Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Sports Illustrated on the Royals

Our Joe Posnanski may be the finest sports columnist in the land, but the best baseball writer is Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci, whose recent article about why the Yankees are unlikely to win this year's World Series is a more-than-worthwhile read. He doesn't share our optimism about the Royals, however, as he lists them as one of six teams that have no chance of making the playoffs. Then again, seems like not many out there much like our boys' chances this year.

SI, for the second straight year, have the Royals ranked as the 29th best team in its season preview. But as Chris Ballard notes, this time of the year, even in Kansas City there is a sense of promise. Under Moore, the franchise has added two teams to the farm system and 13 new employees in baseball administration, and it has shown it's willing to be a player in free agency. He believes the team can eventually draw two million fans and support a payroll of perhaps $80 million.

Yup, that sounds like The Man and namesake of this blog.

In the same issue -- by the way, ever notice how the spring training and baseball preview issues are consistently among the best from SI every year? -- there's an outstanding feature on Alex Gordon that pretty much nails all the points I listed a few days back. Here are the first two paragraphs:

To understand the significance of the moment, two years ago, when Alex Gordon first met George Brett, consider where Gordon had come from. He grew up in Lincoln, Neb., and often made the three-hour trip to Kansas City for Royals games. He spent nights taking batting practice in the family basement, smacking balls into a rug hung from the ceiling, not far from posters of Brett. Through high school and college, Gordon played third base (just like Brett), batted lefthanded (just like Brett) and accumulated hits at a prodigious pace (just like Brett). Gordon was the second overall pick of the 2005 draft, taken by the Royals, the same team that had drafted Brett in 1971. Gordon even has a brother named Brett, and it is not a coincidence.

So one can imagine Gordon's reaction when he walked into a conference room at Kaufmann Stadium in the summer of 2005 and there, awaiting his arrival, was Brett himself. At the time, Gordon and Royals management were negotiating his signing bonus -- it would end up at $4 million, the highest ever for a Kansas City draftee -- and they were haggling over the final $200,000. Brett, a team vice president, made an offer to Gordon and his agent. "I said, 'Here's what I'll do,'" recalls Brett. "I'll write you a check for the difference, out of my own pocket. But instead of up front, I'll give you 10 grand for 20 years. I'll do that for you, just because I want to watch you play. I've heard so much s--- about you, I'll do it.' And I would have."

Just another mortal? I think not.

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