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Purple Row’s Favorite Articles of 2021

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A continuing year-end tradition

As part of an ongoing tradition here at Purple Row, we collect our favorite articles written over the past year in order to celebrate our writers and reflect on the trajectory of the Rockies over the course of the year. Typically this gets published on December 31 as we try to move on from one year to the next, but various events intervened and here we are: three days into the New Year still living in the past. But we hope that you’ll indulge us a bit.

Below you’ll find the articles our writers were most proud of. As always, we need to extend our heartiest thanks to you, our readers, for all your contributions to this site. It’s you who keep us going.

Without further ado, here is the work we’re most proud of from 2021.

January

Rockies trade franchise player, again - Adam Peterson | January 31

Well, sorry to do this to you right off the bat, but the Nolan Arenado trade was the first and biggest story of the year for the Rockies. Purple Row covered the trade from as many angles as possible but one that stood out to me was how very familiar the whole thing felt.

February

Nolan Arenado vs. the Rockies front office, how did we get here? - Daren Gonzalez | February 1

Daren offers one of a number of post-mortems that needed to be posted after losing the franchise cornerstone.

Rockies owner Dick Monfort, GM Jeff Bridich address the Nolan Arenado trade - Sam Bradfield, Renee Dechert, Justin Wick | February 2

When the Rockies front office finally did address the Nolan trade, it took a team of three to cover it to the extent it deserved.

With Arenado out, my Trevor Story trade anxiety is on deck - Eric Fayuelle | February 2

We know now that Eric's anxiety was misplaced, but that doesn't mean it wasn't very real for most of us through the trade deadline.

Fixing what ails Ryan McMahon at the plate - Adam Peterson | February 15

Ryan McMahon was tasked with filling Nolan's shoes at third. How might he do it at the plate? Part of Purple Row's DNA is an interest in advanced analytics. It had been a while since I had written a deep dive like this one and was very satisfied with the way it turned out. Not for nothing, it seems like at least part of the diagnosis was correct (see below on McMahon's season).

The great first base debate - Eric Fayeulle | February 18

Before CJ Cron ran away with the first base job, and Connor Joe ran away with our hearts (more on that later), there was debate about who should take the first base job.

March

Dick Monfort has a loyalty problem - Adam Peterson | March 23

I've taken on the Ownership position for the State of the Position series and this year proved more sour than most of the previous years: trying to say what needed to be said without going to extremes.

The mystery of Kyle Freeland’s changeup - Mario DeGenz | May 25

How should Kyle Freeland deploy his changeup to greatest effect? Mario took on the question.

April

What will the NL West look like in 2021? - Mario DeGenz | April 1

We were able to add a slew of great writers to our staff this year. One of Mario's first was a preview of the 2021 NL West.

Untangling the Nolan Arenado drama - Travis Rowland | April 9

One might have thought that things would have gone back to normal once baseball games resumed but then Nolan Arenado made some comments after an emotional game in St Louis and, well, it needed a breakdown.

AL 13, NL 8: A trip back to the highest scoring All-Star game of all time - Travis Rowland | April 13

One of the happy surprises of 2021 was Denver being awarded the All-Star Game (more on that soon). That prompted many of us to look back to the first time the Mile High City hosted the Midsummer Classic.

The one thing I love about Bud Black - Mario DeGenz | April 20

Bud Black has been one of the most successful managers the Rockies have had, but leans to the old school mold of managers. Mario highlighted one of the particular benefits of such an approach.

May

Does Todd Helton belong in the Hall of Fame? - Travis Rowland | May 18

We'll find out here in a few weeks where Todd Helton's status vis a vis the Hall of Fame, but Travis did the good work of breaking down the Toddfather's candidacy.

What the Rockies can learn from Colorado playoff teams - Skyler Timmins | May 23

Colorado sports are in something of a high-point, with the Colorado Avalanche and Denver Nuggets smack dab in the middle of their competitive windows. While the Nugs and Avs were making playoff runs last spring, Skyler looked to them for lessons for the team at 20th and Blake.

June

Don’t make up your mind on Brendan Rodgers yet - Kenneth Weber | June 5

One of the bright spots of 2021 was the emergence of Brendan Rodgers. But in June that see seemed like a distant possibility, making Kenneth’s post somewhat prophetic.

How MLB’s crackdown on pitchers will impact the Rockies - Eric Fayuelle | June 10

Remember Spidertack? And the big scandal that hit MLB when many players were revealed to have been using similar substances? Eric had a breakdown about how the crackdown might've impacted the Rockies.

This is why you don’t put all of your eggs in one basket - Kenneth Weber | June 12

Usually reserved for June, the Amateur Draft got bumped to All-Star Week for the first time this year. In preparation, Kenneth uncovered a distressing reality: though the Rockies had been successful in developing top line talent from the draft, they’d fallen short relative to their divisional peers elsewhere.

‘We are crazy excited’: Kennedy HS getting new fields thanks to Rockies All-Star Legacy program - Joelle Milholm | June 17

Joelle covered one of the feel-good benefits from the All-Star Game moving to Denver, wherein a local high school team without a home field to play on gets an amazing grant.

MLB releases All-Star Game uniforms - Renee Dechert | June 24

As previously mentioned, the Rockies got surprised by getting the opportunity to host the All-Star Game a few years earlier than expected. But the uniforms left...something to be desired.

Rockies rookie relievers relishing their big league opportunities - Sam Bradfield | June 25

Making it to The Show is a huge accomplishment. Staying there is another task entirely. Sam spoke with Ben Bowden, Lucas Gilbreath, and Justin Lawrence about lessons learned in their first go around in the big leagues.

