Nothing will kill the “Jonny Gomes: team leader” story

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The year is 2070. It is Opening Day. Jonny Gomes, age 89, is the last surviving member of the 2015 World Series champion Kansas City Royals. He ambles out to the green space between the mound and home plate and, with the help of his grandchildren, throws out the ceremonial first pitch. The fans at Salvador Perez Memorial Stadium* roar.

*Perez, sadly, died on the field on September 30, 2018 when manager Ned Yost sent him out to catch his 162nd game of the season despite the fact Perez had a concussion, two strained hamstrings, dropsy, scurvy and a sucking chest wound inflicted by an errant crossbow bolt at a Medieval Times restaurant the night before.  

The next morning, a column is penned by a baseball writer in which Gomes is hailed as the leader of the 2070 Royals. The heart and soul. A team which, if it fails to maintain ties with Gomes past opening day, “will lack the necessary professionalism and passion” he provides and will be doomed to failure.

Far-fetched? Maybe. But only a little bit. After all, he’s getting that treatment now, an he isn’t even on the playoff roster. From Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald:

Beard still long, red and curly, Gomes is starting to show signs of being 34 years old, but it’s not visible in his sturdy chest, nor in his fearless arms. He unleashed rounds full of powerful swings in batting practice, driving the ball as if it threatened him. To the casual onlooker, Gomes looks like the most prepared, powerful hitter on this potent Royals roster.

Except, again, he has taken no at bats in the postseason nor will he, in all likelihood. Mastrodonato goes on:

Time might be running out on his blue-collar career, one he built on sweat and heart, but to him there’s no end in sight.

“There will have to be a lot of people involved in ripping the jersey off me,” he said.

Tonight, Jonny Gomes is determined to help the Royals get to the World Series. Even if he doesn’t take a single at-bat.

There are quotes from current Royals saying they are happy to have him around. And I’m sure they are. No one, to my knowledge, has ever had anything bad to say about Gomes. But there’s a difference, it seems, between not saying anything bad about him and writing effusive columns about his grit, heart “fearless arms” (?) and the like everywhere he goes. The Atlanta writers did that this spring. The Boston writers have been doing it since 2013. The treatment will likely follow him wherever he goes and I just don’t get why he warrants all of that ink.

I wish I had his agent.

The Manny Machado deal was done days before it was actually announced

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Last week as the Manny Machado trade drama was playing out, I and a lot of other people suspected as early as Monday and into Tuesday morning that the Orioles already had a deal in place for Machado and that they were just keeping it under wraps in order to get through the All-Star break (a) without any awkwardness; and (b) with the Orioles still having an All-Star representative. It would be Wednesday morning before the Orioles would make it official.

Turns out we were wrong. Machado was actually traded before Monday morning. Basically anyway, with the Orioles going so far as to pull him out of last Sunday’s game early because of it. And, of course, they lied about it. From Bob Nightengale of USA Today who spoke with Machado following his debut weekend with the Dodgers:

It was a week ago Sunday when Machado homered for the 24th time this season, the Orioles playing the final game of the first half against the Texas Rangers, when he was removed after the fourth inning after a 26-minute rain delay.

The Orioles told reporters after the game it was simply for precaution, making sure Machado didn’t get hurt playing on a wet field.

They may have fibbed to everyone else, but they told Machado the truth.

“That’s when they had told me I had been traded,’’ Machado said. “They said they pretty much had a deal done. They just wanted to wait until after the break to get all of the medical stuff done.

That didn’t stop all of the usual rumor-mongering reporters from tweeting stuff about this or that team “being in the race” or “taking the lead” or three or four teams in the “debry” or “sweepstakes” as it entered “the home stretch.” A bunch of track announcers calling a race that wasn’t even being run.

In the final analysis this is all benign. Teams lie about stuff all the time and a day or two in either direction made no difference to anyone involved. Still, it says a lot about how the trade rumor business works.