This Is Tulo’s Team

July 12, 2011; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki during the 2011 All Star game at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

You do not typically here this type of conversation about baseball teams. It is usually reserved for basketball, like are the Miami Heat Dwayne Wade or LeBron James’s team? For a team that spent an entire offseason adding veterans to spread accountability across the locker room, to dub one player the leader seems strange.

The quotes you read about the Rockies shifting into the Troy Tulowitzki era seem quite promising. Todd Helton pulled Tulowitzki aside and told him to be a leader. In turn Tulo has said that he never wanted to “step on Helton’s toes” and that it means a lot to him to have Helton’s blessing. He will now be more outspoken and not bite his tongue when he thinks something needs to be said. If we limit our analysis of this issue to the transition from Helton’s team to Tulo’s team, then it seems like a very natural and nice passing of the torch between two of our beloved players. 

But it also complicates the way we view the club. Does it not seem at least a little bit counter-intuitive to add Michael Cuddyer, Marco Scutaro, and Jeremy Guthrie and then say that you have handed the reigns of leadership to one guy? Did management need to obsess over a change in culture if Tulo was going to take over in this manner?

I am all for Troy Tulowitzki taking on an enhanced leadership role. As a fan I love hearing quotes like this one: “This is more me. There would be things before where I’d kind of be biting my tongue and tell myself, ‘Be careful what you get yourself into.’ Not anymore. I’m going to let it fly.” I just think it is odd to call it one player’s team, and that is not a commentary on whether or not it should be Tulo’s team.

If the Rockies falter out of the gate, are we going to hear about guys holding each other accountable or are we going to hear about what Tulo is going to do to fix things? If things are going well does Tulo get the credit for the improved team chemistry? I know that these reductionist questions do not do justice to Troy Renck’s article, but they should still be asked when we were just bludgeoned with the buzz words “changing the clubhouse culture.” I always thought that referred to a collective change with all of the players added this offseason.

On the one hand this is splitting hairs. If the article was simply about a larger leadership role it would not be worth a second look. But that subtle difference, that decision by Helton, Tulo, and Jason Giambi to explicitly call the Rockies his team, warrants an earmark. Basketball fans know how unreasonable that kind of talk can be; just check out the debates about whether the New York Knicks are Jeremy Lin’s team or Carmelo Anthony’s team. It risks putting ridiculous expectations on one guy, especially for a sport in baseball that has bigger rosters and more diverse roles.

It is also debatable how much attention we should spend on abstract talking points. This point deserves attention for a simple reason: it’s confusing. Time will tell if it starts to make more sense as the season takes shape. For now we are left to accept the Rockies as Tulo’s team, wonder what all the new “clubhouse guys” think of that, and hope that all of this talk about better leadership actually comes to mean something.

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