HOUSTON — Jonny Gomes wants to manage someday and when that day comes he’ll be able to say he took a little something from Lou Piniella, Joe Maddon, Dusty Baker, Davey Johnson, Bob Melvin, and John Farrell — the managers he’s played for.
Not a bad reservoir of information.
Gomes, who is like a sponge when it comes to gathering knowledge and is Boston’s de facto player-manager/ hitting coach/ bench leader, said he has absorbed a trait, a style, and a morsel of some sort from all of his managers.
Concerning the A’s Melvin, Gomes said, “When that guy wins the Manager of the Year award, he’s winning that for more than being a manager. Last year he was basically our veteran catcher, our baby-sitter, our coach, our rock, you name it. Bob does a lot for that team besides manage. He’s one of the most under-the-radar-managers I’ve ever seen. He’s really good. I don’t know if it’s because he’s out West and he doesn’t get the attention, but he’s one heck of a manager and now he’s won two Manager of the Year awards.”
Piniella, of course, was the most fiery, but Gomes, as a young player with the then-named Devil Rays, always thought in a good way.
“He fought for his players,” Gomes said. “When he went out to argue something, you knew he was arguing for you. Lou was also a guy who did things that other guys wouldn’t think of. What I mean is he had the ability to think of something that looked obvious but that nobody else would think about it. He was a guy who couldn’t tolerate a lot of mistakes and mental errors. He wanted you to be in the game. I enjoyed playing for him. Like I said, I’d see things that he did that maybe I didn’t understand at the time, but then you say, ‘Ah yeah, he could see that and nobody else could.’ ”
As for Maddon, Gomes said, “Joe is unique. He definitely does things a little different all designed to make the players feel the best they can in their environment. He’s also an extension of [Rays general manager] Andrew Friedman. I think they work together really well, because Andrew knows Joe likes those platoons and players who can play multiple positions and Andrew goes out and gets him those types of players.”
He said Baker, for whom he played in Cincinnati, was “one of those guys who didn’t spend a lot of time talking to you about fundamentals. He spoke to you more about the game. He’d come up to me and say, ‘Hank once told me . . .’ Hank. Hank Aaron. So you listened when Dusty spoke. He was also one of the best players of the group I played for, though Lou was a good player also, but Dusty has that knowledge of having been a player and he’s able to use it to relate to you. He’s an excellent motivator and that’s what he does that’s so great.”
He respected Johnson for many of the same reasons as he respected Piniella. But he said Johnson had the talent of being able to anticipate moves long before they happened.
“His mind was always thinking ahead,” Gomes said. “He’d get pitchers ready long before they had to come in and he’d let you know way in advance that you might have to hit in this situation. He was amazing that way. He always anticipated things. It was so interesting how he did it.”
As for Farrell, he is the first manager Gomes has had from a pitching background. He was interested to see how it would work, and he thinks it’s worked very well.
“One of the things that’s not talked about with John is that because of his pitching background, he asks the positional players a lot of questions and comes away with a lot of information from the players,’’ Gomes said. “As players we like the fact that he cares about what we think and gains knowledge from us on whatever topics. He’s always gathering information. I mean he has his scouting reports and stats and all that, but the most important information sometimes comes from the guys who actually play the game.
“Over the years, as players, sometimes you wonder from some of the front office guys in places I’ve played, ‘Why don’t they ever talk to the players?’ I think John’s communication skills with the players is as good as I’ve seen. We feel like we’re all in this together and sharing ideas on what we all think. I think it’s a great way to approach it,” Gomes said.
Over the years it’s easy to pick out the guys who will be managers some day.
Eric Wedge was a dead giveaway in his short time with the Red Sox. You just knew.
You knew it about Melvin in his time with the Red Sox as well.
Just as you know it will someday happen for Jason Varitek.
Gomes said he has a passion for it and as you can tell, plenty of people to draw on. He’s also been helpful to his teammates because of his uncanny ability to pick up problems in swings even more than he can pick up deficiencies of his own game.
Gomes is not a graceful player. He knows he has his limitations. But if you watch how he plays, you can see why every team he’s ever been on has considered him an asset, not a liability. He hits in the clutch, when the game is on the line. He’s had two walkoff hits, including a homer July 3 vs. San Diego.
He’s reached base 12 times in his last 22 plate appearances as a pinch hitter, including a three-run home run in Tuesday night’s 15-10 win. He has four pinch-hit homers on the season, one shy of the Red Sox record set by Joe Cronin in 1943. He’s made some very good catches in the outfield, a good throw or two to nail a runner (as he did Saturday to nail Diamondbacks infielder Cliff Pennington at the plate), even though he’s not considered a good outfielder or high on the UZR chart.
He’s just a ballplayer, who gets his uniform dirty, gives everything he’s got, and seems to have a feel for the moment and a great feel for the game.Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.