The Next Timo Perez?
One of the surprises of the 2009 Minnesota Twins’ season so far has been the reduced playing time of Carlos Gomez. Whereas last year Gomez seem to be the catalyst of the batting order more times than not, this year he starts about one in every four games or so. Conspiracy theorists like to point out that perhaps Delmon Young is “stealing” Go-Go’s playing time to maximize his trade potential come mid-season, but I think the fact of the matter is that Young can keep his batting average above .250, while Gomez cannot.
Right now, Gomez (while improving defensively…he is taking much better routes to balls and I haven’t seen him overrun a grounder yet) is completely lost at the plate. He takes swings that often embarrassing and his pretty much a goner if the pitcher ever gets two strikes on him.
I hope I am wrong in this parallel, but currently Carlos Gomez is falling into the pattern of another young, exciting player who never lived up to his potential:
During the late 1990s, with the Twins a perenniel cellar-dweller, I jumped on the bandwagon of the New York Mets, partly because I hated their chief rival the Atlanta Braves and partly because I just wanted to cheer for someone in the playoffs! Thus, during the 2000 playoffs, I remember watching young Timo Perez make a tremendous impact for the Mets. Timo only played about 20 games for the Mets that entire ’00 season, but he made a big enough impact with his torrid September play that he made the playoff roster. For that one month and during most of the postseason, Timo was the catalyst for the entire Mets’ lineup, whether it was getting on base, stealing them, or hitting line drives all over the field. Unfortunately, Perez is probably best remembered for his baserunner blunder that may have cost the Mets a game in the 2000 “Subway” World Series with the Yankees, but he was the kind of player that seemed to have a bright future in New York.
However, a telling sign was the two hits that Perez collected the ENTIRE World Series. Thus, it was obviously that pitchers were finally figuring out how to get him out, and it was time for him to make the most crucial adjustment that a batter ever makes (that first one after pitchers find a weakness). He never did. He played a few more seasons with the Mets (one decent), then became a journeyman, popping up in Chicago with the Pale Hose most recently, I believe. However, he was never able to regain that flash of talent he showed late in the 2000 season.
Like I said, I hope this isn’t true, but right now Gomez is following that same path. Gomez single-handedly won games for the Twins early last season, but by the end of said season he had been replaced by Denard Span as leadoff hitter and was striking out at an enormous rate. The pitchers finally figured him out, much like they did to Timo Perez, and he has yet (as far as I can see) to make the adjustment to start getting hits again.
The ray of hope I see for Gomez, though, is that he really hasn’t gotten enough playing time yet this season to show his current talent level. Whereas Timo Perez got many years to try and recapture that once-attained talent, Gomez has primarily been riding the pine in his second season as a Twin. It is a sticky situation, as the Twins like Cuddyer and Span in the lineup but also have high hopes (and Garza/Bartlett) invested in him. It will be interesting to see how the entire situation pans out.