T.J. SIMERS

Adrian Gonzalez is worth getting to know

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And it got to Gonzalez.

"Everybody was super mad the way we lost and things went down," he says. "Here I thought I had one of the best seasons ever, but because of what I said and because I didn't hit more home runs it wasn't like I had that good of a season. So I said, all right, I'm going to come into next year and hit more home runs. And it wrecked my swing.

"I felt like I disappointed everyone a little bit, so I was going to try and do what they wanted this season."

It was a crack in the stone face, Gonzalez taking to heart the expectation of rabid Red Sox fans looking for someone to blame after the team's September collapse.

He had already worked everyone into a stupefying lather when he said, "It wasn't in God's plan for us to be in the playoffs."

"A lot of the stuff in Boston came off the fact I had faith in God," he says now. "Ever since then, everything they wrote about me was negative."

So he shut down in interviews. "Short answers," as he says, while admitting he was "turned off by the reaction" to comments regarding God's plan.

Folks in Boston forgot how he arrived in a trade from San Diego as their savior, more than a dozen giddy reporters doing profiles on Gonzalez and hearing him always say the same thing: "God is No. 1, my family's No. 2 and baseball is No. 3.

"I live for God and try to glorify God in everything I do on the field," he told them, "And I try my hardest because I owe it to God and the fans."

But the only thing the Red Sox remembered was the sting of defeat in September, pegging Gonzalez as an excuse-maker when he failed to live up to their expectations.

He finished seventh in MVP voting.

As our dugout chat continues, he's so much more agreeable than initially letting on. He's funny as well, very technical in the way he views the game and examines every question asked, but obviously packed with the potential to become a star here.

If only he would smile more.

"Up until this point I've had the worst season of my life," he says, showing he is willing to criticize his own game. "I'm not talking statistically. I'm talking my swing; each and every day it is a fight."

If it's a fight, says Manager Don Mattingly, Gonzalez is winning. He reminds Gonzalez on Friday he still has 99 RBIs.

Make that 102 after a first-inning RBI on Saturday — 16 now in 20 games with the Dodgers, and he's supposedly struggling.

"I'm just getting started," he says.

Six more years with the guy, and don't let the stone face bother you.

Behind the mask there is so much more.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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