As we continue to stare out the window and wait for the new CBA to be figured out and for major league transactions to flow freely once more, we can continue our journey into the pantheon of random Rockies. This time around we will explore the early 2000s era of the Rockies, which featured a number of supporting characters for Todd Helton and Larry Walker that we may have forgotten spent time in Colorado.
Butch Huskey (2000)
In the midst of a pennant race in 2000, the Rockies needed some power off the bench while sitting and decided to acquire Butch Huskey from the Minnesota Twins, along with Todd Walker, in exchange for Todd Sears and cash considerations. Huskey had struggled with the Twins that season, but the former top prospect for the Mets performed spectacularly in Colorado. In 92 at-bats, Huskey belted four home runs while slashing .348/.432/.565 with a career-high OPS+ of 128.
Unfortunately for the Rockies, despite sitting just five games back in the division when the trade occurred on July 15th, the team faded out of contention and ended up finishing 15 games back. Colorado also ended up being Huskey’s last appearance in the majors as he retired following Spring Training in 2001.
Brooks Kieschnick (2001)
Before the days of Shohei Ohtani, there was Brooks Kieschnick. The former Texas Longhorn was a dazzling two-way player in college before being drafted by the Chicago Cubs in 1993. The Cubs felt his offensive potential was more valuable so he abandoned his pitching skills and focused on hitting. However, he never quite reached his potential at the big league level and bounced around from team to team with continued struggles. In 2001 he signed with the Rockies and ended up playing in 35 games with the Rockies as a utility outfielder where he slashed .238/.289/.548 with three home runs and nine RBI. He didn’t see much action outside of pinch-hitting and defensive replacements, despite thriving in Triple-A Colorado Springs that year.
After a short Spring Training stint with Cleveland in 2002, he signed a minor league deal with the White Sox and switched his focus to pitching. He became successful in his pitching role, along with designated hitter duties, and that secured him a deal with the Milwaukee Brewers where he was able to be a two-way player in a limited capacity. It is fun to imagine if the Rockies could have been ahead of the curve and nurtured that aspect of his game and what kind of impact he could have had in the bullpen and at the plate.
Jeromy Burnitz (2004)
If I were to ask you who led the Rockies in home runs during the 2004 season, how many guesses would it take before you said Jeromy Burnitz? Signed as a free agent prior to the 2004 season, Burntiz played in 150 games for the team and 143 in the outfield slashing .283/.356/.559 and posting an OPS+ of 121. He posted the best batting average of his career, and led the team with 37 homers, and drove in 110 runs which were second-most on the team. His 1.3 bWAR was the best season he had since 2001 where he posted a 2.7 bWAR with the Brewers.
Burnitz was also part of franchise history in the home run department. In a game against the Florida Marlins, he combined with Matt Holliday and Charles Johnson to hit back-to-back-to-back home runs for the sixth time in franchise history. The next month in a game against the Cincinnati Reds, Burnitz and Holliday combined for a set of back-to-back home runs and became the first duo in Rockies history to hit back-to-back home runs twice in the same game. Known as a good clubhouse guy and a friendly, laid-back type of guy, Burnitz could fall into that category of good-guy Rockies.
Royce Clayton (2004)
In the pantheon of Rockies shortstops, Royce Clayton is one that is probably overlooked because he only spent the 2004 season with the Rockies and produced a fairly average year. Clayton posted a 1.1 bWAR in 144 games as the Rockies' primary shortstop while batting .279/.338/.397 with eight home runs and 54 RBI. He struck out a career-worst 125 times in 2004 but did end up leading the league in sacrifice bunts with 24 so that’s something worth remembering I suppose. However, Clayton did manage to produce fairly similar home/road splits with his numbers at Coors Field naturally being slightly better than his road numbers, which were still fairly good.
Clayton played for five more teams after his time with the Rockies, even getting a World Series ring with the Boston Red Sox in 2007 despite only playing in eight games that season with the team. There is also a bit of fun trivia that doesn’t relate to the Rockies but it’s interesting nonetheless as Clayton portrayed Miguel Tejada in the 2011 film Moneyball.
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Noah Yingling is a sucker for looking back like I am, so this article is a fun look back at life from Rocktober in 2007. Yingling looks back on technology, popular music, movies, and the notable players from that season. Perhaps the most interesting section is the financial comparisons between 2007 and 2021 for the Rockies and how inflation has impacted that. Things have stayed fairly similar for the Rockies over the years.
Speaking of random former Rockies, former Colorado outfielder Mike Tauchman is taking his talents to the KBO in an effort to find playing time and revitalize his playing career. We last saw Tauchman playing for the Giants in 2021 but his struggles from 2020 continued and he found himself unemployed by season’s end. With his future unclear due to the current lockout, Tauchman is making the move overseas with other fringe free agents to keep their careers alive and find a new path back to MLB.
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