Last night, in front of 28,665 people, Jorge De La Rosa appeared to close the book on his Rockies career. The lefty struggled in the game, going only 4.2 innings and giving up seven earned runs in an unfitting end to the man they’ve called The King of Coors.
De La Rosa was never a star. He was never the guy you tell your friends about when they ask about the Rockies; he was never the draw when you turned on the game. But, he never had to be. He was never supposed to be.
Through 9 seasons, Jorge started 200 games for the Rockies, logging more than 1,100 innings and striking out nearly 1,000 batters. Jorge was never flashy nor was he ever an All-Star, but he was consistent. In nearly every single Rockies season that he pitched in, he was exactly what the club needed.
What Jorge means to the Rockies, and what Jorge means to the fans that have watched the majority of those 1,100 innings and 985 strikeouts, is likely to be understated by just about everyone now that he’s gone. The 35-year-old left-hander quietly became the greatest starting pitcher in team history with his consistency and his outstanding ability to manage Coors through even the warmest, rowdiest, run explosion games. Now, that’s just a memory, it’s past tense.
Consistency becomes the totem of life. People complain about the monotony of traffic, the drone of their desk job, the home life that never changes. But without it, we collapse. People are not meant to live with the stress of new, changing adventures every day. We are creatures of habit, and we need these things to survive so that when things get tough, we know there’s something to hold onto—something that will remain the same.
My friend once told me a story about how he deals with life when it becomes too much. He goes to Wendy’s, he orders one cheeseburger, and he eats it. It doesn’t matter if he’s hungry; he’s not eating the burger to get a meal. It’s because he knows that no matter what life throws at him, no matter how weird and unpredictable it can be sometimes, that Wendy’s cheeseburger is going to taste the same. The lettuce, the mayonnaise, the grease from the fryer, it’s always the same. The cheeseburger is stability and knowledge in the face of chaos.
Perhaps that was Jorge’s greatest legacy. Apart from some bad Aprils and the eventual decline with age, Jorge offered this team and the fans a Wendy’s cheeseburger. In those moments where the season started to unravel, when injuries and inconsistent play doomed yet another Rockies season, Jorge offered sanity. He offered six innings, two runs, and five strikeouts. He offered a chance for a happy night when nobody else would. Now, those are memories; they are past tense.
He had to go, that’s not the debate. The Rockies are building a new, younger, higher-powered rotation, and Jorge doesn’t fit anymore. He’s 35, he’s declining, and it’s time to move on.
But that doesn’t make this easier. We can pretend like this doesn’t bother us emotionally, the same way we pretend a girl not texting us back after a few dates isn’t a big deal or how we pretend we don’t think about our worst fights with our parents for years as we try to sleep. For nine years, we knew we had Jorge and now we don’t anymore. That means something.
In 2009, with arguably the greatest team in franchise history, Jorge turned in one of the best years of his career: a 16-9 season with 193 strikeouts in 185 innings. One year after being acquired from the Kansas City Royals for Ramon Ramirez, De La Rosa was a rock in the middle of a very good rotation on a very good team. Only Ubaldo Jimenez had a better FIP but not even the flame thrower himself had a better K/9. De La Rosa’s impact on the last good Rockies team was never as high as Troy Tulowitzki’s or CarGo’s but it was important nonetheless.
2013 may be even more important, though the Rockies were terrible as the season caved to injuries and lack of consistency behind the top two starters in the rotation, Jorge was again the totem. De La Rosa was the consistency in one of the wildest, most up and down seasons in team history. He turned in his best season just two years after Tommy John. A 3.49 ERA, a 128 ERA+, only 170 hits in 714 batters faced. If fortunes had turned and the Rockies had constructed more depth on their roster, maybe that 2013 team would’ve made the playoffs. Maybe we’d be talking about Jorge more glowingly.
But baseball isn’t fair, life isn’t fair, and Jorge probably knows that more than anyone. The Rockies should’ve won more with Jorge—they should’ve won more with a lot of their players—but the fact they didn’t win more is maybe why Jorge’s time isn’t as well regarded in some circles as it is in this post.
But we can’t throw out Jorge’s legacy, and we can’t throw out what he really meant to us because of our frustrations with rosters that didn’t live up to their billing. Some will celebrate his departure. Some will feel nothing if they see him wear another team’s cap.
To them, Jorge’s just another player. Another pitcher in a long line that they saw struggle at least once from their seats on a Sunday. But to some of us—to me—Jorge’s a lighthouse in a monsoon. When I was fed up with the Rockies and vowed to never watch them again, Jorge reminded me why I still tuned in. Jorge reminded me that through all of the complaints and the heartbreak, I like this team.
Barring an unlikely chain of events, Jorge’s done with the Rockies now; he’s past tense. But we shouldn’t forget what he did for us. Our totem, our morning drive, our fast food hamburger. Jorge was consistency, something we all wish to represent.