As a young Royals fan, Alex Gordon’s debut in 2007 was quite literally the first sign of hope for Kansas City baseball as I knew it.
I vaguely remember the 2003 We Believe season, but it was nothing compared to the excitement I felt that April day as I got of the bus and ran inside to see the next George Brett.
After the dust had settled from the 2015 World Series championship, I remembered thinking how fitting it was that Alex would be the guy to hit that game one, game-tying home run almost a decade after making his debut in that same stadium.
Gordon is one of the greatest Royals of all-time and should someday have a statue.
But with Melky Cabrera now in the fold as a regular outfield and the Royals fighting for an American League Central title, it is becoming increasingly hard to justify his playing time.
Most of Royals twitter thought this, as well.
When the news crept in on Sunday morning that the Royals had traded for Melky, the prevailing thought was that Gordon and Brandon Moss would lose the most playing time. The assumption also being that Gordon would lose more time than Moss, with Brandon having been pretty darn good since July.
However, those rumors were quickly rendered (mostly) false.
Ned Yost said Melky Cabrera will play every day in right field to start. Bonifacio will mix in at DH. Gordon could get some days off.— Rustin Dodd (@rustindodd) July 30, 2017
I say mostly because Mr. Dodd did mention Gordon getting days off as a result of the Cabrera addition.
Despite that, it quickly became clear that Gordon would remain the starting left fielder and that Jorge Bonifacio stood to lose the most at-bats out of the two.
Coming into the season, I wouldn’t have imagined that being a problem. Then Bonifacio more or less came out of nowhere and has put together a nice rookie campaign, with a .772 OPS and 14 home runs entering tonight’s contest.
Now, I don’t want to paint Bonifacio as a messianic figure for the Royals seemingly eternal problem of finding a right fielder.
Our own Shaun Newkirk has been vocal about this, taking to Twitter on Wednesday with some unsettling data on the rookie.
Going to probably dive into this deeper, but Jorge Bonifacio's exit velocity has been dropping. Getting more fastballs and power going down pic.twitter.com/Uigwtya2Sh— Shaun Newkirk (@Shauncore) August 2, 2017
Even with Bonifacio’s coming out party not being quite like, say, a Whit Merrifield’s, he has still been a better player than Gordon this season.
And it’s not all that close.
Despite having 40 fewer plate appearances, striking out 26% of the time and giving the Royals absolutely nothing in the field and on the bases, Bonifacio still has a 1.5 fWAR, compared to Gordon’s 0.5 mark.
In the grand scheme of things, that’s not a whole lot. Despite being a full win better than Gordon, Fangraphs WAR scale still has Bonifacio being just a role player type.
But in a race as tight as the AL Central and with the assumption that the Indians have indeed woken up from their World Series slumber, Ned Yost and company should probably be taking any advantage they can get.
And at this point, that advantage might just be benching Alex. It is hard to say whether or not that will happen, however.
Yost has never been one to forsake his veterans, even in their deepest struggles. There is a reason why the Royals didn’t even peak the shortstop market at the deadline.
But if Moss continues to hit and occupy that DH spot, it’s going to be harder and harder to justify giving Bonifacio’s at-bats to Gordon.
Last night, Gordon was 0-2 with a sac bunt. And while that sac bunt eventually led to the go-ahead run, it is telling of where Gordon is as a hitter that he was bunting at all.
His OPS dropped back below .600 during the Orioles series and while that has happened, Bonifacio has gotten just five plate appearances since Melky has been on the roster.
Adjusted metrics don’t like Bonifacio as much, but you are still looking at close to a 200 point difference in OPS’ between him and Gordon.
This is the most depressing thing that I have ever written, but it’s time to take Gordon out of the lineup. At least as long as Bonifacio is hitting.
I am all for nostalgia and I am still 100% behind the Gordon contract. I will die on that hill.
But the Royals have one last shot at a title with this group. They have to put their best foot forward.