At first blush, it sounds a bit like psycho-babble and empty of true impact, calling an athlete a “high character guy.” So you can give him your wallet and he won't steal your money? Yeah, OK. Great. Whatever. You can trust him with your credit cards. That's nice but, really, how much is a high character guy really worth?
In Jonny Gomes' case, that would be $10 million. Which shows you how precious the commodity is in pro baseball. Yes, a commodity. An asset. A high character guy unites a clubhouse, dissolves factions, promotes responsibility. No team in baseball has so routinely ignored that kind of player and that kind of attitude than the Boston Red Sox, yes, the Red Sox, 25 players taking 25 different cabs after a game. As if 25 players were speaking 25 different languages with no translator and no inclination to find one.
Or, as the Sept. 21 headline over an MLB.com story read: “2012 Boston Red Sox Are One of the Most Dysfunctional Teams in MLB History.”
That's why the Red Sox went after Petaluma's Gomes the way a thirsty man goes after a bottle of water. Gotta have it. Need it. Won't make it without it. Talk to any big-league manager and he'll tell you the same thing: His biggest challenge is getting his players to play for teammates first, themselves second.
“I am someone who wears his emotions on his sleeve,” said Gomes, an outfielder and designated hitter. “I am someone who is just as happy when a teammate hits a home run as when I hit one. I am someone who has the back of his teammates. I will defend them. You have to be a bit of a chameleon, able to handle different personalities from different cultures, especially now that baseball is global.”
Money has changed all of pro sports but never so dramatically as baseball, where the average player's salary in 2012 was $3,440,000, according to CBSSports.com. With nearly every player his own mini-corporation, the tendency can be for a player to pay more attention to what a teammate makes, as opposed to how he plays.