Colorado Rockies: Remembering Carlos Gonzalez’s walk-off cycle /

For nearly a decade, Carlos Gonzalez has been a constant in the Colorado Rockies clubhouse. No matter the outlook of the season, CarGo brought his infectious smile and a calming quality only a proven veteran can bestow on this young clubhouse. This year already feels different. Nolan Arenado and others are feeling what life is like without CarGo going to bat with every day. No other time encapsulates just how much energy Gonzalez has brought to this organization than when he hit the first walk-off cycle on July 31, 2010 in club history.

Coming into 2010, there were incredibly high expectations on Gonzalez to perform. He was the main piece coming over from Oakland in the Matt Holliday trade. At the time, it wasn’t a forgone conclusion that trading Holiday was a good move. In his first year in Oakland, CarGo’s sample was small playing half of the season with a .242 batting average. The next year he played about half the season again with the Rockies hitting .284. His presence was mostly felt in the 2009 playoffs. He had 10 hits in 17 at-bats in the series against the Phillies. If the Rockies would have won that series, he would had definitely been the MVP of the NLDS.

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While Gonzalez had lofty expectations, the Rockies had much larger ones coming off a season where the club was arguably the best in franchise history in 2009. (No one will ever forget 2007, but that’s for a different article.) The season started off incredibly with Ubaldo Jimenez‘s no-hitter against the Atlanta Braves. The pieces were seemingly in place but by the end of July 2010, the Rockies weren’t meeting these lofty expectations. The team sat at 54-50 tied for third place seven games back of the San Diego Padres, who lost their lead on the last day of the season to the eventual even-year Giants dynasty. It wasn’t a bad place to be but it felt like this team was better than their record.

Then Gonzalez gave a spark that felt like could lift this team into runs like they’ve seen in previous magical playoff runs. Jason Hammel started the final game in July for the Rockies against an aging Cubs team. Hammel pitched a gem and the Rockies held a 5-2 lead in the 8th inning. Derek Lee had wiped that lead with a game-tying three-run homer.

Then came the magic of Carlos Gonzalez. He led off the bottom of the ninth inning against Sean Marshall, then closer for the Cubs. Gonzalez only needed one pitch. It was shocking how far that ball went. It was almost like you knew the ball was out before he even made contact. The ball traveled 462 feet which was the longest at Coors Field up to that point in the season. He hit it into the third deck in what is now the Rooftop.

The call was one of the best of Drew Goodman’s career. A time when CarGo was the “Little Pony.” It is certainly one of the best moments in Colorado Rockies history. At that point, the last time someone completed a cycle with a game-ending home was Dwight Evans in 1984. Only five other players have hit a homer to complete a cycle. (This includes Nolan Arenado in 2017.) After a down year for CarGo in 2017, Arenado hitting that walk-off cycle seemed the official passing of the torch as the clubhouse leader. A role CarGo took over after Todd Helton and especially Troy Tulowitzki left. Arenado has had tremendous mentors who led by example.

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The Rockies finished a disappointing 83-79 mostly due to a late skid at the end of the season but CarGo hit .336 winning the NL batting title that year. Gonzalez is one of the best Rockies of all time not only for what he brought on the field. He sparked optimism even in the lowest moments in this franchise’s history. He made you feel like anything was possible and nothing encapsulates this more than his walk-off cycle.

The Rockies could sign him to another contract to show they can stick it out through hard times. But that wouldn’t be the reason to re-sign him. The reason to re-sign him is there is still spark to his game as he showed in the later half of the season after only being one year removed from being an All-Star. None of that compares though to the spark he brings to this clubhouse and the Rockies are a better team with Carlos Gonzalez.