It’s a bittersweet moment for a franchise mostly bereft of “career” Royals; you know, guys who were here from sunup to sundown. Guys like George Brett and Frank White. But that model of organizational structure is mostly an archaic sentiment in modern baseball, anyway. Bryce Harper won’t be a Washington National his whole life; someone other than the Angels will probably give Mike Trout an ill-advised deal when he’s an old, feeble man.
And it seems likely that someone other than the Royals will give Gordon an inadvisable deal in the here and now. Most figures being floated about feature the number five and 90,000,000. (You know, as in “years” and “dollars.”) That’s handsome coin, and maybe not irrational for the next two-to-three years. But in years four and five of such a deal, Gordon will be 36 and 37-years-old. How often does it work out when you pay a 37-year-old $20M plus? Not often, for sure. (Especially when that player’s worth is based heavily on things with a potentially rapid declination trajectory—things like outfield speed and base running abilities.)
So I guess what I’m saying is, have fun with your .260 hitter with limited power in 2020, Chicago Cubs.
OK, maybe the grapes this morning are extra sour. I’ll admit it. (I’m REALLY resisting the urge to harp on the fact that Billy Butler was actually the better hitter by most statistical measures, that Gordon’s .783 career OPS is only good for 17th all-time in Royals’ history [behind David DeJesus, FFS], and that Joe Randa had more RBI while playing 120 fewer games. So, you know, if we don’t look at WAR, Gordon would be near the bottom of the top-10 in most offensive statistical categories. [These are dumb, pointless facts, I know. But piss off, I’m trying to make it hurt less.])
Because the fact of the matter is, I hate that they can’t keep Alex Gordon. He’s an excellent player and a (seemingly) good dude, and he’s everything you’d want your franchise to be. He’s tireless and relentless and, had it not been for his 9th inning homerun in Game One of the World Series, the New York Mets win that game and who KNOWS where the series goes from there.
Alex Gordon saved this team.
Even before that defining, dramatic postseason moment, he plied the club with a legitimacy that had been missing for decades. His mantle full of Gold Gloves and frequent, jaw-dropping SportsCenter highlights pulled Kansas City out of a dank dungeon of anonymity; even when the Royals were still in the business of losing 100 games a season, people knew and respected Alex’s game. He was, as he was preordained to be, the Face of the Franchise.
And now he will move on. Someday he’ll return, I’m sure, for his Hall of Fame induction. Maybe he’ll do that pointless thing where he signs a one-day contract for a dollar, just so he can retire a Royal. Maybe after that, when he’s had a few years to rest and eat the things he’s deprived himself of for years—you know, like French fries—he’ll come back and coach. Maybe he’ll show “the next NEXT George Brett” the proper way to play the game, the same way he’s always played it: with dedication, devotion, and a subtle, concentrated intensity.
I’d like that.