Royals hit new low; demote Gordon to Triple-A

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In what looks like one of the most shameful service-time manipulations in baseball history, the Royals demoted Alex Gordon to Triple-A on Tuesday to make room for Kyle Farnsworth on the roster.
Ready or not, Gordon, with just one season as pro under his belt, was rushed from Double-A to the majors to begin 2007. The team stuck with him then despite some ugly results, and the only times he had returned to the minors since was on rehab assignments. Of course, that meant he’d have three years of service time at the end of this year, leaving him on track to become a free agent after 2012. Now the Royals can push that back until 2013 if they wait at least 20 days to recall him.
Gordon has hit .198/.300/.313 in his 29 games this season, so we won’t see a grievance here. If it were May, it’d be a perfectly legitimate move. But it’s August 18. There are three weeks left in the minor league season. The Royals aren’t playing for anything at all, and they should want Gordon to get every major league at-bat his surgically repaired hip can handle. Instead, they’re going to have him work with inferior coaches and get pitched around by Triple-A pitchers. When Gordon was on his rehab assignment before returning last month, he batted .350/.491/.650 with three homers in 40 at-bats. Hitting minor league pitching isn’t an issue.
If the Royals follow through with this and cost Gordon a year of service time, then they’ll still control him in 2013, when he’ll likely be a much better player than he is now. But that’s something they should have thought about in 2007. To pull this stunt in Aug. 2009 would seem to make it significantly less likely that he’ll still be playing in Kansas City in 2014. Gordon has little reason to forget and forgive.

Red Sox look to punch their ticket to the World Series tonight

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Thanks to some amazing defense, some big hits and — to continue to beat this horse, a bad call by Joe West — the Red Sox have a 3-1 lead in the ALCS and look to clinch the AL Pennant tonight down in Houston.

If you believe in momentum, you’d have to say it’s on Boston’s side. If you believe that momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher, however, you’d have to say things favor Houston more than the standing of the series would suggest. All of which makes me wish Game 5 was starting right now, because it figures to be a tense and exciting affair.

ALCS Game 5

Red Sox vs. Astros
Ballpark: Minute Maid Park
Time: 8:09 PM Eastern
TV: TBS
Pitchers: David Price vs. Justin Verlander
Breakdown:

If someone told you that you had to win one baseball game against the Martians to save the human race, you could do far worse than calling on Justin Verlander to be your starting pitcher. Among the pitchers still in the postseason, he’d almost certainly be your choice right now.

Does Verlander himself appreciate the situation? This is what he said about that yesterday:

“I mean, these are all must-win games at this point. Every time you take the mound I don’t think there’s any difference whether it’s 2-2 or 3-1.”

Look, we’re asking him to beat the Martians here, not win the National Math Bee, so let’s let that go. The point is that after all of these years he’s still one of the most dominant pitchers in the game and after the exhausting, see-saw battle of Game 4, he stands the best chance of giving Houston what it needs: a quick, quiet and drama-free win.

Not that the Red Sox are likely to roll over for that. They didn’t the first time they faced Verlander in this series. They Astros won, yes, and Verlander limited them to two runs on two hits. But he also issued four walks and wasn’t his sharpest overall. Boston didn’t capitalize on his mistakes as best they could, but he’s not invincible.

For Boston it’s David Price. He allowed four runs on five hits and four walks over four and two-thirds innings in Game 2, not factoring in the decision. That’s not great, but given the talk leading up to that game being all about how Price is a postseason flop, the fact that the Sox won it in the end had to bouy him at least a little. As does the fact that, here, tonight, it’s not 100% on his shoulders. Sure, the Sox want to close this out, but with a 3-1 lead there is less pressure on Price than on his former teammate Verlander. Worth noting, though: Price is on short rest and warmed up in the bullpen last night in case he was needed to bail out Craig Kimbrel. He may not go deep into this game.