Carlos Gomez heard all kinds of “expert” advice as a young baseball player and some of it was probably brilliant and perceptive, but none of it resonated with Gomez so he ignored it all until he met Dale Sveum and thank goodness for that.
Gomez was signed by the New York Mets and traded to the Minnesota Twins. The experts rubber stamped him as a head case lacking discipline at the plate. They instructed him to shorten his swing and become a singles hitter; use his speed, stop swinging for the fences.
The Brewers traded one of baseball’s most underrated shortstops-JJ Hardy to get Gomez from the Twins. When Gomez arrived to Milwaukee, Dale Sveum was a Brewers coach and hitting instructor.
Sveum earned a permanent place in Brewer fan hearts with his 25 home runs as a second year shortstop in 1987; none more memorable than his game winning Easter Sunday blast to extend the Brewer,s winning streak to 12 games to start the 87 season.
Sveum’s career as a player lasted 12 years-7 teams. He then became a Brewers coach and replaced manager Ned Yost to close out the 2008 season. The Brewers won the wild card that year; back in the playoffs for the first time in almost 30 years. Sveum went on to manage the Chicago Cubs and is now the hitting instructor for the Kansas City Royals.
Sveum doesn’t instruct. He has nothing to prove. He listens instead and reminds me of Rudy Jaramillo; the former hitting coach of the Rangers and Cubs. Jaramillo was like a Zuni sculptor; looking long and hard at what’s standing in front of him and not judging, but bringing out what’s hidden inside.
Sveum told Gomez to keep doing what he’s doing. Swing hard on two strikes if that’s what you want to do. Swing so hard that your batting helmet falls off and you lose your balance and drop to your knees. The only advice as far as we know that Sveum offered was to wait back a split second on spiked curves and drive the ball to the opposite field.
Initially, Gomez platooned with Nyjer “T-Plush” Morgan; sharing CF duties. The part-time role for Gomez continued over the next few years with some brilliant moments, but not much consistency and plenty of bone headed base running mistakes and wild swings.
But the Brewers seemed satisfied. The low batting average, strikeouts, and ugly on base percentage didn’t matter. Gomez won games with his glove. And then in 2012, he started hitting and he hasn’t stopped and is now one of the best all around players in the game; hitting homeruns, stealing bases and not getting caught.
He won a gold glove last season and no outfield is too big for the Gomez. His first step and route to hunting down baseballs saves runs-wins games.
Gomez won’t be in the highlight reel from Sunday’s Brewer game against the Colorado Rockies; no leaping over the wall to rob homeruns; no bullet in the gap and him chugging around the bases, but he was in the lineup being Gomez and that in itself is enough for the Brewers.
He raced into shallow center field to make an inning ending catch in the seventh and no one likes to imagine extra outs at Coors Field.
Kyle Lohse was on the mound. Lohse receives the most run support of any Brewers pitcher-6 per game and like clockwork, the Brewers scored two in the second and another in the third.
But Lohse was sloppy; uncharacteristically walking three batters in the first three innings. The Rockies tied the game 3-3. The Brewers took the lead in the fifth on a two out line drive single by Jonathan Lucroy.
But nothing is secure at Coors Field except the plane ride out of Denver. The Brewers put runners on second and third with no one out in the sixth and couldn’t score a run. And in the 7th; a man on second-nobody out and still no runs, but still leading 5-3. The wasted opportunities already felt like ghosts.
The Rockies scored in the 8th to make it 5-4, but then Lyle Overbay hit a monster homer in the ninth to give the Brewers an insurance run; 6-4.
K-Rod on to close. He’s been very human recently after dominating in April and May. First batter Corey Dickerson hits a ball to the wall in right center that misses the strangely placed vertical home run line by inches. Dickerson chugs around the bases. The ball gets away during the relay so he keeps running and trips around third base and is tagged out at home.
Next batter Wilin Rosario hits a home run. 6-5. K-Rod sets the rest of the Rockies down in order. Brewers escape with a 6-5 win; sweeping the Rockies for the first time at Coors in over a decade.
The Brewers are 47-30.