Gomez’s Flash in Tribe Pan Resulted in Playoff Appearance
By Christian Petrila
Here’s a fun fact: In the home stretch of the 2007 dream season, the Indians claimed a player who hit over .300 playing regularly for his original team, but would go on to play as many games for the Indians as the normal person has fingers and toes.
This week’s obscure Indian is Chris Gomez.
Gomez, who played a majority of his career games as a shortstop, started his career with a division foe. He was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the third round of the 1992 amateur draft, but wouldn’t even play a full year in the minors before getting called up to The Show. In fact, once he made his MLB debut on July 19, 1993, he wouldn’t go back to the minors for another six years. But that’s getting ahead of the story.
After playing in only 46 games in 1993, he was still rookie eligible in 1994. During the strike-shortened season, he hit .257 with eight home runs and 53 RBI. That was good enough for a fourth-place finish in the Rookie of the Year voting. The players he finished behind were Bob Hamelin of Kansas City, Manny Ramirez and Rusty Greer of the Texas Rangers.
He would play for the Tigers through 1995 and 48 games in 1996, when he was sent to San Diego with John Flaherty for Russ Spear, Brad Ausmus and Andujar Cedeno. After the swap, he hit .262 for the Padres en route to San Diego’s first playoff appearance since 1984. The Padres made a quick exit from postseason play, but Gomez recorded his one and only career postseason RBI that year.
Gomez would play for the Padres until he was released in June 2001. His tenure in California wasn’t dull, though. He was a key part of the 1998 squad that that made it all the way to the World Series before being swept by the juggernaut New York Yankees. In that ’98 Fall Classic, his .364 average was second on the team among players with at least 10 at bats. The only player with a higher average was future Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn. In 533 games with the Padres, Gomez hit .253 with 13 homers and 147 RBI.
After San Diego released him, Gomez was picked up by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays less than a week later. The Devil Rays would be the first in a seemingly never-ending carousel of teams for Gomez in the 2000s. His 188 games between two seasons saw Gomez hit .275 with 18 home runs and 82 RBI. He was released by the Rays following the 2002 season.
Despite being released for the second time in three years, Gomez was quick to find a job elsewhere. He would make his home in a dome once again, this time signing with the Minnesota Twins. He was one-and done in the Twin Cities and used primarily in a utility role. However, in his 58 games with the Twins, he hit .251 with a home run and 15 RBI. He also played in his first postseason since his Padre days but, the experience was extremely brief. He entered Game 3 of the ALDS against the Yankees as a defensive replacement. He didn’t even get a plate appearance.
After the ’03 campaign, Gomez would head even farther north to another dome. He would make Toronto his home for the 2004 season, and he put up respectable numbers for the Blue Jays. In 109 games, he hit .282 with three homers and 37 RBI. However, the 2004 offseason would end up being an eventful one for Gomez.
Gomez signed with the Baltimore Orioles on December 8, 2004. It was his third AL East team in four years. However, five days later, the Philadelphia Phillies swiped him in the Rule 5 draft. A week later, he went right back toBaltimoreafter the Phillies removed him from the active roster. So in less than two weeks, Gomez went from Baltimore to Philadelphia and back again. Still following the story?
Gomez’s tenure on Baltimore was arguably his most productive. In his almost-three seasons in Baltimore, Gomez’s average was never lower than .279. In fact, that .279 was the only time his average was below .300. Gomez’s career numbers in 217 games withBaltimorewere a .302 average with four homers and 51 RBI. It was on August 9, however, that Gomez would go from his third AL East team to his third AL Central team.
The Indians claimed Gomez off waivers to help them in the stretch run for the AL Central crown. He played sporadically, but he had some key hits. For example, on August 23 against Detroit, Gomez hit a two-run, 10th-inning single against Joel Zumaya to make it 3-0 Indians. The final score would end up being 3-1. Another key hit was an RBI single against Seattle on August 30. It was only an RBI single, but it was a game where the Indians walked off with a 6-5 win. The point being despite the fact that he only played 19 regular season games with the Indians, he had some timely hits. In those 19 games, he hit .283 with five RBI and a goose egg in the homer column. It was the only team he played for that he didn’t hit a home run with.
It was in the 2007 ALCS that Gomez had his first playoff at bat in almost a decade. It would also turn out to be the last playoff at bat of his career. He entered Game 1 as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning against the Red Sox. He would strike out for the first out of the ninth.
After the season ended, the Indians decided not to bring Gomez back, so he decided to go back to the National League and sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates. It would turn out to be Gomez’s last taste of MLB action. In 90 games with Pittsburgh, Gomez hit .273 with one homer and 20 RBI. He would sign withBaltimoreagain before the 2009 season, but he didn’t make it out of spring training.
So thus ends the tale of Chris Gomez. For his career, he was a .262 hitter with 60 home runs and 487 RBI. His Indians career was short, and he did have some timely hits, but his role was mostly mop-up duty.