The Kansas City Royals are the 2015 World Series Champions. It is largely assumed that they won their title by taking an incremental step since they lost the World Series last year. However, Rick Rowand illuminates us all on Jonny Gomes and his Faustian bargain that gave the Royals their first championship in thirty years.
“He musta sold his soul to the devil…” – Someone
With winter upon us, and the World Series decided, it is time for baseball’s oddest recent, semi-annual tradition: The Jonny Gomes Victory Tour. Red Sox fans are familiar with the man and his American flag suit, and no doubt knew he spent this playoff run in the dugout – if not the uniform – of the Kansas City Royals.
Just how does someone like Jonny Gomes end up with a Forrest Gump-ian streak of success?
For centuries, people have been making Faustian bargains to gain power, wealth and notoriety. Aside from Faust himself, perhaps the most famous example is Delta Blues legend Robert Johnson, who was purported to have promised the Devil his soul in order to to gain fame and fortune as a blues guitarist, singer and songwriter. Indeed, after the deal was struck, he went on to write many legendary blues songs such as I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom, Sweet Home Chicago, Love in Vain, Cross Road Blues, Hellhound On My Trail, Come On In My Kitchen, Ramblin’ On My Mind and Travelin’ Riverside Blues.
Unfortunately for Johnson, fame and fortune eluded him in life – a true Faustian bargain. It wasn’t until his recordings were finally released in 1961 on King of the Delta Blues Singers that he became well known. Since then, many bands and guitar heroes have recorded versions of his songs, including Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, BB King, Keb’ Mo’, Fleetwood Mac and countless others. Johnson is now considered one of the most important figures in music history – fame – but he never found fortune.
There are constant rumors of others who’ve made similar deals: Tom Brady, Ice Cube, and even Donald Trump have been the subject of rumors of dealings with the Devil. . But there is one major league baseball player who it can be confirmed has shook hands with Beelzebub: Jonny Gomes.
I was surprised when I first heard about it as well. But it does help to explain much about his recent major league career, and seemingly inexplicable attraction to teams. It’s not like he’s a prolific hitter, or great with the glove. He’s a textbook journeyman. He can hit left-handed pitching, but not much more than that. He’s reportedly a good clubhouse guy, but there are players with much more talent that are supposedly good clubhouse guys.
So what does he bring to the table that plenty of other guys don’t? What would make teams use a roster spot on Gomes, who brings almost nothing to the table?
Apparently, when they dropped the “Devil” from the name, certain Devil Rays were visited by a mysterious lawyer in a red suit, who gave them a special number to call, but only if they were ever desperate enough to take drastic measure to extend their careers. The one stipulation was that they couldn’t use it while still in the organization. Whether this shady figure resembles former Rays manager Joe Maddon cannot be confirmed at this time.
Gomes reached the nadir of his career when he was traded to NatsTown! by the Reds in 2011 for two players who no one remembers. He was despondent and didn’t know where to turn. That’s when he dug the number out of the old Skoal can he’d put it in for safekeeping.
Little did he know who he was sending that text to: Satan. When he found out one of Satan’s earthly identities in a meeting deep inside the Senate cloakroom he was surprised, but willing to listen to what Beelzebub had to say.
The first thing he found out was that if he signed, it would be a three-year deal, with a player options for years four and five. Gomes asked about whether he’d have to shave his beard. Satan assured him the Yankees weren’t going to be contender during the contract. And with that, Gomes was in.
Now, most ballplayers would have asked for the ability to get on base more or to hit more home runs or to become, at the least, a competent outfielder. Not Johnny Gomes. Playing well had never been his thing. He asked to become the quintessential clubhouse guy. The guy that would go to a team and carry it into the playoffs on his personality alone, offense and defense be damned!
Satan liked his style: Pride is his favorite sin, right after sloth. They shook hands and the deal was done. The only catch was that the Lord of the Underworld couldn’t guarantee a World Series victory. Not even Satan’s shit works in a short series.
Gomes signed with the Oakland A’s in 2012 on a one year deal. Billy Beane, one of Satan’s favorite people, knew the team needed every edge it could get. They went on to finish first in the AL West for the first time since 2006, and renewed Beane’s reputation as a genius despite never making it to the World Series.
Gomes then signed on for two years with Boston. The Red Sox had finished last the previous year – and would go on to finish last twice more after he left – so Gomes was convinced of Satan’s power, and sincerity. He exercised the player option for year four before year three even arrived, signing the extension at the White House, in the aforementioned greatest suit in history.
Gomes bided his time in 2014, watching as the Red Sox fell from grace (and to last place) before being traded, along with Jon Lester, back to Oakland at the trade deadline. The Beanes once again made the playoffs, losing to the Royals in the Wild Card game, but keeping the A’s general manager atop the genius rankings, as his deal with Satan requires.
Gomes had just one decision to make after the season was over: Which team should he lead to a World Series victory?
After as much thought and deliberation as he could muster, Gomes decided to take his talents to Atlanta to see if he could work his clubhouse magic on the Braves. But alas, it was not meant to be. Nothing could overcome the Fredi Effect and GM John Hart decided to blow up the team. You could have filled that roster with Satan’s minions and it wouldn’t have mattered.
So in July, Satan sent Jonny off to Kansas City, who signed their own Faustian bargain last year and were ready to collect. Finally, the 30-year drought is over.
All of baseball holds it’s breath, waiting to find out what Gomes will do next: Will he exercise the fifth-year option and go for three titles in three cities in five seasons? Will he decline and ride off into the sunset, to give inspirational speeches at Biker Gang rallies for the next 25 years? If he does exercise the option will he selflessly offer his “talents” to the place that needs them most: Sweet Home Chicago, where he can help the Cubs – and Robert Johnson – fulfill their Faustian destinies.