Colorado Rockies pitchers and catchers have officially reported to Spring Training at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Entering camp, the Rockies, at least on paper, look like one of the worst teams in baseball. Numerous projections are saying that as are Vegas oddsmakers and thousands of Rockies fans, especially in the wake of the Nolan Arenado trade a few weeks ago.
Among others who spoke to the media, including Rox Pile, on Thursday was Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Kyle Freeland and he says that he and the Rockies have and will continue to use that as their main motivation in 2021.
"“I think that should be our sole motivating factor,” said Freeland on a Zoom call with Rockies media, including Rox Pile, on Thursday. “We haven’t even played a spring training game [yet]. It’s Day 1 of pitchers and catchers and people are already counting us out. That’s kind of a position I like to be in. Being an underdog means being someone that the general public doesn’t think is going to perform at all so I think, as a whole team, we’re using that as a chip on our shoulder to push us to shock the world and prove the doubters wrong.”"
He wanted to convey a similar message to Rockies fans.
Later, he was asked if he wanted a message conveyed to fans about the team, what would that message be, and here’s what he had to say.
"“I would tell [fans to] focus on the group that we have [right now],” said Freeland. “We have some incredible players on this team. We may be young. We may not have the superstars that a lot of other teams are stacked up on but…as I said last year, I don’t mind being a snack in the grass. This is a great opportunity for us to shock the world. Regardless of what’s going on in the organization, this active roster that will be put on the field this year is going to be out there looking to win ballgames consistently.”"
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It was also indicated that during their meetings this offseason that Freeland, Trevor Story, Scott Oberg, and other veterans were pumping the rest of the team up and, essentially, saying that, while Arenado is a huge loss for them, they must move forward and try to be the best team that they possibly can.
The team has, objectively, gotten worse this offseason as, at bare minimum, the Rockies did not get the MLB return to replace Arenado in the majors in 2021. And, rightfully so, fans have questioned the team’s ownership and front office on the trade after Arenado was extended. Also, the Rockies have been equivalent to a low-70 win team in the last two seasons and that is with Arenado on the team.
So, in the words of Freeland, how are the Rockies going to “shock the world” in 2021, at least in a good way? Would you find the Rockies winning 75 games a “shock the world” moment? Perhaps so … but that would still be 10 or more games out of the playoff hunt (if the playoff structure remains like it was pre-COVID) and 20+ games out of the NL West hunt.
Obviously, Freeland isn’t going to say “we’re a bad team,” but his words showing support for his team are very strong ones. Time and player development will be the two key factors for the Rockies to “shock the world” in 2021 and for Rockies fans, hopefully, they will “shock the world” in a good way.