Going Green: Carlos Gomez

This ran in the Purdue Alumni Magazine about eight years ago. Carlos since moved on with Jerry DiPoto to Anaheim, and possibly Seattle.

When Carlos Gomez first donned the black and gold uniforms of the Purdue University baseball team, he imagined it was the next step toward his big league dream. Never did he imagine fulfilling that dream would have more to do with his industrial engineering education than his right arm.

In November 2007, Gomez was hired by the Arizona Diamondbacks to serve as one of the team’s professional scouts, culminating a strange, uncharted trip to the big leagues for the 2001 Purdue graduate. Gomez created a name for himself, literally, by carving a small niche on the Internet and riding it to increasing acclaim among baseball fans, sportswriters and ultimately, major league executives.

During his playing days, Gomez was a regular contributor to a web site, Baseball Think Factory, a gathering place for baseball fans with an interest in the statistical side of the game. Gomez, under the alias ChadBradfordWannabe (an actual major league pitcher with a throwing motion similar to Gomez’s), offered the site’s visitors the perspective and insight of a pro baseball hopeful. As a result, he was contacted by the site’s founder, Jim Furtado, about turning his impressions on the mechanics of pitching into his own section on the web site.

His first efforts were in advance of the 2006 amateur draft, when he assessed the collegiate and high school players expected to be taken in the first few rounds. Later, Gomez introduced video to his analysis, which increased his audience considerably.

Using frame-by-frame video, Gomez broke down pitchers’ motions, offering detailed explanations of what worked and what didn’t. Often, videos of the same pitcher from different years were synched side-by-side, allowing Gomez to pinpoint any differences and how those changes were impacting the pitcher’s performance.

He says his education factored into both his interest and proficiency in analyzing the throwing motion of pitchers.

“That’s the industrial engineer in me. I’m obsessed with efficiency,” he says. “I’m always thinking ‘How do you coordinate the body to make it as efficient as possible?’”

 

 

Soon after his work started appearing at Baseball Think Factory, Gomez was contacted by another site, The Hardball Times, about providing his video content there under his given name. And it was as a Hardball Times writer where his breakdowns led to his breakout. His assessment of the early-2007 struggles of Chicago Cubs’ pitcher Carlos Zambrano were not just discussed by baseball fans on the Internet, but made their way into mainstream media coverage in Chicago newspapers, and later, on Fox’s Game of the Week coverage.

“That was the one that really got me attention,” Gomez says of the Zambrano piece.

Soon, he was not only fielding calls from beat writers, but from front office people interested in his talents. The San Francisco Giants contacted him about doing some work for them for the 2007 amateur draft, though Gomez had to decline due to an impending trip to Spain. It wasn’t an easy decision.

“I thought for sure I’d be working for the Giants,” he says, noting that it was his effusive praise of the Giants’ 2006 first-round draft pick Tim Lincecum, and that pitcher’s rapid rise to stardom, that attracted San Francisco’s attention.

Other teams also inquired about his work, though Gomez realized he wasn’t pursuing a position as aggressively as necessary. “If I wanted a job, I had to go get it.”

By the end of the summer, Gomez put together a package of materials for major league teams to evaluate. He searched team web sites for the most likely front office inroad, and began cold-calling to sell his services. Many of these perspective employers were already familiar with his work, including his eventual employer.

“Carlos was a guy who stood out in the crowd,” says Jerry Dipoto, the director of player personnel for the Arizona Diamondbacks. “You receive literally thousands of resumes a year, and there was a red beacon attached to his. Here was a guy with some playing background, who had gone through and gotten a degree from Purdue, was bilingual and was already astute in how he talked about a player. Part of the battle is the ability to describe a player, Carlos already had that skill.”

 

 

After an initial interview, Dipoto gave Gomez a project during the 2007 World Series. Dipoto asked him to evaluate several pitchers on the Colorado Rockies and file a report. When the report jibed with the Diamondbacks’ existing evaluations of those ballplayers, Dipoto was ready to bring the Purdue graduate on board.

While some clubs were discussing the possibility of using Gomez as an area scout evaluating amateur talent, Dipoto offered him the opportunity to bypass that typical starting ground and start as a professional scout. As a pro scout, he’s charged with assessing existing professional players at the minor and major league level.

“I feel very fortunate,” Gomez says. “I’m not supposed to be a pro scout.”

But Dipoto felt that Gomez had already cut his teeth, even if it wasn’t in the employ of a Major League Baseball franchise.

