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It’s time to play “Let’s Jerk Alex Gordon Around!”

Apr 27, 2011, 7:50 PM EDT

Alex Gordon

So, you’re the Royals, longtime laughing stock of the AL. Your 2011 season starts with some definite promise, but a losing streak inevitably follows. Everyone in baseball knows you’re not going anywhere anyway. The goal for this season all along should have been to figure out what pieces were worth keeping around as baseball’s best collection of prospects starts to bust through in 2012.

One of those pieces is named Alex Gordon. The second overall pick in the 2005 draft, he’s been a pretty massive bust, particularly during injury-filled seasons in 2009 and 2010. Yet his 2011 starts in extremely encouraging fashion. Thanks to last year’s position switch, he’s no longer looking like a liability with the glove. A hot spring got him moved up in the order, and he’s kept it going in the regular season, hitting .351/.402/.521 with 15 RBI and 19 runs scored in 22 games.

So, what do you do? Leave well enough alone, of course. Gordon is 27. This is his last chance in Kansas City; if he fails again, he certainly won’t be around in 2012. He seems to have settled in very nicely in left field. In fact, with five assists in 22 games, he was making a real difference with his glove.

Ned Yost, though, has different ideas. With the Royals having lost seven of nine, he’s benched Kila Ka’aihue and shifted Gordon to first base tonight. It’s not necessarily a long-time move, but if the idea was to sit Ka’aihue for just a day, then there’d certainly be no point in moving Gordon in from the outfield.

Nope, it looks like Gordon could log some serious time at first base over the next few weeks. And that’s just crazy, since the Royals have maybe the game’s best first base prospect, Eric Hosmer, battering down the door. Hosmer is hitting .380/.458/.479 in 19 games for Triple-A Omaha. If not for the super-two arbitration rules, the Royals may well have called him up tonight and said goodbye to Ka’aihue. For financial reasons, though, it makes a lot of sense to leave Hosmer in the minors until June 1, and that’s what the Royals are likely to do.

And that’s why this is flat-out stupid. If the Royals were going to switch Gordon permanently to first base, that’d be understandable. But to have him alternate between two positions is foolish. And it’s not like Hosmer is their only alternative to Ka’aihue. They can put Billy Butler back at first base whenever they like, they can try Wilson Betemit there or they can call up another minor leaguer, Clint Robinson, who has even better numbers than Hosmer but is four years older and has no real concerns about arbitration/free agency eligibility.

Instead, they’ve chosen to jerk Gordon around, as they’ve done so many times before. Maybe no other organization would have turned him into a superstar, but I don’t think there’s any doubt that he would have contributed more had he been drafted by another team six years ago.

  1. rmalmstrom - Apr 27, 2011 at 8:09 PM

    15 homers?

    • Matthew Pouliot - Apr 27, 2011 at 8:15 PM

      whoops

  2. dan1111 - Apr 28, 2011 at 8:18 AM

    I agree that the move seems questionable. However, without knowing Gordon’s own opinion of it, it’s hard to say that he’s being “jerked around.”

    Plus, I’m sure none of the Royals object to Yost managing as if they have a chance this season. That’s exactly what he should do until events on the field prove otherwise. Playing as if the season’s over in April may have a worse effect on players’ development than the occasional idiosyncratic lineup decision.

    • JBerardi - Apr 28, 2011 at 8:22 AM

      “However, without knowing Gordon’s own opinion of it, it’s hard to say that he’s being ‘jerked around.'”

      That’s also a good point. If you’re Gordon, don’t you want to have that kind of versatility on your resume?

  3. JBerardi - Apr 28, 2011 at 8:18 AM

    Is it really so unreasonable to ask a player with a ton of experience playing the infield to play some infield now and again? Hot start notwithstanding, Gordon isn’t a superstar. He doesn’t have the luxury of being some infinitely fragile artifact that’s going to shatter if you take it out of it’s hermetically-seal chamber, or ask it to play a little first base. If you’re Carl Crawford (cold start notwithstanding this time), you can say that you only want to play left field, and teams will accept that because you’re a unique talent. If you’re Alex Gordon, forget it. You’re replaceable.

    Plus, there’s the small matter of he’s going to be fine. A million players have done this before without incident. Get ready to throw data point one million and one on that pile.

  4. raffy7 - Apr 28, 2011 at 10:40 AM

    Matthew Pouliot never ceases to baffle me with his knee-jerk articles. It seems like the pieces he writes tend to be extreme over-reactions to the smallest of happenings. I have commented before on this tendency. He recently wrote really aggressive pieces on Jeff Samardzija and Kevin Kouzmanoff, calling for both of their heads after a bad first week of the season. Now, yet another article that takes the “sky is falling” mentality to a rather inconsequential occurrence.
    I completely support the belief that the Royals have handled Alex Gordon in disastrous fashion, wasting prime development years of a potential star. They have not shown any ability to create a plan on how to advance Gordon’s career. Until this year, they have never really fully committed to him, and now that they have, it is finally paying dividends. Which brings us to last night’s “jerking around” of Gordon. All they did was put him at first base for one night. That’s it. Nothing devastating about it. They didn’t try to send Gordon down to AAA or tell him that he wouldn’t be heading back to the outfield. In fact, Gordon was still in the #3 spot in the lineup. The guy just had a 19-game hitting streak. There is no threat to KC’s confidence in Gordon, as he has clearly been one of the bright spots thus far.
    What this really says is that the team is losing patience with Kila Ka’aihue. He is the one they benched (Granted, they were terrible at handling Ka’aihue last year as well). If anything, the move shows that they think Gordon can handle playing a few games in the infield (where he has spent much of his career). The team wants to get the most out of their lineup, so they sat the guy who is hitting .186. They gave Jarrod Dyson one night of action (As Puliout said, this team should be exploring what their young players can do). This team is certainly geared towards the future rather than the present, but part of Ned Yost’s job is to try to win some games. If you have lost 7 of 9 (as Pouliot notes), shouldn’t it be permissible to bench your underachieving 1st baseman and get some more offensive help into the lineup? In an effort to give Mike Aviles and Wilson Betemit more at-bats, sitting Getz and Ka’aihule seems reasonable (especially if it is not wise to bring up Eric Hsomer yet).
    The Royals have not handled Alex Gordon well in his young career; however, last night’s lineup is not cause for alarm.

  5. dexterismyhero - Apr 28, 2011 at 12:01 PM

    It’s the Royals. Who cares.

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