Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Ex-Twins Watch: Carlos Gomez (and a radio tangent)

Carlos Gomez emerged as a regular center fielder last
season in Milwaukee and landed a multi-year contract.
With the Twins snowed out Monday night — and probably later in the evening than the Twins would have been playing even if the weather hadn't been a horror — I spent a little time listening to the Brewers-Padres game in San Diego.

Wandering off an a tangent: Listening to Bob Uecker, for a Twins fan, used to be an exercise in contrast to the babble of John Gordon. Now it's interesting for the obvious (to my ear, at least) influence Uecker had on Cory Provus — the cadence and phrasing, the pace of their words.

Uecker came up with a passing piece of impromptu poetry Monday during an at-bat pitting a pair of former Twins, outfielder Carlos Gomez of the Brewers and starter Jason Marquis of the Padres:

Glove on knee
Takes the sign

I recall the Twins used to have a broadcaster — I don't think it was Herb Carneal, but it may have been — who used to make a similar rhyme out of Bobby Grich, a standout second baseman of the 1970s and 80s:

Here's the pitch
To Bobby Grich

Swing and a miss

Anyway, getting to the intended point of this post: Marquis wound up walking Gomez — for the second time in the game; at that point, Go-Go had two walks and a hit-by-pitch, three plate appearances without an official at-bat.

We know that kind of thing didn't happen with Gomez in Minnesota, and I wondered if he's truly become a more selective hitter — which, if so, would definitely explain/justify the Brewers giving Gomez a four-year, $28.3 million contract last winter.

Uh, no. Those were the first walks Gomez had drawn all season.

The Twins clearly gave up on Gomez in the middle of the 2009 season. I wrote a column at the time arguing for Gomez over Delmon Young; both outfielders were flawed hitters because of their lack of strike zone judgment, but Gomez was so clearly superior on defense that he should have been starting.

Ron Gardenhire clearly didn't see it that way. During that season's remarkable September comeback, Gardy plugged the lineup hole opened by Justin Morneau's injury by installing Michael Cuddyer at first base, shifting Jason Kubel to right field and platooning Brendan Harris and Jose Morales at DH. Gomez was merely a bit player.

Soon after the postseason, the Twins sent Gomez to Milwaukee for J.J. Hardy, a trade that looked good for the first year and worse with each passing season. Gomez immediately frustrated the Brewers decision makers as much as he did the Twins — he was a part-time player in 2010 and 2011 in Milwaukee. All that talent and no clue.

But last season Gomez took over the center field job and landed that new contract. The Brewers aren't forcing him into a top-of-the-lineup role (he hit sixth Monday), and that makes his too-low on-base percentages more tolerable. He gives the Brewers some pop and speed at the bottom of the lineup, and he still has great range in the outfield. I'm sure they would love to see Gomez become a good leadoff hitter, but they aren't forcing that fit.

There are three former Twins outfielders, all still in their 20s, playing center field regularly for three National League teams: Gomez (27) in Milwaukee, Denard Span (29) in Washington, Ben Revere (24) in Philadelphia. Other than the speed, they have different skill sets — and right now, I think Gomez is the best of the three. That's not something I would have thought possible a year ago.


  1. Gomez is off to a good start largely thanks to a couple early homers, but even with 19 homers last year Gomez was only worth 2.4 rWAR and Span was worth 5.1. Its not really that close. Span was better four years ago and still is.

  2. I heard some memorable poetry from John Gordon back in the day:

    Shane Mack
    Way back
    At the track
    He MAKES the catch!