After a Colorado Rockies victory, it’s a common sight—Nolan Arenado holding audience with the assembled media in the clubhouse. In his third Major League season, Arenado’s maturity at the plate is reflected in his thoughtful answers to questions about unbelievable fielding plays and rising home run totals. At 24 years of age, the two-time Gold Glove winner is trying to carry the Rockies to higher ground. It’s his team after all.
The shift away from Troy Tulowitzki to Arenado is less defined than some of the Rockies’ defensive shifts in the field. Tulowitzki is still a leader on the team, but he’s not the long-term face of the franchise (the constant trade rumors don’t help). Just as Helton gave way to Tulo in 2007, now Troy has cleared space for Arenado. Of course the Rockies team feels just as inept, as it’s out of the playoff race before the Fourth of July.
Will the same level of mediocrity define the Arenado era that so much of Helton’s tenure endured? Once again in Spring Training, the Rockies offered up their version of hope with talk of vast improvement. As Denver radio host Sandy Clough says, “Hope is not a strategy.” The Rockies need to begin planning for the future instead of promising for the present.
The Rockies took 12 years off between their playoff runs in 1995 and 2007. Their last playoff appearance was six years ago. The only player I can say with certainty has to be on the next playoff team is Arenado. The Rockies need to give him a lifetime to play third base and bat for power on the next playoff team. Each roster and personnel decision needs to be prefaced with, “How much closer are we to Arenado’s team making the playoffs?”
It’s unclear if new General Manager Jeff Bridich is willing to ask such tough questions. The language around injuries and pitching at altitude has changed in a positive direction, but the first year GM has done little to distance himself from the old regime of Dan O’Dowd and micromanager Bill Geivett. For example, when rumors of a Troy Tulowitzki trade surfaced, Bridich did a very Rockies thing—he blamed the media. It could be several years before we can fairly judge Bridich, but he must continually ask the tough questions to build a foundation.
The Rockies season unofficially comes to an end July 31st when Broncos training camp begins. Until then, enjoy Nolan Arenado with a drink on the Coors Field Rooftop. Hopefully he and second baseman DJ LeMahieu will also represent the Rockies in purple at the All-Star Game. As for better baseball days ahead on Blake Street? It’s a rocky road for the foreseeable future.