Flamboyant, outspoken and one of baseball's best players: Carlos Gomez has raised a lot of attention as the table-setter for the Brewers, and his rise from former top prospect to MVP candidate has him gracing one of the regional covers of the May 19 issue of Sports Illustrated.
It's hard to say what the bigger surprise has been: That the Brewers are handily leading the NL Central with a 25-14 record, or that Gomez is leading the way. As Luke Winn reveals in his Gomez profile, it's a perfect match between an unlikely contender and a player who had been written off by scouts and analysts after a horrific start to his career. Once a top prospect with the Mets and the centerpiece of the Johan Santana trade, Gomez fizzled in his time in Minnesota and seemed to be on a similar path in Milwaukee. Then he convinced his coaches to let him hit the way he wanted to—huge swing, aiming for the fences—rather than trying to beat out groundballs. The coaches acquiesced, and since then, Gomez has flourished into one of baseball's best hitters, despite an unconventional approach based more on violent hacks and less on patience and plate discipline.
It's not just Gomez's play that's drawing attention, though. His style on the diamond—brash and full of character—has rubbed many players and coaches the wrong way, even prompting an on-field brawl in Pittsburgh when Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole felt like he admired a triple far too much. But to Gomez, playing that way is an expression of how much he loves the game and how much he cares. An exuberant person on and off the field, Gomez isn't shy about announcing his presence with authority, no matter when or where. Along with Winn's profile of Gomez, the May 19 issue also features a story by Thomas Lake on the Clinton LumberKings, a Single A minor league baseball team that did the near-impossible and erased a 16-run deficit in a 20-17 win on May 7 over the Burlington Bees, one of the greatest comebacks in baseball history.