Upon his arrival to the big leagues, Troy Tulowitzki established himself as the missing link for the Colorado Rockies.
The club was mired in mediocrity year after year despite having one of the best hitters in the game, Todd Helton, and a cast of other young up-and-comers. But when Tulowitzki made it to the majors and became the team's starting shortstop, the Rockies began experiencing success they'd never seen to that point.
In Tulo's rookie year, in which he hit .291/.359/.479 with 24 home runs, the Rockies advanced to their first-ever World Series. The club took a brief step backward in the star shortstop's injury-riddled sophomore campaign but bounced back with a vengeance in 2009, riding Tulowitzki and his .297/.377/.552 line to 92 wins and another postseason berth.
Tulo suffered a freak injury early in the 2010 season when the Rockies were in contention yet again, but the first-time All-Star came back better than ever, hitting 14 home runs in the span of 15 days in September and leading his club to what appeared to be another postseason berth.
The wheels fell off for the Rockies at the end of that season, but the organization -- behind its all-world shortstop -- appeared to be in great shape for the future.
I don't know what happened after that. Maybe you guys can fill me in, because the past four seasons have been a nightmarish blur for me. I can only guess they've felt the same way for Tulo. He talked about that recently in an interview with Fox Sports Live:
Tulo wants to be with the Rockies for the remainder of his career, but only if he can win. Colorado hasn't done much of that lately, so a quote like this one is understandable:
"I can also see me in a different uniform if things don't get right in that locker room."
In fairness to Tulo, he followed the quote with a disclaimer -- "and that starts with me; I need to find a way to stay on the field and be a good player for a long period of time" -- but it sounds bad. Is the Rockies' locker room a bad place? Is it only a bad place as a result of the team losing, or does the team lose because the locker room is a bad place?
Those questions will answer themselves as the season wears on. One thing is for sure: former co-general manager Bill Geivett wasn't a popular character in the clubhouse, so it will be interesting to see if his absence helps the players, coaches and manager loosen up. As much as I want baseball to be linked strictly to quantifiable numbers and data, other things can make a difference between a losing team and a winning one.
That's not to say that this team is a relaxed clubhouse away from being a contender, but maybe a little less pressure on everyone involved will help take care of a lot of things, such as players like Tulowitzki feeling like they absolutely have to grind through injuries only to do more damage.
Ugh. Is it time for real baseball yet?