The Royals’ best player and example of what they’re trying to do was once their worst player and example of why they never won. This is easy to forget sometimes, now that Alex Gordon is a star. The story of where the Royals have been and where they might go is also Gordon’s story.
This is worth remembering especially now, as so much of the Royals’ hopes depend on Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer making the same journey.

Gordon’s story includes the Royals once being a day away from sending him to Omaha. It includes entire batting practice sessions without a single ball hit over the wall. It includes misguided accusations of him not caring enough, which made everything only worse, a man trying too hard anyway and then gripping the bat even harder. It includes him switching positions because nobody had any other ideas.

Look at Gordon now. He might be the best corner outfielder in the American League. He signed long term for maybe 60 percent of what he could have had on the open market. He is a homegrown star in an organization that can’t win without them. He is the biggest success story for a franchise desperate for more.

“It’s the best thing I’ve ever experienced in sports,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore says. “Watching him transition to the major leagues and what he went through … he maintained his steadiness, his work ethic, his positive approach and belief.”

Gordon came to the Royals a 21-year-old college kid. He is now a husband and a father, not yet 30 but older than most of his teammates. He has grown up here, from a shy kid into one of the sport’s best all-round players. His path might also serve as a guide to the Royals’ present and future.

Alex Gordon is blessed with the talent of a star and work ethic of a grunt. The Royals selected him second overall in the 2005 draft, and the George Brett comparisons were just too obvious. They both played third base, Gordon’s brother is named after Brett, and the Hall of Famer himself once said he was “honored” by the link.

The story was irresistible. Gordon received a standing ovation before his first at bat. That’s about when the trouble started. He was hitting .172 in June of his rookie year, the team all but deciding to send him to the minors before a four-hit game in Cleveland. After that, injuries and pressure and not enough protection on bad teams.

In 2010, The Next George Brett looked more like The Next Clint Hurdle. The Royals were desperate. They told Gordon to switch from third base to left field. He took it without ego, told the world he planned “to dominate,” and the world responded with mostly laughter.