Alex Gordon

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


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.

Game 2 is going to be the poster child for pace of play arguments this winter

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 26:  Zach McAllister #34 of the Cleveland Indians is relieved by manager Terry Francona during the fifth inning against the Chicago Cubs in Game Two of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on October 26, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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In August, it was reported that Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred would like to implement pitch clocks, like those in use in the minor leagues for the past two seasons, to improve the pace-of-play at the major league level. You can bet that last night’s Game 2 will the lead argument he uses against those who would oppose the move.

The game was moved up an hour in order to get it in before an impending storm. By the time the rain finally started falling the game had been going on for three hours and thirty-three minutes. It should’ve been over before the first drop fell, but in all it lasted four hours and four minutes. It ended in, thankfully, only a light rain. The longest nine-inning game in postseason history happened a mere two weeks ago, when the Dodgers and Nationals played a four hour and thirty two minutes. There thirteen pitchers were used. Last night ten pitchers were used. Either way, the postseason games are dragging on even for those of us who don’t mind devoting four+ hours of our night to baseball. It is likely putting off more casual fans just tuning in for the Fall Classic.

It’s not all just dawdling, however. Yes, the pitchers worked slowly and a lot of pitching changes took place, but strikeouts, walks and the lack of balls in play contribute to longer games as well. We saw this both last night and in Game 1, which was no brisk affair despite each starting pitcher looking sharp and not working terribly slowly. Twenty-four strikeouts on Tuesday night had a lot to do with that. Last night featured 20 strikeouts and thirteen — thirteen! — walks. It’s not just that the games are taking forever; the very thing causing them to drag feature baseball’s least-kinetic forms of excitement.

But no matter what the cause for the slower play was — and here it was a combination of laboring pitchers, the lack of balls in play and, of course, the longer commercial breaks in the World Series — Manfred is likely to hold Game 2 up as Exhibit A in his efforts to push through some rules changes to improve game pace and game time. So far, the centerpiece of those efforts is the pitch clock, which has proven to be successful and pretty non-controversial in the minor leagues. It would not surprise me one bit if, at this year’s Winter Meetings in Washington, a rule change in that regard is widely discussed.

Kyle Schwarber is the feel-good story of the 2016 postseason

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 26:  Kyle Schwarber #12 of the Chicago Cubs reacts after hitting an RBI single to score Ben Zobrist #18 (not pictured) during the fifth inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game Two of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on October 26, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Most baseball fans and even the Cubs had resigned themselves to most likely not seeing Kyle Schwarber in game action until spring training next year after he suffered a gruesome knee injury in a collision with teammate Dexter Fowler back in early April. Schwarber suffered a fully-torn ACL and LCL in his left leg.

To the surprise of everyone, including manager Joe Maddon, Schwarber was cleared by doctors to play if the Cubs wanted to put him on the World Series roster. So they did. And, boy, are they glad they did it. In preparation, Schwarber saw over 1,000 pitches from machines and pitchers in the Arizona Fall League.

Schwarber essentially crammed for the final exam and unlike most students who do it, it has panned out well thus far. No one was expecting him to look outstanding against Indians ace Corey Kluber in Game 1, but in his first at-bat — his first in the majors since suffering the injury in April — Schwarber worked a 3-1 count before eventually being retired on strikes. Schwarber came back up in the fourth and drilled a Kluber sinker to right field for a two-out double.

In the seventh inning, facing one of the American League’s two scariest left-handed relievers in Andrew Miller, Schwarber worked a full count before drawing a walk. During the regular season, Miller walked exactly one lefty batter. Schwarber made it two. Schwarber would face Miller again in the eighth, going ahead 2-1 before ultimately striking out. He finished 1-for-3 with a walk and a double in the Cubs’ 6-0 loss. Considering the circumstances, that’s amazing.

Schwarber continued his great approach in Game 2 in what turned out to be a 5-1 victory. He struck out against Trevor Bauer in the first inning, but returned to the batter’s box in the third inning and singled up the middle to knock in the Cubs’ second run. Schwarber made it 3-0 in the fifth when he singled up the middle again, this time off of Bryan Shaw, to make it 3-0. Facing Danny Salazar in the sixth, Schwarber drew a four-pitch walk to put runners on first and second base with two outs. Finally, he struck out against Dan Otero in his eighth-inning at-bat, finishing the evening 2-for-4 with a pair of RBI singles and a walk.

But now, as the Cubs return to Chicago for World Series Games 3, 4, and 5 at Wrigley Field, they have to contest with National League rules, a.k.a. no DH. Will Maddon risk Schwarber’s subpar defense to put his dangerous bat in the lineup? Even if Schwarber is not put in the starting lineup, he can at least serve as a dangerous bat off the bench late in the game when the Indians send out their trio of relievers in Shaw, Miller, and closer Cody Allen. At any rate, what Schwarber has done already in the first two games of the World Series is mighty impressive.