I’m not sure if bailing wire and masking tape is going to get it done it this time.
The heart of the Kansas City Royals has been cut out for at least two months as All-Star outfielder Alex Gordon will be sidelined with a strained groin suffered in Wednesday’s 9-7 victory over Tampa Bay.
The Royals have done a wonderful job of covering earlier injuries. They have maintained a lead in the American League’s Central Division despite the fact starting pitchers Jason Vargas, Yordano Ventura and Danny Duffy have missed considerable time, not to mention closer Greg Holland being out for a stint. Don’t forget Alex Rios was gone for nearly two months with a broken hand and Alcides Escobar has missed more time than normal because of various ails. Mike Moustakas also has been absent at times, including now because of a personal situation at home that will require seven missed games.
But this injury is different. Gordon, despite what others may believe, is the face of the Royals’ franchise. He’s out there plodding every day and when manager Ned Yost asks if he needs a day off, it’s as though the skipper is questioning his manhood. Gordon would play 162 games every year if given the option, he wants to be out there that badly.
He has weathered those 100-loss seasons, when you could hear the crickets crackling at The K in the dog days of August when they were hopelessly out of contention. Gordon started day-in and day-out when the usual 13,000 faithful would show up because the slogan was, “It’s Our Time.” And Gordon held on to the belief despite all the losing.
Gordon and former suffering sidekick Billy Butler finally were rewarded last year for their loyalty when the Royals made their improbable run in the playoffs and advanced to the seventh game of the World Series, where, ironically Gordon stood 90 feet away from tying the game. Butler, of course, became a salary casualty as Kansas City couldn’t pay him for his declining production. But it was good to see that they finally got to taste success after nothing but sour lemons throughout their careers.
I wasn’t sure if the Royals were going to make some moves before the impending trade deadline, but if they’re all-in, they about have to. Jarrod Dyson will get the first call, but he’s not an everyday player and his shortcomings will be exposed. “Speed Do” does energize the lineup, but he’s not going to be a big run producer and tends to lose concentration that results in some eye-shielding gaffes. He does, however, have a flair for the dramatic, such as his Willie Mays-like catch Thursday.
I’m not sure who’s out there to pick up though. Yost is a stand-pat guy and believes in the players he has as being good enough. He also doesn’t want to mortgage the future for the present, but there’s not a lot of hitters in the Royals' minor league farm system right now. I’m sure there’s a rental out there who would love to join the Royals for a chance to win a ring, but that’s all it would be — a stopgap. Kansas City’s payroll already is exorbitant by its standards and can’t really take on much more salary, even with baseball’s biggest bump in attendance.
The Royals, more than ever, now need for Rios to get going. He has a long swing and his decreasing bat speed has led to a lot of lazy fly balls. I don’t think the Royals can hold off the Twins, Tigers, Indians and White Sox with an outfield combination of Dyson, Lorenzo Cain, Rios and Paulo Orlando, as they don’t provide enough production.
It’s also time for Eric Hosmer to step up. He was on his way to a 25-homer, 100-RBI season in May, but he’s gone dormant in the power department. While he keeps his average in the .280s, it’s a soft .280. For a guy so big and strong — and who swings SO hard – his inability to hit the ball out of the park is baffling. One reason may be he looks so off-balanced when he swings and he rarely pulls the ball.
It's been a matter of survival for the Royals. You just have to wonder if they can hang on the second half of the season.