Monday, May 3, 2010
Have Royals given up on Alex Gordon?
You remember Alex Gordon? He was supposed to be an All-Star by now. Instead he's back in Triple-A, and Joe Posnanski isn't impressed. Joe's big finish:
I think the Royals have made a huge mistake here sending Gordon down. Gordon, even a disappointing Gordon, is one of the better players on this team. Of course, the Royals insist they are not giving up on Gordon. No, they are sending him down so they can get the unseen value of Chris Getz into the daily lineup (“It may not be those standout things like a double in the gap or the great diving play every night,” Royals manager Trey Hillman told the Star’s Bob Dutton, “but he’s going to turn the double play. He’s going to range up and the middle and, especially, into the 4-3 hole”). If you put Getz at second, you have to move Alberto Callaspo to third, that way you can keep Scott Podsednik in left, and Rick Ankiel in center when he gets healthy, and Jose Guillen at DH … see, the Royals have no choice! This isn’t just rearranging furniture on the Titanic. It’s rearranging furniture on the Titanic to make room for the wagon wheel coffee table.
Of course, they are giving up on Gordon. When you send him to the minor leagues after only 12 games, it doesn’t matter what you say. You are giving up. Yes, Gordon might hit his way back up and force the Royals hand.
Probably not, though. It’s more likely that Gordon is discouraged. It’s more likely that as Getz proves he can’t hit, and Yuni’s on-base percentage plummets, and the Royals continue to believe it just isn’t worth the pain to put Callaspo back at second base, they will at some point bring Gordon back, but without expectation and without a position, and it won’t work, and this will be proof to those who need proof that Gordon is a bust. Then Gordon will end up with another team, and if he’s still young enough and that team gives Gordon a real chance and appreciates his strengths, then I suspect he will blossom. And everyone will talk about that old “change of scenery” thing. And the Royals will once again wonder why good things always seem to happen to other teams.
I think Rany Jazayerli will argue, when he gets around to it, that it's better for Gordon to play every day in Omaha than sit on the bench in Kansas City.
He's probably right. The only thing more discouraging than getting sent back to the Nebraska is probably sitting on the bench and watching Alberto Callaspo and Chris Getz and Jose Guillen play because -- so you're told -- they're better than you.
Earlier in the post, Joe mentions the five infielders taken among the top seven picks in the 2005 draft, and how well most of them have done. But it's worse than that. Look at the top 12 picks in that draft:
1. Justin Upton
2. Alex Gordon
3. Jeff Clement
4. Ryan Zimmerman
5. Ryan Braun
6. Ricky Romero
7. Troy Tulowitzki
8. Wade Townsend
9. Mike Pelfrey
10. Cameron Maybin
11. Andrew McCutchen
12. Jay Bruce
We're almost five years on. With the exception of Townsend (a bust because of injuries), each of these guys has played in the majors. With the exception of Gordon and Maybin, all the rest are currently playing key roles in the majors. And Upton, Zimmerman, Braun, Tulowitzki, and McCutchen have already been All-Stars, or will be.
It's incredibly difficult to criticize the Royals for drafting Gordon. As I recall, everyone had Upton and Gordon one-two on their lists. What's more, Gordon grew up in Nebraska and wanted to play for the Royals. He wanted to become the next George Brett.
He never had a great chance of actually doing that. Nobody does. But there was absolutely no reason to think he wouldn't become one of the game's best third basemen. Particularly after he ripped through Double-A pitchers in his first professional engagement. He was, it seemed, as sure a thing as you'll find.
In the event, Gordon did not play well as a 23-year-old rookie (when George Brett was 23, he batted .333 and finished second in the MVP balloting). But he did play reasonably well at 24. He wasn't the new George Brett, but the new Tim Wallach, maybe?
That was 2008. Since then, Gordon's played in just 61 games and he's got a .226/.327/.369 line.
Have the Royals given up on him? Sure. He's hardly played, and when he's played he's played poorly. And at this point he's not even their guy anymore. Most of the people in the front office today weren't there when Gordon was drafted. Nobody has any emotional investment in Alex Gordon. To them, he's just a guy who can't really hit or field or run or stay healthy (all true). That guy who looked like the future George Brett (or Tim Wallach, maybe)? Nobody's seen him lately.
If it's my team, I send him to third base and tell him it's his position until he gets hurt again or the season ends, whichever comes first. But it's not my team.
Update: Those first 12 picks might have been even more impressive if the Rays hadn't gone cheap with the No. 8 pick. Wade Townsend, a senior at Rice, signed for just $1.5 million; Tulowitzki signed for $2.3 million, Pelfrey for $3.6 million, and it wasn't until the 21st pick (Cliff Pennington) that anyone else signed for $1.5 million or less.