Rockies Mailbag: Trevor Story’s future, spring training update, “St. Louis Steal” and more – The Denver Post

Denver Post sports writer Patrick Saunders with the latest installment of his Rockies Mailbag.

Pose a Rockies — or MLB — related question for the Rockies Mailbag.

Patrick, it is so important for a set infield to leave spring training as a well-oiled machine. With the hole left by Nolan Arenado, how do you see that happening this year?

— Judy Frieman, Denver

Judy, that’s actually the least of my concerns this spring. Nobody is going to replace Arenado, of course, but I think Ryan McMahon will do a solid job at third. Trevor Story at short will bounce back after a so-so 2020 season (10 errors, a career-low .961 fielding percentage). If Josh Fuentes wins the job at first base, he’ll be excellent there, and much better than the retired Daniel Murphy was over the last two seasons.

True, second base is unsettled. Will Brendan Rodgers win the job? Garrett Hampson? Chris Owings (signed to a minor league deal)?

The biggest concern is if Story is traded at some point. That would be a huge blow for the defense – not to mention the offense.

Patrick, with the “St. Louis Steal” a reality, how can the Rockies’ brain trust possibly retain Story, while hoping to re-sign all of our young, homegrown pitchers? How can there be any confidence that players may have to actually “win” and just not collect a paycheck? Thank You.

— Robert Emmerling, Parker

Robert, I just finished writing a story about Story’s future in Colorado. He had some interesting quotes but didn’t reveal a lot.

In my opinion, Colorado will not be able to re-sign Story, and given the slim chances for the club to be a contender, it would be wise to seek a trade for him. It might be too late to get a decent return right now, but if a playoff team believes that adding Story can put them over the top, then I could see Story being moved at the deadline. Yankees, anyone?

The homegrown pitchers, as you alluded to, are the Rockies’ key right now. They’re likely going to lose Jon Gray (perhaps at the trade deadline) but they are in good shape for the next three seasons with German Marquez, Antonio Senzatela and Kyle Freeland.

As for your “just collect a paycheck” comment, I don’t look at it that way. The players the Rockies put on the field will give it their all, I just don’t think there’s enough talent right now to win consistently.

The Rockies’ projected lineup looks like it’s loaded with tons of young and unproven players, plus Story and Charlie Blackmon. Is this year a case of “let’s throw whoever out there and hope someone reaches their potential?” Will they reach 100 losses? I don’t see a ton of bright spots unless Rodgers finally becomes that out-of-the-world star we’ve been waiting for. Give me some hope, Patrick.

— Al, Lakewood

I’ll admit that it’s difficult to be hopeful about the 2021 Rockies but I don’t think they will lose 100 games.

Hope comes in the form of the starting rotation — if it can stay healthy.

This is a huge year for Rodgers, as I’m sure he’s well aware. He has raw talent, for sure, but will it transfer to the major-league level? The Rockies better hope so, because they have invested a lot in him, including a $5.5 million signing bonus as the third overall pick in 2015.

Two players the Rockies are counting on to blossom are utility player in Hampson and outfielder Sam Hilliard. I would love to see Hilliard take the next step (better at-bats, fewer strikeouts) because he’s an exciting player with power, speed and a good glove.

Hi Patrick, I have been a Rockies season ticket holder for 25 years (does last year count?) We have watched many great players come and go, but this one really stings. In the past we had, at the least, acquired a player or up-and-coming prospect that we could follow. No such luck this time, we just traded not only one of the best third baseman in the game, but one that elevates the play of others around him due to his passion for the game. I am with you, a rebuild is worth a look, but this management has given me no reason to believe trading Story or Gray will net us anything in return worth rebuilding around. I say free Jon and Trev, allow them to win elsewhere, they deserve it. The Rockies will get to the World Series much like they always have — one player at a time.

— Jeff, Sad in Colorado Springs

Jeff, I’m not sure I understand. I think what you’re saying is that individual Rockies players move on to other teams and then go to the World Series. Did I get that right?

That’s a cynical point of view, but understandable.

On a personal level, I’m torn about Arenado being traded to the Cardinals. I’m going to miss watching his magic act at third base and his childlike passion for the game. But I also want to see him have a chance to win and I don’t think that was going to happen here.

I think his love of the game is still alive but his frustration with the losing has worn on him. You could see it in his body language on the field and I could sense it when I talked to him. I hope he finds what he’s looking for in St. Louis.

