The picture is one of the most epic in team history. Blood fanning out in the shape of a Y by his left eye. Splotches of blood mingled with the dirt on the pinstriped jersey, clouding the powder-blue Rockies. A face, captured in mid-yell, demonstrating fierce victory.
The photo captures Nolan Arenado in all his glory. It memorializes what he called the best moment of his career — a walk-off homer to complete the cycle and defeat the Giants on Father’s Day in front of 48,341 fans at Coors Field. It was taken during the best two-year stretch in team history, the only time the Rockies earned back-to-back playoff berths.
That’s why when I saw the image on a poster in someone’s front yard this summer, I had to pull over. I usually never stop at garage sales, but I couldn’t resist this one.
Despite suffering through another losing summer — one that turned out to be the worst season in franchise history — Nolan nostalgia reeled me in. I walked through the yard, picked up the foam-backed homage to better times, and didn’t even look at anything else.
As I went to pay for it, I told the family selling the poster how I was at that game. I was lucky enough to be there with my dad for a very memorable Father’s Day. I also shared how I was still struggling to get over losing Arenado.
One teenager looked at me and said, “I’ll never get over it.” I could see the pain in his eyes. It was sincere. I not only can’t blame him, but I might be with him. I think a lot of Rockies fans are.
While the front office's recent failed and head-scratching moves from 2019 on have certainly caused some fans to boycott games, I worry the consequences are even worse. Some fans are just disengaged from the Rockies and maybe baseball altogether. After five straight losing seasons with the franchise-record-worst showing in 2023 with 103 losses, why would they tune back in?
Without a current TV deal, how will fans even tune in? The MLB has assured teams that they will have a way to stream and air games. It just may be harder to find, especially for tuned-out fans. The Rockies current struggles are hitting at the worst time when regional sports outlets are going belly up. Why would any company give the Rockies money for the rights to broadcast games when the Rockies have yet to prove they care about or know how to win?
Entering the fourth season in the post-Arenado era, I would love to get over the Arenado trade, aka the fleecing heard ‘round the world. But with bad contracts being replaced by more bad contracts, the Rockies aren’t learning from their mistakes. The Rockies still owe Kris Bryant $135 million in his deal that goes through 2028. Maybe they will learn after that’s paid out, but Dick Monfort isn’t willing or able to eat as much money as the Waltons are if the Broncos indeed cut Russell Wilson.
I had initially hoped that Ryan McMahon could become a star to ease the hurt of losing Arenado. While his defense is outstanding, the strikeouts — a team record of 198 in 2023 — and declining average for the third straight year (.256 in 2021 to .246 in 2022 to .240 in 2023) overshadow the 24 homers and glove work. He’s not the face of the Rockies.
Perhaps it will be the new Nolan who replaces the old Nolan in that department. As we enter 2024, Nolan Jones is worth being excited about. It’s also a lot to put the future of the franchise on his shoulders. Even if he has an MVP-caliber season, the lack of pitching is still a problem. It’s a problem that’s pushing a possible winning season to 2025 or beyond.
Heading into a new year, hope should spring eternal. How do Rockies fans try to cope when it doesn’t? Do we dream of only losing 90 games? Can we find satisfaction in individual players’ success, even if the wins are still far out?
The Rockies play their first game of 2024 in 90 days. I want to be excited. But as I look at Arenado’s winning-crazed face on the poster in my garage, it’s hard to feel much but nostalgia.
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Thomas Harding is also looking ahead to the new year and does so by highlighting the young roster that dominated the lineup from August on as being the staples for next season too. He looks at the starting rotation and wonders if the Rockies will add another veteran starter. He shouts out the best candidate for a breakout season and best prospect to make a splash, while also giving a prediction of an exciting development to come.
MLB’s 20 most mind-blowing hitting, pitching feats of 2023 — with Kyle Schwarber leading off | The Athletic ($)
One Rockie made this list: Elias Díaz. Jayson Stark highlighted the Rockies catcher, who was the 2023 MLB All-Star MVP after making a jab at the organization. Stark seemed to think he was informing readers of Díaz’s identity, saying, “since the rules required somebody on the Rockies to be an All-Star, that somebody was him.” He also notes that Díaz turned 33 this year and became the MVP after hitting the game-winning homer for the National League as a pinch hitter. Despite playing nine years in the MLB and making “2,166 trips to the plate,” Díaz had never hit a pinch-hit homer before. To be fair, Díaz has only pinch hit 93 times in his MLB career, but it’s still pretty remarkable that he did it as an All-Star to help the NL win.
One Rockie made the list. The hardest outfield assist belongs to the Rockie who is most primed to become the next Coors Field superstar.
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