The first time Jonny Gomes played for the Oakland Athletics, in 2012, he wore jersey No. 31. This time around, that number was coincidentally claimed by the guy who came with him from Boston, Jon Lester. Gomes wore No. 5 with the Red Sox, but that was taken by John Jaso in Oakland. So, he settled on No. 15, which was most recently worn by his former platoon-mate, Seth Smith.
Name: Jonny Gomes, aka Pride of Petaluma
Stats: .234/.320/.250, 75 PAs, 0 HR, 1 2B, 5 RBI, 66 OPS+
WAR: negative-0.5 bWAR, negative-0.3 fWAR
How he got here: Acquired from Boston Red Sox on July 31
2014 Salary: $5 million (full season)
2015 Status: Free agent
2015 Salary: TBD
When the A's traded Yoenis Cespedes to the Red Sox for Jon Lester, Jonny Gomes was the throw-in to sweeten the deal. The idea was that he would provide some right-handed power to help offset the loss of Cespedes from the lineup, and also that he would provide a familiar clubhouse presence to fill the void left by a guy who had been with the team for three years. I can't speak to the latter goal because we don't know what goes on behind closed doors, but one thing that Gomes definitely didn't do was hit.
The Pride of Petaluma arrived home sporting an underwhelming line of .234/.329/.354 with only six home runs in 246 plate appearances in Boston. However, A's fans knew what he was capable of when he got hold of a mistake pitch, and all he needed to do was get hot for a month or two and punch a few clutch Gomers over the left-field fence. Instead, he got even colder than he had been back east, and in the end he failed to hit even a single dinger for the A's while collecting just one extra-base hit. He drew a few walks, but otherwise he provided absolutely nothing at the plate. It was a disappointing homecoming for a local fan favorite, and it was just one more piece in the larger puzzle of the A's horrid second half.
And then, it got even worse in the Wild Card game. When Coco Crisp had to exit in the 11th due to an injury, Gomes was called on as a defensive replacement. Let that sink in -- Gomes was a defensive replacement for Coco, out of pure necessity. Billy Burns was still on the bench, but I imagine he was being saved strictly for a pinch-running situation. Gomes never came to the plate, but he was part of one of the defining plays of the game.
With one out in the 12th and a one-run Oakland lead, Eric Hosmer launched a fly ball to left off of Dan Otero. Instead of playing the ball off the wall, Gomes went for the catch. However, it was a few inches too high, and to make matters worse Sam Fuld also went for it and the two men collided. The ball caromed off the wall and bounced around while Hosmer sprinted all the way to third for a triple. He later scored the tying run on a 50-foot single up the third base line, and a few minutes later the Royals won the game and ended the A's season.
Had either Gomes or Fuld exercised caution and waited back for the carom instead of trying to be heroes, perhaps Hosmer would have been held to a double and wouldn't have scored on Christian Colon's infield hit. (I put that more on Fuld, to be fair, as Gomes had the shorter run and the better angle.) Heck, maybe Burns would have caught the ball outright and avoided the whole situation entirely, or Fuld would have gotten back in time to snag it if he hadn't needed to move to center to replace Coco. Perhaps things would have gone differently, and the A's would have held their lead. Or maybe something else would have gone wrong instead. It doesn't matter now and hindsight is always 20/20. All we're left with is this enduring image of Gomes, which is quite a bit less enjoyable than my memory of the sold-out crowd chanting his name as he pinch-hit during Game 5 in 2012.
Don't worry, Jonny, I'll choose to remember the good times.
2014 season grade, relative to expectations: F ... I expected him to hit a homer. Possibly even homers, plural. He hit zero. It was literally the only thing I wanted out of him, and I was left empty-handed. Fail.
2014 season grade, overall: F ... A 66 OPS+ and below-average defense at an easy position. There is nothing to like there.
There's not much to show here. Gomes had one extra-base hit, but the highlight isn't readily available. Of the five runs he drove in, three came in comfortable wins, one in a loss, and only one in a close victory -- it came on a pinch-hit sac fly to break a scoreless tie in an eventual 5-4 win over the Astros. Sac flies are boring, so here's an RBI single from the previous day that broke another scoreless tie in an eventual loss to Houston.
Here he is driving in two runners at once with a solid single. Another run comes home when Alex Gordon misplays the ball. Where was that error in the Wild Card game, Alex??
Sorry, but I have to include this. It was the most important play that Gomes was involved with as an Athletic this year. It's probably best if you don't watch this one.
Apparently, Gomes is better at covering the bottom of the wall than the top of it.
If only Hosmer had hit one of these. It appears Gomes is better at going horizontal than vertical when he makes his rare good play.
Jonny Gomes will always hold a special place in the hearts of A's fans. But it'll be because of 2012, not because of 2014. He's a free agent now, and some other team will find out if he has anything left in the tank at age 34.