The Colorado Rockies of 2022 are not your father’s Rockies. Over the last few seasons, the departures of fan-favorite stars and formation of new ones has been a time of flux for many of the Coors Field faithful. This is a new team that is creating a new identity both on and off the field.
But what does that mean? How does a franchise reinvent itself and form a new leadership core from within? And how do the players feel about it?
Brendan Rodgers, Colorado’s first draft pick in the 2015 draft and third overall, is someone Rockies fans have placed quite a bit of faith in to lead them into the future. Does having those kind of expectations placed upon him add additional stress at all?
“You know, I felt it maybe a little bit early in my minor league career,” said Rodgers. “But after being in the minors for just a little over four years, I learned that that’s kind of in the past. People still love bringing it up and whatnot but that was seven years ago. Time flies.”
Rodgers is very cognizant of his position in the organization and the steps he’s taken to get there. He knows that nothing is guaranteed to him, despite being a high draft pick.
“Being drafted and then being in the big leagues are two completely different things,” he noted. “Not everyone that gets drafted — no matter if it’s the first round, second, whatever it may be — no one’s promised the big leagues. So I’m fortunate to be where I am right now.”
Rodgers plays his game his way, even when he struggles. His April was one he’d like to forget (an .078 average that month), while his May was unbelievable (.347). What was it that helped him through that brutal first month?
“[I’ve] got a lot of good support around me,” he said. “Coaches, family, teammates — they just all believe in me and that’s really all it takes. Other people believe in you, which makes you believe in yourself a little bit more.”
The camaraderie extends to the pitching staff as well. Take Jhoulys Chacín, who has experienced struggles of his own this season. Chacín entered June 5th with an ERA of 7.71 before allowing zero earned runs in his next four appearances. He’s made his own adjustments but still relies on his teammates to pick him up.
“We have to always try to make adjustments,” said the veteran, “but sometimes it’s not there.”
What happens, then, when he feels like he’s not on his A-game?
“The biggest thing for everyone is just believing in each other any time,” he said, “and I think that’s why all the guys are helping me. I know my guys and they know that I can do the job, even though I haven’t had the best season so far.”
That kind of support is meaningful to Chacín. He’s been around the league — 14 years worth of experience — but that team aspect is as important to him as ever.
“We feel like we all believe in each other,” Chacín said. “I think that’s something that has been helping everybody.”
Chacín has seen it all. He was there for the days of Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos González, as well as Trevor Story’s last season in purple pinstripes. Other players, like Ryan McMahon, aren’t quite as tenured but have seen significant change in the organization in their time.
After signing a six-year extension this offseason, McMahon is along for the ride to see what the new Rockies will become. He agrees that the Rockies are largely governed from within, noting that “this team has so many good guys. It’s not just gonna be one person being that [leader]. It’s more of a group effort — a bunch of guys who believe in the same things and want the team kind of run in a certain way.”
McMahon, and others, still look to veteran Charlie Blackmon as a sort of captain — someone that the newer players can look up to and learn from.
“Chuck, I think, is like our go-to leader guy,” McMahon said. “He’s kind of the guy we all look to. I think we have a bunch of good guys who have good qualities as humans and really care about their teammates. That’s how it kind of [plays out].”
That makes sense, considering that Blackmon remains the longest-tenured Rockie (and just celebrated his 10th year of service time in MLB — all with Colorado). Carlos Estévez is the next-most seasoned, having cracked the big league roster in 2016. There are also some newer faces, such as newly-signed superstar Kris Bryant. Even while out with a lingering back issue, he’s still found the time to ingratiate himself to his new crew.
“Obviously I don’t want to step on anybody’s toes — Charlie and some of the guys — but [I] offer advice when I can in certain situations,” Bryant said. “[It’s] where I can really just sit back and observe and see how guys are different things and just pick their brain. You have a lot more time doing that when you’re not playing.”
It’s true that “KB” hasn’t played much this season — just 17 total games at the time of this writing (but hopefully returning when the team embarks for a series with Minnesota). However, he has still been hard at work creating a dialogue with his new team. If there was one positive to him getting hurt, it was having time to spend “establishing good relationships with the guys because we’ll be here for a while” he noted.
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The Colorado Rockies are in the midst of an identity shift, and there’s a bit of a change in what exactly the leadership position looks like in 2022. One thing is certain, though, and that’s that the players truly buy into each other and what they can do as a unit. They may find success or they may encounter struggles, but either way they will do it together.
After all, what is a mountain if not a collection of rocks that have come together?