On June 29, an article by Nick Groke of The Athletic was published. In it, Nolan Arenado, the All-Star third baseman for the Colorado Rockies, had plenty of choice words about losing and how it grated upon him. The feelings were nothing new, but the timing of it and some of the words in the article raised the eyebrows of some Rockies fans.
Two days later, in an article in USA Today, Arenado reiterated that he doesn’t like losing and reminded readers that, in his six-year career with the Colorado Rockies, he has participated in one playoff game. That came last season in a Wild Card loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks. It was a quick ending to Arenado’s postseason resume´.
It is no surprise that Arenado wants to reach the postseason again … and he’s playing like a man who wants to get there. His 27 home runs lead the National League as does his .599 slugging percentage and .992 OPS. He leads the Rockies in homers, RBI (75) and batting average (.306).
While the timing of Groke’s article with Arenado (just after a 1-0 walkoff loss to the San Francisco Giants that was Colorado’s fourth consecutive loss and part of an 11-16 June) was tough for Rockies fans to see, the words also marked a turning point for the Rockies.
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Since its June 29 publication, the Rockies are 17-5, including 15-5 in July after a weekend sweep of the Oakland Athletics at Coors Field. Is the turnaround linked to Arenado laying his heart out for the world to see in The Athletic? In an exclusive interview with Rox Pile, the 27-year-old third baseman doesn’t think so.
“I think it’s a coincidence. I don’t think the guys are reading the paper,” Arenado told me inside the Colorado clubhouse. “That’s not how it worked out. I think guys took it upon themselves to make a change. That’s on them. That’s why this team is where we are now. We’re fighting because I think people looked themselves in the mirror and knew we had to make a change. We’re better than we were doing. We’re playing better baseball because of the changes the group made.”
Arenado told me he will always be honest when asked a question, even if his answer may not be the one that everyone wants to hear.
“I’m not the biggest media guy but I understand it. I know it comes with the territory,” Arenado said. “I’m more than OK with answering questions. I feel like I’m honest and I’m going to be real. I’m going to defend my team. Those are the things I think about.”
What Arenado told me is that he hopes the passion he has for winning is what came out of those words in the article. He hopes that passion is evident every day when he mans the hot corner for the Rockies.
“I want the fans to know that I care,” Arenado said. “I don’t want the fans to ever think I’m just here for the money or that I’m just happy to be here. I want to bring a championship. I want to win. I want to play in October. I want to have the fans here. We feed off them. I want them to know that.”
Fans have been turning out at Coors Field in droves and voicing their support for the Rockies. Colorado is averaging over 37,000 fans per game (fifth in the National League and seventh in all of Major League Baseball), including over 40,000 for each of the five interleague games of the past week.
Winning in front of home crowds that are loud and passionate about their team? Arenado says he is all about that.
“It’s a lot more fun and there is a lot more energy,” Arenado said of Colorado’s winning ways. “It’s just better baseball. You wake up in the morning and you’re ready to come to the field. You’re excited to come to the field. Earlier in the year, there are times when you’re losing, you’re like, ‘Oh this isn’t very fun right now.’ When you’re winning, it’s so much fun. When you go to bed, you’re like, ‘Oh this is sick.’ I can’t wait to do it again the next day.”
Arenado was passionate about what he said near the end of June. Now, nearing the end of July, he is just as passionate about getting the Rockies back to the postseason.