Carlos Gomez, Center fielder for the Houston Astros, is a controversial player in the MLB. He’s an exceptional outfielder, Golden Glove recipient, and a 2 time All Star. His speed and athleticism is hard to match in the outfield, and he’s had decent at bat appearances over the past few years. He’s an emotional player who loves the game, but often that emotion boils over and creates a bad attitude when the game’s not going his way. This bad attitude creates a diversion from the game, and often leads to arguments, fights, ejections, and even suspensions. All have been seen in Gomez’s recent history, most notably in game 3 of 4 versus the Seattle Mariners, on Saturday night.
The backstory of the game, and more specifically the home plate officiating, told a story of mutual frustration among players and coaches of both teams. Several players questioned strikes versus balls at bat during this game, one of the most notable being usually calm and quiet Carlos Correa, who took exception enough to argue his point with the home plate ump – almost to the point that I feared his own ejection from the game. Soon after, A.J. Hinch came out to speak his mind, and was quickly ejected from the game. Hinch made the right call there, by the way. His players were frustrated, and it was his job to speak up so that his players wouldn’t have to and wouldn’t face ejection from a game.
Then Gomez yelled a comment about some calls during the 9th inning, with Jason Castro at bat, which was loud enough to catch the attention of the 1st base umpire. A hefty stare-down ensued, and that stare down by the 1st base umpire was enough to cause Gomez to give that ump a piece of his mind. A discussion ensued, and then an argument that was largely a one-sided tirade from Gomez, who became worked up enough to cause fellow teammate George Springer to intervene and walk him off the field. At this point, Gomez had been ejected, and the Astros headed into extra innings in a tied ball game with a single available player left on the bench.
The Gomez ejection earned him a spot on the bench for the final game in the series, with Marisnick taking over CF duties (both after his ejection and the next game) and the Astros ended up with a tied series after the win on Sunday.
Now, I’m not making a claim that the Astros won because a team member that has gained the reputation of having a bad attitude wasn’t in the line-up, but that idea does deserve some scrutiny. If we can float the cliche that attitude is everything, we can find examples of this in the professional sports world. The most recent and glaring example would be the Harden/Howard drama that snared the Houston Rocket’s 2015-16 season. This was a team made up largely of the same core that finished in a top seed and advanced all the way to the conference finals the previous season, but fell apart because the 2 stars of the team let talent, teamwork, and leadership take a back seat to their egos.
In the case of Carlos Gomez, one could easily come to the conclusion that his attitude may be having a negative effect on the team as a whole, although only anecdotal evidence can be seen in this season so far. Gomez has sat 5 games thus far in the 2016 season, and left 2 games before completion. The first was due to injury in the 4th inning at bat, and the second was the ejection between the 9th and 10th innings. Out of the 5 games he sat, the Astros W/L record was 3-2. The game he left after injury, the Astros won. The game in which he was ejected, they lost. There could be a pattern emerging here, but with only 32 games played out of 162, specific conclusions cannot be made.
However, if a starter’s team has a better record when they’re riding pine, that could eventually lead to a real issue with that starter. Does that mean that Gomez and the attitude he brings into the game is the cause of the Astros unexpected and poor start this season? Hardly. Every part of the team – pitching, at bats, as well as fielding, have all contributed to this poor start. His negative attitude doesn’t help the team, and ejections absolutely hurt the team. That, though is exactly why the team doesn’t need a single player’s attitude to negatively affect the game. There’s already enough to worry about when you’re off to a 12-20 start.
Currently, the Astros are sitting in last place in the AL West, 1 game behind 4th place, and 6.5 games out of 1st. There is no player on the team (with, perhaps, the exception of Jose Altuve) that has any right to cop an attitude about anything right now, regardless of how frustrated that player may be. When that player is struggling offensively, and has made some poor and costly decisions at bat and on base, like Gomez has done this year, he has no right to demand respect. The ejection came from Gomez’s own interpretation that the ump was disrespecting him, but he has no place to demand respect when he’s started the season with a career low batting average and several costly base running errors.
Carlos Gomez brings a much-needed talent in the outfield. His at-bat leaves much to be desired. His attitude so far, in this season, stinks. That’s 1 for 3 that helps the Astros. Currently, the depth in the outfield isn’t strong, but it’s not crippling. Jake Marisnick has matching speed and athleticism to cover center field, but doesn’t have a strong presence at bat. Preston Tucker struggles in left field, and hasn’t had a real consistency slugging, but he’s gaining ground. If Gomez keeps getting in the way of himself and his team, then both Marisnick and Tucker should start getting a heavier rotation in the outfield. You can’t argue his talent on the field, but you can’t justify his behavior if it hurts the team.