I went to a baseball game at Wrigley Field three years ago. That trip fulfilled a lifelong dream, as I’m sure is the case for many fans.
The Colorado Rockies lost to the Chicago Cubs that day 6-2. It would have been 6-0 if not for a ninth inning home run from Carlos González. Such as it works for a baseball fan’s memory, my lasting image of that game is that CarGo home run sailing over the ivy.
It was a patented CarGo laser, one those home runs that seemed to defy gravity. It seemed like it was still going up when it hit the seats in a way that is unique to so many of CarGo’s line drive shots.
That homer in a decisive loss is an example of the instant excitement CarGo has delivered over the course of his career. The gaps between those moments of excitement grew as the years wore on. The slumps lasted longer and the strikeouts looked uglier. And yet those moments were still there, and each one left the same lingering hope that he’s still got it.
It’s more likely than not that CarGo doesn’t have it anymore, at least not consistently. His 2019 numbers so far are not great: entering Tuesday he was slashing .213/.289/.278 with a couple home runs and 34 strikeouts in 108 at-bats. The Cleveland Indians recently decided they didn’t need his services despite an offense that is near the bottom of the American League in most categories.
But then CarGo makes a great sliding catch on the warning track in his first game with the Cubs, who signed him last week. And then he hits one on the screws that goes over Ian Desmond’s head for an RBI double, following that familiar CarGo line drive trajectory (even if Desmond misread it and maybe should have caught it).
So then it’s back to wondering again: has CarGo still got it? Should the Rockies have brought him back for one more last hurrah? His 2018 was solid but unspectacular. Maybe in the right role he could have still provided some value and some fun for the Rockies.
The logical part of me knows they made the right decision by not bringing CarGo back. The reminders are right there at the top of the lineup. David Dahl ripped a single and scored in the first inning Tuesday night. Raimel Tapia had a 12-game hitting streak snapped and has consistently been exciting.
The primary takeaway from CarGo’s 2018 with the Rockies was probably the fact that he and Gerardo Parra blocked playing time for younger players. There was the joy of his return and the daydreams of a deep playoff run to reward all his years with the Rockies, but those were trumped in the end by the fact that he was in the way of guys like Dahl and Tapia.
So I was conflicted on Tuesday. I felt defensive when CarGo stung the Rockies and the Wrigley crowd was cheering loudly for him: Hey, that’s our guy! You don’t get him! If he’s going to still be good, it should be for the Rockies!
Of course I want CarGo to do well and extend his career. Maybe he can even prove us all wrong and show he’s not over the hill. I want that for him, but not on the Rockies, but also not against the Rockies. Being a fan is weird.
And it just had to be the Cubs, didn’t it? Couldn’t have been some other harmless American League team or going to join Clint Hurdle on the Pirates. It just had to be the Cubs.
It will be great if the Coors Field crowd gets to give CarGo a standing ovation next week. But then it will be back to cheering against him, back to those conflicted emotions if he delivers a big moment against the Rockies, and it will be weird again.