The Red Sox lost a lot of players in the last days of July. Some of those losses brought about weeping and the gnashing of teeth, others some small celebrations--addition by subtraction both in terms of team results and enjoyment of the product on the field for fans.
Then, in the middle, there's Jonny Gomes.
There's been relatively little attention paid to Gomes' departure in the wake of losing Jon Lester and John Lackey. And, certainly, he did not have the same impact as either of Boston's front-line pitchers in 2013. Still, in a world where "role players" are passed from team to team in any given year, leaving almost no impression in the process, Jonny Gomes was the exception.
There are many ways to diminish his time in Boston. He accrued 1.1 WAR with the team in a full season's worth of plate appearances. He was downright comical in left field at times, and played into his detractors by claiming to be worth 20 wins back in spring.
None of that, though, really gives Jonny Gomes the credit he deserves. When it comes to playing the role he was meant to play--hitting lefties, and doing it well--Gomes did exactly what was asked of him, producing a 120 wRC+ against southpaws in his time with Boston. That Gomes faced an unfortunate number of right-handed pitchers and was nearly as bad against them as he was against lefties can't really be held against him. That's not what he was brought here to do, and not what he should have been asked to do on such a regular basis.
By hitting lefties so well, Gomes also enabled the left field platoon with Daniel Nava that proved so effective last year. Nava's early-season struggles made a mess of that this season, but in 2013 the Red Sox' left field platoon trailed only the Angels and Rockies in terms of production. Without Gomes there to protect Nava from lefties, that wouldn't have been possible.
And then...then there's the rest. There's booting batting helmets and "another day closer to the parade." There's the fact that so many of his comical routes and misplays in left ended in circus catches all the same. Whether or not you think Jonny Gomes was more than the sum of his offense and defense when it comes to pure baseball value, there's something to be said for value to the fanbase in Gomes' emergence as one of the least likely, oddest faces of the 2013 season. And, whether or not you put much store in the idea of "clutch," there's no denying that Gomes came up with more than his fair share of big hits in big moments. The predictive value of such hits shouldn't matter much to Red Sox fans now that he's out in Oakland.
Jonny Gomes was not a 20-win player. He wasn't anymore responsible for the Red Sox' transformation from a cellar dweller into a World Series winning team than he was for their return to the cellar in 2014. But he was a memorable part of a championship Red Sox team. One whose role in that story is more than would be expected of a platoon bat. And for that, his departure deserves some recognition.
Goodbye, Jonny. Make a new story in Oakland with Lester.