In a season built on launch angles and home runs, the conversation doesn’t usually start with a player listed at 5-11 and 170 pounds. In Miami, the stories are Giancarlo Stanton chasing home run history, Marcell Ozuna’s star turn and what direction Derek Jeter will take when his purchase becomes official.
Relatively few people are paying attention to Dee Gordon’s return to All-Star form.
That’s just the way he likes it.
“I like it like that,” Gordon said. “I don’t play baseball to be famous. I play because I love it and to provide for my family. That’s it.”
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Gordon is providing for his family with a 5-year, $50 million extension he signed before last season, but he wasn’t providing for the team after signing it. After a strong start to 2016, an 80-game suspension for a positive PED test derailed his start and his season. He finished the year hitting .268 with a .305 on-base percentage and a 0.8 WAR.
“That was tough,” he said. “I started out good, just because I’m a pretty good baseball player. Then it started dawning on me, ‘Oh, snap. I’m gonna get suspended.’ So it got tougher and tougher to come to the ballpark every day.”
Gordon turned the page this season, but he didn’t throw last year away. He vowed to prove people wrong, that his two All-Star seasons in 2014 and 2015 were real, that he could be the Gold Glove defender again.
Entering Saturday, he’s hitting .310 with a .346 OBP, the second-best numbers of his career. His 2.9 WAR is the second-best mark of his career, only to his first year in Miami in 2015, when he finished with a 4.9 WAR.
“He’s had a really good year,” manager Don Mattingly said. “We’ve seen it defensively, stolen bases, on-base percentage is climbing. That’s one of the things you like to see out of him as [much as] anything, just getting on base. Just kind of getting everything behind him, you see the player that he is.
“He’s been about as good as you can ask or hope for over the course of the entire season.”
There was some fine-tuning, Gordon said, but most of the improvement was done in his mind.
“I had to get out of my own way,” he said. “That was hard. Trying to prove to people that I’m not a fluke, one-hit-wonder type of guy. I’m my biggest critic. I know what I can do, but people already didn’t think very highly of me. They thought my seasons were a fluke anyway. I had to do it all over.”
Where he fits in today’s game remains to be seen. The only time he launches homers is when he uses his created player in “MLB: The Show.” Still, he’s proving to others what he already believed: His All-Star seasons were real and 2016 was the fluke.
Gordon is earning his extension, providing for his family and having fun again. And the attention is right where he wants it.
“Honestly, I’m more happy for guys like Justin Bour, Giancarlo, Ozuna putting it together a great full year,” he said. “J.T. Realmuto [is] having a great year. [Christian] Yelich swearing he sucks but still having a great year, stuff like that. Jose Ureña, 14 wins [and] almost didn’t make the team. I’m more happy for those guys than myself.”