As the Texas Rangers continue to put on a show in the 2023 postseason I can only think of one thing: Good for Jon Gray.
It’s always a little bittersweet seeing former Colorado Rockies move on to bigger and better things while finding success but something about Gray’s time in Texas at this moment is especially sad because of the picture of reality it paints for the Rockies organization.
A large portion of the fanbase couldn’t be happier for Gray being able to be an important piece, pitching in the World Series in the biggest spots for the Rangers. I fall into this category myself, but it saddens me because it took leaving the Rockies for his current situation to ever become a reality.
When the Rockies selected Gray with the third overall pick in the 2013 draft, it was with the assertion that he would become a franchise staple and perhaps the best pitcher the team has ever seen. He worked his way through the minors and made his big league debut just two years later in 2015. From that point on, he was a solid member of the rotation, even if he didn’t quite reach the heights and expectations that were laid upon him. He was able to utilize a heavy fastball and effective slider to get strikeouts while battling his way through a game. Heck, his 16-strikeout game almost feels like a franchise record that won’t be broken anytime soon.
Whether it be the struggles of altitude, the heavy expectations and pressure to be a pitching savior, or even injuries, Gray never fully became what the Rockies had hoped for. He had his moments and was a good pitcher, but greatness eluded him. Still, the fact was clear in 2021 that Gray wanted to stay in purple for the rest of his career. It was well documented and the team wanted him to stay, but instead, they did not issue him a qualifying offer and also skimped out on the contract negotiations which drove him into the arms of the Rangers.
It’s been no surprise that since Gray’s departure, the corpse of the rotation that took the Rockies to back-to-back playoff appearances has decayed more and more.
Purple Row’s own Joelle Milhom wrote the following in an article earlier this month:
“In 2023, his second year with the Rangers, Gray appeared in 29 games, posting a 9-8 record with a 4.12 ERA with 142 strikeouts. The only two who come close to those figures are Kyle Freeland, who went 6-14 in 29 starts with a 5.05 ERA and 94 strikeouts, and Austin Gomber, who went 9-9 in 27 starts with a 5.50 ERA and 87 strikeouts. Even factoring in Coors Field inflation, Gray would have been a top starter for the Rockies.”
Now, Gray is pitching in the World Series, almost atoning for the struggles he had in Arizona during the 2017 Wild Card game in which he allowed four runs on seven hits in 1 1⁄3 innings. So far this postseason Gray has worked out of the bullpen since he finished the regular season on the injured list and didn’t return to the roster until the ALCS. He tossed just one inning against the Houston Astros, allowing one run on two hits, but his biggest moments are now coming in the World Series.
With two outs in the top of the seventh in Game One, Gray entered out of the pen and promptly got a flyout to right field. He proceeded to throw 1 2⁄3 scoreless innings with four strikeouts. In Game Three he had another chance to shine after Max Scherzer left the game after three innings due to a back spasm. Gray had initially been announced as the starter for Game Four, but he suddenly found himself having to pick up some slack. Rather than succumb to pressure, this new Gray tossed three shutout innings with three strikeouts and just one hit surrendered to secure the win.
He even joined the postgame show on Fox to be recognized.
Jon Gray joins the Postgame Show after his 3 inning shutout performance out of the bullpen tonight— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) October 31, 2023
: FOX pic.twitter.com/StovRyDZ0h
And it’s always nice to be featured on Pitching Ninja.
Jon Gray, 89mph De-Helmeting Slider. pic.twitter.com/qOpWfEbLqA— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 31, 2023
This recognition would have never come if Gray had stayed in Colorado. He wanted more and the Rangers made it clear how much they wanted him and how he fit into their plans as an organization. He’s had a boost in success with the team and working with a pitching coach like Mike Maddux. The World Series has shown that Gray has drawn even closer to what the Rockies had hoped they drafted.
Instead, they just lost 103 games with one of the worst starting rotations in baseball and are watching players enjoy greener pastures.
Their futile attempts to approach pitching in Colorado have been detrimental to the organization. They have yet to prove they can reliably draft and develop pitching. They scared themselves into never signing premium starting pitching, or even good starting pitching, ever since Mike Hampton. Last offseason while starting pitchers were averaging double-digit salaries on one-year contracts, the Rockies dug to the bottom of the barrel for José Ureña on a $3.5 million deal and certainly got what they paid for.
Pitching is always going to be a problem for the Colorado Rockies if they fail to pony up some cash for good starters, like a Jon Gray type, and then prove they know how to combat altitude and make pitchers better. Until then, they will find themselves at home every October watching former players on teams with elite pitching in the World Series just one win away from a World Series ring, saying to themselves:
Good for Jon Gray.
MLB Trade Rumors is always a helpful resource during the offseason and they put together a list of players that could potentially find themselves on the chopping block in the coming weeks as teams decide who will receive contracts or not. Peter Lambert was pointed out on the list and while it seems more likely the Rockies will choose to hold on to Lambert, it also wouldn’t be a surprise if the team just ups and removes him from the roster, much like the surprising departure of David Dahl a few years back.
If had a Rockies cover variant of the new album for The Rolling Stones on your bingo card for 2023, I’d say you’re a witch of some kind. But yes, the Stones have partnered with MLB to release vinyl covers for all 30 teams and are planning a tour in 2024. Patrick Lyons of DNVR teased that a Grammy-winning team could be performing at Coors Field next year, perhaps The Rolling Stones will head to the mountains?
Offense abounded in a close affair in the desert but the Rafters came up just short on Halloween. In terms of Rockies prospects, Sterlin Thompson batted leadoff and went 1-for-4 with an RBI and a walk. Drew Romo was the designated hitter for the game and went 2-for-5 with a triple and a pair of strikeouts. Rounding things out was Jaden Hill who was able to toss a scoreless inning in the eighth.
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