The New Year is a tried and true opportunity to remember and reflect on the previous year. Yesterday, we remembered the most-read articles of the 2023 calendar year. Today, we take the opportunity to reflect on the articles that brought us the most pride and satisfaction.
This annual tradition of having our writers highlight the work they did in the past year originated as an attempt to express our gratitude: here’s an opportunity to put the pieces you believe reflect your best work back out into the world. As the Rockies have descended into irrelevancy over the last several seasons, it also serves as somewhat of a recap of how the season played out, and a reminder that the work continues. Some of the articles listed here were listed by the writers themselves, but others were nominated by their peers.
I remain mindful of you, our readers, as well. Yes, we’re all in this journey, miserable at times, of Rockies fandom together. If you’re reading this, you’re likely among the dedicated (or masochistic, depending on your point of view) few and we cannot say enough to express our gratitude that you stick with us, year in and year out.
So in the bleak midwinter with no baseball news, use this post to go back and peruse what made 2023 for the Colorado Rockies.
Scott Oberg will not make it into the Baseball Hall of Fame, and the health problems that cut short his career represented a serious threat to his life and livelihood. But his career, especially with the Rockies, was a fruitful and productive one and Evan gives the retrospective Oberg so richly deserved.
Obviously it’s hard to beat The Toddfather for the (hopefully) future Hall-of-Famer.
Hall of Fame voters continuing to hold Coors Field against Todd Helton is farcical - Evan Lang | January 26
Todd Helton got awfully close to Cooperstown in this, his fifth year on the ballot. Falling nine (9) votes short of enshrinement bears well for his chances this year, but considering some of the silly arguments from those dropping or passing over Helton on their 2024 ballots, we may have to re-print this article in a few weeks.
We all knew even in February that 2023 would not be kind to the Rockies. But the Purple Row staff took some time to discuss what we loved about Rockies baseball. Your milage may vary as to how effective these loves are to sustain you through bad baseball.
Don Baylor’s Life and Career Part III: A Leader Enshrined through Legacy - Skyler Timmins | February 22
Skyler produced a thorough and masterful exposition of the life and career of the first Rockies manager, Don Baylor. This, the third of the three-part series, wraps up with his post-Rockies career until his death in 2017 and represents a worthy contribution to the 30th anniversary celebrations.
Did Purple Row do more to commemorate the 30th anniversary season than the Rockies themselves did? Probably not, but this article especially, looking at the results of a survey by Purple Row staff, hits a lot different.
Colorado natives on being Colorado Rockies in their 30th anniversary (plus Pebble Report) - Kenneth Weber | April 10
Often forgotten in the midst of a lost season, but this was the 30th anniversary for the Rockies in Denver. As an added bonus, the Rockies rostered three Colorado natives to start the year—Ty Blach, Freeland and Pierce Johnson—and Kenneth talked to them about that fascinating convergence.
The Rockies are (or, at the very least, should be) entering into a youth movement as they take the winding road back to contention. If they are going to do that, they would be better served following the Carlos Gonzalez prospect handling model than others they’ve been using. Sklyer details why.
Nobody had “Brent Suter, productive Colorado Rockie” on their 2023 season bingo card but Mac breaks down how and why that was the case, especially early on. Mac spoke with Suter about his transition to the Centennial State.
Jump in and look at the warning signs but suffice it to say Kenneth was absolutely right.
One of the unequivocal bright spots of the 2023 Rockies season was the emergence of Nolan Jones. Before he starting lighting up baserunners, boxscores, and our hearts, Renee got to talk to him about his call-up and his first series with the team. In that extremely small sample, Jones had a 78 wRC+; he finished the year at 135. Oh yeah, he good.
There are many ways to commemorate an anniversary, but considering certain aspects of life before whatever is being celebrated counts as an unorthodox approach. Paired with “From under water to a mile high: The ancient history of Coors Field” from the previous week, and indebted to Places Around the Bases: A Historic Tour of the Coors Field Neighborhood by Diane Bakke and Jackie Davis, Joelle offers a fascinating consideration of LoDo’s past.
“Playing fetch in a graveyard”: Moving from the infield to the outfield at Coors - Renee Dechert | June 20
Renee spoke to a number of Rockies players who made the shift from infield to outfield, including Michael Toglia, Kris Bryant, and Nolan Jones to produce this fascinating description of the joys and hardships of switching to the outfield.
