|08-19-2008, 11:29 AM|
Stay positive, don't give up
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Gordon battles expectations
For Gordon, the battle with expectations never ends
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
CLEVELAND | The hot draft pick with the club-record contract who has the Royals and their fans buzzing because of his sweet left-handed power swing and can’t-miss talent? That’s Eric Hosmer.
Three years ago it was Alex Gordon.
“There’s a difference,” Gordon pointed out, “because he’s coming out of high school. The expectations are still there, but he was drafted high for a reason. He’s been doing the right things. As long as he keeps that going, he’ll be OK.”
The Royals plan to fast-track Hosmer, the 18-year-old first baseman who agreed to a $6 million bonus just minutes before last Friday’s deadline. He was generally viewed as the draft’s best projection power hitter.
All of that brings expectations. Nobody knows that better than Gordon, the third baseman who was the second overall pick in 2005 after sweeping all the major awards as the nation’s best college player.
Those expectations only escalated after he was a consensus choice in 2006 as the minor-league player of the year. George Brett further raised the bar by declaring it an “honor” to be compared to Gordon.
So, naturally, Gordon is often viewed now as a disappointment for failing to display All-Star skills with any consistency as he nears the end of his second big-league season. Solid just isn’t good enough.
“I kind of let it get to me last year at the beginning of the season when it didn’t work out,” Gordon acknowledged. “I started getting down on myself. Now, I don’t worry about it any more.
“Individual stats are always going to be there as long as you just worry about winning the game and caring about your teammates. You can’t worry about what fans think about you or what people are saying about your stats. It’s easier on yourself to take it that way.”
Gordon is batting .255 as he enters tonight’s series opener against the Indians. He has 14 homers and 51 RBIs in 120 games, which puts him well on pace to exceed his rookie totals of .247 with 15 and 60.
Spike the hype, and Gordon’s year could be viewed as a modest step forward. It isn’t, of course, because of those expectations.
“We all need to be a little more fair on the evaluation,” manager Trey Hillman said, “from the standpoint of the number of professional at-bats — much less the number of major-league at-bats.
“We’d all like to see more consistent contact ratio. We’d all like to see more consistency in pitch recognition, but at times that’s been really good. I think he puts a lot more pressure on himself than he would lead you to believe.”
Gordon certainly isn’t satisfied.
“This year has been all right,” he said. “I think I started off well, and I was happy with that. I’ve gone through a couple of rough stretches, but I think I’m getting better late in the season. Hopefully, I can finish up strong.”
There are some encouraging signs. Gordon has 61 walks this season after getting just 41 last season in 151 games.
“If I was (with) the Royals,” one scout from an opposing team said, “I’d be excited about that. He’s going to be a power guy, and getting a better feel for the strike zone is usually the last step before everything comes together.”
Gordon’s biggest problem is his .203 average against left-handers. Too often, he looks helpless on breaking balls from lefties that sweep across the outside portion of the plate.
“You look at what he’s done against right-handed pitching,” hitting coach Mike Barnett said, “he’s held his own. I think the consistent power and the ability to handle left-handers will come. The biggest thing is the experience factor.
“A guy coming out of Double-A to the big leagues hasn’t seen very many good left-handed pitchers. You might run into a starter here or there, a starter on the fast track, but for the most part, the lefties you’re going to see are soft-tossers — guys who aren’t overpowering.
“If they’re good, and they’re overpowering, left-handers are usually in the big leagues. So you get to this level, you’re behind the learning curve because you haven’t seen (high-) quality left-handers.”
Again, the trend is positive, albeit modestly so: Gordon is batting .235 against lefties since the All-Star break.
“I just need to trust myself more,” he said. “When a lefty comes in, know that I can hit those pitches. I’ll just keep working on it.”
Gordon should get a chance to do that against the Indians, who are starting lefties Zach Jackson and Cliff Lee on Wednesday and Thursday.
Maybe that’s a good thing.
It was here, in Cleveland, that Gordon shook free of a miserable rookie slump.
He was batting .173 through 53 games before rousing himself with a five-for-nine performance at Progressive Field.
“Once I got off to that bad start,” he said, “I started thinking every at-bat was going to be a strikeout. I’d never been through anything like that.”
That one series changed everything.
“When I’ve gone through those rough stretches this year,” he said, “I’m able to tell myself that it’s OK because it’s a long season. I know I’m going to play every day, so I’m going to get my opportunities to get out of it.
“It’s all about consistency, and I haven’t put that together yet all year.”
The expectations are still there, pressing in relentlessly. That never changes. Gordon knows that; Hosmer will learn it.
“I had a good idea about what to expect before I was a major-league player,” Gordon said, “but you do have to experience it to really learn it. This game will knock you down, but you’ve got guys here who can help you through it.
“Hopefully, I’ll be one of those guys in the future who can help younger guys.”
Royals at Indians
•WHEN: 6:05 tonight
•TV/RADIO: FSNKC; KCSP (610 AM)
|08-19-2008, 01:04 PM||#3|
Winners Pick Up Wrappers.
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against Right handed pitchers he has been very serviceable... vs. Lefties... ugh!
|08-19-2008, 01:28 PM||#4|
Join Date: Feb 2001
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I'm glad that we got the rookie signed. I was in Chicago and they mentioned a few teams that had not signed their rookies, the Royals being one of them. I hope this kid delivers.
A 35 year drought can make you thirsty.