Nolan Arenado spoke the hard truth on Tuesday afternoon when it comes to the current direction of the Colorado Rockies.
With a shorter season but a larger postseason field, eight of the 15 National League teams will see the playoffs in 2020. Right now, those eight teams will not include the Colorado Rockies, who entered Tuesday night’s series opener against the Oakland A’s at Coors Field tied for 10th place in the NL.
After an 11-3 start, missing an expanded postseason field after an incredible opening stretch with such talent at the top of the lineup would be a bitter pill for the Rockies to swallow. And make no mistake about it, All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado knows it.
When asked on Tuesday before the Oakland game if a trip to the 2020 postseason was necessary to see if the Rockies were on the right track, Arenado was quick to answer.
“Absolutely. No question for me. Eight teams make the playoffs and if we’re not one of those eight teams, that’s not a very good sign.”
Now with just 13 games left in the season and some ground to makeup, the Rockies are backed into a corner if they want to see the playoffs for the third time in four seasons. Arenado knows it, and so does everyone else within the Rockies organization.
And let’s make clear that Arenado isn’t pointing fingers. He pointed a “the Rockies are struggling because” finger right back at himself and his scuffling at the plate earlier in the interview.
While everything can’t be read into a shorter season where little resembled previous campaigns, it’s obvious that the Rockies are coming to a crossroads with Arenado and the composition of their team.
With Arenado having his opt-out clause at the end of next season and Trevor Story scheduled to be a free agent at the same time, there seems to be a growing sense of urgency within this team. Kevin Pillar and Mychal Givens were brought over at the trade deadline to give this team a push. So far, it hasn’t been enough to push the Rockies into the NL’s top eight.
Understand this, Arenado’s Tuesday statement was not meant as a “win or else” threat. It was, however, meant as a very public temperature reading of where things are with the franchise … and where they should be.
Certainly, there’s plenty that could have been different about this season. In a perfect world, David Dahl would have played to his 2019 All-Star level and avoided injury. Scott Oberg would be a part of the back end of the bullpen. Wade Davis would look like it was 2018 rather than 2019. Arenado wouldn’t be dealing with a shoulder issue. Daniel Murphy would have lived up to his contract.
Despite all of that, this Rockies team has the talent necessary to make the expanded postseason. Arenado knows it. That is, perhaps, the most frustrating thing of all for the Rockies and their fan base.
“We want to make the playoffs,” Colorado manager Bud Black said after Arenado spoke on Tuesday. “We haven’t played great lately as a team. I do think we can put something together if we play well because I think we have the pieces to do it.”
Whatever happens the rest of this season, we know the 2021 Rockies will have a different look. Murphy and Davis will be almost certainly off the books and Ian Desmond could well return. Veteran bats in Matt Kemp and Pillar may or may not be back. There will also be questions to answer about what went wrong in a shortened season that had every chance to provide the franchise a boost but has instead added uncertainty about the near-term sustainability of winning with this core group.
Arenado’s comments may have lit a fire under the team as they won 3-1 after Antonio Senzatela threw his first career complete game. We’ll see if they can continue with the momentum today when the Rockies face the A’s at 1:10 p.m. (Mountain time) as time is ticking for the Rockies for 2020 and beyond.