Tuesday in Houston, Carlos Gomez charged up Tal’s Hill with zeal and alacrity, and he did this:
MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy caught up with Gomez after the game to discuss the catch:
“Gomez said he’d made a similar catch before, in Johnson City, Tenn., home of the Cardinals’ rookie league team. That hill has since been removed.
Was it the best catch of Gomez’s career? No, he said. He would pick one of his home run-robbing grabs, because they more directly affected the ballgames.”
Take that all in: Carlos Gomez can easily say the above catch was not the best of his career because of all the times he has robbed a home run — and he has robbed too many home runs to pick out one specific instance.
This is just what Carlos Gomez does. A couple weeks back, ESPN Stats and Info showed Gomez as having 34 catches on 35 attempts on balls hit 365 feet or farther to straightaway center field, a 97 percent rate. No other team had, at that point, a catch rate above 90 percent. Gomez’s speed and ability to find the ball when it’s hit straight at him — a deceptively difficult thing to do — is unmatched in the majors right now.
And it’s just one part of why Carlos Gomez has become appointment viewing. He makes circus catches. He throws bullets from the fence to third base. He scores the game-winning run from first base on a ball well in front of the outfielders And he blasts gigantic home runs. And, thankfully, it appears he’s only going to miss a few games after risking his body to make this catch Sunday .
There’s something more, though, and it’s the reason why I’ve gravitated more towards Gomez than any other player, even in his down years as a post-hype guy still trying to figure it out: he just has so much damn fun. Baseball is such a frustrating game — failure, and failure in spades, is inevitable for anybody who plays it. I think this is part of why there isn’t a culture of exuberance or enthusiasm in the game, and why somebody always gets riled up whenever players dare to show excitement over their accomplishments: playing baseball inevitably means getting pissed off. An errant bat flip or an overly enthusiastic home run trot just gives opponents an excuse to blow off that steam.
But at the same time, when frustration builds as a fan — the story of the year in Milwaukee so far — you just need to see somebody look happy out there. You need to see a bat flip on a ground rule double. You need to see an all-out sprint on a home run down 8-0 in the eighth. You need to see a guy jump up like he’s just made the catch of the year — because he did — on a team with a winning percentage flirting with .400.
Baseball is loaded with must-watch talents right now — think Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, Yasiel Puig and Yoenis Cespedes, just to name a few examples. Maybe you don’t buy Carlos Gomez as one of those guys and possibly the National League’s best everyday player so far, as Wins Above Replacement — both Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs versions — would suggest. Maybe you don’t trust his .373 BABIP, or you don’t trust his absurdly good ratings from fielding metrics (despite a myriad evidence of his skill).
That’s fine. Reasonable, even. Gomez’s approach still borders on infuriating — he swings, and he swings, and he swings some more. It’s painful to see a player with Gomez’s blinding speed walk in just 4.2 percent of plate appearances and strike out another 22.3 percent of the time when he is such a weapon on the bases.
So no, Gomez probably will not end up being the National League’s best player come the end of the season. Still, ZiPS projects him to hit .273/.319/.474 for the rest of the season — excellent, considering his defensive prowess, and arguably still an All-Star caliber player.
But for my money, Gomez was appointment viewing before he suddenly found himself and went from post-hype sleeper to post-hype star. He plays the game with a zeal and an energy that baseball’s constant stream of failure stifles in most players. He has style. He plays an excited brand of baseball with a contagious enthusiams. It’s why we watch sports, why we play sports, and why we even came up with sports in the first place. And if you’re not on the bandwagon yet, you’re missing out on one of the greatest shows in the league today.