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An imperfect swan song for Rockies all-timer Carlos Gonzalez

Number 33 on Ranking the Rockies is an old face

Los Angeles Dodgers v Colorado Rockies Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Welcome to the 2017 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at the in-season contributions of every player to don the purple this past season. The goal wasn’t and isn’t to quibble with order. Instead, it’s to get a snapshot of a player along with a look forward. For that reason, we simply sorted by Baseball-Reference’s Wins Above Replacement (rWAR) and will start at the bottom and end up at the top.

No. 33 Carlos Gonzalez (-0.2 WAR)

Baseball is, at it’s core, unfair.

For Carlos Gonzalez, a player who had given the Rockies so much hope over the last eight seasons, this cannot be more true.

CarGo’s 2017 was painful. He was a shell of the player we knew. His bat speed dwindled, his groundballs skyrocketed, he looked completely lost against lefties. Carlos spent five months looking miserable at the plate and giving sad quotes to beat writers. It was a disaster—one that drove the narrative during the best season in years for the organization as a whole.

In five years and beyond, Carlos will end up meaning more than his 2017. Nobody will remember the bad days. The strikeouts and the dwindling confidence will fade. We’ll remember the bat drops and the line drive home runs. We’ll remember a batting title and an amazing 2009 NLDS. Carlos will represent good moments in a horrible era.

But right now, we can’t erase a 2017 that ripped the rug out from underneath us.

There were good moments, too. A vintage line drive home run at Citizens Bank Park, two beautiful home runs to notch a sixth straight road victory in Chase Field, a September that looked more and more like we were starting to see the Carlos we remembered. These moments became our life line, a reminder that even in the worst of it CarGo could pull off something amazing.

June was the worst of it: 10 hits in 16 games with just 3 RBIs. The moment a “rough start” began to really become a “lost season” for the outfielder. His slugging percentage dipped below .300 in the month, and he could only muster a 56 OPS+.

It wasn’t fair. None of it was. This was Carlos Gonzalez, and he refused to look like it. No matter how much will we tried to force into him from the stands and from our couches, it was just wasn’t Carlos anymore.

There’s something strange about the way our brains are wired. Scientists believe a loss can be up to three times as painful as a win is joyful. It’s why breakups destroy us, why sports leave us ruined for hours or days, and it’s why losing money hurts so much. Our brains view loss as more significant than gain. When Carlos wasn’t hitting, when it all felt lost, it was worse than any of the joy he had given us. Maybe that’s why this feels so unfair to say goodbye now. Maybe we just wanted something to cheer for one last time. We just want one last home run.

Gonzalez wasn’t given the swan song he deserved.

Baseball is unfair, and it always will be. Ironically, that’s why we keep coming back. If it were fair, it would be boring—the stories old and tired, the losses just and true. CarGo should’ve finished his Rockies career waltzing into the sunset. Instead, he appears to leave after one of his worst seasons, and we are left to wonder what could have been.

CarGo ended his 2017 season with only 14 home runs and a league average 100 OPS+. He accumulated -0.2 WAR. He will not be remembered for this season, but he will be remembered.

2018 Outlook

In what will undoubtedly be one of the most painful and weirdest moments of 2018, we will likely see CarGo standing in the outfield in another cap and another jersey next season. The pain will eventually waver, and the good memories will float to the top. Good look, old friend.