Jonny Gomes reaches out to Cards
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Cincinnati Reds outfielder Jonny Gomes said Thursday that he has "reached out" to the St. Louis Cardinals to squash any potential hard feelings over a report that he was singing and celebrating in response to news of St. Louis pitcher Adam Wainwright's elbow injury.
Gomes strongly denied the report and said he hopes to speak personally with Wainwright, who is scheduled to undergo Tommy John surgery and will miss the entire 2011 season.
The hardest part of my night was, 'How do I clean this up without backtracking, because I didn't do anything wrong.'” -- Jonny Gomes
"The guy is a good old Christian boy," Gomes told ESPN.com from Cincinnati's spring camp. "He's the guy that you root for as a fan and as a player. He did all his work in the minor leagues, grabbed the ball as a closer and converted to a starter. He's the guy every kid should mirror.
"The hardest part was facing my friends and family. They're questioning me like, 'What's wrong with you? You're not that type of person.' I walked through the door and my wife questioned me right out of the gate. She was like, 'What's your deal already?' "
A Dayton Daily News report said Gomes walked into the Reds clubhouse and "joyously" sang "Wainwright's gone" several times in response to news of the St. Louis starter's injury.
Gomes, who initially learned of Wainwright's injury in a satellite radio interview with Rob Dibble, said he was told that Wainwright had returned to St. Louis to have his elbow examined, but was unaware of the extent of the injury.
According to Gomes and several onlookers, the outfielder was singing the lyrics to the song "You're the Best Around" from the movie "Karate Kid" during a light-hearted exchange with the team's video coordinator early Wednesday morning. Gomes said that he asked "Is Wainwright gone?" in the middle of the routine, but not in an attempt to celebrate or gloat over Wainwright's injury.
"The hardest part of my night was, 'How do I clean this up without backtracking, because I didn't do anything wrong,' " Gomes said. "I was just accused of doing something I never did. I'm not like, 'I shouldn't have said that,' or, 'I wish I would have said that behind closed doors.' I didn't do anything wrong. Flat out.
"I don't need to play the villain in any movie. I have a [Fred Hutchinson] Award at home. I have two Heart and Hustle Awards. I don't have any villain awards at all. I've never had anything bad written about me my whole career coming up. Then all of a sudden I go home last night, and the blogs were on fire."
Dayton Daily News reporter Hal McCoy, who wrote the story in question, posted a follow-up blog item in which he explained his reasons for removing the controversial opening paragraph from the piece.
McCoy expressed his regrets over the incident to ESPN.com.
I regret using it, but I thought it was a cute throwaway thing and I didn't think it would create this kind of furor. I love Jonny Gomes. He's one of my favorite people, and I'm sorry he has to be dealing with this. I didn't sleep last night.” -- Hal McCoy
"I just thought it was something humorous," McCoy said by phone. "I regret using it, but I thought it was a cute throwaway thing and I didn't think it would create this kind of furor. I love Jonny Gomes. He's one of my favorite people, and I'm sorry he has to be dealing with this. I didn't sleep last night."
The incident surrounding Gomes is magnified because of the recent history of hostilities between the Reds and the Cardinals. Cincinnati second baseman Brandon Phillips stoked the rivalry last August when he said "I hate the Cardinals," adding "all they do is bitch and moan about everything." St. Louis manager Tony La Russa quickly responded, and the Reds and Cardinals had a bench-clearing brawl in the first inning the next time they played.
The Reds and Cardinals will meet for the first time this season during a three-game series at Busch Stadium from April 22-24. Gomes said he hopes this incident is gone and forgotten long before then.
"If anybody else wants to keep this going, that's fine," he said. "The only people I'm concerned about are Adam Wainwright, the Cardinals organization and the Cincinnati Reds."
Senior writer Jerry Crasnick covers Major League Baseball for ESPN.com.