The New Year is a time to revel in fresh starts, look forward to what is on the horizon, and just generally enjoy that New Year smell. But we don’t want to get too deep into 2020 before we look back on 2019 one last time.
It’s become a tradition here at Purple Row to collect our favorite articles written over the course of the last calendar year as a way of reflecting on the work we’ve accomplished. And while the 2019 Colorado Rockies season is not something I would recommend looking at directly for fear of retinal damage, the writers and staff at Purple Row put forth their best possible work under the circumstances and I happen to think we did a pretty great job. As a way of thanking all our writers, we are putting the work they are most proud of in front of you, our readers, again.
While we’re on the subject, I want to personally thank you, our readers, for sticking with us through a pretty rough season of baseball. At the risk of sounding like a cliched broken record, without our readers Purple Row is just taking up memory on a hard drive somewhere. Whether you wrote a FanPost, contributed comments, shared articles, or just read the site, we are so grateful for you, our readers, and the virtual community you’ve helped build.
With that, I hope you enjoy reflecting on what made Purple Row great in 2019.
The 2019 Rockies and Yankees are inextricably linked, for better and for worse, due to the Yankees' decision to sign a bunch of former Rockies players. The post was all in good fun but my position should be well known about the acceptability of rooting for the Yankees (it's not).
Nick Walsh stepped away from writing for Purple Row after this season. His Rockpiles were superb (he had three of our 10 most clicked posts of the year), often with exceptional titles, but everyone agreed this was the crown jewel of his 2019. Was it because it capitalized on a relevant cultural artifact and incorporated it into the Rockies? Was it because it was fun to read and filled with interesting analysis? Was it because at one point in the season it felt like it was coming true? Yes, yes, and, unfortunately, yes.
I post this not because of what I wrote about the Padres not contending in 2019 with Machado (I was right, but for the wrong reasons), but because what I wrote and what our commenters predicted about the Nolan Arenado contract that would show up about a month later.
In the days before we knew Nolan would sign a contract extension, we were pondering his greatness and hoping against hope that such greatness did not preclude said contract extension. So read this, recognize Nolan had another excellent year to add to his potential-Hall-of-Fame resume, and pretend nobody has said anything about trade rumors. The fact that the press conference for his extension came just two days later makes it all the sweeter.
We had some excellent FanPosts this year, and BikeChess' analysis of the Rockies home/road splits turned out to be the foreshadowing of further excellent posts to come (including a great analysis of the Coors Hangover that BikeChess published about a month later).
Will Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado opt out after the 2021 season? - Eric Garcia McKinley | March 4
Nolan Arenado signed his contract extension on February 27, 2019. Of course we had all kinds of exultant coverage at the time but this was the most pressing question we were considering at the time. 71% of those who responded to the poll said Nolan will not opt out after 2021. I wonder what that number would be now...
The 2018-2019 offseason was very very slow, which means we spent a lot of time debating meta-issues in baseball rather than debating about signings (thanks, Scott Boras). So while this post isn't really about the Rockies, it reflects the old adage that if you haven't seen the book/article/post you would like to read, then write it.
Sam Bradfield had the opportunity to cover the Rockies during Spring Training, which produced one of these all-time type quotes from Jon Gray. It turns out that, while maybe Gray didn't have the best season of his career, he certainly returned to form.
Kyle Freeland did not have the best year in 2019. But, as Renee points out, he is not just some distant athlete who works in Denver: this is his home. Maybe the best thing we can do for him going forward is to eliminate the wave from Coors Field.
Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon are their own era of Rockies history - Eric Garcia McKinley | April 1
Nolan and Chuck will define this era of Rockies history for most of us fans. That they might also define Rockies history in a broad sense as well feels only appropriate.
It's not often that we get first-hand accounts from Rockies road games on the other side of the continent, but Jordan Freemyer provided us with just that when he was in Florida during the Rockies second series of the year.
It’s early, but pressure is mounting for Nolan Arenado and the Rockies - Eric Garcia McKinley | April 8
Nolan signed a big contract extension in March, which led to inevitable expectations for a team already coming off back-to-back playoff appearances. We couldn't have known in the first week of April just what was to come, but the pressure was certainly there.
It's not often that predictions turn out to be true. In mid-2016 I predicted that the trade that sent Corey Dickerson to the Tampa Bay Rays would one day be known as "The German Márquez Trade." After Márquez signed a big extension and hurled one of the best games in franchise history, I was content to claim victory (and recall the pundits who saw only shame for the Rockies).
Don't act like this isn't exactly the kind of hard-hitting analysis you crave from Purple Row.
Drew Goodman’s new book caused quite the stir among Rockies fans and writers this year for mostly not-so-good reasons. Some members of Rockies media unsurprisingly took offense to general manager Jeff Bridich's characterization of baseball journalists. But it was our own Renee Dechert who wrote on the book first.
The 2019 season was tough for a lot of reasons, including watching former favorites play for other teams. Hayden captures the ennui of watching CarGo stick it to the Rockies.
Perhaps the low point of the Rockies 2019 season. But sometimes the greatest art comes from the greatest pain.
See last entry. We couldn't know it at the time, but this series (you know the one) marked the beginning of the end of the Rockies hopes in 2019 and shined a light on just how hard competing is going to be going forward.
A recap of this season would not be complete without revisiting the famous #HumpbackChubs controversy. Hopefully the Grand Junction Rockies will re-think this rejection of the re-brand, since it could be the very thing that helps them stave off elimination.
Sam was particularly well traveled this year, not only covering Spring Training but also taking the drive to ABQ to chat with Rockies prospects. The result was one of our more in depth interviews since...the last time Sam got to interview members of the Rockies organization (she really is making quite the habit of this).
