December 15, 2008
The Rays won the AL pennant last year and they would have done it even without Jonny Gomes.
However, there's not a chance they would have won it as colorfully if he weren't around.
Gomes batted a dismal .182/.282/.383 in '08, easily the worst of his four seasons in St. Petersburg. He had only 11 plate appearances after Aug. 4 and was inactive for the entire playoff run. Therefore it came as no surprise that Tampa Bay non-tendered him on Friday, sending Gomes to free agency.
Non-tender is an excellent way of putting it because it's very un-tender to cut someone who's been with your organization since turning pro in 2001. And Gomes, despite a paucity of good statistics this past season, was important (yes, we're stretching the word's definition here) to the Rays rise to power in the AL East.
Gomes had a strong rookie season in '05, and owned the club's record for home runs by a first-year player until some guy named Longoria came along. Gomes has struggled at the plate since, but he still has several mad skills that would be of use to a new ball club.
Perhaps Brian Cashman could sign him to a Yankees contract? If the New York GM or anyone else is interested in taking a further look, we've listed a few roles he would be able to fill for a major league squad:
1. Celebration specialist: Nobody was more visible than Gomes as the Rays clinched a playoff spot, the AL East title, an ALDS victory and a World Series berth.
2. Shot pourer: Gomes had a special bottle of Patron at the ready when the Rays beat the White Sox in the playoffs. Joe Maddon drank some — of COURSE he did — and James Shields' esophagus might never recover. The tequila again surfaced after the ALCS.
3. Mohawk consultant: Gomes didn't start the Rays' odd team-bonding procedure of getting a Mohawk (or, as the term has been coined, a RayHawk) but his B.A. Baracus head was undeniably the scariest-looking of the bunch.
4. Basebrawl enforcer: Gomes was a supporting figure in the big Red Sox fight, but he ran the anchor leg of the brawl with the Yankees in spring training. If a team needs to involve itself in a solid bad-bloodletting, Gomes is a man you want on your side.
5. Athletic supporter: Gomes gave Major League Baseball its own version of the Stanley Cup by drinking Bud Light (nobody's perfect) shooters out of Dioner Navarro's jock.
Let's make it a merry Christmas for Jonny. Let's find him a new team.