My heart breaks for Kansas City outfielder Alex Gordon.
Game after game, Gordon spins himself into the ground like a top as he flails away at pitches unsuccessfully more than 80 out of every 100 times now.
Gordon has been the cornerstone of the Royals’ franchise for a decade. A former No. 1 draft pick, he was there when the team was beyond dreadful, a time when 100-loss seasons were the rule and not the exception.
All those years of drudgery were finally rewarded in 2014 when the Royals made the World Series for the first time in 29 years, then of course they won it all in 2015.
Gordon was injured early last year in that awful collision that cost Mike Moustakas the rest of his season and Gordo wound up hitting just .220. He was given a pass because of his wrist injury and it was thought to be an aberration since he had been an All-Star in the past and had put up solid, though unspectacular, numbers.
Before last season, Gordon was given a 4-year, $72 million contract when it appeared he might be headed elsewhere. I viewed it more as a lifetime achievement contract because it’s been evident the last couple of years that Gordon’s better days are probably past.
But nobody imagined such a precipitous decline. Not only has Gordon not improved over last year’s misery, he’s actually become far worse.
Going into tonight’s game at Cleveland, Gordon is hitting .179 in 40 games. He has yet to homer and has driven in only 7 runs, on a pace to drive in less than 30. He has 5 doubles in nearly 2 months of play. Hardly numbers for a player who still has 2 years left on his contract that averages id="mce_marker"8 million a year. It’s a contract that hangs around the Royals’ neck like an albatross and takes away roster flexibility.
Gordon’s bat must feel like it weighs 100 pounds. He’s way behind pitches and he can’t quit coming over the top and hitting weak grounders to second base. Everybody keeps thinking that at some point he’s going to unleash a barrage of hits, of which he has only 25 all year. He has struck out 34 times and walked just 17. Normally the ratio is the other way around.
Kansas City fans, though, have been sympathetic. Gordon has given them everything he has for so long that they can’t bring themselves to boo him. His glove has glittered with gold. Heck, his bloated salary probably has to do as much with his defensive play as his bat.
He does everything right off the field and just welcomed his third child. He says very little and makes no excuses. He’s a dream player to manage.
But at some point the Royals are going to have to make a tough decision. Do they keep running him out there even though he’s virtually an automatic out like a National League pitcher? Not that some of the other Royals aren’t. Brandon Moss is hitting .196 with an outrageous 41 strikeouts in just 31 games. Newcomer Jorge Soler, who the Royals traded star reliever Wade Davis for because of his enticing home run potential, is making Gordon look like a slugger with an anemic .157 average. Alcides Escobar, the longtime shortstop, swings at anything and everything and more often than not misses. He’s at .180 and has struck out 36 times after once being one of the toughest players in the majors to whiff.
Even Eric Hosmer, for all of his .295 batting average, has just 4 homers in 46 games. And he wants $20 million a year? What team is going to pay that amount for a Punch-and-Judy singles hitter who plays a position that begs for power?
The Royals will be lucky to win one of three this weekend in Cleveland (a house of horrors) before returning back home from this probable season-wrecking road trip. With five key players up for free agency, the fire sale could start soon.