Advertisement
  1. Rays

Rays Tales: Tampa Bay Rays remember Jonny Gomes as their best teammate

Published May 6, 2012

Of the 317 men who have been on the Rays, there have been many better players than Jonny Gomes. But there have not been many better Rays. From all corners of the home clubhouse, there is strong sentiment that Gomes, back this weekend with Oakland, is the best teammate the Rays have had.

"I'll always have kind of a soft spot," manager Joe Maddon said. "He was one of the first, when I first came on board, he was like the guy that really played the kind of game that I liked. He was that guy. A combination of speed and power. … He's got a flair. He knows how to deal with the public in general; he appeals to the masses.

"He's got a lot of wonderful qualities about him."

Gomes earned much of his reputation during the Rays' 2008 run to prominence, specifically in two brawls, charging Shelly Duncan in a spring training tete-a-tete with the Yankees, then leading the charge off the bench in a June battle in Boston.

"How he reacted (against the Yankees) is what Jonny's all about," Maddon said. "Sticking up for his teammates, never running away from the action, running toward the action."

And don't think his mates didn't appreciate it.

David Price

"He's one of the best teammates I've ever had. Whatever his reputation is around the league, in this clubhouse it's great. He's one of the guys. He will fight for his teammates, no pun intended."

James Shields

"I rank him No. 1. He's always in the clubhouse, always first in line to give a high five. There's just an excitement he brings, and it's very contagious. And he always has everyone's back."

Elliot Johnson

"He looks out for everybody. He doesn't mess around. If you're wearing a uniform that says the same as his, he treats you like family. And he's going to defend you like a bodyguard, essentially."

J.P. Howell

"He's right there. He started it — he started the freestyle. Just be free and easy, man, and go play. He was the 'OG' of the group, the original guy. … And a little bit of flavor is okay. He made it exciting. We just came off a 100-loss season, and it was like we could win 100 all of a sudden, and without him, you don't know."

Trop talk

Tropicana Field has been a popular topic through the first month of the season.

One reason is the number of people coming in through its gates, from the early large crowds to the four tiny gatherings vs. Seattle last week that totaled 40,842, less than the average single-game attendance for five teams (Cardinals, Giants, Phillies, Rangers, Yankees).

The other reason is the number of balls going out of it. The Rays seem convinced that for some reason, well-struck balls are not carrying to centerfield as they should, drives last week by Matt Joyce and Luke Scott the latest examples after the team noticed it last season. Ideas have been tossed out, and some looked into, such as the temperature (lower with fewer people?), humidity and air-conditioning currents.

There is some merit to the claim: From 2005-10, 10.7 percent of the homers hit at the Trop by all teams went to centerfield (112 of 1,046) and 30.4 percent from left-center to right-center (318). In 2011-12, entering Saturday, 3.8 percent (7 of 187) had gone to center and 20.9 percent (39) to left-center and right-center. (The only one to center this year was the Scott ball Seattle's Michael Saunders knocked over the fence.) "I think it's real," hitting coach Derek Shelton said. "I guess the wind's blowing in all the time."

Rays rumblings

TV ratings on Sun Sports have been soaring, up a whopping 71 percent in April (5.4 households) from last year (3.18). … One element to Tim Beckham's 50-game suspension for a second drug issue: Had he been on the 40-man roster, he would not have been subjected to random testing for marijuana. Also, he may have wasted his shot at a promotion after Evan Longoria's injury; instead he's serving his suspension in extended spring. … MLB.com's Hal Bodley pegs the Rays as the "best team.'' … Ex-Ray Aaron Ledesma is running the American Baseball Institute out of Clearwater's Jack Russell Stadium; see ABIbaseball.com. … There's talk the Padres may release former Rays SS Jason Bartlett, hitting .156 entering Saturday and making $5.5 million, with a $5.5 million vesting option for 2013. … The Mets, managed by Maddon buddy Terry Collins, are doing themed road trips. … The '13 schedule may drop the second of the two series with Miami.

