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Ideally, none of the pitchers on the Royals would possess arms that would require an investment of one million dollars.
The Royals owner, David Glass, was Sam Walton's right-hand man throughout Wal-Mart's rise to retail divinity -- so we know he loves low prices. To be fair, all team owners do, but Mr. Glass' name has become synonymous with thrift for a myriad of reasons. If any team in baseball could find a way to abstain from employing a pitcher for more than $999,999 a year, it'd probably be the Royals.
However, a "million dollar arm" is actually a bargain at the major league level. The closest thing to a unembellished interpretation of that designation on this year's team would be Aaron Crow and his $1,475,000 salary -- although that's a too literal for the stated exercise of finding the Royals' million dollar arm.
The movie is based on the stories of current and former Pirates' minor leaguers Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel, the first Indian nationals ever to play professional baseball. So, to come up with a Royals equivalent for the amateur signings of Singh and Patel, we could easily go back and retroactively justify a $1 million signing bonus for ALDS Game Two winner Yordano Ventura. He was originally signed out of the Dominican Republic for $28,000 in 2008 and has made less than $1 million in his professional career to-date.
But Yordano is a little too on-the-nose for these purposes ... and calling his a "million dollar arm" borders on insult considering the fact that FanGraphs evaluated his performance this season as being worth $15.4 million.
You could, of course, point to James Shields as an obvious candidate as well, but since he earned his first million dollars this season before the end of May, adorning him with the designation seems a little fatuous.
There are plenty of candidates in the Royals' pitching staff that have earned this noble and completely relevant honor, but it might be more illuminating to recognize the right arm of outfielder Alex Gordon given this practical opportunity.
Despite his admirable-but-just-short-of-elite offensive numbers, Gordon garnered some admittedly misplaced MVP buzz during the regular season -- in no small part due to his consistent and god-like ability to intimidate base runners with his throwing arm.
He averaged 18 outfield assists from 2011 to 2013 -- by far the most of any player during that stretch. This year, only eight. That might seem like a down year on the surface, but if you watched him play this season -- or if you listened to Royals announcers for more than 10 minutes in a row at any given point -- you know very well that Gordon prevented base runners from advancing on countless occasions.
It's difficult to quantify how many runs he actually saved with this intimidation, but when runners foolishly or ignorantly decided to challenge him, they were quickly ushered back to the dugout thanks to a perfect throw from Gordon. In June, FanGraphs' content-savant Jeff Sullivan delineated the value of those plays that never happened, thanks to Gordon's reputation for having a million dollar arm -- if you will. (If you won't, I don't blame you.) Despite logging just eight outfield assists, Gordon held runners more frequently than any other outfielder in baseball this season -- basically just by staring them down.
Like Ventura and Shields, Gordon's arm is probably worth much more than $1 million, but when given the opportunity to highlight one arm from this organization, Gordon's seems to be the most deserving. No other arm in baseball commands the same kind of respect.
Now maybe in the future, a million dollars will be a fair representation for the value of a player's arm for one game -- for example, if team owners are able to improve their profit margins to pay players in huge lump sums based on performance by nestling more advertising into the actual product, perhaps so much so that the ads almost become the focus of the game itself -- but since the designation of million dollar arm is rather nebulous and almost nonsensical sans sarcasm, we'll give it to the player that using his arm better than anyone else in the league at his position.
After watching this movie, many people will be rooting for Rinku Singh to recover form Tommy John surgery and reach he majors soon, but in the meantime, we'll have to settle for the John Hamm-less odyssey of Alex Gordon.