Anyone who watched Carlos Gomez play this season knew how deserving he was of a Rawlings Gold Glove award. The rest of baseball recognized Gomez as the best defensive center fielder in the National League on Tuesday, as he was announced as the Gold Glove winner at his position.
Gomez beat out Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen and Washington’s Denard Span to become the first Gold Glove winner for the Milwaukee Brewers since Robin Yount took home the award at shortstop in the American League in 1982.
The fifth player in franchise history to win a Gold Glove, Gomez is the first Brewers outfielder to win the award since Sixto Lezcano in 1979. George Scott won four consecutive Gold Gloves for the Brewers at first base from 1972-76, while Cecil Cooper won at first base in 1979 and 1980.
“It means a lot to me,” Gomez told FOXSportsWisconsin.com. “I proved to the world that I’m one of the best center fielders in the game. I’m happy and proud because I’m giving this to the Brewers organization. If not for the Brewers organization I wouldn’t be able to get this award. They are the ones who gave me the opportunity and believed in me and gave me the job. That’s why this year is so special for me.
“I’ve done a lot of good stuff this year with the All-Star Game, great year and now winning the Gold Glove, so me and my family are so happy.”
Gomez put together one of the finest defensive seasons by a center fielder in recent memory. According to The Fielding Bible, Gomez set a single-season record for a center fielder by saving 38 runs on defense, the most since they began tracking the metric in 2003. McCutchen was credited with saving seven runs on defense for the Pirates, while Span saved just three for the Nationals.
The routine plays were made with ease, but Gomez also made the spectacular plays this past season. He was credited with five home-run saving catches, the most since those began being tracked 10 years ago.
Gomez tied a career high with 12 assists, which trailed only New York’s Juan Lagares at 14 for the most among major-league center fielders.
“The first time I stepped onto the field at the big league level, I expected someday I’d be winning a Gold Glove award,” Gomez said. “I think I was close to getting it in 2008, but it is what it is. They still do it where you have to have a good offensive season to get it. If you don’t have a good season offensively, you aren’t getting it defensively. It’s not fair, but it is what it is. This year, I thank God for the ability to put it all together.”
Signed to a three-year contract extension last March, Gomez finally put together the complete season the Brewers were hoping to see when they took the leap of faith. While it seems silly, offensive numbers impact an award that’s supposed to be based solely on defense.
Gomez had a career year at the plate, hitting .284 with 24 home runs and 73 RBI. Add in making his first All-Star team, and Gomez garnered enough attention for voters to finally pay attention to his defense. Unlike years past, Rawlings did join forces with the Society for American Baseball Research to include sabermetrics in the voting.
“The Brewers organization gave me an opportunity to be who I am right now,” Gomez said. “They are the ones that believed in me and gave me three years. Even when I was struggling, they continued to believe in my ability, continued to give me a job and signed me for three more years. To win a Gold Glove for the organization means a lot to me.”
There was a price for Gomez’s all-out effort in center field, as he missed a total of nine games because of two separate high-speed collisions with the wall at Miller Park. Gomez had to miss three games after spraining his left shoulder crashing into the wall while robbing Andrelton Simmons of an extra-base hit June 23.
Gomez survived a major scare Aug. 15 against the Reds when he injured his right knee while landing awkwardly after making a catch up against the wall. Though it appeared to be serious at the time, Gomez suffered just a knee sprain and missed six games.
The reward of the Gold Glove might help ease the pain he had to fight through all year long, but Gomez plays the style he does for an entirely different reason.
“I pride myself in that for my pitchers,” Gomez said. “I give them the feeling like ‘Don’t worry, I have your back out there.’ If I’m a pitcher and I know I have the best and any ball they are going to catch it, it’s a really good feeling.
“I think the confidence my team has in me when I’m in center field (means more to him) because some guys have a Gold Glove and are not even close to my ability.”
Gomez recently underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow to remove loose bodies from the joint. He says the elbow has been bothering him for the past few years and kept putting off the surgery.
“I didn’t not play even one game because my elbow bothered me,” Gomez said. “I played all the way through, but this year I thought I didn’t want to wait any more and further complicate it for myself. Nothing was going to happen if I didn’t have the surgery. I just wanted to be more comfortable and that’s what I did.
“The progress is really good. I think in two or three more weeks I’ll be close to 100 percent. I want to just continue to work out so when I get to big-league camp I’ll be ready to play every day and do better than I did last year. I have more experience now, and I understand more about the game.”
Whenever the elbow allows him, Gomez is eager to get to work in order to build upon the success he found in 2013. He expects to begin throwing lightly in the next week and then will ramp up workouts.
The goal is to prove there’s still room for growth in his game and that 2013 was just the beginning of big things for the 27-year-old. Gomez feels last year’s success only made him hungrier for more.
“I feel now is the time to enjoy everything I did this year, but that makes me feel like I have to continue to work harder to continue to be a solid player, continue growing as a professional and as a leader, continuing to help my team win games and prove I’m a solid player,” Gomez said. “This winter, I’m going to work to be stronger for next year.”
Aoki’s in the fold: The news was long anticipated, but the Brewers officially exercised outfielder Norichika Aoki’s 2014 club option Tuesday.
According to MLB.com, Aoki’s option will pay him $1.9 million with incentives that could bump the salary to over $3 million. The option was originally set at $1.5 million for 2014, but Aoki’s numbers over his first two seasons with the Brewers boosted the number closer to $2 million.
The contract is still a bargain for what the 31-year-old has brought to the Brewers. Signed in January 2012 after the team had never scouted him in person, Aoki has hit .287 with 18 home runs, 87 RBI, 50 stolen bases, 161 runs scored and a .356 on-base percentage in 306 games with Milwaukee.