Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Carlos Gomez says he was guilty of only one thing in Sunday’s epic walkoff homer celebration

BALTIMORE – Carlos Gomez is perfectly willing to explain the specific elements that went into his epic celebration tour around the bases following Sunday's walkoff home run.

The bat flip and raised arms were his initial reaction to how well he hit the ball, knowing upon contact it was gone.

The long look into the Rays dugout, and the ensuing tongue wag, an emotional acknowledgement of the confidence his coaches showed in letting him swing away, and the pride he felt in coming through.

The joyful turns around first, second and third his own personal elation of the first game-ending hit of his 12-year career.

And the fancy footwork as he approached home with his teammates waiting to greet him was improvised from his pre-game routine: "Every day before the game I do the Ray Lewis (dance), so it came to my mind and I did it.''

But Gomez doesn't feel any need to explain – and definitely not apologize for – why he made so much of the celebration, which – naturally – became a major topic of conversation and debate across TV, radio and all platforms of social media.

"It's something I know a lot of people are talking good about this, that baseball needs more of that,'' Gomez said Tuesday, after the Rays-Orioles game was rained out.  "And some people say it's not good.

"If enjoying and having fun in baseball is bad, I'm guilty.''

Gomez, 32, is well known for playing with intensity, aggressiveness and emotions, which has served to motivate him and also get him into trouble – as well as a half-dozen on-field scuffles – over his previous 11 seasons with five teams, including the Twins.

When Gomez signed with the Rays this spring, several veterans talked about him as one of those guys that teammates tend to love and opponents hate.

Given the leadup to the ninth inning Sunday, the frustration of Gomez's  miserable start mounting, the bat he snapped over his leg symbolic in many ways, it was probably wise to figure that if he had something to celebrate it was going to be excessive.

That the Twins didn't say much, if anything, publicly about his display would seem in a way to validate that premise. That they know he's that kind of – choose your adjective carefully – guy, and weren't surprised he would act that way.

Gomez said he made sure to not do anything to show up any of the Twins, especially pitcher Addison Reed – who he said hugged him when they crossed paths after the game in the Tropicana Field tunnel.

"I was not trying to disrespect anybody,'' Gomez said. "I was not looking to the other side, not looking at the ball. I was looking at my guys.''

Rays manager Kevin Cash sounded on Tuesday like he wanted to make sure they knew.

"I know there's been a lot talked about it, which I can appreciate,'' Cash said. "We respect every team we play. And if any team feels differently I can obviously understand their situation, I'm sensitive to that.

"Saying that, Carlos Gomez has done this a long time. He plays with a lot of intensity. A lot of emotion. Passion. And he had a pretty big buildup to let out right there at that moment.''

Teammates Chris Archer and Brad Miller saw it in similar prisms, that Gomez, in a way, was just being Gomez. "He was letting out all the energy and emotions that had been building up,'' Archer said. "An emotional player letting it all out.''

Plus, Gomez said, there is a bigger point, that he thinks baseball is "getting a little boring,'' that people have to remember it's a game that should be played that way: "Enjoy it. Have fun. It's competition.''

While there was some acknowledgement of that from the Twitter jurists – @BaseballBros praising the entertainment value to its 96,000 followers as "an all-time pimp job'' – others acted as if Gomez was guilty of something much worse than an excessive celebration.Plus some very fine people whose criticisms teetered on and then over ethnic/cultural/race lines.

Baseball tends to have its own judicial system, administered subjectively based on the infamous "unwritten rules" – that apparently are being edited now by Astros ace Justin Verlander.

If Gomez's deed was deemed offense, the Twins would deliver that message with a pitch when the teams meet again mid-July in Minnesota. But if Brian Dozier or any of the Twins are circling the date, Gomez is not exactly quaking.

"I don't know (if they will), and I don't care,'' Gomez said. "And they know I'm not afraid.

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_Rays

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