Here is a link to my column on Jonny Gomes. The full column runs below:
OAKLAND — Petaluma’s Jonny Gomes is an independent thinker.
I asked him some questions Wednesday morning, Gomes who returned to the A’s in the Yoenis-Cespedis-for-Jon-Lester trade. Just about every time, Gomes reinterpreted the question or disputed the question in a polite way. It showed he was listening instead of answering on auto-pilot, as many big leaguers do.
Here’s what I mean. I said, “I wonder if it’s possible to step outside yourself and say what you bring to this team that is important, good, essential.”
“To start with, I’m not going to do that,” Gomes said, standing at his locker, the same locker he had last time on the A’s. “I’m not ready to step outside of my shoes and grade myself and pat myself on the back. I played in a couple of different organizations. I played in the National League, played under Lou Piniella, Joe Maddon, Dusty Baker, Davey Johnson, Bob Melvin, John Farrell. I’ve seen a lot of the pieces of the pie. The one thing I take pride in is giving some of that information back that I’ve received.”
For example, he talks to teammates about being aggressive, about going for it, about knowing the pitch count of the opposing starting pitcher, about making him work, about getting into the bullpen early, about “piling on the pressure.” He tells teammates it’s OK to be overaggressive certain times at bat or in the field even if you fail “because it’s going to pay off down the road.” He calls this “baseball IQ stuff.”
Gomes bats right-handed. The A’s play him more against left-handed pitchers than right-handers, platoon him. They did not start him on Wednesday, a 7-3 loss, because the Tampa Bay Rays threw a righty.
“Among reasons Billy Beane brought you back,” I said, “is you hit very well against lefties. I am not saying you don’t hit well against righties. What looks different for you when you hit against a lefty vs. a righty?
Gomes coughed. This was a question he wanted to redirect.
“I mean, I made it to the big leagues in 21/2 years,” he said. “I was third in Rookie of the Year in 2005, drove in almost 90 runs in 2010. I can hit righties. It’s been proven I can. I just fell into some platoon roles. In this game, pitching, fielding, hitting, anything is timing and rhythm. Truly, I could face a 15-year-old kid in December and I would have absolutely no chance because my timing is not there.
“When you’re talking six to seven games a week, four at-bats a game, your timing’s going to be there. But when you’re talking maybe anywhere between six and 10 at-bats against righties in a month, you come back and they say, ‘Hey, good swing. Just missed.’ It’s still an out. There’s no just-misses on the batting average. It’s just timing.
“It’s the role I’ve fallen into. It’s tough these days to hit lefties. You look at some of the lefties in the game right now, we’re talking David Price, Jon Lester, Cliff Lee. It goes on and on. Lefties are aces these days. They’re tough to hit.”
I had run up against Gomes’ pride.
“Your stats against lefties are really good,” I said. “You’re batting .295 against lefties.” I was going to add Cespedes was batting just .232 against lefties, something Beane knew. You can count on that. But I never got to Cespedes’ stats. Gomes cut me off.
“You can’t compare my stats with anyone,” he said. “You can only compare my stats with someone who does my job. If you want to say how I hit against lefties and compare it to like a (Josh) Donaldson and a Cespedes or whatever, it’s still not accurate because they’re getting right-handed pitching to keep their timing. There’ll be a time when I’ll go four or five days without seeing a pitch. You can’t compare my stats to anybody unless they do my role.”
Let’s leave Gomes standing by his locker and skip ahead to manager Bob Melvin’s pregame news conference in the dugout to get his perspective on Gomes. I promise we’ll return to Gomes.
“When Billy made the trade for Lester,” I said to Melvin, “it was seen as Cespedes for Lester. But my guess is Gomes was an important part of that deal.”
“Yeah, no doubt,” Melvin said. “For me, that was a very significant part. As far as production goes against left-handed pitching, that end of it was big. The clubhouse presence was huge because Ces was a big personality in our clubhouse. In the past three years, no one’s been a bigger presence or personality in our clubhouse than Jonny. You’re combating that trade, losing such a presence like Ces, with not only trying to match up production but in the clubhouse, as well. That was a guy Billy was smart to target. There are a lot of nuances to that trade.”
“I asked Jonny about hitting lefties,” I told Melvin, “and he went to great pains to remind me he also can hit righties.”
“He reminds me that, as well,” Melvin said. He laughed. Melvin said Tuesday night Gomes got a hit off a righty. Last year, the world-champ Red Sox used him extensively against right-handed pitchers.
Someone asked Melvin if Gomes has influenced Josh Reddick.
“There are certain guys he’s had bigger influences on,” Melvin said, “none more than Red. Showed him the ropes how to handle himself as a big leaguer. He’s been a big influence on him and Donaldson, too.”
OK, let’s return to Gomes, who’s been waiting patiently for us at his locker in suspended animation.
“You still have family in Petaluma?” I asked.
“Yeah. My brother (Joey) is up there. And he’s doing all his youth baseball stuff.”
“And you still have friends up there?”
“Yeah, tons. I didn’t have the biggest family growing up. My friends are my extended family.”
“You’re worldly,” I said, “You’re a big leaguer, you’ve been all around. Is there a part of you that still is Petaluma?
“This is my game glove,” Gomes said, grabbing his mitt from his locker. The glove has 707 branded on it.
“My cleats, too,” he said “So, I stick to my roots. I’ve traveled a whole lot from playing winter ball, living in Mexico. I played ball in Japan, played ball in Alaska, played ball in the South, East Coast. Out of all those places, I’ve never wanted to be like, ‘I claim this.’ I live in Arizona now, Scottsdale just because of the weather. I’ve lived there for 10 offseasons. But I don’t say, ‘I’m from Arizona. Ever.”
“Where do you say you’re from?”
“Yeah. I know what home is.”
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