Alex Gordon and the Science Experiment

Who wants to hear another Alex Gordon sob story?

As a fan, I’ve struggled a lot over the years trying to decide when I should cut ties with a player and give up on them. When does a player pass the point of no return? Maybe when he’s making 12 million dollars a year and not running out fly balls. (Sorry Jose Guillen, but I’m talking to you. I’ve been at too many games where I watched you hit a fly ball, look at it for a second, and then storm back to the dugout before the ball was even caught. (Actually, everyone has probably been at a game where that happened, so I’m not that sorry.)

Now I don’t put Alex Gordon in the same class of player purgatory as Guillen, but I’ll be honest, my heart can only take so much.

I remember watching the College World Series, when Gordon was playing for Nebraska in 2005, and hearing the announcers talk about what a prospect he would be and how he’d been drafted by the Royals. He struggled a little bit in that CWS, hitting .182 with 2 RBIs in 3 games. It didn’t matter to me at the time though–the announcer had said the kid could rake and announcers are never wrong, so I waited for Gordon to blaze through the minors his rookie season and bring back the glory to the hot corner that the Royals had been missing since the mid-80’s. (I was a little naive.)

I waited…

And waited…

And waited…

After watching 2 seasons where he saw action in the majors and was unimpressive, followed by 2 seasons where he was hampered by injury, I think it’s safe to say that the excitement that Gordon brought me initially had fallen into a numbed bitterness that hovered just above the cynicism I’ve felt towards players like Jimmy Gobble and Kyle Farnsworth.

When March began and I started yearning for opening day once more, I thought I’d try an experiment with Gordon and see how he did when he had the pressure of someone bearing down on his position. I took out my copy of MLB 2K10 (I don’t have enough money to throw down 50 or 60 bucks for the newest game, even for the sake of science) and made myself a third baseman for the Royals because Alex was still a third basemen in the game. Now I know you may be rolling your eyes at this point, but trust me, I did all of this strictly in the name of scientific analysis. Naturally, I periodically posted updates on my facebook status. I was confident the world would want to know how young Ethan Evans was faring.

I started out my first season in Double A ball. After several games I posted this status:

MLB 2K10 My Player Update: NW Arkansas Naturals third baseman Ethan Evans struggled a little at the dish early in June but caught fire towards the end, hitting his first career home run. His defense has been impeccable since he won a starting job…..Look out Alex Gordon….I’m coming!

Several virtual months into the season later, I posted this:

MLB 2k10 My Player Update: Ethan Evans is still struggling a little at the plate but is slowly gaining confidence. A good slider down and away from a righty still gets him pretty frequently. He is not very fast but is pretty sure the coaches all appreciate the fact that he slides into first base on every grounder he hits….Coaches love hustle.

The above was my tribute to Jose and his aforementioned lack of hustle. I can’t stand when players don’t run out grounders or fly balls.

Here’s my condensed stat line:

Year 1 (NW Ark.) – .281 avg. with 8 homers and 38 RBI’s in 85 games

Year 2 (Omaha) – .411 avg. with 8 RBI’s in 4 games (Got called up to the Big Leagues)

Year 2 (KC Royals-after callup) – .312 avg. with 7 hr. and 69 RBI’s in 133 games. (Nothing to write home about, but good enough to start every day)

I got called up to the Major Leagues in my 2nd season as a Royal. Once I got there, I never looked back. Alex faded into the background in a manner that was eerily reminiscent of his actual self.

As a side note, I posted this as my final status related to my Royals playing days:

MLB 2K10 My Player Update: Ethan Evans is doing well at the 5-spot, batting .320 with an OBP over .370….he has the kingly ones keeping pace in the A.L. Central…..In other Royals news Rick Ankiel was found bludgeoned to death in the locker with a bat after getting picked off the basepath one too many times….specifically when Evans was at the plate in a position to win a game….mystery currently unsolved.

Apparently whoever made MLB 2K10 decided to give Ankiel a Ricky Henderson complex. He was picked off and/or caught stealing more times than I care to count. Due to his residing a spot ahead of me in our batting order, this resulted in a woeful cut in my RBI numbers throughout the season. If Rick was on base when I came to the plate, I could almost always count on him being gone before too long. He never learned and I suffered for it.

Now I realize that you probably could care less about how Alex Gordon performs on a video game, but I thought it would be interesting to run a simulation to test his resolve. Granted, I doubt that 2K Sports puts things like “passion” and “determination to keep one’s job” as attributes in their games, but I had some childish notion that Alex might make it tough on me. That maybe when I tried to take his spot, he’d stand up and say, “This is my position and nobody’s taking it from me. I’ll show you what I can do.” I hoped he’d tell me, “You might as well get used to the minors or consider a position change because 3rd base is going to be locked down for a good long while.” Sadly enough, my hopes were dashed and it never happened. 

I have a love/hate relationship with Gordon, as I’m sure many fans do. There have been brief moments where he shone on the field and at the plate and I saw what he could be. And then there’s the rest of time where he’s been nothing but scenery on the diamond and if you didn’t look closely enough, you wouldn’t even realize he was there.

Obviously, my science experiment is missing a variable in that Gordon’s not a 3rd baseman anymore. The simulation may have failed, but that doesn’t mean the real Alex Gordon can’t show me a confident attitude in his play this season that translates into production. I want Alex to make a splash this year. I want him to stand up and prove that he deserves the opportunities he’s been given. (Though I doubt he ever needs to worry about me coming up and stealing his position) I’m not giving up on him…yet.

It’s a little hard for me to believe that a shift to left field could be a quick cure-all for his hitting woes, but who knows? Maybe this change of pace will shock him into becoming the franchise player that I and all of Royals nation had hoped (and still desparately hope) he would be.

He’s had an exciting spring and as of Saturday has a statline of .367/.486/.717/1.203 in 21 games. This all after he went 2 for 16 in his first eight games. I think we all know that these stats don’t necessarily mean anything, but I can’t help hoping that it’s not simply a hot streak; that he’s come to claim a dominant role. I’m a Royals fan. It’s what we do. Despite the cynicism and outright bitterness I feel towards my guys sometimes, deep down I’m still sitting, waiting, and hoping that they’ll turn the corner.

I hope Alex finds his niche and finds it quickly. I hope he makes sure everyone takes notice of his play. There’s nothing I’d love more than to be forced to lay to rest all the doubts I’ve ever had about him.

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Tags: AL Central Alex Gordon Baseball Jimmy Gobble Jose Guillen Kansas City Royals KC Kyle Farnsworth MLB Royals

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