“It was probably unique in that most guys who enter the professional baseball fray, it’s not as a pro scout. It’s at the grassroots level, and you sow your oats in the scouting world and learn how to do it,” Dipoto says. “Carlos already knew how, and it was just a matter of bringing him on and giving him the blank canvas to paint on. And I think he’s been fabulous for us.”

And despite the departure from the traditional hiring process, the Diamondbacks’ move was well received within the game “I’ve had numerous people tell me through baseball lines that this was a good hire for the Diamondbacks,” Dipoto says.

Gomez has no complaints about the job, which didn’t require relocation from Atlanta, where he lives with his wife Amy.

“It’s phenomenal. You just sit and watch games,” he says, amazed at his good fortune.

 

 

Watching games, sadly, was also a big part of Gomez’s career at Purdue. Recruited out of his native Puerto Rico by former coach Steve Green, Gomez never found the kind of success in West Lafayette he imagined.

He redshirted his freshman year, and then pitched sparingly as a sophomore.

“The first couple of years weren’t very good,” Gomez says, serving as his own scout. “And the next three were even worse.”

Gomez lost velocity, dipping below 80 miles per hour, and his control. Yet he never lost his scholarship, for which he is eternally grateful.

“Coach (Doug) Schreiber never took me off scholarship, and I didn’t really deserve it,” Gomez says. “I never got consistent innings at Purdue, but they gave me more opportunities than they probably should have.”

Schreiber is more kind toward Gomez’s contributions to the Boilermakers. “He was a competitive kid who worked hard. He was good for your program.”

And Gomez’s ascension in the game is hardly shocking to the coach. “He had a strong passion for the game. He was always interested in learning more about the nuances and small details of the game,” Schreiber says. “It does not surprise me what he’s put together.”

One benefit of Gomez’s struggles was it rekindled his interest in mechanics, though he was never able to apply that information to his own efforts as a Boilermaker. Nonetheless, upon graduation, Gomez was not ready to abandon his dream, even if his fastball had long since abandoned him. While waiting to take a position in Syracuse, N.Y., with the Carrier Corp., he became the first subject of his video analysis.

He set up cameras and filmed himself throwing from different arm angles, trying to discover what release resulted in the best results. To his surprise, he found he could throw more effectively, and harder, as a sidearm hurler rather than with a traditional over-the-top delivery.

His confidence restored, he began attending tryout camps, setting aside his Carrier career in the process. In 2002, he signed with the Gateway Grizzlies of Belleville, Ill., an independent minor league team. He pitched professionally for two seasons, bouncing around the independent leagues while continually adjusting his delivery. Ultimately, he moved from a sidearmer to a “knuckle scraper,” nearly touching the ground with his hand during his pitching motion. “I was always tinkering, remaking myself,” he says.

 

But it was his second reinvention that got him his long-dreamed shot at the big leagues. And it wasn’t entirely an accident.

When he began doing his analysis for the baseball web sites, Gomez wasn’t just writing for his regular readers, but any potential front office executives lurking. “I had a job in my sights. I wanted to showcase what I knew, or what I thought I knew,” he says.

Gomez has previously expressed interest in moving up through the front office ranks, though for now he’s focused on mastering his new craft.

“I would like to be the guy who makes the decisions. That’s why we play fantasy baseball,” he says. “But I couldn’t handle what Jerry does. I don’t have that wealth of knowledge.

”I’m pretty fortunate to have the job I have without any real experience,” he admits.

 

 

 

TBtB: Los Angeles Angels

 

Sticking to a name has never been a strong suit for the franchise. Born the Los Angeles Angels, that soon gave way to the California Angels, the Anaheim Angels, the tonguesore of the recent past and even their new name, whatever the hell that is.* Similarly, the ballpark has gone from Anaheim Stadium to Edison International** Field and then Angel Stadium of Anaheim. The one constant is its nickname, the Big A, which will likely get some strong support in this here endeavor. It’s simple, but it works.

The ballpark, the second-oldest in the American League, is blessed in not just nickname. Mike Trout plays half his games here annually. Among ballpark features, that remains the best one.

One request: Please no Disney tie-ins.

* It turns out, their new name is also their oldest name. They’re the Los Angeles Angels again, making them the Duran Duran or Sirhan Sirhan of big league franchises.

**That sounds like the convention that leads to naming the airport in Fargo “Hector International.” Just because you send some flights into Winnipeg doesn’t make you a hub of global activity.

