Boy, Friday night was fun.
I haven’t done a very good job of hiding my devotion and fandom of Alex Gordon. Then again, I haven’t really tried. I’ve written about him enough on this site that there’s really little need to link all the posts again again.
But when the Royals announced on Friday that they had agreed to terms on the long-awaited long-term extension with the left fielder, I was left to do nothing more than smile.
We don’t really know what this means for the team this year, or next year, or the year after that. We don’t really know if this is the first, or I guess the third or fourth, sign that the organization truly is started to take a turn towards putting a competitive team on the field year-in and year-out. We don’t know if this contract will end up looking bad a couple years down the road like the Gil Meche and Jose Guillen contracts, or largely irrelevant like the Zack Greinke contract.
What we do know though is that through all the negative things Dayton Moore has done during his tenure as General Manager of the team, he at least has been true to his word when he said he was going to be aggressive in retaining the homegrown talent.
Everyone by now knows the story of Alex Gordon and how he came to be the lightning rod for fan interaction. Heading into last year, most fans couldn’t stand the guy both as a player, due to underachieving, and as a guy, due to some perceived attitude problem. He had troubles staying healthy, which didn’t fit with an athlete of his caliber and the kind of shape he keeps himself in, and he struggled at his natural position of third base, which he was supposed to be the next George Brett.
But heading into last year (with a bandwagon headed by me, I’m proudly to say) Gordon transformed not only his career, but also his image with a fanbase primed to want to believe again. His play in 2011 led to a Gold Glove at a new position, and “dominance” at a new spot in the lineup, lead off. Both new ventures in his career, both successes, and the fans were back on his side.
Quite a few Royals writers and bloggers have been leading the charge to get a new contract signed with Gordon. (Forgive me.) There wasn’t ever a big worry that it wouldn’t happen, but as Spring Training rolled on with very little news either way on the negotiations, there started to be some doubt. Come to find out, Dayton Moore and Co. were just doing what they’re very good at doing: getting things done behind the scenes, without the fans and media attention.
This contract means a lot to this organization. I’m not usually one to think that a contract with one player, in any terms, has a reflection or influence on any of the other players, but maybe in this case it does. Maybe now that three (!) Royals this Spring Training have signed new contracts it will only turn some media attention to the other young players on the roster to do the same. Eric Hosmer would be the most logical next target, and the national and local media have already set their sights on that story. Is it far-fetched? Possibly, but who among us really saw either Alcides Escobar and Salvador Perez coming? It’s a nice dream to dream.
The only worrisome aspect about the Gordon contract is how the money is broken up over the next four years. Being back-loaded for $10MM and $12.5MM in 2014 and ’15 respectively, that money will be cutting into the budget that will also have to be used to cover arbitration years and other new contracts to the likes of Hosmer, Danny Duffy, Mike Moustakas, Greg Holland, and others. But those are small worries.
For now, this is something to just sit back and enjoy. Sure there are risks involved in giving this type of extension. Mainly, it’s Gordon’s potential to regress back to the player he was before 2011.
But the risks are greatly outweighed by the commitment of the Royals organization, and the effort to follow through from the organization, to put a winning team of the field by retaining one of its best players.