Gordon, Butler show Moose, Hoz there is light at end of tunnel
MAY 24, 2013 10:09a ET
"I know what they're going through," Gordon said.
All-Star Billy Butler knows, too.
"Oh, yeah," he said. "We all go through it. It's a hard game. You find that out at this level."
As Gordon and Butler watch Moustakas, hitting just .176, and Hosmer, hitting .264 with just one homer, they can't help but recall their own growing pains, a time when the game appeared too tough to conquer.
After two so-so seasons with the Royals in 2007 and 2008, Gordon's career took a dramatic downturn in 2009. A hip injury slowed him that season, and when he finally got healthy he still was hitting only .198 in early August when the Royals sent him down.
Gordon vowed to come back strong in 2010. But he was hitting just .194 in early May when the Royals again shipped him to Omaha.
"Yes, the one thing you learn is that baseball is a difficult sport," Gordon said. "You're going to have ups and downs. But I'm glad to have that part over with.
"I mean, we're all still going to struggle at times. But there's a learning process you have to go through and it's hard. I'm still learning every day, but I'm glad that first phase is over with.
"It's all part of the game and it comes down to how you deal with it."
Butler, too, went through his own moment of doubt. After having a solid rookie year (.292, eight homers, 52 RBIs) in 2007, Butler started slow the next season and had almost identical numbers (.263, one homer, 18 RBIs) in mid-May as Hosmer does this season.
The Royals shipped Butler back to Omaha.
"That was hard because you think you've figured some things out," Butler said, "and it turns out you haven't."
Now, both Butler and Gordon watch with empathy as Moustakas and Hosmer wonder where their strokes went.
"I definitely feel for them," Butler said. "This is the big leagues and the margin of error is so small. It's so easy to go in a funk. You can be doing everything right and you still don't get positive results. That is really frustrating.
"Things really spiral on you sometimes. That's what's happening to them."
Gordon said there is a time and place to offer advice to young players such as Hosmer and Moustakas.
"I've tried, yes, to talk to them," Gordon said. "It's just little things I might say. I'm not going to tell you exactly what we talked about, but there are just things you say that you hope will help.
"We have great teammates here. We all talk to them."
Gordon said the most obvious advice a veteran such as himself can give is for them to have short memories.
"The best thing about baseball is that you play every day," Gordon said. "You wipe out what happened the day before and move on to today. And hopefully you do something better today."
Butler agreed. "What it is, is you come in each day and you wipe the slate clean," he said. "You have to do that. Whatever has happened, has happened. If you're still worried about your game yesterday, you won't be able to play the game today."
Both Gordon and Butler have been cautious not to offer too much advice.
"I listened to guys, to veterans, of course, when I was struggling," Gordon said. "But sometimes you can get too much information and it gets in your head. Sometimes the best thing you can do is just go about your business yourself and get through it. Have fun and play.
"You don't want everyone telling you what you should do because everyone's advice is going to be different."
Butler has been especially careful with Moustakas, who has been struggling the most, offensively and defensively.
"I started talking to Moose about things when we were in Houston," Butler said. "Everybody has been talking to Moose for so long, I just wanted to give him his space. So we had a chat and I just wanted to comfort him and tell him he's on the right track.
"I just told him to focus on your effort and not necessarily the results. The results will come naturally over time.
"I talk to Hoz all the time because we take grounders at first. We talk mostly about mind-set and just staying in the right frame of mind."
Occasionally, the conversation turns toward hitting mechanics.
"Mostly, you don't want to overload them with information," Butler said. "Now, if it's something glaring, you point it out. But I don't see things glaringly wrong with them.
"Most of the mechanical stuff, I leave to (batting coach) Jack (Maloof). Now, sometimes mechanical advice coming from another player means a little more, but usually if I talk mechanics to someone, it's just to reiterate something Jack has said."
Moustakas and Hosmer each has said repeatedly that they appreciate the support from their teammates.
"My teammates … they've been unbelievable," Moustakas said. "Every day in the clubhouse or on the bench, they're right there saying, ‘Hey, hang in there, keep battling. You got this. Keep battling.' It's great.
"I've even had guys on other teams tell me, ‘Hey, we've all been through it. Just keep grinding. By the end of the year, it will all work out.' That's great to hear."
Butler said both players likely will learn a great deal from these trying times.
"They're too good of players not to snap out of this," Butler said. "And they'll probably look back at this and think it made them better players."
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter @jflanagankc or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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