Gomes delivered on both fronts in 2013, posting the second-best Isolated Power against lefty pitching on the team and inspiring The Boston Globe to tell the story about how his personality drove the Red Sox during their run to their third World Series championship in the last decade.
The World Series title was also, of course, a first for Gomes himself. In a phone interview, he said it led to a bit of a "whirlwind" of an offseason.
"It’s been a little more media-related, which is expected," said the outfielder, who turned 33 in November. "It definitely [comes with the territory] of finishing the season with a win, if you will."
Beyond the extra media attention, Gomes also soon found himself with a new endorsement deal—they have been known to happen with World Series-winning players. Once word got out that he wanted a new look for 2014, Philips Norelco came along and hooked him up, naturally, with a state-of-the-art beard-trimmer and a shaver to boot. It is with these tools that Gomes will be doing away with his famed "Ironsides" sometime before the start of the 2014 season.
Elsewhere, another thing Gomes wanted to do this winter was put his heightened celebrity status to good use.
"I was doing some brainstorming in the offseason about being able to get to a higher level with my voice [after winning] the World Series," said Gomes. "What a great opportunity to crack while the iron’s hot and help the people who need to be helped and rally around some good foundations."
Gomes found himself hooked up with the Travis Roy Foundation, which is dedicated to "enhancing the life" of those with spinal cord injuries. He's raising money to benefit those who were injured in last year's Boston Marathon tragedy in hopes of getting them back in "an active lifestyle and in an active lifestyle atmosphere." He got a notable contribution from his new pals at Philips Norelco, who kicked in a $10,000 donation.
But soon Gomes' whirlwind offseason will be over. He knows it.
"The grass didn’t stop growing at Fenway and 29 other ballparks, so we have to get back to work as soon as possible," he said.
Though winning the World Series means a shorter offseason with less time to work out, Gomes says he's where he needs to be physically. And no, it hasn't really crossed his mind that no team has repeated as champions since the New York Yankees won three in a row between 1998 and 2000.
He did make one concession, though.
"I think what we did last year, just to win one, I think outside of our clubhouse that wasn’t supposed to happen. With that being said, I don’t think we’re really going to sneak up on people this year," said Gomes.
For Gomes, a big key for the Red Sox in 2014 will be to recreate the chemistry that defined and shaped their success in 2013, which he certainly had a big hand in creating in the first place.
And lest anyone think team chemistry is overrated, Gomes will insist otherwise.
"We saw how important that was for us last year. It was something that 30 teams try and create, 30 teams try to build. And with 162 games in [so many days] and the trials, tribulations, trades, slumps and shines, it is hard to carry that throughout the season. With that being said, we all rallied around it and made it a priority inside our clubhouse, and it carried in between the lines."
Working in favor of Boston's 2014 chemistry experiment is the reality that the club's roster didn't experience much turnover over the winter. Because there's not a big new cast of characters to assimilate, Gomes thinks what worked in 2013 should also work in 2014.
"I don’t think we really recreated the wheel last year," he said, "so I think we have some techniques and tools that we can carry into this year."
And while the Red Sox may have lost center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, the door hasn't yet been closed on shortstop Stephen Drew. Everyone else who was there in 2013 will be back this year.
As such, Gomes anticipates the Red Sox enjoying the same strengths in 2014 that they enjoyed last year.
"Number one is our pitching," he said. "As you just saw in the Super Bowl, defense wins Super Bowls. Pitching wins the World Series. Not only do we have all our starters back, but we have all our starters back healthy. We added some depth in our bullpen, and boy did we find a closer towards the end of the year. He’ll start closing in the beginning this year."
The closer Gomes is referring to, of course, is Koji Uehara, who did this after establishing himself as the Red Sox's closer midway through 2013:
Regarding Boston's starting pitching staff, Jon Lester, Jake Peavy, Ryan Dempster and Felix Doubront are fine. John Lackey isn't returning from Tommy John surgery this year. Clay Buchholz did experience shoulder troubles in 2013, but Boston general manager Ben Cherington told The Boston Globe last month that the right-hander has enjoyed a "normal" offseason and that he'll be good to go this spring.
As for the second strength: "I think our approach at the plate was second to none. You can look at traditional batting average, home runs, stuff like that, but what we did inside the batter’s box to make it extremely difficult and put a real hard workload on the opposing pitcher, I think is really going to help us out again this year."
For the record, Boston's plate approach produced these numbers in 2013:
|Stat||Final Tally||MLB Rank|
Gomes is one of many returning players who had a hand in creating these numbers in 2013. But in 2014, it's looking like two young newcomers will have to do their part: center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. and shortstop Xander Bogaerts.
Gomes noted that everybody has high hopes for these two. Indeed, they have to. With starting roles seemingly on the horizon for both, they'll need to produce.
"At no point do you want a young guy to be your weak link on the team. That’s why there’s six levels underneath the big leagues to get everything right," he said. "And we’re the Red Sox. You don’t develop in the big leagues. You have to come up and shine. Those are two young kids with great heads on their shoulders. The talent is there. At the same time, that jump from Triple-A is huge."
With Bogaerts, Gomes does seem to see something. The Aruba native is universally regarded as one of baseball's best prospects, and Gomes talked about how he and the rest of the Red Sox got an up-close look at why last October.
"I think it was extremely important, and I don’t know if we could have done it without him throughout the playoffs, that Bogaerts got a piece of pie last year with being 20 years old [playing in] the playoffs and the World Series. Hopefully he’s able to follow that up and get to work this year."
If Bogaerts realizes his potential at shortstop in place of Drew, the Red Sox will have a long-term answer at the position for the first time in a long time. If both he and Bradley realize their potential, they'll have a big hand in replacing the production (i.e. a team-leading 5.8 fWAR) the Red Sox lost when Ellsbury traded his Sox for pinstripes.
Oh, and about those Yankees? Gomes isn't fazed by all the high-profile moves they made this winter.
"I’ll tell you what, I don’t think the players or [anyone] in the clubhouse worry too much about what’s going on outside our clubhouse. I’m just happy with the people we’ve got."
Red Sox pitchers and catchers report to spring training on February 15. It's at that point that the people the Red Sox have will begin their quest to repeat as World Series champions.
Listen to Gomes talk, and you might come away believing that the quest will fare well.
Note: Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted/linked. Quotes obtained firsthand.
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