Red Sox outfielder Jonny Gomes checked in with Mut & Merloni on Monday to talk about the Red Sox’ busy offseason.
Since the Red Sox won the World Series at the end of the October, they have seen Jacoby Ellsbury and Jarrod Saltalamacchia leave as free agents, and they signed reliever Edward Mujica and catcher A.J. Pierzynski and reportedly came to an agreement to retain first baseman Mike Napoli
Gomes said his first season sharing a locker room with Napoli left him with a positive impression of the first baseman.
“I played against this guy for a long time, when he came up as a catcher with Anaheim, then over to Texas,” Gomes said. “I couldn’t really get a good read on him, to tell you the truth. Always focused — whether you’re getting in the box and he’s catching or he’s at first, he wouldn’t talk to you. I was so curious to see what I was going to get out of Mike Napoli when I was sharing a clubhouse with him. I had everything, all doors open. I didn’t want to do anything.
“This guy is truly something else. He is one of the best teammates I’ve ever had, one of the best competitors I’ve ever had, his work ethic, everything. They talk about championship-caliber players. That’s truly all he has on his mind. I’ve never seen someone in such a good mood after a tough 0-for-4 if we won. It’s team first, team second, team third for him.
“Hopefully like all the other Sox, I jumped for joy when this guy came back.”
Ellsbury is being viewed by some in Red Sox Nation as a traitor for signing with the rival Yankees, but Gomes said he doesn’t have a problem with Ellsbury signing the contract he received.
“I’m a firm believer in you are deserving of what someone’s going to give you,” Gomes said. “I’m sure a lot of people want to jump on the salary that he got, but no one wants to jump on some of the CEOs of some of these huge companies that make a lot of money, too.
“I played with Joey Votto for a while, and he did some pretty unbelievable things. I would always break it down to him, too: How many people in the world — in the actual world — can do what he can do? How many people in the world can consistently steal 50 bags in the big leagues and play a Gold Glove center field? What’s the price tag on that?
“I’m happy for him. He’s got security for his great, great, great, great, great grandkids. But we’ve got a spot to fill. At the same time, we’ve got the Executive of the Year on our side [in general manager Ben Cherington]. Hopefully we’ll get that spot filled.”
The Sox replaced Saltalamacchia with Pierzynski, who heads to Boston with a reputation as a player who can rub opponents and some teammates the wrong way. Gomes is convinced that the veteran will fit in with the Sox.
“Obviously what we built so fast inside our clubhouse is extremely important to 25 guys and the staff, that’s something I really buy into,” Gomes said. “I was [excited] when I saw an organization buy into that, which I have such high praise for as a clubhouse and chemistry. Outside of that, you want championship players. There’s not too many chemistry and good clubhouses that are in last place.
“He does have a World Series ring, and he’s been to the playoffs a whole bunch. He’s had Jake Peavy [as a teammate] in the past and [pitching coach Juan Nieves] in the past. One thing out of a catcher that I want is to play all the time, give me a couple of pull homers if you can. He can do that. I think he’s going to buy right in to what we’ve got going on.”
With the Red Sox preparing to defend their World Series title, Gomes said he expects opposing teams to be locked in to giving the Sox their best every night.
“I’ve been on the other side — when the Red Sox roll into town, you’re not going to catch anyone sleeping,” Gomes said. “Last year I don’t think we snuck up on anyone, by any means. And again this year, I think it’s going to be even that much more. I don’t know if people thought we were going to be that good and didn’t quite give us their best bullet, I don’t know what it was. But that’s definitely not going to be that this year. When you do throw on that Red Sox jersey, you definitely jump up into that heavyweight class.”
That said, Gomes isn’t afraid to set lofty goals for the 2013 Sox.
“We definitely have the belt and we’re going to hold it high,” Gomes said. “The passion that this team has, we want to do everything we can to protect that. Ideally go back to back? Absolutely. The first day of spring training last last year, we weren’t saying, ‘Let’s go .500 this year; hey, let’s just make the playoffs.’ I think all 30 teams need to set the goal to win the Word Series, So I think that’s something we’re going to do again, absolutely.”