While Opening Day has come and gone, the Kansas City Royals are in an unfamiliar spot. For the first time since 2007, the Royals did not have Alex Gordon on the roster or in the Opening Day lineup.
Gordon retired following the 2020 season. He spent all of his 14 MLB seasons in Kansas City with the Royals and became one of the franchise’s all-time greats.
Gordon played his collegiate baseball career at the University of Nebraska. The Lincoln, Neb., native was one of the greatest ever to play for the Cornhuskers.
Over three collegiate seasons, Gordon was a career .353 hitter who still ranks in the top-10 in nine offensive categories: total bases (447, third); homers (44, fourth); runs batted in (189, fourth); doubles (53, fourth); hit by pitches (37, sixth); walks (139, seventh); slugging percentage (.657, seventh); runs (188, eighth); and triples (11, 10th). In addition, he ranks 14th in hits (240) and 19th in average.
Gordon also holds the record for the most games played in a single season with (72) and the third-most extra-base hits in a single season (45). He finished his Cornhusker career with 171 consecutive starts.
Throughout his time as a Husker, Gordon received multiple awards. He was a two-time First-Team All-American, Baseball America’s National Player of the Year, and Dick Howser Trophy recipient. However, his most notable award came in 2005. He won the USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award for the best collegiate baseball player.
Kansas City drafted Gordon with the second overall pick in the 2005 draft. He immediately proved why he was picked so high, winning the Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year and the Texas League Player of the Year awards in 2006. That year, Gordon hit .325 with 29 home runs, 101 RBI, and 39 doubles at Double-A.
On Opening Day in 2007, Gordon made his Major League debut at third base against the Boston Red Sox. He recorded his first RBI in a Royals 7-1 victory. In the team’s third game of the season, he tallied his first hit.
However, Gordon’s start at the MLB level did not go to plan. He struggled at the plate, hitting only a combined .244 in his first four seasons. He also played below-average defense. With his struggles, he moved between the majors and minors until all of his options were used. However, a colossal move was made that changed his entire career: shifting to left field.
Gordon was moved to the outfield and became the Royals’ starting left fielder in 2011. What happened next? He had a career season, hitting .303 with 23 home runs, 87 RBI, and 45 doubles. On defense, he won the first of his eight Gold Gloves as he recorded 20 outfield assists. The 2011 season started Gordon’s evolution towards becoming one of the greatest defensive left fielders in MLB history.
He continued to dominate in 2012 as he hit .294, setting new career-highs in hits (189) and doubles (51), the latter of which led all of baseballl. He won his second consecutive Gold Glove with 17 outfield assists.
The high point in Gordon’s career came between 2011 and 2014. In that span, he hit .283/.356/.453 with 76 home runs, 314 RBI, 157 doubles, and 692 total hits. He accumulated a total WAR of 23.8, which ranked sixth in the league during that time. On defense, Gordon won four consecutive Gold Gloves and one Platinum Glove, totaling 62 total outfield assists and an overall fielding percentage of .994. For his great play, he was named an All-Star twice.
In 2015, Gordon hit trouble as a groin injury held him to only 104 games. Despite the injury, the star appeared in his third straight All-Star game. He went on to hit .271 with 18 doubles. Gordon was a key piece to the World Series Championship team. His game-tying home run in the ninth inning of Game 1 off of Jeurys Familia led to a win in extra innings.
After the season, Gordon signed a four-year, $72 million contract, which was the largest in franchise history at the time. However, in 2016, he fractured a bone near his wrist, which affected his hitting throughout the rest of his career. His best hitting season after the injury came in 2019 when he posted a .266 average. Still, Gordon’s defense continued to shine, and his value came with his glove.
He finished his career with four straight Gold Gloves. Gordon continued to shine with his arm and willingness to put his body on the line to make incredible plays. Additionally, he finished his career tied with Frank White for the most Gold Gloves in franchise history. Gordon also has two Platinum Gloves to go along with his three All-Star Game selections and one World Series Championship.
With his cleats hung up for good, Gordon finished with a total fielding percentage of .994. He accumulated 14 double plays and 102 outfield assists. The latter led all outfielders in the span of 2011-2020. At the plate, he had 1,643 total hits, 190 home runs, 749 RBI, and 357 doubles.
Gordon Ranks in the top-10 for most offensive categories in Royals history: hit by pitches (121, first); walks (684, third); home runs (190, fourth); doubles (357, fifth); total bases (2,622, fifth); extra-base hits (573, fifth); WAR (34.5, fifth); hits (1,643, sixth); runs batted in (749, sixth); runs scored (867, sixth); games played (1,753, sixth); singles (1,070, sixth); at bats (6,391, sixth); plate appearances (7,250, sixth); sacrifice flies (43, seventh); and intentional walks (48, seventh).
One day, there will be a statue of Alex Gordon in the outfield concourse. It will showcase him sprawling out for an incredible catch or the pose he had after stepping on first base in Game 1 of the World Series after his home run. That homer was one of the monumental moments in franchise history and one of the greatest plays in his career. Gordon rounded first holding up a “one.” Fittingly, he was the hero, tying the game in the ninth against one of the best closers in the league.
