Alex Gordon, Royal for Life? Let's just hope for 2016.

Rob Neyer

Rob Neyer

Before getting to the meat of today’s little essay about Our National Game, I want to mention just a couple of things ...


Please don’t bother telling me how to enjoy baseball. I promise I won’t tell you how. Which I bring up only because I’ve grown tired of “people” telling me – by the way, thanks a lot Twitter – that I shouldn’t take any pleasure at all in the Royals’ season, apparently because ... well, I don’t actually know why? Because I had the temerity to be right about them for so long, actually pointing out that (for example) players like Chuck Knoblauch and Roberto Hernandez and Jeff Francoeur weren’t championship ballplayers? Because after living and dying with the Royals for nearly 30 years, and writing about them far too often, usually as a hobby, that I decided to focus my energies in more productive ways, both personally and professionally? Because I grew frustrated by an organization that behaved exactly the opposite of how I would behave, if I’d been running the organization.

Well, excuse the hell out of me. Yeah, I went to a Royals game with my mom last week. And yeah, I wore a Kansas City Monarchs t-shirt. And yeah, I surprised myself when Omar Infante drove this go-ahead double into the right-field corner, and I actually pumped my fist for the first time in a lotta years.

Look, I admire fans who have stuck with the Royals throughout the last 30 years. I mean, really stuck with them. Based on the Royals’ attendance over that span, there really can’t have been many of you. But if you’re one of them, I do admire you. I’m just not exactly like you.

My obsessive passions might have been able to survive my relocation from the Midwest to the Pacific Northwest. They might have been able to survive my profession. They might even have been able to survive management’s gross incompetence for some decades. But my obsessive passions could not survive all three.

Okay? You got me. I’m a fair-weather fan who moved away 20 years ago and is supposed to write with some degree of objectivity. Don’t tell me how to enjoy baseball, though. Frankly, my friends, I don’t give a damn what you think about my passions. I love my fiancée, I love my dogs, I love Portland, I love the birds that visit my backyard, I love baseball stirrups … and somewhere, way down deep, it seems I still love the Kansas City Royals, at least a little bit. If that bothers you ... Well, I can’t really say that I’m sorry, because I haven’t done anything wrong. Instead I will ask you, politely, to keep your thoughts to yourself. After nearly 40 years of thinking about the Royals nearly every day, I think I should be allowed to enjoy this little stretch in my own however-foibled way.

Recently, the Kansas City Star’s Andy McCullough wrote about Alex Gordon’s future with the Royals, a topic that’s become particularly interesting since people actually started noticing that his defensive metrics are so good, yet again, that you can make an argument that he’s one of the very best players in the majors…

He can become a free agent after next season, as long as he declines his $13.25 million player option for 2016. Gordon would enter the open market at a time of unprecedented wealth around the game. His next contract should far surpass his current four-year, $37.25 million pact. To lock him down, the Royals would have to offer the sort of deal they have never before given out. His price could approach nine figures, rival officials say.

For his part, Gordon indicated he plans on picking up his 2016 option and delaying his free-agency. A message left for Gordon’s agent, Casey Close, went unreturned, so Gordon was asked if Close would approve this maneuver.

“Casey’s not the boss of me,” Gordon said with a grin. “I’m sure he’ll have things to say and whatnot. But when it comes down to it, it’s my decision.”

Those of course are sweet words for Royals fans. If Gordon sticks around through 2016, the club will have him through his Age 32 season. As well as he’s played this season, a simple fact remains: Gordon was at his best ­– as a hitter, and we’re better at measuring hitting than fielding – in his Age 27 and 28 seasons. Which of course is typical. Another fact: Players decline in their 30s as fielders, just as they decline as hitters.

I’m not saying the club shouldn’t try to make Gordon a Royal for Life. I mean, it’s probably a bad idea, especially in this era of the three-man bench. But hey, maybe it can work. What doesn’t work is paying Gordon into his late 30s for what he did in his late 20s and early 30s. That’s just foolish, the proof of which consists of a few thousand examples.

And by the way, it’s not foolish because they couldn’t afford him. If they could give Gil Meche and Mike Sweeney $11 million a year, some years ago when revenues were significantly lower, they certainly could give Gordon $17 million a year as this decade progresses. It’s just that they shouldn’t. The money will be there, but should be spent more wisely.

I do hope I never see Alex Gordon wearing another uniform. But that hope always remains subsidiary to the hope of seeing the Royals playing big games in October. And that’s less likely if Alex Gordon’s got a six-year, $100 million contract.


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