Patrick, every professional sports organization aspires to winning, yet relatively few, even at the highest level, sustain a winning ethos. I am coming to ever more appreciate the complex set of variables necessary for a championship organization. The Rockies, Broncos, Nuggets and Avalanche appear to be a fascinating case study in what it takes to build a championship organization. There is a lot more going on than what we see on the field, floor and ice. I would love to see someone at the Denver Post with sports business acumen create an in-depth look at what it takes to make and sustain a championship sports organization.

Thanks for your level-headed coverage of the Rockies. I count on it.

— Chuck, Denver

Chuck, that’s an excellent idea. I’ll pass it along to my editors.

It’s a strange time to be a Colorado sports fan. The Broncos, after so many year of excellence, are searching for an identity. The Avs seem to be on the right track but aren’t quite back to their glory days. The Nuggets, who have never been to the NBA Finals, seem to be lacking the final pieces. And the Rockies? Like most mid-market teams in Major League Baseball, they’re finding it tough to field a consistent winner. I’m not making excuses for the Rockies, but without a true salary cap and revenue sharing, the rich are going to continue to rule baseball.

Patrick, some thoughts on Arenado’s departure that I didn’t see covered in the numerous articles in the DP pillorying both Dick Monfort and Jeff Bridich, which I thought was richly deserved.

Bud Black was conspicuously absent at the news conference and, unless I am mistaken, none of the reporters asked about him, what gives? He will be the one most affected by losing Arenado. A lot was said by both Monfort and Bridich about this “talented team” that has “under-performed” for the last two years. Who is most responsible for that? It’s not Bridich or Monfort. Is that not the manager’s job? Black is a gentleman who knows his baseball but is motivating the players his strong suit?

Is there hope for the future at this point? One possibility is that the expectations will be so low that all the pressure will be off, the players will play loose and do better than we think they will do. I think the Arenado feud with Bridich, however legitimate, rubbed off on the rest of the team. Adding to that was his frustrations at the plate no doubt caused by the shoulder injury. So the atmosphere might be less tense now and someone might step up to be a leader.

But now will they add something to the team instead of merely subtract like they did with Arenado, David Dahl, Tony Wolters, Jeff Hoffman, etc.? Time will tell, I guess.

— Bruce Dickinson, Louisville

Bruce, I’m not sure how to respond to all of that, but let’s start with Black. He wasn’t at the press conference because he really has relatively little to do with the players that the Rockies sign or trade. Does he bear some responsibility for the Rockies’ lousy play over the last two seasons? Sure he does, but the idea that it’s a major-league manager’s job to “motivate the players,” isn’t really valid. At this level, communication is huge over the course of the long season, but motivating players shouldn’t be on his to-do list.

As for the Bridich-Arenado feud rubbing off on the rest of the team, I think it did, although not directly. I’ve asked several players about this and they’ve told me it didn’t affect them that much. It was the losing, not the Bridich-Arenado rift that caused mounting tension.

Whenever the idea of “boycott the Rockies” comes up I always hear people say it wouldn’t matter if Colorado fans didn’t come to Coors because two-thirds of the fans that come to the games are showing support for the opposing team. I went to a Red Sox at Coors Field one time a few years back and the “Let’s Go Red Sox!” chant was unbelievably loud, especially when David Ortiz came to bat. Is this one of the main reasons why there is little incentive to improve the team?

— Harrison Bergeron, Keota

Harrison, no, that’s not the reason the Rockies are in a rut. They aren’t the only team to draw visiting fans to the home ballpark. The Tampa Bay Rays have been a good team for many years and Yankees and Red Sox fans still come to Tropicana Field.

Colorado, as I’m sure you know, is home to a lot of transplants with allegiances to other teams, especially the Chicago Cubs. It’s annoying for local fans and for Rockies players, but it’s not the reason the Rockies aren’t fielding a consistent winner. I’m sure Monfort would rather sell tickets to Rockies fans, though he’ll gladly take the money from Red Sox and Cubs fans.

As for the “boycott the Rockies” movement, I’m not a fan of it. I’m not going to tell fans how to spend their money, one way or another. Moreover, a big drop in attendance would hurt business in LoDo and also would hurt stadium workers. An empty Coors Field on a summer night is not going to convince Monfort to sell the team.

Denver Post sports writer Patrick Saunders with the latest installment of his Rockies Mailbag.

Pose a Rockies — or MLB — related question for the Rockies Mailbag.

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