“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
- F. Scott Fitzgerald
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In 2020, Nolan Arenado was in no hurry to report to spring training.
While players often report early, Arenado spent much of February working out inside Arizona State University’s ballpark, 10 miles away from Salt River Fields. It furthered the rift between success-driven player and a questioned front office.
Yahoo Sports’ Tim Brown met Arenado at Phoenix Municipal Stadium on one of those mornings:
[Arenado:] “‘There’s a little bit of a disconnect. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be fixed. It doesn’t mean that I’m not gonna go out there and play hard for my teammates. Or be a negative presence in that locker room. That’s just not me. It’s not how I’m going to do things. I’m not going to be there trying to show them I don’t want to be there. I’m not going to be that way. That’s not fair. That’s drawing attention to me.’”
Arenado commanded loyalty to his teammates in those few sentences; they know the full impact he showed the entire roster.
[Brown:] “In a couple days he will walk back into a clubhouse filled with teammates he adores. That will be good enough, he said. It will have to be good enough. For all of them, until it is not.”
Until it is not.
There will be no such arrival of his at Salt River Fields this year. We can only wonder how those key members of the Rockies are left to feel: the anticipation is gone, and the realization is upon us.
His managerial tenure has taken him from San Diego (2007-2015) to Colorado (2017-present). He has managed 1,909 games over 13 seasons; his only taste of the postseason came in five total games with the Rockies in 2017 and 2018. (He would have more if the 2007 tiebreaker went the other way.) Black spoke optimistically on the Rockies’ 2021 chances back in December, saying “I’d like to think we are still in that window. A lot of key players that we have had, are still with us.” Patrick Saunders released an article on that December press conference, titled “Bud Black expects Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story to play for Rockies in 2021.”
Black is now forced to write out lineups without his best player. To make matters worse, he watches his old Padres unload on every front office move a manager could ask for.
Jim Tracy resigned as Rockies manager in 2012, as he was reportedly “uncomfortable with his role after changes were made to the front office.” Walt Weiss cited a “poor working relationship with [the] front office” as the reason for his 2016 resignation from the same position. Black is now forced to traverse one of the most challenging NL West landscapes ever, under the same ownership as his two predecessors.
Story is losing his left-side counterpart for the first time in his big league career. The way Arenado was handled has set the tone for Story’s potential departure from Colorado.
Time to lace up the spikes again—and hope Story can perform at his best with all sorts of unnecessary noise.
Last season was Arenado’s worst statistical showing since his 2013 rookie season, but how can a player perform at their best when their aspirations for constructive change aren’t fulfilled? The Rockies paid a lot of money to take Arenado off the books; after seeing the treatment of both Arenado and Troy Tulowitzki on their way out, it leaves Story to wonder what could happen to him.
It’s tough for the shortstop to feel normal excitement after the past week. Story does have an opportunity to be ‘the guy’, but at what cost?
Number 19 has been there longer than anyone else. Perhaps he will hang on with the Rockies just because nothing else would seem right. It doesn’t solve a potentially damaged view of the franchise right now, but it at least gives Rockies fans a staple to cheer for.
He’s persevered through plenty in the past. Blackmon has played for three managers as a Rockie. He’s seen two general managers (we can only speculate as for why Dan O’Dowd resigned). Blackmon suited up in 2012, the worst record in franchise history, and would later participate in 40 percent of the Rockies’ playoff runs.
Things are a little more complicated at 34 years old: his norms have been established, his placement in the lineup has been essentially permanent, and one of the few sources of Rockies stability over the past decade has been Blackmon in the outfield. He may see no choice but to ride this wave into the sunset, clinging onto each fleeting moment of “Your Love” over the speakers as the team explores cost-cutting provisions. If he chooses, he can opt out after 2021 or 2022.
Arenado’s cousin can expect more time in the infield, but we are left to wonder how Fuentes will move forward after his organization has severed ties with a family member. His familiar comforts with the Rockies no longer feature the one player that presumably guided him more than anybody else.
Kyle Freeland, Germán Márquez, Jon Gray, Antonio Senzatela
The starting rotation could bring some hefty trade returns down the road; are they to evaluate their time in Colorado as a competitive tenure, or rather a showcase opportunity for a new team?
The list is far from over.
A new crop of players wait in the Triple-A wings. Their big league norms and values are to take shape from the ones that have been there before. If the existing norms are broken right now, the new ones could soon follow course. Younger players will likely have more opportunities moving forward, so perhaps that will serve as some form of incentive despite a lack of current morale. Maybe it will show some light at the end of the tunnel.
Jeff Bridich and Dick Monfort
It is hard to be sympathetic, but the owner and general manager have to feel broken in some manner, too (at least we imagine). We can only hope their plan moving forward is meant to fix any ongoing damage. Hopefully it isn’t beyond repair, as the resignations of Jim Tracy and Walt Weiss may suggest.
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Patrick Lyons takes a deep dive into Colorado’s future, comparing the post-2020 Rockies to the post-2017 Marlins after they lost Christian Yelich, Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna.
The 2020 Marlins made the (expanded) playoffs, knocking off the Cubs in the three-game wild-card round. This post-2017 rebirth also came after the team was sold and Derek Jeter joined the ownership group. It was the first postseason appearance for the franchise since 2003; former owner Jeffrey Loria owned the team from 2002-2017.
Major League Baseball plans to start on time.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 2, 2021
Camps scheduled to open Feb. 17.
Opening Day scheduled for April 1.
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