Of the Royals optioning 3B Alex Gordon to Omaha before tonight’s game against Chicago, KC manager Trey Hillman said “we decided to give him an opportunity to put some joy back in the game, take a little pressure off himself.”  That’s an interesting way of rationalizing what Circling The Bases’ Matthew Poullit is calling “one of the most shameful service-time manipulations in baseball history.” Gordon, promoted to the parent club in ’07, would’ve had 3 years of service time at the end of 2009 if the Royals left him on the major league roster.  Unless he’s recalled in the next 20 days, Tuesday’s manuever delays Gordon’s free agency until 2013.

Gordon has hit .198/.300/.313 in his 29 games this season, so we won’t see a grievance here. If it were May, it’d be a perfectly legitimate move. But it’s August 18. There are three weeks left in the minor league season. The Royals aren’t playing for anything at all, and they should want Gordon to get every major league at-bat his surgically repaired hip can handle. Instead, they’re going to have him work with inferior coaches and get pitched around by Triple-A pitchers. When Gordon was on his rehab assignment before returning last month, he batted .350/.491/.650 with three homers in 40 at-bats. Hitting minor league pitching isn’t an issue.

If the Royals follow through with this and cost Gordon a year of service time, then they’ll still control him in 2013, when he’ll likely be a much better player than he is now. But that’s something they should have thought about in 2007. To pull this stunt in Aug. 2009 would seem to make it significantly less likely that he’ll still be playing in Kansas City in 2014. Gordon has little reason to forget and forgive.