Rays And Carlos Gomez, When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade

 Gomez Provides Rays Value In Immeasurable Ways

Shortly after the Rays surprising trade of Steven Souza Jr.to the Arizona Diamondbacks this past March, Tampa Bay turned to free agent Carlos Gomez to fill the void in the lineup as well as in right field.

Replacing Souza was a big ask after Souza had a coming out party in 2017 batting .239/.351/.459 with 30 homers in 617 plate appearances.

Gomez, like Souza, is a right handed bat and was coming off a season where he hit .255/.340/.462 with 17 homers spanning 462 plate appearances with the Texas Rangers.

The Rays were so confident in Gomez’s ability to fill the hole left behind in the lineup that they gave him a $4MM deal with $500K in incentives ($100K for 80, 90, 100, 110, and 120 plate appearances). The deal also included an additional $500K if traded.

Unfortunately, Gomez was unable to produce with the bat. Of course, he had his highlights belting a walk-off homer, with a trot around the bases that was something to behold, against the Minnesota Twins on April 22nd.

Walk Off Homer:

Gatorade Cooler Beat Down:

Overall it was a frustrating season for Gomez, who entering Saturday’s game against the Oakland Athletics had hit just .219/.307/.353 on the season. His frustration was in full display against the Miami Marlins on Independence Day. He believed he had been hit by a Jose Urena fastball, but the umpire ruled against him and he eventually struck out. Enough was enough, but what did the poor Gatorade cooler have to do with it.

But in true Gomez fashion, he apologized to the cooler:

Despite the lack of production on the field, Gomez has proven himself to be a model for the young players as they enter the big leagues.  His approach to the game doesn’t change and his confidence in himself doesn’t wane. He believes in hard work and doing whatever it takes to get the team a win.

He has made it easy for young players like Jake Bauers and Willy Adames to be themselves in their first seasons in the big leagues. It hasn’t always been that way for rookies as detailed in Marc Craig of the Athletic ($ required) about the changing culture of locker rooms in MLB. (Read More Here).

In Craig’s article, Yankee lefty C.C. Sabathia discussed his breaking into the big leagues in not so glowing terms.  “You didn’t feel welcome,” said veteran lefty CC Sabathia, who recalled breaking in with the Indians in 2001. “It was hard. I didn’t enjoy my first couple of years in the big leagues.”

Not enjoying what should be the greatest acccompllishment in a young man’s life? Not a good vibe or pattern to set, to that end Sabathia had vowed to make things better for the rookies when he had a chance and he has.

In much the same way, Carlos Gomez has set a tone of hard work and individualism that the kids can follow.  He certainly has fun, whether he is feigning collapsing after being hit by a pitch or sitting in the bullpen during the game, it’s about fun.

All the while he delivers a consistent message to the team. He wants them to believe in themselves and to most importantly have faith that they can beat anybody. In late May after the Rays traded Denard Span to the Seattle Mariners and Gomez delivered the first of many messages to his teammates.

“We are a special team. Probably for the people in baseball media, we’re not. We have 25 guys here with a lot of talent that really can play.” He said. “The most important business is how the staff, the veteran guy can prove to a young guy how to believe that they are good enough to compete with anybody. When they believe that, we can compete against anybody, we can beat them.”

Since delivering that message, the Rays are 58-40. How much stock anyone wants to put into the Gomez effect is certainly debatable. Certainly, he’s not the only veteran who has led with personality and hard work, Sergio Romo is another.

To watch the Rays play day in and day out and not recognize the attraction that Gomez is for the younger players and the energy he provides would be to deny the obvious. He won’t be back with the Rays in 2019, but he will be missed.  Fortunately for the Rays, the clubhouse culture of fun and hard work has been set and that trend should continue for years to come.

I am a fan of all sports but am most passionate about baseball. From the fanatical to analytical, nothing about the game escapes me. Being born and raised in Northeast Ohio I'm very familiar with the heartache and pain that sports can bring and hope that I bring some understanding of the other side to my coverage. I will focus mostly on baseball but also cover the Tampa Bay Lightning, one of the most electric franchises in all of sports. Always willing to converse about any sport and have only one rule and that is be respectful at all times.