Part of his legacy was his commitment and dedication to the Royals. In each of his 14 seasons, Gordon wore either No. 7 and No. 4 in Royal Blue. In today’s athletic arena, it is rare to see a player stay with one team throughout their career, and Gordon was in Kansas City his entire career. When you think of longevity and the Kansas City Royals, your mind goes to two players: Gordon and George Brett.
When he was drafted, Gordon was viewed as the third basemen of the future and the next George Brett. Instead of laying down and giving up after his struggles and injuries at the beginning of his career, he reinvented himself in the outfield. Not only was Mike Moustakas quickly rising through the minor leagues, but Gordon needed a change from his struggles at third. General manager Dayton Moore sent him to Triple-A to work with coach Rusty Kuntz to become an outfielder.
Gordon was driven to be elite. It has been known that he had a work ethic like no other. He was always working on his swing and his game while maintaining peak physical form. Everything Gordon did throughout his career was to make himself better and keep him healthy. Through his work ethic, he made his teammates better. They wanted to do what Gordon was doing every night on the diamond. His leadership is also what built his legacy.
Throughout the past few seasons, Gordon has been the veteran leader. Players like Whit Merrifield, Hunter Dozier, and Salvador Perez think highly of Gordo as a leader. Whether through leading by example on the field, his play and work ethic, or constantly working to help make his teammates better, Gordon was the leader of the clubhouse. Since his retirement, Merrifield has said that he has to step up as a leader, though he mentioned that there is no replacing Gordon.
The star had the ability to make anyone better in any way. His experience with injuries helped Perez battle back from Tommy John surgery. He also helped Hunter Dozier transition to the outfield last year.
The last part of his legacy that truly stands out was that he was a pitcher’s dream on the field. Teammates like Danny Duffy have given high praise to things Gordon would do to save runs and make plays. Having him in left truly made hurlers more confident. One of the best plays ever came from Gordon in Chicago. In a game against the White Sox, he went diving into the stands to make the play. This play is the epitome of Gordon’s willingness to give everything he had to make a play on the baseball.
Gordon will never be forgotten. And one of these days, there will be a statue of the Royals legend. It will represent the All-Star, World Series Champion, and one of the great defenders to ever play in left field.
Thank You, Gordon
Throughout my entire life, I have loved baseball. It is my favorite sport. I remember going to Royals games when I was three years old. I am currently 20 years of age and Gordon has been my favorite athlete since I saw him on April 2, 2007. Taking the field, wearing No. 7, and playing the hot corner. From that day on, I have always viewed him as a role model and someone I look up to. Every kid has that one athlete that they admired throughout their childhood and as they get older. For me, it was Gordon.
I played baseball for 15 years. I started by wearing No. 7 because my favorite player wore it. When Gordon switched his number to 4, I switched my number as well. I wanted to be like Gordon and I would replicate his game in how I played.
When the Royals created GordoNation in the left-field bleachers, I would sit there at every Thursday home game I could go to. I still have the shirts they gave out and wear them constantly. Some of my fondest memories come from those games with my friends and family watching my favorite sports team and favorite player.
Alex Gordon taught me to never give up. Watching him battle through multiple injuries, struggles on the field, and shuffles between the minors and majors showed me that I can’t give up when I am struggling at the plate, in the field, and even outside of baseball. I adopted that never-say-die attitude like Gordon because I wanted to be the best.
The work ethic that I have today comes from seeing what Gordon consistently did every year. In baseball, I was constantly outside throwing and fielding with my dad and brothers. I would go to my high school to hit and work on fielding. I did it because of that desire to be great. Now, I am pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Sports Journalism, and I strive to be the best journalist. It all goes back to the work ethic that started when I was young, watching Gordon.
When Gordon announced his retirement at the end of last season, I was devastated. There was a sense of it happening and I knew it was coming. I knew that he contemplated it at the end of the 2019 season, too.
I remember watching him run off the field one last time to end the season last year. The entire Royals fanbase wishes they could have been there for the standing ovation that he deserved.
I have never wanted to think that there would be an Opening Day where Alex Gordon would not run out of the dugout and onto the field. However, it has happened. His absence will be weird and take some adjusting, but Gordon had a great career.
So thank you, Gordo.
For all of the incredible memories that you gave me and the rest of the Kansas City Royals fans.
All of the clutch moments at the plate, most notably that game-tying home run in the World Series. I remember you holding up the “one” after rounding first base like it was yesterday.
And all of the incredible plays in the field. Frequently, I would say that “you never run on Gordo,” though opposing runners never seemed to learn.
The World Series title was the first championship for any of my teams in my life. It was incredible to watch all of the hard work from the team pay off to reach baseball’s highest point.
Gordo, thank you for everything. You are a Royals legend and baseball legend; a true symbol for the “Always Royal” slogan. The lessons that you have taught countless fans won’t be forgotten or lost. I miss your presence in left field, but I am tremendously lucky and fortunate to have been able to watch you throughout your entire career.
Follow Ryan Blank on Twitter @rmblank4
Main Image Credit: