“Mitchell! Mitchell Gordon!” a nine-year-old girl yells, frantically waving her arms at the superstar slugger as he trudges past her en route to rightfield. There’s no time for autographs during games, but it’s spring training. Most players usually acknowledge the more vocal youngsters with a wave or a smile. Not Mitchell Gordon. The Texas Rangers outfielder ignores the girl with such determination that it’s as if even a simple nod of the head would be too much effort for him. When it comes time for him to field his position, he exhibits a similar lackadaisical attitude, barely moving his neck to track a towering pop fly to right. It drops ten feet in front of him and he trudges towards the ball as the batter rounds the bases. The runner is standing on third base when the relayed throw from Gordon finally comes in. It may be “just” a spring training game, but I’ve seen post office employees move faster than the Rangers’ rightfielder.
Gordon’s been signed as a free agent to fill the designated hitter slot with the Rangers, and I doubt we’ll see him take the field during the regular season. Sitting in the stands, I thumb through the media guide that the club provides reporters. I’m supposed to be covering the whole team for the Houston Chronicle, but there’s not much of a team left to write about. The General Manager held a fire sale at the All-Star Break last year, and Gordon’s the only name I even recognize in the media guide. In twenty-two years of covering sports, however, I’ve never seen a more disheartening performance than the one that Gordon is putting on at Surprise Stadium. There’s only one thing Gordon plays for anymore: the all-time home run record. When the season starts in April, he will be just twelve homers shy of Barry Bonds’s career record. And, since they don’t count home runs during spring training (or when you’re playing defense), what’s the point in Gordon even pretending he cares?
The irony is that Gordon has already hit the last home run of his lifetime, because he is already dead.