You may wonder why a die-hard Kansas City fan like myself has waited so long to write about Alex Gordon. The truest answer I can give you is that I was waiting for him to do something that would give me hope.
Being a Royals fan is a wretched business these days. We get the bad end of every trade (see Dotel, Octavio) and can’t or won’t attract premium free agents. So we get used to seeing a motley assemblage of castoffs from other teams, not-ready-for-prime time career minor-leaguers, and washed-up veterans every year. It’s a damn grind.
But Alex Gordon is the kind of guy this team needs. He’s a semi-local boy, from Lincoln, Nebraska. He stayed home for college, going to his hometown U. of Nebraska. While he was there, the third baseman won all kinds of awards: Golden Spikes, Baseball America Player of the Year, and the Dick Howser trophy. The Royals happily made him the #2 pick in 2005 after the Diamondbacks grabbed Justin Upton at #1.
He’s a big, strappin’ midwestern boy. Obviously, he likes it here, and that helps. Kansas City is a short trip from Lincoln, so he can be around his family as much as he likes. I have advocated the Royals bringing up offensive products as quickly as they can, because we never get to keep them around when they become stars. This guy really fits the bill.
The only player from his draft class who made a quicker run to the majors was Virginia’s Ryan Zimmerman. Ryan J. Braun and Troy Tulowitzki are the only other Smells Like Pujols participants from 2005, so he’s in good company. Sadly, he tends to hang around the bottom half of the leaderboard.
But still, for a kid who’s hitting in a moribund lineup, he’s really turned his season around since the first half, where he was batting well below the Mendoza line. In June of this year, he climbed out of his slump in a big way, hitting .327 with three homers and 14 RBIs. The mental toughness he has displayed in sticking it out has supported the Royals’ decision to play him all year after just one season in the minors.
He has been a pretty good fielder as well, playing 90 games at his regular third base, 21 at first (while making only one error), and even playing six innings at shortstop. He is part of a growing nucleus of young talent in KC, including shortstop Tony Pena, Jr. and big-stick Billy Butler. Joey Gathright is one of the most athletic players around, so maybe he can play Bo to Alex’s Brett.
OK, out of fantasy land now. What I’m saying is I think these are players the Royals can build around. I mean, crap. I’m not asking for much. Third place in the AL Central would make me happy. Picking up a wildcard berth would make me ecstatic. Winning one game in the playoffs would raise a massive weight from the entire Kansas/Missouri corridor. But to do that, the pitching needs to come around, and I don’t see any on the near horizon.
So, for now, let’s bomb away, gentlemen. Run like nobody’s making the relay throw. The White Sox suck right now, so let’s at least go for fourth place!
And Alex – have fun. Try to enjoy Kaufman stadium, and the great people of KC, who I know for a fact are treating you well no matter how putrid the team is. When you grab that big free agent contract a few years from now, the place you go won’t be so friendly. All we want is to be above .500, and we’ll call your tenure one of the best ever.
Good luck kid. Hit ’em where they ain’t!