Tulo will always have a place in Rockies history, but that place will always include a "Yeah, but..." He “fulfilled his destiny” by becoming a Yankee in January, but walked away from the game in July. Hayden marked the retirement of the former Rockies great with a brief appreciation and lament.
Purple Row started a podcast in 2019! It just so happened to be a tough year to cover the Rockies but that made for exceptionally interesting conversations. One of our co-hosts, Ben, nominated this as his favorite episode of the year if you want to get a glimpse of what makes AxA.
July and August really sucked for watching Rockies baseball. But don't say that we don't at least try to look on the bright side! Hayden pointed out the highlights of the season while Eric offered reasons to keep watching in the midst of a lost season.
Renee had a gift this year (and really since she's been on staff with Purple Row) of taking a step back from the day-to-day results and offering relevant thoughts of the big picture of the Rockies. Here, she asks the pertinent question fans face when confronted with a losing season: which is more important, fandom or winning?
After making the playoffs two years in a row, it was difficult to have "playing spoiler" as the most meaningful Rockies baseball in August. There were reasons for that, and oneforthreewithawalk lays those reasons out perfectly.
One of the perks of covering prospects is that you get the opportunity to see players grow as they come up through the system. In Sam's case, she also got the opportunity to interview a player before and after his big league debut, making it a special interview for both parties.
Were we fools to believe the incredible 37-22 hot streak the Rockies went on from April to June? In hindsight the answer is obviously yes, but Eric teased out some details that should have worried us at the time had we not been so intoxicated by all the winning.
The doldrums of a lost August led some in our community to look forward rather than looking back. Longtime Purple Row member Dan Lucero wrote a lot of words looking forward to the 2020 Opening Day Roster. Time will tell how well his eight-months-in-advance prediction will do.
Give them credit: the Rockies did give a few of these a shot (start Jeff Hoffman, give bullpen innings to young guys) but it would've been fun to see them experiment a little bit more (steal lots of bases, try the opener).
Again, Sam Bradfield got to build a lot of relationships with players in covering the Rockies over the past two seasons. The gratification of getting to see those players make The Show is one thing, but to write so compellingly of his debut is part of what makes Sam good at what she does for us. And hey, it was about a guy who just might be one of our top four outfielders next year!
What went wrong for the Rockies in 2019 requires a multi-faceted answer, and we gave a lot of space in September to answer it. Part of that answer lies in analyzing when it went wrong in the course of the 162-game season.
One other reason I enjoyed this article is that Nick Groke published an "inside the story" article on one of these series a week after this went up, which felt like affirmation of my line of thinking.
Tim Melville’s journey from the independent leagues to capable starter for the Rockies was one of the bright spots of the second half of the season. Jordan found some reasons for why he was having success.
I'll be honest: it hurt watching DJ LeMahieu, Adam Ottavino, and Mike Tauchman find success in another uniform in a season when the Rockies struggled so much. It hurt worse when the Rockies seemed to get trolled by the official Yankees Twitter account after they clinched the AL East. Renee digs into the reasons why.
The 2019 Rockies season was tough to endure. But, as Nick points out, there are existential positives to enduring a losing season. You just have to look.
But really, it was a really bad season, made all the worse for the ways it portends trouble for the future.
FanPost: Fixing the Rockies, a data driven approach: Part 6, summary - Jeremy Muesing | September 29
Since I've been at Purple Row I've seen a lot of excellent FanPosts on a variety of topics. But that experience could not prepare me for what user amuesing1 posted on September 29. Jeremy's FanPost was so extensive and thorough that we decided it deserved to have it's widest possible audience, which meant breaking it down into six parts and publishing them every couple of days for two weeks. The evidence and conclusions are compelling and I hope Rockies brass was reading.
Linked here is the summary, which includes links to each part as well as the original. Enjoy.
The Rockies leadership was at least brave enough to had a "media availability" (this term was insisted upon; it wasn't a press conference) after their terrible season. I'll leave it to the reader to decide if there were any other positives from this not-a-press-conference beyond that.
Contention in baseball is built on the margins. It helps to have superstars forming your core, but if you have drags on the fringes of the roster, it'll pull you down to a 71-91 season. Jordan here makes the case for a few players the Rockies could add that would make the exact kind of marginal difference needed.
This year we added a few new writers to the masthead, including Becca Guillen who was thrilled to get the chance to write about Nolan in her debut Rockpile.
Every year Royals Review hosts an annual SB Nation MLB GM simulation featuring (ideally) fans/writers of each team playing the role of General Manager. It's a fun exercise that makes for an exhausting few days, but Ben represented the Rockies well and did an even better job writing about it.
Our Ranking the Rockies season review series offers a great chance to look back on the season through the lens of individual players. In those reviews we are sometimes confronted with startling data that leads to difficult questions, like the one Nick poses here.
Larry Walker's Hall of Fame fate is officially sealed; ballots were due on December 31. The early results from the public ballots are encouraging, but there remains the maddening possibility he'll remain just short. Apparently too many voters did not pick up on the satire of Ben's brilliant piece.
2019 began with the Rockies coming to terms on a long extension for Nolan Arenado and it ended with trade rumors swirling about the generational third baseman. Renee captured the exhaustion of such a whirlwind.
★ ★ ★
Finally, 2019 represented the end of an era as site manager Eric Garcia McKinley announced he would be stepping down from his post. Ben gathered past and present Purple Row contributors to share their appreciation for Eric and the work he did.
★ ★ ★
So 2019 wasn’t the best year for Rockies fandom. But, speaking as one who got his start writing about the Rockies in the midst of the horrendous 2014 season, that doesn’t mean that there wasn’t good writing. Thank you again to everyone who made Purple Row the best place for Rockies coverage on the internet. Here’s to 2020 being so very much better (please?).