These are the dreary days of the offseason, but this winter just feels longer, darker, and colder.
While the idea of an upcoming season usually inspires hope, excitement, and dreams of postseason possibilities, I can’t say I have many of those feelings about the Rockies right now. Perhaps it’s fitting to feel like this after back-to-back losing seasons, an abundance of inaction from the front office in terms of improving the roster, anxiety of the future of Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story, and the ever-looming COVID uncertainty when it comes to schedules, fans, and logistics. Right now, Rockies fans just need some good news.
On the bright side, the NFL, NBA, and NHL are all currently making it work without bubbles. Even though rosters are hit with positive tests and COVID protocols, games either go on or are postponed. Seasons aren’t delayed. The outlook on just starting a season on time seems good, unless the owners really want to wait on vaccines, which would increase the chances of a delayed season. For now, let’s say that the season is on. Even with that, it seems like Rockies fans need something. We need news on rules, we need a new player, or we need some big event to help us keeping going until we get to April 1. By then, at least we’ll have baseball games to talk about. Let’s look at the options of possible things that could happen between now and then and see what Rockies fans would want to see most if only one could.
2020 Rules in 2021
When it comes to optimism about baseball in 2021, even the MLB itself is making things harder. There’s no official word on if there will be DHs in the National League, if playoffs will be expanded again, if the rosters will be expanded again, if there will be a runner on second base in extra innings, or if there will be seven-inning doubleheaders. While it’s certainly understandable to not yet know if or how many fans can go to games because we can’t estimate the COVID status in April, those other rules could easily be decided. If the MLB is holding onto those chips for as leverage for expanded playoff negotiations before or during the upcoming collective bargaining agreement after the current one expires after the 2021 season, then that instills even less hope in a 2022 season. But let’s just focus on 2021 for now.
According to the most recent SB Nation Reacts survey, 71 percent of fans want to see the universal DH back in 2021. Rockies manager Bud Black talked about his feelings on the 2020 rules coming back in 2021 with the show High Heat in December. Despite being a pretty pure baseball traditionalist, Black is in favor of some changes to the game becoming permanent.
“The universal DH proved to be a good move this year,” Black said. “I was a traditionalist in that I liked the National League game, but I have been swayed now. I think that where the pitchers’ stuff is these days – velocity in the mid to upper 90s, breaking pitches in the 90s, the pitching is outstanding. And for a pitcher to go up there and try to get a knock or even lay a bunt down, it’s awful difficult. I think the pitchers are at more of a disadvantage than any time in the history of the game facing an opposing pitcher. It might be time to change that one.”
If the universal DH rule is going into place for 2021, teams need to plan. Maybe that would even make the Rockies go out and get a free agent to specialize in that role, even if current players could rotate into the DH cycle as well. Black didn’t talk about shortened double headers, but he did come out in favor of the runner on second in extra innings.
“I was a little bit skeptical of the 10th inning, but I came to like it. I think it added another element of excitement, especially from a fan’s perspective, especially if we get fans in the stands, I think they will look forward to a potential tie after nine innings and what the 10thinning can bring,” Black said. “I think there is some discussion there about whether to start it in the 10th, or 11th, or 12th. But I think it is a good rule, I really do. I am a proponent of what we did this year.”
With the Rockies stuck in the NL West with the Dodgers and Padres, Colorado needs permanent expanded playoffs to keep even faint playoff dreams alive.
Bring In Someone New
The Rockies still only have four sure starters for their rotation. There are several players who will be competing for that fifth spot, but wouldn’t it be nice to bring in a more proven arm? What about a lefty or two for the bullpen? David Dahl and Kevin Pillar manned center field for a combined 38 out of 60 games last season. Both are gone now and it seems to be the plan to have Sam Hilliard and/or Garrett Hampson take over. Maybe one or both of them will be great. Maybe bringing in someone for insurance would help.
If the DH is happening, maybe Colorado could bring in a proven bat like Nelson Cruz, Edwin Encarnación, Shin-Soo Choo, or even bring back Matt Kemp. Can you imagine bringing in a player who is a tested vet and not a minor leaguer? We all know the free agent track record for the Rockies and free agents, and by Rockies, I mean Jeff Bridich, but never acquiring a free agent again isn’t the answer either. Maybe the young guys will step up and shine, but it would be nice to bring in some help too.
A Big Event
Thursday marked the one-year anniversary of the official announcement of Larry Walker making it into the Hall of Fame. We remember the call. We remember the SpongeBob shirt. We remember how that news infused cheer into that dreary offseason. While COVID forced a delay of the ceremony, we’ll see Walker go into the Hall in July. Wouldn’t it be nice to have some good news like that right now? While Todd Helton appears to be trending up in the vote-getting process, it’s pretty unlikely he’ll get the required 75 percent of the members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America needed to punch his ticket to the Hall this year.
MLB.com’s Manny Randhawa thinks that Helton could be headed there eventually, especially considering he has seven years left on the ballot. Randhawa also points out how similar Helton’s numbers are to Hall of Famers Duke Snider and Al Simmons.
While the vote totals won’t be official until next week when the MLB makes the Hall of Fame announcement on Tuesday, Jan. 26, Ryan Thibodaux’s counting estimates he’ll be around 54 percent, which would be a 24 percent increase from his second year of eligibility to his third. That’s a big jump and a good sign that he could eventually get to 75 percent. That gives the non-Helton voters a few more years to try to be convinced of how hard the altitude adjustments are and how impressive Helton’s numbers are viewed in that context. If Larry could get in, Todd can too. But the chances of it happening this year are probably about the same as the Rockies bringing in a big-name free agent in 2021. In the coming years though, there is reason to hope that there could be two Rockies in Cooperstown.
Pick Your Good News: As a Rockies fan, one who has had to sit through this brutally boring offseason, if you could pick only one of those three things to happen right now, what would it be?
This poll is closed
The MLB announces that 2020 rules - from universal DH to expanded playoffs to the runner on second in extra innings - will be in place in 2021.
The Rockies reverse course and decide to spend money to bring in quality major league free agent.
Todd Helton is elected into the Hall of Fame
Other. Please explain in comments.
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Diving into a little more detail on the international signings, Yusseff Diaz provides some background on two 16-year-old Cuban players the Rockies signed last week. (Here’s more about all the signings from Purple Row’s Daren Gonzalez.)
The first is Darién Morejón, a 6-foot-2, 195-pound right-handed pitcher who “comes equipped with a 90-plus fastball, sharp curve and a solid changeup” and has a promising future as a closer. He’s been a top prospect in the Cuban juvenile system where he posted a 3.48 ERA and .267 opposing batting average with 21 strikeouts in 20 2/3 innings.
The second is Andy Pérez, a 6-3, 166-pound shortstop. The lefty has a promising bat that could produce power with more development and has a great arm in the field.
I guess the Royals figured why not? The three-time All-Star is only 35 and it’s only a minor league contract. Maybe they think it was just Colorado that broke him and pitching in Kansas City again will change everything. If that happens, I’m going to need a massive punching bag for a rage outlet.
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