Jeff Francoeur jumped so high he banged his head on the dugout roof. Tim Collins felt a rush inside his chest and started to celebrate. Mike Aviles watched the ball past third base and still thought it was fair, still thought the ball would hook around the left-field foul pole — a walk-off home run for Alex Gordon on opening day, and what a story that would've made.

Gordon came this close to being the baseball hero. Instead, bupkis.

A few feet the other way, and the tone of this column and the spirit of baseball fans all over town would have been filled with the kind of hope that Kansas City usually sees only from a distance.

Instead, he struck out two pitches later, the final out of the Royals' 4-2 loss to the Angels. Now Gordon tries to move on from an awful day, and a jaded fan base groans at familiar failure.

"There's always tomorrow," he says. "We have 161 more to go."

Over the last decade or so, no Royals player has been analyzed more while accomplishing less than Gordon. He begins his fifth season, and maybe it feels like more.

The Royals drafted him second overall in 2005 and before he ever played a big-league game, smart people compared him to George Brett, which was always silly until Brett himself said he was honored by the talk.

The Las Vegas bookmakers put him as the favorite to win Rookie of the Year, but in June he was hitting .172 and the Royals were thinking about sending him to the minor leagues. Gordon had a fairly encouraging 2008 season, but the rest of it is mostly forgettable, defined so far by unfulfilled expectations more than anything else.

This is a new look for Gordon now. There is a whole new crop of stud prospects the Royals are building around. Gordon is yesterday's promise. Now he must either produce, or try again somewhere else.