In past seasons, I have used “Runners on 1st … and 2nd Guesses” as a way to complain about some of the game to game decisions by the Colorado Rockies that made me question my fandom.
The problem is the Rockies have been such a dumpster fire that practically every day there has been something about this team that has engulfed my anger. This is why it has taken me two months into the season to write my favorite segment here at Rox Pile.
However, instead of my usual complaints about the daily play, I am going to take a big picture approach and second-guess a huge moment in the Rockies’ recent history that has brought us to where we are today.
The date was July 31, 2019. A day so important in Rockies history that the window of contention to compete for the franchise’s first division title/multiple playoff berths would be slammed shut for what could be many seasons to come.
What did the Rockies do that day to deserve such a fate? Nothing. You read that correctly. Absolutely nothing.
Of course, I’m talking about that season’s trade deadline where the Rockies didn’t make a single big move to improve themselves with a playoff run in the balance. At the time, it was still a big deal that the Rockies stood pat but in the grand scheme of things, it is likely what derailed the entire franchise.
So why was this move, or lack thereof, such a turning point for the franchise?
As we all know, before the ’19 season, Nolan Arenado signed the largest contract in Rockies’ history for eight years and $260 million. Coming off consecutive playoff appearances, Arenado signed the contract with the belief that former GM Jeff Bridich would do all that he could to continue to build a winning team around him.
That turned out to not be the case. The Rockies let DJ LeMahieu and Adam Ottavino depart to the New York Yankees and the only significant pickup in the off season was Daniel Murphy … and we know how that turned out.
The season began with a major thud as the Rockies lost 12 of the first 15 games. However, they were able to scratch their way back and by the end of June, they had a 44-39 record, good enough for second in the National League West and was tied for the top Wild Card spot.
The calendar flipped to July and the Rockies lost all momentum. They would go on to lose 18 of 24 games that month and would end the season with a fourth-place finish in the NL West with a 71-91 record.
It will never be known if a trade for a better arm in the bullpen or another big bat in the lineup at deadline would have kickstarted the Rockies again down the stretch, but it did make it clear to Arenado that the front office was not going make the bold moves that it would take to put a winner on the field.
The rest is history. That offseason, the rumors of Arenado’s unhappiness began to surface. Again, the front office did not make any significant moves to bolster the roster. The pandemic hit and the 2020 season was shortened. Arenado battled an injury throughout the season as the Rockies collapsed in the final month to miss out on the playoffs for the second season in a row.
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Then finally he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals (along with a big bag of cash) for Austin Gomber and some prospects this past February. The deal made many within inner baseball circles question the Rockies, with one article summing it all up by saying in an understatement, “It’s hard to spin this one as a positive for the Rockies.”
To go along with its atrocious play on the field, lack of high-quality prospects in the minors, and the inevitable trades of Trevor Story and Jon Gray, the Rockies are looking at a rebuild that could take possibly half a decade before they field a playoff contender.
Had the Rockies’ front office attempted to push for the playoffs back in ’19 and made a trade, this franchise might not be stuck in purgatory. Arenado and the Rockies could have been battling for the NL West and playoff position … but, again, this is just someone second guessing.