Aaron Cook holds a special place in the hearts of many Rockies fans. He is a significant player if you trace the arc of the Rockies’ road to relevance in the National League. With the news that he has signed a minor league contract with the Boston Red Sox, it is appropriate to acknowledge his continued importance to the Rockies moving forward.
With his heavy sinker he showed the organization and fans that it was possible for a pitcher to sustain success while pitching half of his games at altitude. When Cook had his good stuff he neutralized the advantages hitters normally enjoy at Coors Field. Each groundball chopped weakly to a Rockies infielder was a step towards belief: a belief that pitchers could thrive despite the huge gaps in the outfield behind them and the thin air surrounding them.
As Cook departs the Rockies seek pitchers that fit his profile. The ideal fit continues to be somebody who pounds the strike zone, keeps the ball down, and gets in a rhythm with groundball outs. By now fans are comfortable cheering phrases of encouragement like: “Get a grounder!” or “Get him to roll one out to Tulo!”
Cook was also the first truly homegrown pitcher to stick around for a number of years. He had been with the organization since 1997 (when I was a zippy 12 years old…gulp). He was the antithesis of the failed attempts to add big-name pitchers in free agency (see Hampton, Mike and Neagle, Denny). Because of Cook the Rockies learned the importance of developing their own pitching talent as well as the type of pitchers they needed to work with to enjoy long term success.
We went through a lot with Aaron Cook. He almost died on the field because of blood clots in his lungs. He pitched on some of the most depressing teams in franchise history. One of my favorite Rockies memories, even though it was part of a loss, was seeing him pitch in game 4 of the 2007 World Series. Like Todd Helton he deserved the chance to compete in meaningful games after all the skinny years he went through with the team. Because he was a Rockie for so long and such an enjoyable personality, I am sad to see him leave.
Aaron Cook belongs on the short list of important players in the relatively brief history of the Colorado Rockies. I hope that he somehow finds success in the gauntlet known as the American League East because he definitely deserves it.