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Tom Gordon is a Major League baseball pitcher whose career has spanned from 1988 to the present. He played the first eight years of his career with the Kansas City Royals, and he later moved to the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs.

Most successful pitchers are tall; simple geometry can explain why. First off, tall people are likely to have long arms, which will make your pitches naturally faster. Second, the taller you are, the higher the release point of the ball is. Since pitchers already throw off a mound, the downward vector can be very substansial for a tall guy and very confusing for opposing hitters. Third, since pitchers push off the pitching rubber as they throw, a pitcher with an elongated body can actually relase the ball closer to home plate than a short guy can. So, many of baseball's greatest pitchers are tall: Randy Johnson is 6-foot-10. Roger Clemens is 6-4. Greg Maddux is 6 feet even, but he gets by with pinpoint accuracy rather than power.

Tom Gordon is listed at 5-10 ... but 5-9 is more realistic. Nevertheless, Gordon has been a successful strikeout pitcher — through 2001, he's K'd 1,498 hitters in 1690.3 innings. That's a ratio of 7.96 strikeouts per nine innings, and that's 10th-highest among active players. How does he do it? His body's short, but his legs are powerful, and by violently pushing himself off the rubber he can generate fastballs in the mid-90s. Also, he possesses a wicked overhand curve that drops straight down, almost like a loopy forkball.

In his eight seasons in Kansas City and in his first two seasons in Boston, Gordon was a successful starting pitcher. He moved to the bullpen in late 1997 and earned 46 saves in 1998. The next year wasn't so good, as he needed to have Tommy John surgery in mid-season, and he sat out all of 2000 recuperating. The Cubs took a flier on him in the off-season, and it paid off for the team in 2001, as Gordon saved 27 games. But additional injuries, and the Cubs' off-season trade for Antonio Alfonseca, puts Gordon's 2002 season in doubt.

Don't call him "Shorty." He doesn't like that. Gordon's preferred nickname is "Flash."

8/24/2002 update: Tom Gordon was traded to the Houston Astros yesterday for minor-league pitcher Russ Rohlicek and two players to be named later. The Cubs weren't doing anything, while the Astros have a small chance of making the playoffs and needed another reliever.

Stats: http://www.baseball-reference.com/g/gordoto01.shtml

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