers made the playoffs in each of the next four seasons, but lost four of six postseason series and never made it to the World Series.
It’s not that Gonzalez has been a poor performer in September/October. In 34 playoff games, he has hit .266 with 7 homers and 21 RBIs. Still, the Bad Vibrations dominate. Gonzo’s dour persona just seems to bring the bad juju. He somehow personifies the unnamed character in Bob Dylan’s “Positively 4th Street.’’
“I wish that for just one time you could stand inside my shoes. You’d know what a drag it is to see you.’’
The Cooler’s splits for 2017 are truly unbelievable. After playing at least 156 games in 11 straight seasons, he went on the disabled list three times and was ruled out of the playoffs one day after hitting a homer in his final at-bat of the season on Sept. 26.
When he was on the active roster, the Dodgers went 47-44. When he was on the disabled list, the Dodgers went 57-14 (65-15 including the postseason). They pushed themselves to 50 games over .500 while Gonzalez was gone, then lost 16 of 17 in one stretch after he returned. Any wonder he’s not needed now?
Thanks, Adrian. The dugout’s a little crowded.
The situation is strange on every level. Gonzalez is not the devil. He is very friendly with Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and was cited as a local “fan favorite” in the sub headline of Tuesday’s LA Times story about his absence. His Mexican heritage could have made him a Los Angeles cult figure in the mold of Fernando Valenzuela, but he has not connected with local fans on anywhere near that level.
And now he is not here. Even though he’s making $21.5 million. Even though he has played more games for this team than any of the other current Dodgers. Even though he has faced Houston’s Game 2 starter, Justin Verlander, 20 times, more than any Dodger on the World Series roster. Gonzalez might be useful for some batting tips.
“This is Adrian’s deal, not mine,’’ Dodger leader Justin Turner told the Times. “I text him almost every day: We miss you, we want you to be here with us, you should be here with us.”
But he is not here. Gonzo is gonzo.
The World Series is back at Dodger Stadium, and The Cooler has left the building.
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