Got a minute? Jeff Keppinger

Favorite offday activity? Playing with my kids. Or fishing.

Big-night-out meal? I like Japanese food.

Late-night snack? Combos. Pizza-flavored combos. Or pork rinds, hot and spicy.

Favorite all-time TV show? MacGyver.

And current? River Monsters or Storage Wars.

An All-Maddon team

Maddon considers Gomes one of his all-time favorite players. Here are a few other lesser-known former Rays who are high on his list:

Grant Balfour, P (top)

Chad Bradford, P

Cliff Floyd, DH

Eric Hinske, INF/OF (middle)

Damon Hollins, OF

Gabe Kapler, OF

Tomas Perez, INF

Dan Wheeler, P

Ty Wigginton, INF/OF (bottom)

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Could a reunion with outfielder Steven Souza Jr., shown during a 2016 game, be possible for the Rays?
    What they’ve done so far, what they’re looking to do, Hall of Fame possibilities, and rumblings.
  2. GM Erik Neander spoke Thursday about the challenges of making the Rays better. MARC TOPKIN  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Trading Tommy Pham created some financial flexibility heading to winter meetings but the challenge remains.
  3. Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Tommy Pham (29) celebrates inherent dug out after hitting a two run homer in the third inning against the Toronto Blue Jays, September 27, 2019 in Toronto, Ontario. DIRK SHADD  |  Times
    Pham said he enjoyed the team Rays had, expected to be pushing with them for a 2020 World Series championship.
  4. Rays fans grew accustomed to scenes such as this last season. Tommy Pham got thrown out on the bases 20 times, which was third-most in the majors. It was also part of a disturbing trend. He was also thrown out 15 times in 2017 and 18 in 2018. DIRK SHADD | Times Photo DIRK SHADD  |  Times
    John Romano | Deciphering Tampa Bay’s offseason moves feels like playing 3D chess. You cannot judge their trades simply by the stats on the back of a baseball card.
  5. San Diego Padres' Hunter Renfroe bats against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the third inning of a baseball game, Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso) RALPH FRESO  |  AP
    Trade with Padres also yields Rays touted prospect Xavier Edwards, costs them Jake Cronenworth.
  6. In this Dec. 6, 2013, file photo, Yankees GM Brian Cashman rappels down One Landmark Square during a charity event in Stamford, Conn. While Cashman was descending the Landmark Building in Stamford on Friday, Dec. 6, 2019, in preparation for a holiday celebration this weekend, he came across a message taped to a 10th-floor window from a fan: Please sign Gerrit Cole. DRU NADLER  |  AP
    New York’s general manager, who met with the prized free agent pitcher on Tuesday, says the sign was taped to a 10th-floor window of the 22-story building in Connecticut.
  7. The post of Blake Snell's reaction to the trade was popular on Twitter Friday. Twitter
    Snell said his comments about Xavier Edwards captured on the Twitch gaming stream weren’t meant to be disrespectful.
  8. San Diego Padres' Hunter Renfroe is congratulated in the dugout after hitting a home run during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Colorado Rockies on Aug. 10. ORLANDO RAMIREZ  |  AP
    Powerful outfielder, prospect are return in deal that sent Tommy Pham and prospect Jake Cronenworth to San Diego.
  9. Mayor Rick Kriseman on Wednesday said he will not allow the Tampa Bay Rays to explore splitting their season between the Tampa Bay area and Montreal prior to the 2027 expiration of the team's lease of Tropicana Field. CHRIS URSO  |  Times
    Politicians on both sides of the bay weigh in on St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman’s decision to cease talks with the team.
  10. Rays team presidents Brian Auld and Matt Silverman in their office at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. WILL VRAGOVIC  |  Tampa Bay Rays
    Team presidents Brian Auld and Matt Silverman on the Montreal plan, stadium sites, downtown St. Pete development and more.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement