Starting with the mere fact he was converted to left field from third base in his 20s, Alex Gordon has spent his outfield career defying the limitations of logic and the laws of physics and probability.
With what football coaches like to call controlled reckless abandon, he’s hurtled walls and contorted and stretched and smashed into fences so many times now that he’s made the unexpected expected.
It’s a grit that makes Gordon in many ways the ultimate Royal, one for the ages and one to emulate as does his young son, Max — known to declare “Here goes Alex Gordon” and run into a wall, fall down and lie there for a few seconds.
Accent on few seconds, which it often takes Gordon to shrug off the trauma to various body parts and gingerly start back at it.
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But something was deflatingly different when Gordon abruptly went down in the fourth inning Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium.
This tumble was in mid-chase, not at the end of it, when he heard something in his left leg pop.
This time when Gordon went down, he flung off his glove and stayed down in obvious agony.
“He’s one of the heart(s) and souls of this team,” manager Ned Yost said. “So when something like that happens, it’s a little disturbing to everybody.”
The injury initially was diagnosed as a left groin strain. The severity of the strain is a more vague matter, and Gordon was to undergo an MRI late Wednesday that would give some hint about the widely varying range of potential repercussions.
“I’m hopeful that it’s not an extremely long-term thing (meaning months),” Yost said. “Could be, though.”
Without knowing the ramifications, of course, it’s unclear what measures the Royals will need to take in the weeks to come.
Depending on the diagnosis, it could range from forcing them to seriously consider a major trade to simply cobbling together available alternatives like Jarrod Dyson and Paulo Orlando during a day-to-day wait.
In the moment, though, anyone watching might have felt like it was the end of an era.
Flat on his stomach, Gordon slowly, repeatedly kicked his right leg up as silence engulfed the stadium and Yost and athletic trainer Nick Kenney almost instantly hurried from the dugout to his side.
“It’s a long way out there,” said Yost, who had no idea what had happened and was asking Kenney along the way what it could be.
Gordon soon was helped on a cart, sitting up with his head bowed and under a towel as he was driven off to a subdued ovation that reflected a crowd in the throes of shock.
It was a scene that again illuminated the popularity and essentiality of Gordon to this team.
Not only is he its longest-tenured player but Gordon also is the one who most embodies all the growing pains and angst that came along the way to this breakthrough.
If Gordon stands for that to fans, be sure that he’s just as much that figure in the clubhouse.
No, he’s not the flashy guy hamming it up for the cameras or trying to fire up the team or, in fact, talking much at all.
He’s just the quiet one with a fiendish work ethic that got him selected to his third straight All-Star Game, the guy that sets an example regardless of when anyone’s paying attention because that’s what character is all about.
The improbable rest of the night, ultimately a 9-7 victory for the Royals after a wacky ninth inning, might have been a form of testimony to that admiration of Gordon.
Surely jolted and dazed by the spectacle of Gordon leaving after a play that resulted in an inside-the-park home run by Tampa Bay’s Logan Forsythe, Jeremy Guthrie allowed the next four batters on with a walk and three hits that gave the Rays a 3-2 lead.
“Really, it took me to get through that inning before I could stop thinking about it and get back on track,” Guthrie said.
More seemed on the way when John Jaso lofted a fly to left, where Dyson had taken over for Gordon.
But with a perfect throw home to put out Brandon Guyer, Dyson revived the Royals, and the crowd of 28,204.
Then the Royals erupted with a five-run fifth inning, highlighted by Kendrys Morales’ two-run double, all prologue for Dyson’s inside-the-park home run in the sixth to complete some odd symmetry to put the game away.
“I think (Dyson’s play) boosted everybody’s spirits,” Yost said. “Not only the players in the dugout but the fans in the stands, too.”
Probably no one was speaking this out loud in the dugout, and maybe no one consciously was thinking of doing this in some way for Gordon.
But on the night Gordon couldn’t pick himself up, the Royals found a way to pick themselves up … in his honor, one way or another.
Now, of course, the harder questions linger: How much longer will they have to account for his absence, and how will they be able to sustain that before he gets back up and in the lineup?