Full disclosure: I don’t know what to think about you. I just don’t. Let’s start from the beginning…
You were once thought of as a shortstop in the Rockies system. Obviously we both know what happened there: that Tulowitzki guy scratched that option off the list for you. Then came your audition at second base. Which went…OK I guess? How would you really describe it? For some reason I felt like I didn’t come away from that stint knowing anything more about you than I did before. Although you might say that is just my issue; you wouldn’t be the first. Somewhere in there you had some extended time at third, too. Apparently that is equally nondescript in my murky memory, so let’s move on.
I think the main reason for my lack of clarity about your status emerged this spring. As camp started, it seemed that your name was mentioned exclusively as an option for the utility infielder spot. The arrival of Marco Scutaro meant that you or anybody else would not be competing for the second base job. The plan at third base also excluded any mention of your name; it was all fairly straight forward, as the wily veteran Casey Blake would happily keep the seat warm for rising star Nolan Arenado. I hardly think you “wowed” the brass with your audition last season, Chris, if you were not mentioned as anything other than a long shot for a starting spot in the infield. Does that seem fair?
Now that we have established my confusion about the arc of your career with the club so far, let’s look at the situation now. What a difference a couple months make. So much has changed that I have no choice but to ask…are you paying attention, Chris Nelson? Without doing much of anything, you have gone from dark horse to de facto favorite for a spot in the lineup as the opening day third baseman. Crazy, right? How did we get here?
First Blake was ineffective, then he missed action because of his troublesome neck. The stability he was supposed to provide simply is not there, and I think you would agree that his success in minor league action is worth a passing mention at best. I mean, I got an A in an undergraduate History class this year, but as a 26 year old graduate student that really doesn’t mean much, does it? You see my point.
Brandon Wood was a great story, but to say that the excitement about him is waning would be an understatement along the lines of saying that New York Jets fans are “moderately interested” in that Tebow guy. Barring a second burst of success between now and opening day, he is already in your rear view mirror (but hey, if he does end up with the job, don’t quote me on that one Chris. Deal?)
There was an outside chance Arenado would break camp with the team, but it was generally presumed that he would start in the minor leagues. Now that he and his .198 spring BA have been sent down, the team is officially and at least somewhat urgently looking for a starter. Even if it is just to temporarily fill in, this is your chance to leave a more lasting impression with fans, coaches, and management. I mean…I think I like you, but I would like to come away with more useful images of you than I have now. Right now I think of you as the guy who smacks his gum emphatically, accidentally stole home once, and totally digs a good magic trick. Not good for much…
Just like last season, the Rockies’ best laid plans at third base are crumbling, with the broken pieces that are the starting job falling into your lap. We can only hope you are better equipped to fill that role than Ty Wigginton was.
Whatever the actual results of last season, it looks like you have stumbled upon a second audition. Do work.
Hayden W. Kane