The Colorado Rockies look more like the 2004 version of the Rockies than a team that was supposed to contend for the National League West crown, and push for the World Series. The disappointment from the fans is evident. There is plenty of frustration to go around, from the front office, to the manager, to the coaches and to the players, there isn't a part of this team that isn't taking blame for the failures.
Aaron Cook is no exception to that. He simply hasn't been the same pitcher that seemed to win every time he was on the mound back in 2008. He was the stopper then. In another disappointing year, every fifth day it felt like Cook took the mound and stopped a losing streak.
That season earned him an All-Star appearance. It looked like it would be one of many, but unfortunately for the right-hander, he hasn't made it back since.
With the Rockies playing their final home game of the 2011 season on Wednesday afternoon, fans need to know that Cook will take the mound for the Rockies. It will be his 206 start in a Rockies uniform, and it will also be his last.
Cook hasn't been himself over the past couple of seasons. He has lost some velocity on his fastball, causing his sinker to have less bite. As his bread and butter pitch, Cook has been forced to mix in a slider and curveball more often, essentially changing who he is as a pitcher. He has still had some success, but the results haven't been what they were when his sinker was really working.
The Rockies have a $12 million option on Cook for the 2012 season, which will certainly not be exercised. That will make the redhead a free agent for the first time in his career.
After extremely tough seasons in both 2010 and 2011, seasons in which Cook battled injuries, many fans might not see Wednesday afternoon as anything significant, let alone sentimental. However, that couldn't be further from the truth.
What is easy to forget in the midst of disappointment is that Cook making his last start in a Rockies uniform marks the end of an era. It was Cook, coupled with Jason Jennings, who gave the Rockies their first glimmer of hope in the middle of a trying and difficult rebuilding. The second round pick was dominant. His sinkerball became the benchmark for what the Rockies were looking for in the draft and in free agency in order to be able to pitch effectively at Coors Field.
Cook being able to rise through the Minor Leagues and have success at Coors Field with his sinker gave the Rockies, and their dwindling fan base hope that the club was making the right decision by building from within.
Right when things starting going well for Cook, the Rockies almost lost him. Pitching against his hometown Reds on August 7th, Cook felt a shortness of breath. He tried to pitch through it, but in the third inning it got too difficult for him to continue on. Thanks in large part to Rockies trainer Keith Dugger, who miraculously was keen enough to decipher that the 24-year old was experiencing blood clots in his lungs, the Rockies were able to get him to the hospital before the issue took his life.
No one would have faulted Cook for quitting. He nearly lost his life. At that point, his career was an afterthought. The recovery process was extremely long. In order to get to the clot, the doctors had to take out two ribs.
Many thought he would never pitch again. Cook, however, proved his doubters wrong. Not only did he return late in the 2005 season, but he dominated in his return. He went 7-2 in 13 starts after returning to the mound on July 30th, nearly one full year short of his near-death. His 7-2 included a 3.67 ERA, impressive by any standards, but even more so when it is considered that the humidor was still two years away from being a reality at Coors Field.
Cook went on to win 72 games in a Rockies uniform. That is the most by any Rockies pitcher in the history of the franchise. Todd Helton is the only Rockie who has been with the team longer, and those two are significantly ahead of the rest of the pack.
The point is, Aaron Cook has left his footprint in the Rockies clubhouse and in the history books. He has been a huge part of this franchise. His success helped bring fans back to the Rockies when it was so difficult to root the team on. Cook may be a different pitcher today than he was three years ago, but there is no way to say goodbye without recognizing the enormous impact that he has had on the franchise.
Rockies fans have one last opportunity to acknowledge what Cook has done for their team before he moves on, probably for good.
Rockies fans should give Aaron Cook a long standing ovation, one that requires a curtain call, as he walks off the mound for the final time on Wednesday afternoon. That is what he deserves, and anything less would be a shame.