The Rays are a team without a true center fielder at the moment, Elijah Dukes has played 38 of his 49 games in center, and yet the Rays are playing an outfield of Carl Crawford, Delmon Young, and Jonny Gomes rather than letting Dukes take center, why is that? Andrew Friedman and Joe Maddon insist it's not a disciplinary action, if that's the truth, then I must ask; is Jonny Gomes going to take Elijah Dukes' job?
Dukes is boasting a .193/.323/.398 line; Gomes' .232/.348/.375, as some will be quick to tell you, including the ever statistically talented Aubrey over at Rays Baseball Dukes has an IsoD (Isolated Discipline, a la OBP - BA) of .130, and IsoP (Isolated Power, SLG - BA) of .205, very good on both ends, and he's only 23, he's got a huge ceiling, potentially higher than any other Rays' player, and oh about those off the field issues...heh...funny story about those, but hey maybe he just really loves Father's Day?
Gomes on the other hand has an IsoD of .116, and IsoP of .143, no where close to Dukes' totals, and he's 26, strikes out a lot, in nearly three times as few at bats Gomes has nearly half, 20, of Dukes' 44, but Gomes has something Dukes doesn't, good public relations and an inspiring story.
To quote Orlando Magic General Manager Otis Smith, "We're not trying to win press conferences." And neither are the Rays, partly because what might happened won't enlist a huge press conference that ESPN simulcasts, or even shows clips of. If it is good PR the Rays are after, and I have no reason to believe it is, they could've dealt Dukes a year ago, a month ago, a week ago and just listed his arrests and troubles as justification and validation for shipping the unstable Dukes away.
Gomes had a heart attack at the age of 22, obviously survived, and has become a fan favorite with his heart (no pun) and hustle play, his outstanding power, and his flamboyant personality, oh and even if Jonny has slept with more than six women in the last few years, I haven't heard of any Jonny Juniors or Jonny II running around through the St. Pete Times or Tampa Tribune. Perhaps what Gomes does next is the best thing for the organization; takes Dukes' job.
Okay not even take, but make Dukes' efforts replaceable. At this point the Rays have six outfielders: Baldelli, Crawford, Young, Gomes, Upton, and Dukes, only five of them can play at a time, that's with Upton at second, three outfield spots and the DH slot. Obviously Crawford and Young are locks, and you'd think Baldelli would get playing time over Dukes when healthy. Leaving Gomes and Dukes to fight for the fourth slot, Dukes offers some CF ability, but with B.J. around that's unnecessary, even if the Rays were to deal Baldelli, Dukes is still expendable, his defense in center is nothing Gomes couldn't do, and even if Gomes blows in center at least he's entertaining.
The fear of course would be selling Dukes at his lowest value, and therefore being, well, screwed in the long run. It's possible, obviously that a Dukes trade replaces Abreu for Stocker or more recently Gaudin for Cash. The question becomes do we stand pat with the devil we know and hope his attitude is malleable with constant press beatdowns, or do we put faith in our computers and scouts and roll the dice with the statistics showing that Dukes is more likely than not to get into legal issues before the off-season?
These past four games have been a quartet of the poorest the Rays have played this season, even so we might be witnessing the resurgence of the Gomer and the assurance to deal away Dukes, perhaps as soon as Friday when Rocco Baldelli returns.