- For the journalist and radio host, see Juan Gonzalez; for the former president of Paraguay, see Juan Natalico González
Juan Alberto González Vázquez (born October 20, 1969 in Arecibo, Puerto Rico), better known as Juan González, and nicknamed "Juan Gone" or "Igor", is a Major League Baseball right fielder. González bats and throws right-handed. He was one of the premier run producers during the 1990s, averaging 117 runs batted in per season between 1991 and 1999.
"Juan Gone" was signed by the Texas Rangers as an amateur free agent in 1986 and made his Major League debut on September 1, 1989 as a September call-up. Prior to making it to the major leagues, he played for the Caguas Creoles, a Puerto Rican professional baseball team based in Caguas.
González' first full season was 1991. It was his first of many 100-plus RBI seasons, proving himself a capable middle of the line-up run producer. He improved his batting average and home run totals over the next few seasons, leading the league in homers in 1992 (43) and 1993 (46).
On the strength of González' steady production at the plate, Texas finished first the AL West division in 1996, 1998 and 1999, although they were eliminated in all three seasons by the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series. Between 1996-98, González averaged 45 home runs and 144 RBI, the most productive period in his career. He won the American League MVP award in 1996 and 1998. Many consider his MVP award in 1996 to be injustice, as González's number were far outmatched by Albert Belle, who was unpopular with the media (coincidentally, the media selects the MVP).
Fearing they would be unable to meet González' rising salary demands, Texas elected to trade him in the postseason, eventually settling on a deal with the Detroit Tigers. On November 2, 1999, he was traded with Danny Patterson and Gregg Zaun to Detroit for Frank Catalanotto, Francisco Cordero, Bill Haselman, Gabe Kapler, Justin Thompson and Alan Webb.
The following season was a disaster for González and the Tigers as a team. 2000 was the opening year for Detroit's new ballpark, Comerica Park, and the team's management had counted on strong seasons from the team's new players to draw interest from fans. But, hampered by injuries and unable to adjust to Comerica's unfavourable dimensions, González had one of the poorest seasons of his career. Detroit had gambled on the one-year remaining on his contract hoping to spark fan interest and lost. however, this move turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Tiger fans, for it ultimately lead to the firing of General Manager Randy Smith in early 2002.
González resurrected his career in 2001 with the Cleveland Indians, where he was asked to fill the void left behind as a result of Manny Ramirez' free agency departure to the Boston Red Sox. González batted a career-best .325 with 35 home runs and 140 RBI, leading the Indians to the postseason.
In 2004, González was sidelined with a lower back injury on May 22. He missed the rest of the season.
Despite being a great player in the 90s, by 2002, Gonzalez began to seriously decline. He signed a contract with the Texas Rangers, but sustained an injury which kept him out for much of the season. He was also injured in 2003. His 2004 season was another wash, as he played only about a month and a half while with the Kansas City Royals. The 2005 season was an embarrassment to him, as he lasted only a 3 pitch at-bat for the Cleveland Indians before reinjuring himself in May.
- 3-time All-Star (1993, 1998, 2001)
- American League MVP (1996, 1998)
- 3-time Top 10 MVP (9th, 1997; 4th, 1993; 5th, 2001)
- His 429 career home runs ranks 31st on the all-time list
González was married to Puerto Rican volleyball legend Elaine Lopez, sister of Javy, during the early 1990s. This marriage broke when a local newspaper released a cover photo of singer Olga Tanon kissing Gonzalez during a concert in San Juan. A scandal followed, with González divorcing Elaine Lopez and marrying Tanon, who said she had no idea González was married with Lopez when she gave him the infamous kiss. González and Tanon had a daughter together, and, later on, divorced. Gabriela González Tanon, Juan's daughter, later became one of only fifty people in the world (and the first Puerto Rican) ever to have been diagnosed with Sebastian's syndrome.