Medieval Europe used to believe in "the wheel of fate." In fact, the entire King Arthur legend is based upon this concept. When the wheel goes up, someone like Arthur pulls a sword from a stone and becomes king. When the wheel keeps spinning, he loses his wife to one of his knights, loses his kingdom and ultimately loses his sword and life.
In other words, what goes up must come down.
Sports fans have the same relationship with our athletes. We love them when they're up. We hate them when they're down.
When they're up, they can do no wrong. Look at LeBron James. How many Cavs fans are lamenting his Decision now that Cleveland has a championship? Or, to bring it back to baseball, how many Yankees fans embraced Alex Rodriguez when he led the Bombers to another World Series ring?
When they're down, though, the fan-athlete relationship gets strained.
No one knows this more than Carlos Gomez, who was designated for assignment on Wednesday by the Astros. It ends a, frankly, disastrous tenure with the team that lasted just over a calendar year.
Gomez was horrible. He was terrible. He was no good. He was very bad. There's no denying this. There's no arguing around it. Carlos Gomez flopped as hard as anyone possible could have flopped in Houston.
Maybe we should have seen that coming. Gomez didn't hit much in Milwaukee before getting traded at the deadline last year. He hit before that, but we blamed his 2015 slump on injuries. He was fine now, though. He should return to form.
We should have seen it when the Mets nixed a deal over his medicals. What? No, his hip can't be a problem. That's crazy. The Mets are crazy. How different things might have been if the Astros had ended up with Yoenis Cespedes instead of Gomez. Would they have been in the World Series? Would they have beaten the Royals?
But, that kind of second-guessing is just as unfair to him as a local sports columnist quoting a non-native English speaker verbatim. Sure, you can do it, but it's not a good look.
Gomez plays the game hard and he wears his emotion on his sleeve. That led to plenty of outrage over his poor performance. Why should someone hitting barely .200 be dabbing? Why should he be strutting or showing anger on the field? Get better before you do that.
Except, it wasn't Gomez' demeanor that turned fans off. If that was the case, why did fans turn on Chris Carter? He was the spiritual opposite of Gomez, a level-headed player who was as affable as he was prodigiously strong. Yet, fans didn't like his even-keel approach. They wanted to see fire out of him when he struck out, not a nod and a walk back to the dugout.
Again, it wasn't the way Carter played as much as that he didn't play well enough for fans. If he hit like he did in July 2014, things might have ended differently.
What's fascinating about Gomez is how much pathos he showed this year. He was open about his struggles on the field and how it affected him. He heard the boos. He felt the city turn against him and it hurt. When he went back to Milwaukee, it looked like a weight lifted for those games, as he embraced his former home and teammates. For those games, he didn't have to worry about #AstrosTwitter calling for his head.
There's always some social undertones to complaints about how to play the game the right way, against showboating athletes and the cultures both fans and athletes grew up in. I'm not interested in exploring them now, but it makes me uneasy nonetheless every time I see people criticize his attitude over his batting line.
Maybe I'm just growing soft in my old age. When I saw Carlos Gomez struggle this year, I didn't get angry at him. I didn't get angry at the team for continually running him out there.
I just felt sad. The wheel of fate crushed him in its gears. I hope he gets to ride it up again before he's finished playing and I hope that trip up doesn't occur in Arlington.