Juan Gonzalez was well on his way to a Hall of Fame career. He put up big homerun and rbi totals in the middle of the steroid era and should find himself in the middle of the debate with likes of Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro about whether guys from that era should be in the Hall. Unfortunately for Juan, injuries and a personal issues got in the way and his numbers in three of his last four seasons were far below normal.
Juan played 17 seasons, although his last season consisted of one at-bat for the Indians. In 1689 career games, Juan scored 1,061 runs, had 1,936 hits, hit 434 homeruns and drove in 1,404 runs. He had a decent career average of .295 to go along with a .564 slugging percentage. Juan was the A.L. MVP in both 1996 and 1998 and was a 3 time All-Star. He hit 35 or more homeruns 7 times and knocked in 100+ rbis 8 times.
It was the last four years of his career that derailed the HOF train. From 2002 to 2005, Juan hit a total of 37 homeruns. In the previous eleven seasons, he averaged 35 homers per season. If he had averaged 30 homers/season over his last 4 years, he would have ended up with around 517 career homeruns. Considering career averages, he also would have finished with around 2600 hits. Of course, the Hall isn't based on what could have been, but what was.
Unlike some of the players who will be forever linked to the steroid era, I don't think Juan will eventually be elected to the Hall of Fame. His great numbers didn't last quite long enough to overcome that link. Rangers fans will always remember Juan as a key component in the Rangers three playoff seasons, including hitting 5 homeruns in the 1996 Division Series against the Yankees. We will also remember his tendency not to hustle after flyballs or down the line after a grounder or pop up.