KANSAS CITY, MO - Alex Gordon has heard the whispers and complaints, that he's suddenly lost his home-run power, and that the Royals didn't shell out a 38 million extension for him to be just an on-base hitter.
Gordon, the Royals' left fielder and leadoff hitter by default, has heard the talk for almost two months during a home-run drought (189 at-bats) that finally ended Thursday night.
But brace yourself for this, Royals fans: Gordon isn't about to change his approach one bit. If the homers come, they come. If they don't, so be it.
Obviously I wish I had more home runs but I'm not going to go up there and try to hit home runs, Gordon told FOXSportsKansasCity.com. Home runs are mistakes, really. It happens when you put on a line-drive swing and you happen to get out in front of it too much. It just hasn't happened much.
Earlier in my career I hit a lot of pop-ups. A lot of easy outs. I could hit more home runs but with it came a lower average and more easy outs. Now I'm hitting more line drives and that's where the doubles come from. I think I have a better approach now.
Home runs just happen. I wish I hit more but I'm not worried about it. Some people are but not me.
And really, why should anyone worry? Gordon is putting together an excellent offensive season. He leads the Royals in hits (124), runs (60), doubles (37), walks (54), and, of course, on-base percentage (.376).
Those are numbers worthy of any elite lead-off man, which has become Gordon's present calling. Suddenly trying to hit more home runs could be hugely detrimental to his game.
I've done it before, tried to hit home runs, he said. Not good. Sometimes home runs happen and sometimes they don't. I'm not going to change anything. I'm the same guy that hit 23 last year but for whatever reason, those numbers are down. It really doesn't bother me.
Hearing that Gordon isn't planning any changes to his swing sits well with hitting coach Kevin Seitzer, who has worked diligently for two years to finally dip into Gordon's long-awaited potential and, in essence, rescue his career.
Someone asked me the other day if I was concerned about the homer thing with Alex, Seitzer said. Concerned, no. Surprised, yes. But I don't want him to change things. His on-base percentage is off the charts. He's taking walks.
You have to look at what benefits us as a team. You can still drive in runs without hitting home runs. Hitting doubles drives in runs. But his main goal right now is to get on base and see pitches. He's doing that.
If he were to change, bad things would happen. I promise you that. When you go up there trying to hit for power, that's when you start getting roll-over swings and pop-ups and easy ground balls. That was the old Alex. That was the Alex who was at a crossroads in his career. Chasing pitches and all that. Look, he's fine. I'm very pleased with him. Let's leave him alone.
If anything, becoming the Royals' leadoff man has been a blessing for Gordon. His focus has become less on driving the ball over the fences and more on becoming a better overall hitter.
I take a lot more pitches and that makes me a better hitter, he said. You take pitches not just for yourself but for the guys behind you. You become less selfish. That's good for any hitter.
Gordon, though, isn't convinced he is the long-term answer for the Royals as their leadoff man.
Whatever fits the team right now, he said. I 'm not the protoypical guy. A guy like Mike Trout is. He's got the speed, he's got power, hits for average, gets on base. I don't have his speed but I do try to get on base, take my walks. That's what you really want. Someone who can get on base for the guys in the middle of the order.
For now, it's fine. In the future, I don't know. It's something I got used to last year and I feel more comfortable about it. The main thing is it's kind of nice to come to the ballpark every day and know exactly where you're going to hit. I know what to expect. That's made it great for me.
Seitzer likes having a guy as versatile as Gordon is in that leadoff spot.
He's a tough guy to face if you're the opposing pitcher, Seitzer said. That pitcher has to face basically a three-hole hitter right out of the gate. Then when the lineup flips over, it's not like he's a little slap hitter when he comes up with guys on base. It's a good deal for us.
But Seitzer, like Gordon perhaps, isn't so sure Gordon will spend his career in the top spot.
I don't know, Seitzer said. I still feel that long-term he's a middle-of-the-order guy. But he really likes to be that guy that starts it all off. In my opinion, that's been the thing that's taken the tension out of his swing. Being the leadoff guy, he doesn't really grip it and rip it. He just drives through the ball and doesn't try to muscle it that gives you an uppercut.
A lot of good things have happened with Alex in that role. Let's not fix what isn't broken.