Saturday, April 27, 2013

Jonny Gomes: Mr. Congeniality

Jonny Gomes has played for five teams in his major league career, and his numbers at the plate have never really been spectacular, especially for an outfielder. So what business did the Red Sox have giving the 32-year-old two years and $10 million?

It's one of the luxuries that the Red Sox have being a big market team - sure, when it comes down to it, the Yankees can outspend us, but not many other teams can (though I'm still thanking the Dodgers for picking up the tab for Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Adrian Gonzalez). It means that the Red Sox can overpay for that dirtiest of baseball words: intangibles.

No, I'm not talking about Derek Jeter and his "calm eyes" or whatever weird, fawning description Joe Buck has for him these days (Captain DL?), but rather about things like good positioning, and being a positive presence in the clubhouse.  Particularly last season, the Red Sox had trouble with the mood in the clubhouse - to be sure, they didn't have the best manager to handle that kind of issue, but the result was the same: poor performance, bad moods, and surly interviews with the press.

Enter 2013 and Jonny Gomes. Gomes has struggled at the plate to start the season, but he hasn't let it get to him, being unfailingly upbeat in the dugout and with reporters. When asked about his contributions to the team so far this season, Gomes emphasized defense: "There's two L's in this game. There's leather and lumber. Hopefully you can try and bring both every day. But you definitely have to leave the yard with at least bringing one."

When specifically prompted to talk about his own struggles at the plate (Gomes is hitting just .189 this season with a single RBI and no home runs), he shrugged it off: "When the team’s winning, no one is in a slump. No one at all. I don’t consider myself in a slump. I just haven’t started yet."

That kind of hopeful attitude is just the kind of thing that young, slumping players like Will Middlebrooks need to see from the veterans in their midst. The Red Sox certainly overpaid for Gomes - being a good role model while hitting below the Mendoza Line isn't worth $5 million a season, even if you spend all 162 games making your teammates laugh in the clubhouse and charming the press. But the Red Sox CAN overpay Jonny Gomes, without affecting their financial ability to after other pieces they need - we get to have our cake, and eat it too.

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