Elias Díaz is not far from becoming the best catcher in Colorado Rockies franchise history - Kenneth Weber | July 4
Kenneth had a knack for picking timely topics (see below). He pegged Díaz as the lone Rockies All-Star Game representative, but also ventured to say a bit more about him. Those of us who are veterans of the famed Catcher Wars may have shuddered at the headline alone.
Skyer’s entry here represents the fantastic blend of statistics and analysis for which many of us know and love Purple Row. Not for nothing, he just might be right.
Purple Row’s long history covering the Rockies has afforded our writers the opportunity to interview players, and the articles that result are often collaborative efforts. Evan talks with Matt Koch on his contribution to the 2023 team.
Austin Wynns, “The Tao of the Backup Catcher,” and one of the most unappreciated jobs in baseball - Renee Dechert | August 8
Renee got a chance to review the new book by Tim Brown with Erik Kratz, The Tao of the Backup Catcher: Playing Baseball for the Love of the Game. Not content to simply author a review, she broke down the bits of the book relevant to the Rockies catching corps, past and present.
Sam often has the opportunity to speak with Rockies players just before or just after a major performance. Unfortunately, this fantastic interview came shortly before Tucker found himself cut from the Rockies. It doesn’t mean the interview was not well worth a read.
The amount of detailed analysis that went into Mario’s “Pitching at Altitude” series trumps even his “Crafting a Gameplan” series from a year ago. I won’t pretend reading this new series is anything but a commitment, but one that you should probably resolve to get to if you haven’t already (especially if you have any audience with those in the Rockies front office).
Here are the series’ other five parts, for your convenience:
- Part 1: The General Effects of Elevation
- Part 2: Mile High Fastballs
- Part 3: Sinkers & Cutters
- Part 4: Breaking Balls
- Part 5: Changeups & Splitters
Jeff has been running our PuRPs polling for the better part of a decade at this point. Much like Mario, the work and precision that goes into this project should not be overlooked or taken for granted. Thanks, Jeff, for keeping the tradition going year after year.
How to address the Germán Márquez situation this off-season (plus Pebble Report) - Kenneth Weber | September 4
One of the reasons 2023 proved so lackluster for the Rockies and their fans was the absence of fan favorites like Márquez. But that now leaves the Rockies in a tricky situation that Kenneth addressed here (and he turned out to be not only correct, but timely).
Quite separate from any direct results, the Rockies season took a scary turn on May 13 with Ryan Feltner was struck on the head by a comebacker. Tales of his progress both encouraged and frightened all the way up to his return to a Major League mound on September 19. It was an inspiring and, frankly, impressive performance from Feltner. Sam was able to speak with Feltner the next day to track his response.
The Rockies lost 100 games in a season for the first time in franchise history in this, their 30th anniversary season. Let’s just say we all felt a certain kind of way about that.
The Denver Post published a four-part series at the conclusion of the season called “The Rockies Way” that explored “30 years of mediocrity.” Joelle wrote a new Rockpile the next day to point out the importance of such work.
We’re quite fortunate here at Purple Row to have a number of writers who can do deep dives not only into history and statistics but also mechanics. Here Skyler shows off his skill.
We’ll see how the next few years play out, but it’s not looking good for the Kris Bryant era in Denver. Though, as we’ll see soon, it could be worse. Technically, I guess.
For the second year in a row, Denver sports fans enjoyed one of their beloved franchises earning a championship. As Evan ruminates here, that once again makes for troubling comparisons for the franchise at 20th and Blake.
To ink or not to ink: Rockies interesting connection to MLB pitcher tattoo rule - Joelle Milholm | November 17
The deep dive into pitcher tattoos that you never knew you wanted but absolutely needed. As evidenced by previous entries in this roundup, such subjects land right in Joelle’s wheelhouse.
Kyle Freeland solidified himself as a leader in the Rockies rotation in 2023 - Samantha Bradfield | December 8
The 2023 Rockies endured a myriad of injuries in the pitching corps, often setting up those who remained for failure. But Kyle Freeland remained an anchor, and Sam got to chat with him about his opportunity to anchor the team for the next few years.
Kris Bryant and the Rockies might have a brighter future than Russell Wilson and the Broncos - Evan Lang | December 28
Let’s end this on a note of schadenfreude, because as bad as things were for the Rockies in 2023, they were arguably much worse for the Broncos and Russell Wilson.
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Once again, thank you for reading. Here’s to 2024! Shoot, Rockies baseball can’t be much worse than it was in 2023, can it? Can it?!