What is the Future of Jonny Gomes?

Jonny Gomes has been the emotional barometer of the Tampa Bay Rays for several seasons. You can tell the general attitude and outkook of the bench by staring at his face. He is truly one of those guys who holds his emotions out there for everyone to see and has no agendas.

 So what are we to expect now that Gomes has been relegated to the bench and sees only spot duty in the outfield due to injuries. He is not longer the go-to guy for platoon duty in rightfield, or even the first option off the bench against left-handers anymore for the Rays.

 He is seen most nights peering over the dugout rail cheering on his team mates and pumping up his team when they need it most this year. But do the Rays truly have reservations about Gomes coming into his first journey into arbitration. Does he stack up well enough to get a push upwards in salalry to the $ 1 million dollar mark, or is he still a project in training for the team.

          

 When Rays manager Joe Maddon first came on board 3 years ago, Jonny seemed to be one of his trusted foot soldiers. He counted on Gomes as either a rightfielder or a DH against some of the best in the AL nightly. But as time went by, did Maddon lose some of his confidience in number 31 and put him on the bench as a added weapon, or becuase he still doesn’t know how to use him right at times.

 Gomes can be a total nightmare or a rally energizing bunny in the outfield. On more than 1 occasion, you have seen him throw himnself towards a sinking ball and either make a spectacular catch or an odd miss by feet. Is the fact he is not the best running outfielder on a team blessed with speed his downfall. Or is there another reason he see spot duty when injuries pile up and he is needed.

 Early in the season I really liked the power hitting duo of Gomes and Hinske in the rightfield. It gave the Rays a power option from each side of the plate, and also gave them a veteran influence on the bench. Now that Baldelli is seeking a new contract, Gomes is fighting for his life to stay on this team.

 Gomes had dealt with bad hitting streaks before in his career and has either ended up in the minors or on the bench. In 2008, Gomes hit only .182 in 154 at bats for the Rays. Is that enough at bats for a guy who is dependant on quality swings and time at the plate to imporve his swing and timing. Batting Practice can only do so much to imporve your hitting. Game situations are critical to a guy like Gomes for consistant movement and fluid strokes with the bat.

Could the fact he was left off all the post season rosters be a sign on the wall that his days as a Ray might be coming to a close. Could it be that the Rays might hear his arbitration hearing and just decide to release him before Spring Training.

 Or, he could be given a chance to again DH fulltime with a short leash and the expectation raised as to his place on the team. We might not know what is going to happen for a few weeks here, but he is worthy to be on this roster.

 Gomes has had a rough time in the end of the season for the Rays, but if his line on September 28th is any indication, you have to believe he still feels he can compete and be productive for the Rays in 2009. Gomes went 2-for-2 that day with 2 RBI’s. Proof that he still has the killer instinct and can deliver for the Rays.

 But can an isolated scoring binge after going 0-14, with7 strikeouts  since August 3rd be a sign of decreasing talent or him just vegging on the bench without game action. Could Gomes be his own worst enemy right now and be pressing and trying to hit for the fences each time up instead of hitting the ball and letting the chips fall where they may. A single is still a hit, and a stolen base is still a premium on this team.

 In his limited at bats, Gomes till hit 5 homers and posted a .383 slugging percentage for the season. The talent is there, and the ability is anxiously waiting for a shot to explode at the plate. But his rushing of his swings and blatant uperc ut for the outfield walls is apparent to everyone in the seats at the Trop. 

 Gomes is trying to make a point by slamming the ball instead of hitting like the Gomes of the past. That Jonny would go barrelling into second base head first and be as pumped up by a double as a homer. That Gomes would be slapping George Hendricks hand at first base after a nice single through the hole. And that Jonny seemed to be enjoying baseball every day.

 For emotion and for outward attitude and confience you can’t beat Jonny Gomes, but the Rays have to make a difficult decision in the offseason as to if he is in the futre plans beyond even 2009. He is a great bat off the bench in a critical time of the game. But does this rob him of his life power by having him come up cold and not into the flow of the game.

 Gomes is the type of player that feeds off the games energy and responds accordingly. He is as excited as anyone at a great play or a huge out. Could letting him go to another team like the Oakland A’s be the answer. Or is letting go of this emotional locomotive be a downfall of the clubhouse psyche they tried so hard to build in 2008.

 The Rays have a few huge decisions to make this offseason to contend for their AL East and AL pennant in 2009. Will Gomes be made a part of the team, or will he again be relagated to cheerleader staus and spot duty in the field or at the plate. Either way, I think Gomes will succeed not becuase he has to, but because he can…………anywhere.

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