Judging the Royals

Son of Rally Mantis, Alex Gordon and baseball superstition

Kansas City Royals left fielder Alex Gordon was congratulated by teammate Salvador Perez after hitting a grand slam on Thursday.
Kansas City Royals left fielder Alex Gordon was congratulated by teammate Salvador Perez after hitting a grand slam on Thursday. The Associated Press

On Thursday afternoon, I walked into the Royals clubhouse and saw a cluster of reporters and photographers gathered in a circle at the far end of the room. That usually signals some momentous news event; a new player arriving, an old player leaving or Donald Trump explaining how we’re going to make Mexico pay for our construction projects — personally speaking, I think Mexico ought to repave my driveway.

Turns out the media was gathered around SORM: Son of Rally Mantis. (I just made that name up and if anyone else uses it, I expect royalties.)

Just in case you haven’t heard, a praying mantis showed up in the Royals dugout a while back and the Royals went on a winning streak. The Royals players adopted the critter and took him or her with them on their most recent road trip.

Long story short: the Rally Mantis didn’t survive the journey. There was some speculation about the cause of RM’s demise — airline cabin pressure was mentioned — but I think it was suicide; the little dude couldn’t face the prospect of visiting Detroit in August.

Now if you’re from Detroit and that last joke put you in a state of high dudgeon (is it possible to be in low dudgeon?), rest assured that if I were living in Detroit and a Rally Mantis died on a visit to Kansas City, I’d make the same joke about my adopted hometown.

As they said in the Godfather; nothing personal, it’s just business.

So where was I?

Oh, yeah … the media covering an insect. (Insert politician joke here.)

OK, Rally Mantis the First kicked the bucket and got flushed down the toilet. I’m sure the players held a nice memorial service and spoke a few kind words before consigning his mortal remains to America’s sewer system. When my time comes, if they do the same for me, I’d be honored.

Bereft of their good-luck mascot, the Royals lost to the Twins the next day. But not long after that a new praying mantis showed up in the visitor’s dugout while the Royals were in Detroit; and if that doesn’t make you believe in reincarnation, I don’t know what will. The Royals have not lost a game since Son of Rally Mantis made his appearance.

Up until now I haven’t mentioned the Rally Mantis because I thought it was kind of goofy.

On Thursday afternoon, Rusty Kuntz was in the clubhouse and we were laughing about the crowd gathered around Rally Mantis the Second, but then Rusty said the team better take care of the insect: “That little (expletive deleted) is eight and one.”

Baseball and superstition

Baseball players are incredibly superstitious because when a player is going good, he doesn’t really know why. He might have some theories — like seeing the ball better — but success is so elusive that when a player is on a hot streak he does everything the same way. Drive to the park the same way, eat the same food, dress the same way, use the same rituals. You don’t know for sure what turned things around, so keep doing the all the same things just to be on the safe side.

And now we finally get to Alex Gordon.

After signing a bazillion-dollar contract extension, Gordon has had a rough year. He broke a bone in his wrist and even before that injury, he was hitting .211. Recently Gordon came to the realization that no matter what he did for the rest of the season, his 2015 numbers were going to look lousy and maybe that realization relaxed him.

Stat-wise he’s doomed no matter what he does, so Gordon might as well just go out and have as much fun as he can for the rest of the season. I’m not sure if that explains it, but Gordon has hit .341 and slugged .610 over the last 14 days and hit .429 and slugged .905 over the last week.

Gordon hit a grand slam Thursday night and after the game said he’d made some adjustments with the help of hitting coach Dale Sveum, but didn’t want to go into detail about what those adjustments were. Talking about your hitting mechanics can lead to thinking about your hitting mechanics and that can end a hot streak.

But Gordon did admit he might have been pressing to do too much most of the season and now he’s relaxing and taking it one game at a time.

So bottom line; nobody is exactly sure why Alex Gordon is in a hot streak and that probably includes Alex Gordon. So he shouldn’t change a thing and that includes keeping Son of Rally Mantis around the clubhouse.

Now the Royals just need to keep that little sucker alive, but I like their odds; this Rally Mantis should be tougher than the last one.

The Son of Rally Mantis is from Detroit.