Jeanmar Gomez was not supposed to be the closer for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2016.
It was supposed to be Ken Giles. But in December of 2015, Giles was traded to the Houston Astros for a group of prosects which included Vince Velasquez, Mark Appel, Brett Oberholtzer, and Harold Arauz. After Giles was traded, the Phillies found themselves in need of a new closer.
The new closer was supposed to be David Hernanez. Hernandez got his crack at the job on Opening Day against the Reds. He entered the 8th inning with a 2-1 lead, only to allow 3 runs without recording a single out.
Perhaps, then, it would be Dalier Hinojosa. Hinojosa got his opportunity the on the second game of the season. He also entered the game with a 2-1 lead over the Reds. His resultes weren’t much better, as he recorded only one out before allowing 2 runs.
Perhaps the Phillies closer would be Andrew Bailey or Edward Mujica. Only, after rough springs, neither of them made the big league club.
Perhaps it would be Hector Neris. Maybe James Russell.
Or, better yet, perhaps it would just be better not to even have one! John Stolnis of the Phillie’s blog “The Good Phight,” wrote an article in March entitled “Phillies closer-less bullpen can kill the “save.” He quoted Phillies manager Pete Mackanin as saying this; “Unless I’m 100 percent sure about somebody that I want to call a closer, I’m not going to call anybody a closer. When you think about it, a closer is somebody you can count on in the ninth inning… We probably have one. I’m hoping we have one. But I’m not going to name one right now. Just to call a guy a closer doesn’t mean anything.” Maybe “no one” was better than the options they had.
It turns, though, that Mackinin did have a closer in his clubhouse. He had a guy he could count on in the ninth. He had a guy who would become only the 11th man in Phillies history to record 30 saves. Mackinin had Jeanmar Gomez.
You can’t really fault Mackinin for not seeing what he head in Gomez. He lacks the typical characteristics closers usually possess. While most closers have dominant fastballs, Stolnis wrote of Gomez in the preseason; “Jeanmar Gomez doesn’t have the stuff to close…” While many closers are strikeout pitchers, Gomez is more of a ground ball pitcher. Pitching coach Bob McClure says of him; “To me, he’s almost like a strikeout pitcher. With a strikeout pitcher, you’re always thinking, ‘All right, he’ll get a strikeout here and be out of trouble.’ With Jeanmar, you’re thinking ‘All right, he’ll get a ground ball, we’ll get a double play and be out of trouble.’ That’s how well he commands his sinker.” While many closers have fiery personalities, Gomez is one of the quietest guys in the clubhouse. Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly says of him; “if humility were a fastball, he’d hit triple digits on the radar gun.” While many closers pump themselves up with heavy metal or energetic hip-hop, Gomez relies on light Christian rock.
Gomez doesn’t have your typical closer stuff. What he does have, though, is a quiet calm about him. Jim Salisbury said of him, Gomez has another weapon as closer: his composure. The ninth inning can fray the nerves of even the most seasoned baseball man. Sometimes you wonder if Gomez even has a pulse.
Where does it all come from? Where does Gomez find his strength and his peace? It all comes from God! Gomez confesses; “I’m a quiet guy, but I trust in God, and He does the rest.” Before coming to the mound, he says a prayer. I ask God to take control. That enables me to stay calm. Gomez also reads the Bible every day. One of his favorite passages is Josua 1:9; Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. He explains that “when you have Jesus in your heart you have to be humble. When He came to earth He wanted simplicity for us. That enables you to serve others.
Gomez’ story teaches us a valuable truth about Jesus. Going into the season, no one seemed to recognize who he was or what he could do. When Jesus began His ministry, few seemed to recognize who He was or what He was going to do either. As Isaiah 53:2 says about Him; For He grew up before Him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; He had no form of majesty that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him. And yet, Jesus remained strong and courageous. He calmly and faithfully did the work that God sent Him to accomplish, living the perfect life and going to the cross to pay for our sins. And, as Gomez does, Jesus did in quietly. Isaiah 53:7 goes on to say of Jesus; He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.
Calmly, faithfully, quietly, Jesus closed out our salvation. He won for us eternal life dying on the cross to pay for our sins and conquering our death. Eternal life became a sure thing as Jesus declared a closer’s words with His dying breath; it is finished!