In Wednesday night’s win over the Rays, Royals fans were forced to watch on in horror as the heart and soul of the franchise lay motionless on the left field warning track.
Alex Gordon had crumpled in obvious pain while pulling up before crashing into the wall like we had all seen him do 100 times before.
Superman was down.
He rolled his ankle. It looked like his knee buckled.
Then, when we all breathed a sigh of relief and our hearts started working again when it was announced that he had a groin strain, although, it did not look good as he was carted off the field and Royals manager Ned Yost did not seem optimistic after the game, doing little to stem the worry when he proclaimed that Gordon could potentially be out for months. We were all still bracing ourselves for the worst? Had he potentially played his last game in a Royals uniform?
Then, at a 10:45 presser this morning, Yost stated that Gordon has a Grade 2+ Groin Strain and is expected to miss eight weeks. Brandon Finnegan, who was just demoted the day before, has been recalled in his place on the roster, while Aaron Brooks was sent back to Omaha to clear space for the return of Yordano Ventura (why not just send down Brooks and activate Ventura? Finnegan needs to be in minors starting, yes?).
The defending American League Champions have certainly had their fair share of unfortunate injuries and performance woes this year. Ventura, Danny Duffy, Jason Vargas, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, Alex Rios, Salvador Perez and Omar Infante have all missed time this year due to injury or other reasons, some more than others.
It is certainly true that every team has hurdles to overcome during a season. The 2014 Royals were “magical unicorn” lucky on their way to the playoffs as they never endured even an average amount of injury. Well, this season it would appear, is back to even the score.
The one thing to take away from all of this?
Even with the slew of injuries, including KEY players, a number of suspensions and a couple of underperforming players the Royals have maintained their standing as the best team in the American League.
What if you had been told before this season that come mid-July, the Royals rotation would only have 2 starting pitchers who even QUALIFY for the pitching title? What if you were then told that one of those pitchers, Jeremy Guthrie, was rated as one of the worst pitchers statistically in all of baseball with a 5.36 ERA and a negative WAR according to Fangraphs? How about that THIRD on the Royals in total innings pitched would be none other than late pickup Chris Young? And that Joe Blanton will have started several games?
How about if you had been told the other qualifying pitcher wasnt one of the Royals young guns but none other than Edinson Volquez, who’s signing was panned by many before the season (his eight wins rank ninth in the AL, his 36 walks are the eighth fewest among qualified starters, his win percentage (.667) ranks seventh and he has tossed one complete game, tied for sixth).
And that’s just a few of the woes with the starting rotation…it speaks nothing to what has happened to the position players. Omar Infante and Alex Rios have been huge disappointments for the Royals this year, and are downgrades over the production received from those positions last season. Injuries and players to the family emergency list have made their rounds like plague to almost every other position.
The moral of the story? The Royals seem to find a way.
This may be the most significant hurdle presented to the Royals this season, but it certainly isn’t the only one they have had to contend with. It’s not time to worry about the falling skies, and this club wont.
The club is in a far better shape emotionally than the fans. Gordon didn’t die. He will still be around the team. They can still lean on his leadership and follow by example as he puts his reputation for discipline to the test while rehabbing a groin injury.
Those hit the hardest will be the ones not able to tweet about Alex, or post Alex videos on Vine and pictures on Reddit/r/KCRoyals. There are many kinds of leaders, and there are certainly many leaders on this club, but since 2007 Royals fans have been able to watch No. 4 morph from a disappointment to the pride of the club. He has been the person fans chose to represent the organization.
“Who you guys got?”
We got Alex Gordon.
So the next question is, who will be there to fill the shoes of the team leader in OPS?
Jarrod Dyson is the on staff solution, and is doing a decent job at the plate this season, posting a league average OPS+ on offense, which for him is a career high. Pair that with his outstanding speed and plus defense and he could be a viable option. Fan-favorite Paulo Orlando will be his right-handed platoon partner.
The Royals have many young options at AAA Omaha, but the front office has seemed reluctant to rely on unproven rookies for extended roles in the past. It isn’t that they wouldn’t be good options, its that the front office is probably not going to view them as such, so why bother talking about it. Cheslor Cuthbert has been brought up to replace Moose at 3b, and even that is a bit of a surprise, though it is most likely for an incredibly short period of time. A long term injury presents an entirely different circumstance.
Outside of Dyson, the best solution would be to trade for a rental player. There have been many names brought up, one of which being Ben Zobrist who would be capable of filling many holes in the Royals lineup should the need arise.
But a trade hasn’t been Dayton’s style. At least not a BIG trade. There may be a move for someone to sit in the wings, a Justin Maxwell-type trade, but that will probably be the most of it.
Odds are, Dayton plans to use the players and depth that he had already acquired and expect them to do the job he signed them to do. Although, the Royals don’t have a lot of depth at that position.
The biggest problem with trading for a player is that you have to give something up in return, and it has become obvious just how much the Royals front office covets the prospects they have. They are the future, and though it would seem easy to be nearsighted and give up a few for the now, it doesn’t play well when “then” comes along. Dayton knows he will still be fighting for his job in four years, and giving up players then for a half a season now carries different consequences for him than for us simply wanting another winner NOW.
So don’t be disappointed when the big name doesn’t come along. The Royals are fiercely loyal. They have players who can fill in. Its time for the next man up.
If the front office decides they DO want to make a trade, then do it for someone to replace Alex Rios.
He is statistically the worst outfielder in the American League and has nearly dropped below .500 in OPS. Maybe to replace Gordon, they don’t find a left fielder, but upgrade somewhere else to make up the difference. There isn’t an Alex Gordon out there to trade for, but there are guys, even in the farm system, that are capable of performing better than Alex Rios and making up the difference in WAR lost with an injury to Gordon.
Maybe playing Dyson and filling another blackhole is the answer, and with the year Rios is having, that wouldn’t be hard to do. (Infante is also having a poor season, but with that contract, it would seem a long shot the club would replace him)
This team has faced adversity all season long. They may have lost Gordon, but with Duffy returning and looking good, Ventura ready to come back, Vargas showing signs of being close and Kris Medlen working his way through rehab starts…..well….there might be more reason for optimism than worry. Forget a trade, the Royals might actually get their pitching rotation back.
The Royals are on pace to win over 96 games this season. They are traditionally a second half team. It’s going to be just fine.
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