Ballpark History

Built:  1966

Capacity: 45,477

Name: Angel Field of Anaheim, 2003-present. Also, Anaheim Stadium, 1966-1997, Edison International Field of Anaheim 1998-2003.

Other ballparks used by club in its current city: Wrigley Field (the other one) 1961, Dodger Stadium, 1962-65.

Distinctive Features: The rock formation beyond the left field fence; low fences in the corners, allowing spectators to whack visiting outfielders in the back with Thundersticks; Big A sign relocated to parking lot; giant Angels caps outside stadium entrance.

 

Ballpark Highlights:

In 1967, the stadium hosted the All-Star game, the first time the contest was played before a prime time television audience.

In 1974, Nolan Ryan set the American League record for strikeouts in a game, when he fanned 19 Red Sox over the course of 13 innings. He also added 10 walks. And somewhere else in America, an infant future editor of Baseball Prospectus wailed uncontrollably.

In 1985, Angels first baseman Rod Carew singled off Frank Viola for the 3,000th hit of his Hall of Fame career.

In 1988, home plate umpire Enrico Pallazzo saved the queen.

In 2002, rookie John Lackey pitched Angels to 4-1 victory in Game 7 of World Series, giving the club its only World Series title.

In 2006, in the first World Baseball Classic, South Korea went 3-0 and eventual championship Japan went 2-1 to advance to the title round.

 

It’s not that difficult

Rob Manfred, the anti-Mikey of baseball commissioners (he’ll try anything), is now floating the idea of starting the 11th inning of the all-star game with a runner on second base, and is contemplating bringing back the bullpen car. Why? To speed up the game, of course. And if you’re thinking there must be something else to make those thoughts congruous, there isn’t.

These gems are being tossed out after Manfred’s 2017 change, allowing teams to issue intentional walks by merely holding up four fingers rather than throwing four wide ones, somehow didn’t manage the trick. Instead, despite this massive bit of time-saving twice every five games, major league games averaged five more minutes than they did when teams were buzzing through games in the heady days of 2016.

As long as Rob’s man Fred and the rest of the MLB braintrust keep messing around the edges, nothing is going to happen to change the snail’s pace of today’s game. Rather, the solution is quite simple: make the pitchers throw the damn ball; make the hitters stay in the damn box; and make the catchers and infielders stay the hell off the mound. Take care of those three things, and baseball’s pace of play problem is erased.

What’s amazing, really, is that the solution can come without any meaningful sacrifice. MLB doesn’t need to slice time from the commercial breaks, which would cut into revenues. Just nip the moments between pitches, time that essentially serves no one, and you’ve turned a 3:15 game into one that takes 2:45, with no reduction in the action.

Yes, the players will initially balk, having convinced themselves that they need those 20 seconds between pitches to clear their heads or plan out their course of attack for the next pitch. Nonsense. They believe they need it because they’ve come to accept it as the norm. Get rid of it, have the umpires enforce it, and the complaints about it will evaporate.

Base coaches were once up in arms about having to wear helmets on the field. Now, no one thinks twice about it, because they’ve grown used to it. The same will happen to pitchers and hitters if the league merely follows through on its stated desire. And while I loathe the idea of a clock in a sport that’s measured in outs, not minutes, I’m open to its implementation if it fixes this problem.

I love baseball. I don’t like not baseball. And MLB has become way too much not baseball. It needs to stop.

TBtB: New York Mets

Part 11: New York Mets

As alluded to in the opening piece, the Mets have one of the least objectionable corporate name for a ballpark, at least of those names without an existing tie to the franchise. Citi Field sounds good, simple, and could easily be mistaken for a name without a corporate tie-in if not for the unfortunate spelling. On a related note, it took me several years before I realized the first wave of corporate-monikered NBA arenas in Salt Lake City, Phoenix and Chicago – the Delta Center, America West Arena and United Center –  were named after airlines. They sounded so generic, not much different than the Memorials and Municipals of old.

The Mets’ former home, Shea Stadium, is almost certainly the stadium I’ve spent the most time in, between Mets and Jets games attended as a young lad. I haven’t been to Citi (or its crosstown and, it seems, inferior cousin built at the same time), but I hear it’s nice. I wish they hadn’t caved into pressure and pulled the outfield fences in, as others have done, which has only contributed to the K or HR frenzy in today’s game.

There should be no shortage of options for potential names, though I’m asking Jim to give Fred Wilpon the old Base treatment so we’re not inundated with some variation on Ebbets Field.

