Editor's Note: The following post is a part of the 2013 Purple Row Writer Search -- our quest to find some great new contributors to Purple Row.
Third base, or the hot corner as it is affectionately dubbed, was where I played most of my days when I used to lace 'em up. So, I guess in some way it's both a little bit special for me and I think I pay a bit more attention to who mans the position.
In this, the 20th year of the franchise (wow!), I will go out on a limb and claim that the Rockies have had two legit third-basemen: Vinny Castilla and Garret Atkins. Now that's quite the statement I know, so let's start by looking a bit about what "legit" means to me.
Brace yourself as we take a trip in the Way-Back-Machine 10-15 years, when rock-music was still good, mullets weren't a joke, and our baseball players were a bit beefier (insert PED jokes here). Sure seems like third-basemen of that era were far more productive offensively then than they are today. The third-basemen of that era were (in no particular order): Vinny Castilla, Ken Caminiti, Matt Williams, Larry Wayne Jones Jr., Robin "I got my ass kicked by a 40yr-old" Ventura, and I suppose Wade Boggs has to get an honorary shout. Now, this was the days before WAR and before fWAR, and while I think these modern sabermetric stats are quite telling, I'm here to tell you I had no idea what these meant in the 1990s which is a long way of saying that I grew up under the impression that a good third-baseman was a dude who hit 30+ bombs (maybe 40 in the 1990s) and drove 100+ runs. Those were the stats that mattered, and it sure seemed like the Purple Pinstripers had a staple at the hot-corner for some time.
Then we brought in Jeff Cirillo who seemed a bit washed-up by the time he got to hit everyday at 5,280 feet. There were some very lean years in the early 2000s with baseball in Colorado. I probably couldn't recall all of the guys who played at third-base during what I affectionately refer to as the Preston-Wilson-Years. I'm glad I don't remember much from that time...I was also in college, so that might have something to do with it too. Anyhoo, it does seem that third-base became productive again when Garrett Atkins manned the corner. And when he was in the thick of the order with the Three H's of #17, Holliday, and Hawpe, our lineup harkened back to the Blake-Street-Bombers days.
Quick aside: I will forever be insulted and mystified that Ellis Burks is not included as a member of the Blake Street Bombers. I don't get it. He was one of the most productive Rockies of the mid-90s, and though injured here and there, he was a key member to the team who hit a lot of homers too (and stole bases). What gives?! I just spent 10 minutes scouring the internet for a "Blake Street Bombers" photo with EB in it as well. No dice. He may have been my favorite Rockie, so perhaps I take this more seriously than the next fan, but I think this is a travesty. Whatever the reason, I wanted to put it out there. In my mind, he was and always will be a Blake-Street-Bomber.
Back to the lecture at hand. With apologies to Charlie Hayes, third-base production from the Rockies has just been abysmal when someone other than Vinny or Atkins was there. It's not like the organization hasn't tried. There was that whole Ian Stewart experiment. I was excited for Ian, I believed in him, perhaps he came up too early, perhaps he just needed something else, but I have never been more frustrated watching someone hit than him. He struck out all the effin' time. I could feel the wind from his mighty whiffs all the way here in New Orleans. It would haunt me very much if he were successful with the Cubs. So far, it seems like we won that deal with Tyler Colvin.
Though, as anyone who has played Fantasy Baseball in the past 5 years or so could tell you, the talent at third base has been particularly dry all across the majors. I'm not sure what the sabermetrics say, but it sure seems from the naked-eye that third-basemen have slimmed down and are manning the position thanks to their glove, not so much the 30+ homers, 100+ RBIs. Sure, there are the David Wrights and Evan Longorias out there. But even now, it does seem that third-base representing a position that necessitates corner-production numbers is in flux.
So where does that leave the Rox? It seems the Purple Row crowd has mixed opinions on Chris Nelson. In my mind, dude is a 2nd baseman. But does he have the glove for 2nd? Does he have the bat for 3rd? Is he a super-utility player? I dunno. Is Josh Rutledge the next stud to man the position? Or would he be better at 2nd. And then there's the kid...the future, Nolan Arenado. Now he sure seems like a guy who can deliver "corner-production" from a corner position. And perhaps even Wilin Rosario is in the discussion as his catching skills..ummmmmm...need work. I'm not sure what the answer is, perhaps Cuddy should get some time there as I'd rather see Colvin in the outfield myself.
But it does seem like there are several candidates for the Third-Base job, and it will be interesting to see how it sorts itself out over Spring Training. I can't be more elated that Jim Tracy isn't the one making this decision. Whew. Ultimately, if it's not this year, I believe that this is Nolan's job. So, if he does get some more seasoning outside of the show, I hope the Rockies let someone productive keep the Hot-Corner warm for him when he finally decide he's ready. And what seems great is that Rutledge or Nelson could potentially play 2nd, so this could really be an area of strength for us going forward. So there is reason for hope! Maybe! And I think that Rosario will one day be #17's replacement. Unless he, ya know, learns how to block the ball behind the dish.
The Rockies lock-up Chacin for two years. I like it a lot. Hopefully he is more machine like this season and stays healthy. He and a healthy JDLR sure make our rotation a lot more interesting. Saw that Jair Jurrjens signed with Baltimore. I think the Rockies should have gone after him. He could have been a nice fit, why not take a flyer. I mean.....we went with Jeremy Guthrie. And if it didn't work out for Jair, he would have surely done better elsewhere after his tenure with us as it seems pitchers leaving the team sure excel afterwards. Jason Hammel really?!?!?!?! Ouch.
Big, big trade for the Braves and D-Bags, whoops, D-Backs. Man, Atlanta sure seems scary all of a sudden. Good pitching, good lineup, good defense, and great bullpen. Should be quite the battle between them and the Nats in the NL East. And for the Wild-Card spots. Let's just say that the early contenders for the 6 playoff spots are (in my opinion and in no particular order): Nats, Cards, Giants, Dodgers, Braves, Reds.....and Rockies. Hell to the yeah!
Happy Mondays y'all!