Gomes looks to lead Sox to another World Series

Gomes looks to lead Sox to another World Series
February 18, 2014, 6:15 pm
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The beard may be gone for Jonny Gomes, but the the leadership role he holds for the Red Sox isn't going away.
      
Gomes was one of the team's dominant personalities, helping to come up with the idea for the team to adopt the "Boston Strong'' mantra, the first to sprout a beard keeping the clubhouse loose yet together.
      
That the Sox improbably won the World Series last fall doesn't change Gomes's mission. He's far from satisfied or complacent as he begins his second year with the Sox.
      
"I was extremely hungry to win a World Series title," said Gomes Tuesday. "But once you take a bite of it, that's definitely what it's all about. My hunger turned to starvation now because I've got to do what I can to start collecting."
      
Gomes wants the Red Sox to become the first club since the 2000 Yankees to successfully defend their title, and knows it won't be easy.
      
"You don't see too many back-to-back (titles)," acknowledged Gomes. "How do you do it? I guess if there was a way, that book would be written."
      
As terrific as the 2013 season was, Gomes knows that the Sox have to start all over again. It's not a matter of simply hitting the rewind button and doing the same things in 2014.
      
"You can't bring back all 25 guys," said Gomes. "You can't practice all those magical walk-offs. You can't practice going through three closers to find Koji (Uehara). It's going to have to be a whole new chapter, a whole new blueprint and a whole new avenue of ways.
      
"We just have to do what we can to start building an identity right now and hit the ground running."
      
Gomes hit just .247 with 13 homers and 52 RBI in 116 games -- respectable numbers, though hardly MVP-worthy. And yet because of what he contributed off the field, in the way of intangibles, he surely was invaluable to the Red Sox.
      
"Without being around a player every day (before)," said John Farrell, "you go based on reports based on what other people told you. But when you live with it for seven months, he makes people around him better - through confidence, through conversation, through conversation about the game. He's a strong believer in himself. There's a way that he imparts that on others.
      
"In a game based on failure, you're always looking to find ways to regroup and maintain the level of confidence. I'm not going to say it's strictly done through talk. But when you've got a guy who's been with a number of different teams, who's had to battle for everything he's gotten in his career, yet believes so strongly in himself . . . those are the conversations that other guys feed off."
      
According to Gomes, having a successful, winning team entails "a lot more than physical, athletic talent in between the lines. A lot of mental areas (come into the play) - turning the page, win or lose . . . nipping stuff in the bud early where you don't go on a slide."
      
Those sort of contributions made Gomes more important than his stat line would suggest, so much so that Farrell abandoned what had been a platoon of Gomes and Daniel Nava in left field in the post-season and went mostly with Gomes.
      
Notably, the Sox were 9-1 in games started by Gomes in the post-season.      
      
"When he was in the lineup," said Farrell, "I though he enabled our team to have a different feel from across the field. There was an edge that we had a little bit more when he was in the lineup. That's not to be critical or say others didn't (bring), but Jonny brought an intangible that others feed off of.
      
"Last year, when the switch was made to put Jonny in left . . . if this was July, everyone would be saying, 'What the heck have you been doing, going against a platoon that has been very productive. But I just felt that there was that window of opportunity, that were a team that projected that image or that edge, that proved successful."