Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Royals 2010 Wild Cards- No. 2 Alex Gordon

Seems like he's on this list every year. We all know the story, it has become a common trend with Royals 1st round draft picks. The potential is there, yet Gordon and Luke Hochevar have struggled putting it all together for a full season, but there have been signs of their full potential. Whether it is an 80 pitch complete game from Hochevar or a 450 ft homer from Gordon into the second tier of the fountains, we have all seen it.

Now Gordon's future is definitely in doubt. His health has become more of a concern than his consistency. Hip surgery last year, a bad bounce broke his nose in 2008, broken thumb this Spring, a handful of trips to the 15 day DL, just a sample of what he has gone through.

He was proclaimed as the greatest baseball prospect ever by many, Minor League Player of the year in his first year in AA. He had all the potential in the world. His first at bat in the Major Leagues has become a microcosm of his career. Bases loaded, Opening Day, facing a legend in Curt Schilling, a team that had a bright future....he struck out. The hope is fading on Gordon, he's going from a guy who was unfairly labeled as the next George Brett to the next Craig Paquette, another unfair comparison. He is 26, going in to what is supposed to be the prime of a player's career and has barely scratched the surface.

The thing that worries me about Gordon's current injury, a broken thumb, is that it will turn into a nagging injury that once again prohibits him from reaching his potential with the Royals. I still have high hopes for him, he's shown us what he can do. He's got one of the purest swings I've ever seen and he is a tremendous athlete.

The hope remains for me that he will be able to overcome this inconvenient injury and become a staple in this lineup, something that this team has lacked for a long time. 2 years ago, it was the thought of Billy Butler and Alex Gordon smacked in the middle of the lineup, terrorizing Major League Baseball. Butler would hit doubles, walk and then Gordon would smash homeruns, Royals would dominate the AL Central and so on.

That hasn't happened.

Obviously, Gordon is the easiest choice for a Royals Wild Card. My hope is that he can stay healthy throughout the season and be a lock for 150 games. If that can happen, I have no doubts he can finally start reaching his potential.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Outside of the Batters Box: Missouri Mavericks Review

Those of you who know me, whether through this blog or in person, know I am a huge hockey fan. You know that I think Kansas City is a prime candidate for an NHL team. The NHL hasn't been around in these parts on a regular basis for nearly 35 years. The Blades were great in the 90s, The Scouts were a joke in the 70s and the Outlaws...well, the Outlaws never really stood a chance. This year, KC received a big time jolt of professional hockey when the Central Hockey League expanded to the Eastern-most part of the metro and placed the Missouri Mavericks at the brand new, 5,500 seat, state of the art Independence Events Center.

I'll be honest, I wasn't expecting much when the team was announced. I had been to a couple of CHL games back when the Topeka Scarecrows were the nearest pro team around back in the early part of the millenium. I wasn't impressed. It was slow, poorly officiated, too violent and lacked a serious amount of skill. But the league has grown by leaps and bounds in the past decade.

When I went to my first Mavs game, I was expecting a decent night at a hockey game. Maybe there would be a couple of fights, a nice looking goal or two and the fans would be loud. I was blown away. It was obvious that this league had changed. There are players in the CHL who have been drafted by NHL teams or even played in the NHL. Many of them are on their last stop in their careers, but still possess a decent amount of skill. There are fights. There are bad penalties, but for the most part, the players keep it clean and respect the game.

The Independence Events Center looks pretty big from I-70 for a 5,500 seater. But once you get in the building, the atmosphere is incredibly intimate and there really isn't a bad seat in the barn. My seats were in the corner, about 20 rows up and the sightlines were incredible. If you've never seen hockey up close, you've gotta go to a Mavericks game. Tickets are cheap too. $15 bucks to sit 10 rows up isn't bad at all considering you would pay around $150 for those same seats at an NHL game. The crowd was great the whole game. The fans at the IEC reminded me of how intense the fans were at Kemper Arena when the Blades were dominating the IHL. We've got smart hockey fans here. They stand up when there's an odd man rush. They clap and yell when the Mavs clear the zone on a penalty kill. They cheer loudly when the goalie makes a great save. The arena will never get louder during a fight than it does when the home team scores. Fans wear hockey sweaters from every team in the NHL, past and present. There is a spattering of Blades and Scouts jerseys, as well. Its an awesome atmosphere.

As I am writing this, the Mavs have won in a shootout against the Odessa Jackalopes (there are some great mascots in this league) and have gone four points up on the Tulsa Oilers for the final playoff spot with three games to go. All they have to do now is win one game on the road to secure a playoff spot and if the Mavericks can do that, this city will fall in love with hockey once again, even more than it already has. Because lets face it, we could all use a winner around here.