It's ring or bust for Sox' Gomes

It's ring or bust for Sox' Gomes
October 21, 2013, 7:45 pm
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BOSTON – For Red Sox manager John Farrell, part of his team’s success can be attributed to the ability of his players to express their individuality and personality.
 
For Ryan Dempster, the team’s destiny was telegraphed by Jonny Gomes back in spring training, on an afternoon excursion after the workout.
 
“Him and [David Ross] went out gator hunting,” Dempster said. “They tried to wrestle gators with their bare hands. They were just trying to figure out where the team was destined early in spring training. If one of them lost an arm, we were going to have to go in a different direction.”
 
Fortunately, Ross and Gomes returned intact from that excursion and no gators were harmed on the way to the World Series.
 
That story – believe as much of it as you like – speaks to Farrell’s belief in letting his players express themselves.
 
But for Gomes, an 18th-round pick by Tampa Bay in 2001, getting to the World Series, finally, in his 11th major league season, speaks to the work he has put in throughout his career.
 
“When I signed up for this game in 2001, as cliché as it sounds, I signed up for this game for the ring, truly, because that’s what I wanted out of this game,” Gomes said. “And I guess having it would just be an absolute honor. But I want to produce, I want to help. And I want that ring to tell me individual stories . . . It’s just being in there and boots on the ground and having that combat with the team.”
 
Gomes appeared in 116 games this season, starting in 101 – 98 in left field, four in right, and serving as the designated hitter in 10.  He has appeared in nine of the Sox’ 10 postseason games, with starts in five. Gomes is expected to be the starting left fielder in Game 1 Wednesday night at Fenway Park against the Cardinals. While Gomes has not yet been told, he is “grateful” to know he has the confidence of his manager to get that assignment.
 
“Obviously, it’s a seven-game series, but every out, every pitch, every inning, every game is do or die,” he said. “We wouldn’t be here without 25-plus guys that have worn this uniform and battled throughout the year. But to know, to be the best in the American League and then I guess be the best of the best in [Farrell’s] eyes, it’s definitely something I’m grateful for. But it’s not like winning the lottery. There’s been some sleepless nights and sleepless offseason nights, bloody hands and noses and backs and everything to get to this point.”
 
Farrell has mentioned the intangibles Gomes brings to the team. For Gomes, who sees himself as a future manager at some point when his playing days are done, those intangibles are reflected in the work he puts in.
 
“I’ve battled my butt off playing that [left field] wall and I think the intangible of my knowledge of the wall that I’ve shared with [Mike] Carp and [Quintin] Berry and [Daniel] Nava,” he said. “There truly is a method out there, all the way down to Victor Martinez’s two-RBI single [in the sixth inning of Game 6 in the ALCS]. That’s a 385- foot single. You don’t see that happen on this team offensively. Or how the Rays came in here [in the ALDS] and had a tough time with that wall in just a five-game set. Some of their miscues out there you haven’t seen us have all year. So with us having home field advantage you got to have field advantage on that wall. On the other side, I guess just base running knowledge, as far as scoring from second against Tampa, just individual intangibles of baseball knowledge, not so much skilled knowledge, which has helped out.
 
“I’ve battled my butt off and had to be such a complete player -- and when I say complete player that doesn’t mean I’m good at everything. That means I’m ready for everything. Everything that happens in-between the lines has already happened in my head. So I think that’s a big part especially in the playoffs of not getting caught off-guard, just really knowing what’s going to happen before it happens. So your mindset changes to what situation you’re in. So if I’m not starting, it goes right to that pinch-hitting mindset -- who’s down there [in the opponent’s bullpen] when, pitch counts, matchups. Or if you’re starting, leather and lumber. You got to be ready on both sides.”
 
He’s been on three teams previously that went to the postseason – with the Rays in 2008, when he didn’t get into a playoff game, and in 2010 with the Reds and 2012 with the A’s. Before this year, though, he had had just seven postseason plate appearances. He’s taking nothing for granted. He’s had to take some time recently to remind himself of where he is and where he will be on Wednesday night
 
“A little bit, I have,” he said. “But you’ve seen some of the other teams that have been knocked out, in their postgame interviews:  ‘There’s nothing to be ashamed about, we had a great season.’  Some of the younger teams: ‘I think people are going to be paying attention us.’ I’ve already said that. I’ve said that before in the postseason. I don’t want to say that. I’m getting older here. It’s no longer building an individual resume or a team resume. It’s about winning a ring.
 
“So coming over here, looking around, and everyone jumping onboard of making the goal of winning the World Series. We’re mad if we don’t. So we’ve accomplished a lot, spilled some champagne, had some memorable moments. But there’s one that we haven’t had yet. So I haven’t looked up. I’m keeping my head down, keeping my head down. I want to win the damn thing.”