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The Troy Tulowitzki trade and an intersection with life

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Sometimes, baseball and life overlap in unexpected ways.

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Unreal

It wasn’t a Tuesday morning like other Tuesday mornings, and finding out about the Troy Tulowitzki trade was the least of it.

Normally, I wake up, make coffee, take the dog out, and sit down to drink coffee and eat cereal while reading news and assorted baseball commentary. It wasn’t like that at last Tuesday. I woke up to an apartment full of boxes. Instead of percolating coffee, I warmed up pre-bought coffee because I had no coffee mugs or coffee maker at the ready. It was tepid. With my disposable coffee cup on a window sill—one of the few flat surfaces available—I squeakily sat down on couch cushions wrapped in plastic. It wasn’t at all typical. Also different: I opened up Purple Row at that moment to be told that the Rockies traded Tulo to the Blue Jays.

It was a dream. I was facing directions in my apartment that I normally didn’t face. The angles were off—awkward. And what I did see wasn’t supposed to be there, and what was supposed to be there was encased in a bright sheen of plastic wrap. I was supposed to comprehend a Tulowitzki trade to the Blue Jays at that point? No thanks. I went about my day in denial. I had to disconnect my Internet connection, go get a U-Haul, direct movers, and stand idly by while someone took a picture of every nook and cranny of my now empty apartment. I ended that day in a hotel and in an unfamiliar bed. It was surreal.

What if...

I departed the next day with thoughts of highways and destinations on my mind. I was fully aware that things were being written and said about Tulo, the Rockies, and the Blue Jays, but I neither read nor listened. It felt as if I were negotiating with the universe. If I don’t consume any bits of analysis or commentary about Tulo, did it really happen? What if I just keep driving and pretend it didn’t happen? I hadn't shaved since I packed my razor. Maybe if I allowed the pre-Tulo trade wisps grow recklessly into a sad mimic of Charlie Blackmon, the trade never happened?

I did engage with the baseball world enough to note that Tulo didn’t play for the Blue Jays on Tuesday night. There’s still time, I thought.

But it was then that images of Tulo in a Blue Jays jersey began entering my head. It was tough to imagine. For one, the colors weren’t right, and I had to remind myself that the Blue Jays’ primary color is blue and not purple. In fact, I don’t believe Tulo has ever worn anything other than purple. I’m pretty sure that banana stand shirt was also purple. He just couldn’t don another uniform.

Plummeting

Instead of just driving, I arrived at my first destination—the midway point between past and future. I was coming to terms with the trade. I even opened up my iPad and caught some of the Rockies' game against the Cubs. Jose Reyes was playing shortstop. I can’t say it wasn’t a strange thing to see, but it was beginning to make some sense. In fact, it was just the person playing shortstop that was odd. Over the years, I had gotten sort of used to seeing players other than Tulo play shortstop for the Rockies. Jose Reyes was just a different, and much better paid, version of Josh Rutledge.

It was different later that night when I began to read a bit about the trade—Matt Gross’s heartfelt article here at Purple Row, Ben Lindbergh’s global assessment of the trade, and Kiley McDaniel’s review of the prospects the Rockies obtained. That’s when things began to get a bit more real, and it was also when things started to get depressing.

The sadness really hit when I decided to see Tulo in a Blue Jays uniform with my own eyes. He was in the lineup and hitting leadoff for his Blue Jays debut last Wednesday. The uniform was strange, but the player was not. He fielded an easy groundball to open the game. Later, he made a vintage Tulo play at short, when he snagged a ball to his right and displayed his strong arm when he threw out the lead runner at second base. It was a nice, aesthetically pleasing play that lifted me as a baseball fan.

For some reason though, things felt different when Tulo hit a home run in his second plate appearance as a Blue Jay. It was nice to see the fans at the Rogers Centre give Tulo a standing ovation for every move he made—I could relate. But when he hit a home run for the Blue Jays, and the camera panned to the cheering crowd, which included signs welcoming Tulo, this popped into my head: "he’s not ours anymore."

The poignant phrase was in response to the first of Tulo’s 189 career home runs that didn’t lead me to literally or figuratively pump my fist. He belongs to another fan base now.

And?

Fine. I had to continue to my final destination on Thursday. Likewise, a Tulo trade had to be the first move in a set of dominoes that represent a full-scale rebuild. Everyone not named Nolan Arenado should be traded. Charlie Blackmon, Carlos Gonzalez, DJ LeMahieu, and Nick Hundley are all likely at peak trade value.

Nothing happened, and I started to get kind of angry. I’ve never been against a Tulo trade. However, not only would the trade have to be for the right return, but it had to be a component of a broader plan. As has been pointed out here and elsewhere, a Tulo trade in isolation makes no damn sense. But nothing happened.

That was a general sense of frustration. More specifically, I was surprised that Jeff Bridich didn’t have a trade partner lined up for Reyes. It’s true that he can still be traded through August. The Rockies will place him on waivers, and he’ll pass through unless another general manager wants to do the Rockies a solid and take on his full contract—$44 million over the next two years. But there’s no guarantee that anyone will take him because it’s not clear why anyone would want him. He’s the most expensive shortstop in baseball for the next two years and he’s below average at everything except stealing bases. Taking on Reyes is a gamble that, as of now, hasn’t paid off.

Acknowledgment

I arrived at my new home on Thursday night and began to make it look like a home on Friday. The furniture is unwrapped. There’s art on the wall. And dinner doesn’t have to be ordered on the phone. Troy Tulowitzki, Toronto Blue Jay is also beginning to normalize. He followed up his memorable debut with the stuff that constitutes the bulk of baseball careers. Run of the mill 1-for-4 games and completing routine grounders. Tulo’s a Blue Jay, I’m still a Tulo fan, and I’m still a Rockies fan.

I’ve also tempered my frustration regarding the lack of trade activity after the Tulo trade. The transition represents an exciting new chapter for the Rockies. Tulo’s trade to Toronto might someday be seen as the zero hour that began the Rockies' transition from perennial mediocrity to regular contender. But it’s necessary to accept that patience is required. Trades do not have to happen at the deadline. Offseason trade markets will shape up differently. Teams will have different needs and obligations, which should open up new sites of opportunity.

But Bridich still has to pursue trades. His quotes to the press suggest that he’s more passive than I would like, but only if those quotes are read at face value, and they shouldn’t be. I'm happy that Bridich has the ability to mold the team without interference from ownership, but I'm not yet convinced that the result will be a team with a clear plan.

In short, we are still in a wait and see mode. But what happens next, and particularly next winter, will ultimately tell us whether the organization has a clear direction with a concrete destination, or if it remains grievously adrift.