Jul 3, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; The Boston Red Sox celebrate a walk off home run by Boston Red Sox pinch hitter Jonny Gomes (5) during the ninth inning against the San Diego Padres at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Red Sox' Jonny Gomes Is Kevin Millar Redux

When general manager Ben Cherington set out to remake the Red Sox roster and clubhouse this past off season his goal was to add character guys on reasonable contracts.

This philosophy ended up costing the Red Sox the ability to re-sign the very popular Cody Ross, who the team felt was asking for too much money and too many years.

Mind you, Ross was the one bright spot in a bleak 2012 season and he quickly became a fan favorite with the Fenway Faithful.

Jul 31, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox left fielder Jonny Gomes (5) reacts to making the last out during the 15th inning against the Seattle Mariners at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Cherington decided to replace Ross with journeyman outfielder Jonny Gomes and gave him a two-year, $10 million contract.  Many fans (including me) gasped and asked, why give Gomes that kind of money when he was basically a platoon player and Ross was a starter and proven performer in the Boston pressure cooker?

The question was legit but I think we now have the answer as to why Cherington had such a great backup plan when Ross priced himself out of Boston.

Quite simply, Gomes has emerged as the new Kevin Millar of the 2013 Red Sox.

In his first year with the team, there is no question that he has fit right in with the dirt dog persona the Red Sox clubhouse has been trying to get back to and that he is one of the unquestioned leaders of the brigade, along with pseudo-captain Dustin Pedroia and fellow newcomers Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino.

We all remember how it was Millar who kept things loose in that 2004 Red Sox clubhouse when they were down 3-0 to the Yankees in the ALCS and he uttered the famous line “don’t let us win tonight” prior to Game 4.  Of course we all know what happened after that.

His ability to keep things loose around the team that season and make big contributions in big spots (the Game 4 walk off Mariano anyone?) were part of the fabric of what made those Red Sox teams so good.  The veteran leadership and experience he provided for that Red Sox team was priceless.

Gomes, like Millar, has been a journeyman most of his career.  He’s been on four teams prior to Boston and though he is not a flashy player, everywhere he’s been he’s considered a solid citizen and leader.  There’s nothing in baseball he has not seen.

And from the way he speaks in interviews it is easy to see that he believes in the closeness of a clubhouse and having his teammate’s backs at all times.  He’s also a charter member of the Grind Out At-Bats and Games Club.

Now he’s added key on-field contributions to the mix and he looks like the second coming of Millar, and not just because they both like to get their uniforms dirty.

Gomes leads the team with three pinch hit home runs and he was in the middle of that incredible rally the other night against Seattle by making a circus catch in left field and singling in the tying run off a right hander in the ninth inning, something that is supposedly not his strength.  He’s also the first one to run out to home plate and celebrate when a teammate wins a game for the Sox in walkoff fashion.

No one could have foreseen what Gomes has done for the team so far this season.  To most he was considered a part-time player never good enough to become a starter.  But as this season has worn on, Gomes has slowly gotten more playing time and his play has steadily improved because John Farrell has figured out that Gomes may be the best clutch player on the team.  Like Millar, he has that special something that is tough to put your finger on.

The Red Sox clubhouse was a mess after last season and Cherington knew it.  Fans scoffed at the idea that you could transform a losing team into a winner by keeping the same core players and only change the dynamic of the attitude in the clubhouse.

Well the experiment has worked and if the Red Sox wind up in the World Series again there will be no doubt Jonny Gomes is a big reason why.

Tags: Boston Red Sox Jonny Gomes

  • John Fahrer

    Ross is actually more a platoon player himself. That was Boston’s original intentions for him in 2012 (he and Sweeney would split RF duties). But then Carl Crawford went down and Ross got regular playing time.

    Gomes and Ross are of a similar skill set and demeanor. The Red Sox were right to go after the former rather than overpay for the latter, who still got a nice payday (but won’t stop whining about it).

    It was better to overpay an annual $5 million for two years (Ross made $3 million with up to an additional $2 million in incentives in 2012 so the annual salaries are the same for the same type of player the Sox were going after) than only pay him for the one year and risk him going back on the market as an overvalued commodity the way they did with Ross.

    • Rick M

      I am sure Arizona appreciates the Ross comments. Arizona comes across as a baseball version of sloppy seconds.

      • John Fahrer

        That’s very true. That’s another reason Ross needs to just let it go. He sounds like a guy who sees his new club as a consolation prize.

  • Paul Prims

    Yeah John I saw your thoughts on Ross in the game wrap. You seem not to be a big fan of his. I was a big Ross fan and was sad to see him go but I don’t consider him wanting to stay as whining. I thought Ben would regret taking a pass but Gomes really has turned out to be everything he thought, so good for Ben. As I said in the post no one foresaw Gomes being this effective in such a small role. But it’s getting bigger as the year goes on. Buchholz could use a little of Jonny’s grit in him.

    • John Fahrer

      I don’t dislike Ross. I enjoyed watching him play and thought his contract in 2012 was a huge bargain based on performance. But what was an undervalued commodity in the 2011-2012 offseason was going to become an overvalued commodity in the 2012-2013 offseason. Based on Ross’s entire career as a whole, going over two years for well over a $5 million annual salary would be a bigger risk than it was really worth.

      It’s not like the Sox didn’t make him an offer to return. They just weren’t going to budge on giving him that third year. Of course Ross might’ve had more leverage had there not been a similar skill set guy available in Gomes.

      In the end Ross got the monetary deal he wanted. The way he’s wording his dialogue in regards to his negotiations with Cherington is demonizing himself to many fans who were big fans of his this time last season.

  • John Fahrer

    Ross also went on to say how Cherington would go ahead and hand three year deals to several other guys after declining to give him a guaranteed third. The only guy who wound up getting three guaranteed this offseason was Victorino (technically Napoli was too at first but that deal wound up going down to just one year). But Victorino has several advantages over Gomes: better baserunner, better fielder, better hitter for average, insurance to bat leadoff and play CF in the event of an Ellsbury departure and Bradley needing more seasoning.

    Other than that, the Sox offseason was all one or two year deals: Gomes (two years), Drew (one year), Uehara (one year), Dempster (two years), and of course Napoli for the one year. His original three year deal was with the intention he could be an above average hitter at 1B since there’s really no emerging 1B prospects on the horizon.

  • Rick M

    I could not imagine why the Sox would go 2/10M for essentially a cheerleader with some borderline starter skills. I have a tendency to drag out personal experiences from my past and that put it in a different context.

    In my younger days I was a real gym rat. Our men’s league basketball team had a new addition – Spike. We had no idea what he would be like in a game since in our pickup games he was very docile. Spike was not a great player nor a bad one. He could occasionally start and was excellent filling in on muscle positions but that first game was an eyeopener.

    Spike is on the court totally animated. Spike would even high five an opponent after their made a good play. Shout. Yell. Encourage. He’d trash himself after a mistake. As de facto “coach” players were coming to me with “This guy is nuts.” “He’s embarrassing.” By the end of the game we were all like Spike to a certain degree. It was fun to play.

    Spike was not a phoney. His attitude was real. It was contagious. Winning that season was more fun and losing more palatable. I see that in Gomes.

    • stephenepeterson

      Excellent insight