Here’s the Mets thread – hold the self-immolation.

 

Ballpark History

Built: 2009

Capacity: 41,922

Name:  Citi Field, 2009-present.

Other ballparks used by club in its current city:  Polo Grounds, 1962-63, Shea Stadium, 1964-2008. Also, Mets’ National League forebears New York Giants played games at various stadia named Polo Grounds 1880-1957, and while Brooklyn Dodgers played at Washington Park 1883-1891, Eastern Park in 1892-1897, Washington Park (the sequel) 1898-1913, Ebbets Field 1913-1957.

Distinctive Features: Shea Stadium favorite, the apple; Jackie Robinson Rotunda, one of the park’s many nods to Wilpon’s Brooklyn Dodgers fetish; Shea Bridge.

Ballpark Highlights:

In 2012, Johan Santana threw a reverse Galarraga, benefiting from a blown call by third base ump Adrian Johnson to toss the first no-hitter in club history in the team’s 8,020th game.

Later that month, R.A. Dickey tossed a Vander Meer Light, blanking the Orioles 5-0 for his second-straight one-hitter. Four months later, he’d capture the Cy Young Award.

Still later that year, David Wright singled to center in the fourth inning against Pittsburgh, which mercifully allowed him to pass Ed Kranepool as the club’s all-time hits leader.

In 2013, the Mets hosted the All-Star game for the first time in 49 years. As this was during the It Counts era of the contest, the American League’s 3-0 victory gave the Junior Circuit HFA in the World Series, allowing the Red Sox to win the Fall Classic on home soil a few months later. Thanks.

In 2015, Eric Hosmer, the major leaguer who most closely resembles one of those evil snowmen Calvin used to build, raced home from third on a ground ball to Wright, scoring when Lucas Duda’s throw from first sailed wide of the plate. The run tied Game 5 with two outs in the top of the ninth, and the Royals would later score five in the outward half of the 12th to win the first all-expansion World Series.

 

TBtB: Kansas City Royals

Part 10: Kansas City Royals

As you might have noticed, we’re alternating between AL and NL parks in this exercise, just like they used to do with the All-Star Game before All-Star Game hosting duties became a prize for successfully extorting local municipalities.

The good folks of Kansas City have been spared such a fate, as the local nine plays its ballgames in one of the oldest facilities in MLB. I haven’t been there (though I did look on from nearby a few years back – oddly enough, a few hours before the Royals were set to play their home opener), but it still looks like a gem.

Like some others on the list, the park has undergone a name change, though in that case it went from the vanilla Royals Stadium to its current Kauffman Stadium. The change was made to honor its former owner Ewing Kauffman, one month before he passed away. In other words, it was the good kind of change, the kind that almost never happens.

Kauffman is probably the frontrunner, but we’ll see if we can get a few worthwhile replacements, if necessary.

Ballpark History

Built: 1973

Capacity: 37,903

Name:  Kauffman Stadium, 1993-present, Royals Stadium 1973-1993.

Other ballparks used by club in its current city: Municipal Stadium, 1969-1972. Also used by Kansas City A’s from 1955-67.

Distinctive Features: Obviously, the fountain behind right field; long-standing crowned scoreboard in straightaway center; Buck O’Neil legacy seat in Section 101; symmetrical outfield walls (hey, they’re distinctive now).

Ballpark Highlights:

In 1973, Nolan Ryan threw the first of his seven career no-hitters for the visiting Angels.

In the Royals’ 148th game of the 1980 season, George Brett went 2-4 in a 13-3 win over the A’s, pushing his season average to .400, the latest anyone was over .400 in the last 70 years.

In 1985, Jorge Orta reached on an infield hit, sparking a 2-run, ninth-inning rally in Game 6 of the World Series. The Royals would blitz the Cardinals the following night to win the club’s first World Series title. That’s it. Nothing else happened.

In 1915, KC rallied from a four-run deficit in the eighth, and a one-run deficit in the 12th, to beat Oakland in the AL wild card game, which marked the club’s first postseason contest in 29 years.

Two weeks later, with tying run Alex Gordon standing on third, Madison Bumgarner got Salvy Perez to pop-out to third in Game 7 of the World Series. The Royals would avenge the loss in the Fall Classic the following year.

 

 

Going Green: 88 Lines

As mentioned in one of my Christmas features, I’ve done a few song parodies through the years. I did a couple of Christmas-themed ones back when I was a sports columnist – my favorites Albert Belle, to the tune of Jingle Bells, and Deck The Halls (with Wanted Posters), a tribute to the lawlessness running through the Nebraska football program at the time.