It’s time to Coors-ify the Home Run Derby - Justin Wick | June 29

Speaking as someone who got to attend the Home Run Derby, it was plenty fun without Justin's suggestions. But imagine what it would be like with them!

July

Putting the Nolan Arenado saga to rest at last - Evan Lang | July 6

Nolan Arenado came to Coors Field as an opposing player for the first time, prompting a wide range of emotions among Rockies faithful. Evan was able to attend one of the games and offered some poignant reflections on the experience.

Márquez flashes All-Star perfection - Joelle Milholm | July 14

The Rockies only sent one player to the actual All-Star Game and even though Germán Márquez should have been granted the starting job (or Kevin Gausman), he still made his All-Star debut count. Joelle wrote the story based off the post-game interview.

“We are not missing this game.” - Justin Wick | July 14

Several Purple Row writers were fortunate enough to be able to attend All-Star Week, but nobody had quite the story behind it like Justin did. If you missed it back in July, do yourself a favor and read it now.

The Rockies will succeed their way, or not at all - Kenneth Weber | July 17

The Rockies sent clear signals—that ended up being true—that they would not be major sellers at the trade deadline. Kenneth gave an incisive critique as to the big problems with such an approach. What’s the difference between “being a farm system for other teams” through trades or free agency, after all?

A Derby Story to appreciate and learn from - Joelle Milholm | July 19

We all saw how Márquez and Arenado played hype men to Trevor Story at the Home Run Derby. Joelle dug in a little deeper for the moment.

August

Jon Gray: “My changeup makes me happy” - Sam Bradfield | August 20

Jon Gray won't be donning a Rockies uniform next year but he had a fascinating farewell season, and the development of his changeup was crucial for that.

Connor Joe is stacking moments and working hard to be an everyday player - Becca Guillen | August 23

Connor Joe captured our hearts

Jeff Bridich’s final off-season is aging well - Daren Gonzalez | August 30

The main transaction gets a lot of attention, but Daren threw out what appeared to be a spicy take that, actually, seems like it just might have been the correct take.

After an offseason breakthrough, we’re watching Lucas Gilbreath develop in real time - Evan Lang | August 30

A rough season casts fans’ eyes towards the development of younger players. Evan offered a good late-season breakdown of Gilbreath's development.

Austin Gomber has shown a wild pitch mix in his last three starts - Justin Wick | August 31

This article by Justin was nominated by some other staff writers. It’s always fun to see Justin bring some of his pitching expertise to the site.

September

Sam Hilliard reflects on 2021 season, Lou Gehrig Day - Sam Bradfield | September 7

Sam Bradfield was able to catch up with Hilliard late in the season of what turned out to be a tumultuous season. The Hilliards were instrumental in helping MLB recognize Lou Gehrig Day in recognition for the fight against ALS, and Sam talked with Sam about that a bit here.

Rockies moments bigger than baseball - Skyler Timmins | September 19

A few days after Sam Hilliard lost his father to ALS he hit a home run. This prompted Skyler to track down other similarly emotional moments for Rockies players.

October

The day Larry Walker made us cry - Skyler Timmins | October 1

The Colorado Rockies finally got to celebrate their first Hall of Famer!!!

Rockies 9, Diamondbacks 7: the Story of the improbable comeback - Mac Wilcox | October 2

An improbable comeback deserves an extended recap and Mac delivered after the Rockies came back from seven down to win on the last Friday of the season.

Revisiting the Nolan Arenado trade at the end of the season - Evan Lang | October 11

Yes, one of the main themes for the 2021 Rockies season was Nolan Arenado. After the season, Evan reviewed the seasons that the prospects Colorado received in return had. And things, as of now, are looking pretty good.

My Guy, Brandon Barnes - Mac Wilcox | October 18

Mac has a series he calls “My Guy” and it’s a lot of fun to follow. Here is one of his favorites.

Housing is a start, but Minor Leaguers still deserve more - Joelle Milholm | October 22

In October MLB announced that they would start covering the housing costs for their minor league players. Such a move had come to be seen as common sense in a system where minor leaguers are paid little and often forced into housing situations like splitting an apartment six-ways or paying leases in multiple cities after getting promoted. Joelle argues that there are more things teams could do for their players.

November

No gold for McMahon in 2021 - Robert Walgren | November 8

Ryan McMahon certainly deserved more consideration for the Gold Glove than he likely got, considering he was listed as a third baseman. It was a great defensive season, all things considered (see below).

In 2021, Ryan McMahon owned the hot corner (and second base, too) - Renee Dechert | November 14

RyMac, indeed, owned the hot corner for the Rockies. Even with big shoes to fill, he and Trevor Story made for an impressive left side of the infield.

My Guy: Tony Wolters - Mac Wilcox | November 15

Another one of Mac's favorite "My Guys” articles.

Pebble Report: 2021 Arizona Fall League Recap - Justin Wick | November 22

Justin Wick had the privilege of being on-site for the Arizona Fall League this year so he got a first-person view of the Rockies prospects who participated. Here's his eye-witness-informed review of the 2021 AFL season.

Free swingers? A look at the 2021 Rockies plate discipline - Robert Walgren | November 29

Robert took a more analytical approach to examining the woes of the Rockies offense in 2021. Sure, plate discipline plays a factor, but things have changed for the Rockies over the last

December

The Rockies’ Fun Index, Part 4: 2021 Summary - Mario DeGenz | December 22

Mario took on a novel project this year: try to determine how fun the Rockies were to watch as a spectator. He produced his own formula and ran through most of the 2021 season, summarizing his results in this post. Give it a read to see how fun the Rockies were, or to follow the links to his other articles looking at fun (and not so fun) months.