The expectations for the second overall pick in the 2005 draft were there, even when it was only rumored that the Royals might take him. After he negotiated a $4 million signing bonus, the richest payout to a draftee for the franchise at that time, those expectations were solidified by the financial investment and the hype that accompanies being a first-round pick. So when he reached the majors in 2007, fans were expecting to see 23-year-old Brett reborn. Instead, Gordon bounced around the infield and finished with an average of .247. When his struggles continued at the plate and Gordon was moved to the outfield to make room for a slugging third base prospect named Mike Moustakas, the story was no longer about whether he would become Brett; it was about whether he was a bust. But lost in that new narrative (and the Royals' tailspin bookending the All-Star break this year) is the fact that over the last two months, Alex Gordon has been leaving bat prints on baseballs in stadiums across the country like George Brett was doing 30 years ago.
Gordon was hitting .239 on June 4. The next day he had a hit and a walk in four at-bats against Minnesota. He had the same line in his next two games, part of an eight-game hit streak. His batting average climbed 38 points in June, and it's up another 16 points in July. Through the first 11 games of the second half, Gordon is hitting .420.
Gordon is now batting .293 on the season and could easily top his career high of .303 set last year. He has at least two hits in six of his last nine games. These numbers are all just different ways of saying he is hotter than the molten core of a jalapeno popper. Whether it's that #4 realized he didn't have to be #5 or the fact that Ned Yost has let him stay in the lead-off spot, Gordon is hitting like the man they couldn't stop comparing him with as a boy.
At 10.5 games back and with the All-Star Game merely a logo on signs that store owners have yet to take down, it's easy to lose touch with a Royals team that has wilted like a backyard garden under the heat of expectation and a wave of injuries. But if you turn on the television this afternoon to watch the boys in blue take on the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, you can forget that heartache for a moment. Because right now, there's a left-handed bat in the Royals lineup who looks like he could chase .400. And this time, the name on the back of the jersey says Gordon.