But my all-time favorite parody song was done at Baseball Think Factory. It was sparked by a news story about 37 Comments about 37 Baltimore pitchers. I really had no choice but to extend that to the full 88.

I shudder to think just how much time I spent turning this one out, particularly since keeping the proper syllable count and cadence has always been paramount for me in these time-wasting endeavors. I hate the lazy parodies that disregard the rhythm of the original.

This is another installment of Going Green, where I reuse old material in this new venue.

88 Lines About 44 Pitchers

The Dykstras

Pedro was a Catholic boy,
Still unsigned at this late date
Jeremy was a different type,
Sabean quickly sealed his fate
Dontrelle is a poor boy,
All his best days in his past
Felix, on the other hand,
Like royalty is built to last.

Huston was a nameless boy
A geographic memory.
Paulie was a Jesus-freak,
He liked that kind of misery.
Trachsy had this awful way
Of not delivering the seed.
Mark of Ozzie’s pitching staff,
Races through at breakneck speed.

Mark P. was an archetype,
The master of the rehab start
David thought baseball second best
To masturbating at the park.
Rick H. was a lonely voice,
Against the sport’s past backside stab.
A.J.’s point of view was this:
Take whatever you can grab.

Ugie is a bad, bad boy
Who’s best advised to hold the soap
Frankie loves to close the door
Giving Mets fans cause for hope.
Jamie had birthday parties that
Made grown men seem boys of wee
Teammate Brett has a wife
Who ought to pull a Lorena B.

Johnny R. the last redneck
Was undone by his tongue one day.
Todd however felt no wrath
By confining comments to the gays.
The Blue Jays Roy, who did not tire,
Was never, ever satisfied.
Carl P, in quite contrast
Took the cash and must have died.

Another Roy had a house in Houston,
Through his blood nothing shall pass
Ryan F now with St. Lou,
Shot steroids into his ass.
Sidney thought his life was empty,
Filled it up with alcohol.
Thirty-Eight was much too prissy,
He didn’t do that #### at all.

Uh-uh. Not Thirty Eight.

Mad Dog thought pitching was simple,
Just throw strikes upon the black
Ex-Mate Tom was a little different,
Toss ‘em a few inches past.
Ryan D. was the old-time hurler,
Always let his stockings fly.
Black Jack called himself a rocker,
Won an undeserved Cy

Dice-K was exasperating,
100 pitches through 4-plus.
Miguel wrote bad poetry
That still was better than his stuff
Crazy Turk he liked to pitch
While wearing teeth around his neck.
Smoltzie’s strange progression
Was as a better kind of Eck.

Johan was an artist hurler,
Deeper counts don’t shake him up.
That C-C bastard left the Brewers,
Took his money and his truck.
Roger C. had some problems,
Telling Congress the whole truth
Nuxhy fifteen threw for Cincy,
Then joined Marty in the booth.
Rick A. lost control one day,
Turned into a guy who slugs.
Bronson who played guitar,
Sang songs only Gammo loves.
Scott O. didn’t give a damn,
He was just a piece of ####.
Banny was much more my style,
Probably visits sites like this.
Carlos he went forty days
Drinking nothing all the day.
Barry drove his Giants team
Into the San Francisco Bay.
Aaron came from Ohio,
He’s a rebound candidate
Knuckler Timmy here’s a nod,
To end these lines of 88.

88 Lines About 44 Pitchers

Link Worthy: Thibs’ Tracker

I can’t believe I didn’t think to link to this earlier.

This is Ryan Thibodaux’s Hall of Fame tracker, the single best resource for following the upcoming BBWAA Hall of Fame election before the results are revealed. Thibs took his cue from the dearly departed Gizmo* at Baseball Think Factory, which simply tracked the votes of each publicly available vote, and some private ones. But he’s gone well beyond Repoz’s creation.

Thibs’ gives you everything you’d possibly be interested in knowing, plus some stuff you didn’t realize you ever wanted to know. Votes gained vs. lost, percentages needed among remaining voters to get elected, who voters would choose if not (wrongly) encumbered by the 10-person ballot, etc.

I’ve kind of had a ringside seat as Thibs has developed it through the years. I think I even pointed out a few votes to him in the early days (he needs no help now, as the BBWAA members go straight to him with their ballots).

*Which gained eternal fame when Frank Thomas admitted he’d been following “that gizmo” thing before his election in 2014.