The Colorado Rockies have a new face of the franchise:
Sure, in signing Kris Bryant, the Rockies are getting a player with a career fWAR of 31.8 and a career wRC+ of 134 — offense that the Rockies desperately need, especially given Trevor Story’s decision to sign with the Red Sox. But there’s more to it than that. When a team signs a player to a seven-year, $182 million contract, they’re looking for more than his on-field skills.
In addition to becoming the face of the Rockies, Bryant is a message to fans: It’s a new day, and the Rockies are trying to win.
The Rockies Need a New Face of the Franchise
When the lockout was ending, I searched for a Rockies GIFs to tweet in celebration . . . but there weren’t many. Nolan Arenado has moved on; CJ Cron isn’t especially GIF-able (apparently by design given that he refused to wear the swag shades in 2021); the best Ryan McMahon GIFs involve Trevor Story; Brendan Rodgers isn’t quite there yet; and pitchers only make an appearance every five days.
In the age of social media, this is no small problem, especially for a team like the Rockies that depends on filling seats for revenue.
Patrick Saunders posed the question like this:
Legitimate questioned posed to me by a #Rockies fan. Excluding 1993, have the Rox ever entered spring training with less star power? (Barring signing a power hitter in the coming days).— Patrick Saunders (@psaundersdp) March 13, 2022
Currently, the default face of the franchise is Charlie Blackmon, who, to be fair, has lots of excellent GIFs and a brand enhanced by “Your Love” and a beard and a mullet. But Blackmon is aging out of that role as the Rockies look to the future.
When asked about the Bryant signing, Blackmon told Daniel Allentuck, “It seemed uncharacteristic from what I’ve seen in the past.” While this it true, Blackmon’s words underscore the history he’s observed and the relic he is becoming. A lifelong Rockie, his contract ends in 2022 — 2023 if he exercises his player option. The Arenado and Story Years have ended, and the Blackmon Era is winding down.
Enter Kris Bryant, the new (and future) face of the franchise.
Allow us to introduce you to the newest Colorado Rockie, Kris Bryant! pic.twitter.com/qq14qyI3iS— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) March 18, 2022
Bryant’s a proven champion — granted, not with the Rockies, but a ring’s a ring — and he’s going to hit some awesome home runs at Coors Field. Moreover, he will, hopefully, bring his history of winning to Denver.
Check out the Rockies’ introductory video:
It runs about 1:10, featuring highlights of Bryant’s career with the Cubs. (Sorry, Giants, but you’ve been ghosted.) In key moments, the screen freezes, shifts to black and white, and outlines Bryant in an electric purple before highlighting the key accolade (e.g., Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Player, four-time All-Star). The message? Those things he did in Chicago? He’s going to do them in Denver.
Then there’s the iconic moment: Bryant’s throw to first that clinched for the Cubs the 2016 World Series.
Not gonna lie: As a fan, I’m excited.
Much of the internet did a collective “lol” when Dick Monfort announced that he hoped Bryant would bring a World Series win to Colorado, but the hype video underscores that intention.
For fans enraged by the Nolan Arenado trade, a front office that did not prevent Trevor Story and Jon Gray from pursuing free agency, and three years of very bad baseball, signing Kris Bryant is the Rockies’ message to fans that a new chapter has begun.
“He’s Here, and He’s Perfect!”
Yes, “perfect” means winning baseball games, but it also means sending a message to fans and allowing the Rockies to begin working out of the public-relations disaster they’ve made for themselves over the last three seasons.
In case you missed it, watch Bryant’s introductory press conference:
He’s skilled, and he’s charming, and he’s personable, and he wants to be in Colorado. Even better, he’s viral content waiting to happen, the kind of player fans can rally around.
See for yourself — here’s MLB.com’s Mike Petriello giving Bryant some earned media, even before the signing became official:
Honestly no idea why I did this, but I did, and now you have to see it pic.twitter.com/04DB2s2EJt— Mike Petriello (@mike_petriello) March 17, 2022
(Petriello has told us we can use this image, so prepare to see it again.)
Then there was this image taken from Jess Bryant’s Instagram and shared by the Rockies’ social media team:
Kris Bryant, Colorado Rockie was meant to be— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) March 19, 2022
: IG// Jess Bryant pic.twitter.com/xJilOVTCZE
Not only is he perfect: This relationship is destiny. (The extent to which the Rockies are introducing Kris Bryant as an object of the female gaze is beyond the scope of this essay, but it’s fascinating — and deliberate.)
Whether the Rockies manage to turn the page on the Arenado and Story years remains to be seen. Skepticism is warranted, given the Rockies’ disastrous history when signing free agents to big contracts. Moreover, Bryant’s injury history is cause for concern. A cynical view would hold that Kris Bryant is a marquee name who will keep the Party Deck hopping. (The Cubs series in LoDo, always a miserable experience for Rockies fans, just got markedly worse.)
But maybe this signing works. Maybe the Rockies beat projections, and maybe Kris Bryant helps ignite an offensive surge that leads to a contending playoff team. Maybe he earns the affection fans reserved for players no longer with the Rockies.
Spring is about hope. In signing Kris Bryant, the Rockies are saying that they’re hopeful — that they’ve spent a lot of money to prove it — and that fans should be hopeful, too.