The first time I saw Alex Gordon play baseball was in Wichita, Kansas on a hot night in August in 2006. He was the pride of the Wichita Wranglers, then the AA affiliate for the Kansas City Royals. My friend and co-worker Brad, he of the Golden State, was with me that night. I pointed Alex out to Brad and said, “There’s our future superstar. People say he’s the next George Brett.” To which Brad responded, “No pressure there.”
Well, Brad was wrong about that, just as Brad is wrong about many things, particularly when he spouts off about the Los Angeles Angels of Disneyland or whatever they are called now, which he does a lot. It turned out there was a ton of pressure on Alex Gordon, being a first round draft pick and all that, and he did not, at first, respond well. In fact, after a few seasons with the big league club people were beginning to use the “B” word when they talked about him. That’s “B” like in “bust.” Eventually the front office ran out of patience and Alex was demoted to the minor leagues, where he reinvented himself as a left fielder and adopted a new approach to hitting. It all worked out beautifully, and today when people talk about Alex Gordon they call him “The Face of the Kansas City Royals”.
How long he will remain “The Face” is another question, however, because two days after the Royals won the 2015 World Series, in large part because of his heroics, Alex Gordon became a free agent. He is currently considering a Qualifying Offer from the Royals, but no one really expects him to accept it. The smart money says he will test the free agent waters, and the Royals will be one of the teams engaged in the bidding. There is no doubt in my mind the Royals will make Alex Gordon the most generous offer in team history. There is also no doubt in my mind it will fall far short of top dollar.
So Alex Gordon has a decision to make in the coming weeks, and it’s a tough one. It will impact him and his family for the rest of their lives. It boils down to this simple question: does he take one of the big money offers that he is about to receive, or does he make the Royals a “hometown deal” to stay in Kansas City, a place that he, himself, has said he thinks of as home. Luckily for Alex I have given his dilemma a lot of thought, and I’m in an excellent position to offer him some advice.
Here is what we know. There are some teams out there that are going to offer Alex Gordon many millions of dollars more than the Royals can afford to pay. The New York Mets are rumored to be one of these teams. Here is my first piece of advice for you, Alex. Don’t waste even a minute of your day considering this one, should an offer come. Mets fans hate you, and they will always hate you because of what you did to them in the World Series. You know how New Yorkers are, they never forgive and they never forget. Given the chance they will boo your children. Also, you will probably have to ride the Seven Train to the ballpark on game days. I have it on good authority there is no pick-up truck parking allowed near Citi Field.
Further up the East Coast, the Boston Red Sox are another team mentioned as possible big money bidders. They can also be readily dismissed. Can you imagine playing left field in Fenway Park, Alex, fielding caroms off that big green wall night after night? You might as well move to Miami and play professional jai alai. Forget about Boston, Alex. It’s a nonstarter, as they say in the business books.
Finally, it’s being written that the Cubs may come a-calling from Chicago. I hope you’re not allergic to ivy, Alex. If you’re tempted to play there you better get that checked. Plus, don’t underestimate the significance of that damned goat. Curses are real, Alex. You shouldn’t mess around with stuff like that. It usually ends badly. Finally, there’s Chicago traffic. Kansas City doesn’t have much traffic, Alex, but you already know that.
So we’ve settled the first part of the case for you staying in Kansas City, but the real meat and potatoes of the whole issue is in the second part, that being, what, Alex Gordon, is your everlasting legacy in professional baseball going to be? Let’s start with the present, which teaches us that you are already the second most popular player in Royals history. The first, as everyone knows, is King George of House Pine Tar. You are also a lock for the Royals Hall of Fame, no matter what you decide about your contract.
Now, here is where you have to use some imagination, but I really don’t think anything I am about to say is too far off base. If you were to sign a new contract and play out your career as a blue-blooded Royal, your uniform number will be most assuredly be retired to a place of honor in the outfield. Furthermore, I submit that you will greatly improve your odds of someday receiving one of those special telephone calls from Cooperstown. Don’t ask me how I know this, I just do.
And that’s not all, because I also see a statue in your future, Alex, somewhere on the grounds of Kauffman Stadium. It will be cast in bronze, larger than life. Your head is down, your arms are fully extended. On the marble pedestal the inscription says; “The swing that saved the 2015 World Series.” Just picture it, Alex.
Now jump ahead twenty years, and as Joe Buck continues to heap praise on the long-retired Madison Bumgarner, the Fox Sports television cameras will pan to a shot of you and King George, now equal partners in the ownership of the team, sitting side by side in the luxury suites at Kauffman Stadium, smiling and watching the Royals play in yet another World Series, something that began to happen so frequently after you decided to remain with the team that it became, and continued to be, almost routine.
How do you like the sound of that, Alex? What? Still on the fence about the money? Certainly understandable. Then why don’t you do this; give your old teammate Zack Greinke a call. Ask him how his quest for the mega-bucks is working out. Ask him if he’s happy. Ask him how many World Series he’s played in since he became a gun for hire. Here’s a clue, it rhymes with hero, which is what you are in Kansas City because you hit a home run for the ages in the bottom of the 9th inning in Game One of the World Series.
There’s one more thing to consider Alex, before you make up your mind. It’s a stretch goal, as we say in the business world, and it’s a challenging one. But if it can be done, you are the one man who can pull it off. With your talent and your perseverance and your still relatively youthful age, you might very well create, before you retire, a total body of work that will have people saying that you, Alex Gordon, and not King George, were the greatest Kansas City Royal of all. No one will ever again be in a better position to wrest the golden crown away from him than you are right now. I am convinced of the truth in this.
So that’s my case Alex, and I hope you are feeling swayed. This is the biggest decision of your life so far. Reflect deeply. Seek the advice of wise counsel, and not just from your agent, because we know where his heart lies. Pray about it if it helps. But please, whatever you do, don’t make it just about the money. I truly believe that a few years down the road, Royals kingdom could be celebrating your coronation as the new Greatest Royal Ever, and all the people of Kansas City will pour into the streets, rejoicing and crying out as one: “All hail Alex of House Kauffman, King of the Royals, First of His Name.”
Has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?