Major League Baseball needs more personalities like Carlos Gomez.
We ask for athletes in MLB to be less robotic, show increased emotion and desire for their passion to bleed through the uniform with each inning that passes. And once we get what we asked for, some critics fire back dated stances, hot takes that would make sriracha look like it was made from water and hold an attitude that would be better fit in a retirement home than around a professional baseball game.
Gomez is one of the most recognizable names to the casual observer because of how he delivers his performance. Yasiel Puig’s bat flips have inspired some of our favorite Internet moments, and David Ortiz’s admiration of his trademark Big Papi™ home rune stare down has brought an audience to the sport that might not otherwise exist.
Highlights sell. Personalities in the sport are what make it interesting to discuss. If an individual has a problem with that, the problem isn’t with the product. It’s on the viewer.
Tim Brown, writing at Yahoo Sports, identified this issue well:
Because, my, have we grown sensitive from our dugout rails, our pitcher’s mounds, our batter’s boxes, our soapboxes. So much so that Gomez hears about it Tuesday night when he flies out and flings his bat in anger, not because he’s not allowed to be angry, but because he’s not allowed to be angry in a 9-0 game. Course, there’s the matter of who he is. That is, his reputation. He’s not allowed to be Carlos Gomez either, not from the perspective of many of the men at many of the dugout rails, and that’s part of it too.
Gomez should be upset when he gets a fat pitch down the plate and misses it.
It doesn’t matter if the score is tied, the Astros have a 10-run margin in either direction or if it’s on the first pitch of the game. Considering he is flirting with the Mendoza Line (.200 BAA) and has a sub-.600 OPS since arriving in Houston in the midst of a pennant race, the emotions in Gomez’s game are more than understandable as he lives his life through the very public eye.
Those who can’t wrap their head around that need to think from a new perspective—if you got a new job and were struggling over your first three weeks to show your worth, wouldn’t you press a little harder? Wouldn’t you be a little bit more on edge? Wouldn’t your emotions—regardless of what they were—be on a little bit more of a display to be interpreted? What would the reaction be if Gomez didn’t show a concern when he failed to do his job in a big spot? The same bashing his personality would be killing him for not showing enough heart. How can Gomez win in that lose-lose scenario?
We’re making Gomez someone he isn’t. His passion, abilities and unbelievable love for the game of baseball are traits to be celebrated—not derided. Isn’t that what we want from our future? Aren’t those the kind of players we should be hoping choose baseball over another path in order to continue to revamp the sport with exciting young talent that appeals to a demographic that MLB has been desperate to reach?
Some of us have become so wrapped up in the negative that we’ve forgotten that baseball is a game, and sports are supposed to be fun. We live in a society where bad news is what draws attention, headlines are being sensationalized and news is being controlled in order to elicit a reaction. The sooner you detach yourself from that toxic way of thinking, the better. You’ll enjoy life—and figures like Gomez—a lot more in the process.
Life is short, but the lifespan of professional athletes that we love to cheer for is even shorter. Even the most transcendent talents in the game are fortunate to spend two decades in the picture. If we continue to spend all of our time critiquing fake talking points, we’re going to miss a lot of what we tune in to watch for—the unbelievable catch in center field, the inside-the-park home run, or the “what was that?” moment that happens at least a handful of times each season—every year.
Whether it’s Gomez, Puig, Papi or anyone else, it’s time to embrace the personal flair and put away the contrived, fake and, at times, downright arrogant stances that revolve around the inane concept of “damaging the game.” You’re talking to an audience that is shrinking and will soon be obsolete.
In a changing landscape that has embraced analytics to a new extreme and begs for more information about how to understand certain players with unique personalities, it’s been time to embrace individualism in a sport where most simply strive to blend in.