We may never know to what degree, if any, Alex Gordon absorbed a so-called “hometown discount” along the way to his once-improbable re-enlistment with the Royals in the deal that was offered on New Years’s Eve to become the exhilarating final exclamation point on their 2015 penchant for the comeback.
“Do my instincts tell me that Alex took less money to come here? Yeah, that’s what my instincts tell me,” general manager Dayton Moore said Wednesday. “But I don’t know that for a fact, and that’s between Alex and his family.”
And we almost certainly will never know how close Gordon came to signing elsewhere before the Royals were able to keep the thrills coming for fans with a four-year, franchise-record $72 million deal that more or less will make him an eternal Royal.
There was no point in talking about that, Gordon said, appreciative as he was of the interest.
“At the end of the day, my heart has been and … always will be in Kansas City,” said Gordon, adding that his “desire was probably a 10 to come back here.”
Consider it mutual.
“I didn’t know what other uniform he could possibly wear,” Moore said. “It just wouldn’t have felt right; it wouldn’t seem right. I just go back to certain players … they just belong with an organization, and Alex Gordon belongs here in Kansas City.”
A lot of things could have happened differently and made it otherwise, of course, because sentimentality aside, this first and foremost had to be a business decision for both sides.
There would have been no villain in this if it hadn’t fallen into place.
Gordon wouldn’t have been greedy, just prudent, if he’d gotten a deal elsewhere that was an offer he couldn’t refuse.
If the Royals couldn’t pony up enough, it would have been because of the financial integrity of the broader operation and the fiscal future as a small-market team — especially with so many bargain contracts about to come due in the next few years.
All that said, though, there is some sheer beauty in the re-signing of Gordon, a symbol and pillar of the team’s growing pains and revival and ultimate triumph who surely will be in its Hall of Fame one day.
It’s a reassuring moment from a bygone era, when star players might be expected to play their entire careers in one place and further perpetuate the ties between a team and its community.
And whatever else might have derailed this, it still happened because of the mutual respect — even admiration — that characterized how both sides treat each other.
That’s why as they sat alongside each other Wednesday, Gordon referred to Moore as a “good friend” — an unusual distinction in this business, one Gordon offered because of his trust in Moore’s honesty.
Afterward, Moore reiterated a key point he made months ago, one that reflects the fundamental decency that makes him an admirable person … and great at his job.
“I would never take advantage of a relationship,” Moore said “I told him from the beginning, ‘Do what’s in the very best interest of you and (wife) Jamie and the kids, and we’ll be OK.’ ”
That sincerity defined this all along.
Even though it was understood that Gordon likely would reject the Royals’ one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer after the season, manager Ned Yost said then that it “still kind of took my breath away” when it actually happened.
But if the Royals were going to play it shrewd about Gordon’s value, Yost didn’t feel the need to mince words that day, either.
“If you could make a mold for a baseball player,” he said, “Alex Gordon would be it. I mean, the perfect player.”
Moore, too, gushed that day about Gordon, the man and the player.
It all had the air of a farewell, really, but even as Gordon tested a market that wasn’t what he might have expected, the Royals weren’t surrendering.
Discouraged at times, yes, as Moore acknowledged.
But he never lost hope, he said, even when there was a report later debunked by Gordon that the Royals had “no chance” of signing him.
At least once in all this, just to stay connected, Moore followed his instinct and called Gordon directly instead of communicating through agent Casey Close.
Perhaps this wasn’t the preferred protocol in the Gordon camp, but Gordon seemed to appreciate any contact with Moore since he thanked him for his support and communication along the way.
So it was that they found a way to compromise, a notion that seems quaint in an era when everything is perceived as a zero-sum game — with one winner and one loser and no gray area in between.
Instead, this happened:
Each side entered into it with abiding goodwill and patience.
Interruptions notwithstanding, they kept seeking common ground.
And they eventually found it, regardless of what each might have yielded along the way.
“We all wanted to make it fair, I guess, for both sides, I would say,” Gordon said. “Standing up here today, I feel like we both did that. I don’t think it’s heavily on one side, and I hope (Moore) feels the same way.”
It was all business, of course, that made Gordon the richest of Royals and, Moore believes, a vital part of efforts to sustain momentum off the 2015 World Series title.
Just the same, it was something more than just that business that made local institutions and Royals fans bonkers on Wednesday and compelled someone to buy Gordon’s family lunch at a Barley’s Brewhaus and made Gordon smile Wednesday when he went into a clubhouse he didn’t know if he’d ever enter again as a Royal.
It was something more than that, too, that made Moore finish a news conference saying, “It’s a joy for us to watch him play.”
Another thing all could agree on.