|Are CarGo and Tulo the best duo in the game?|
Try finding someone who will be critical of the talent that Gonzalez brings to the Colorado Rockies. They are nowhere to be found.
On Wednesday, the left fielder led the Rockies to a big win over a very good Cincinnati Reds team, helping them win a series in a park that is extremely difficult to win in. The Rockies head home for a 10-game homestand, the longest of the 2013 season.
The second home run that Gonzalez hit was a laser that landed 479 feet away from home plate near the top of the stands in right-center field. It is the longest home run hit so far in the big leagues in 2013, and amazingly, the longest home run of CarGo's career. Even longer than the walk-off blast he hit in 2010 against the Chicago Cubs to complete his cycle.
The home runs led the Rockies to victory, but they also overshadowed the outstanding performance of the rest of the lineup. The other half of the duo, Troy Tulowitzki, joined in the fun, launching two home runs of his own. The club notched a season-high 20 hits, including four by third baseman Nolan Arenado, who seems to have taken advantage of his day off on Tuesday.
The Rockies caught a break before the game even started. They were slated to face Reds ace Johnny Cueto, but he was a late scratch after the oblique strain that landed him on the disabled list early in the season flared up again. Because of the short notice, the Reds were forced to call up Pedro Villareal, who probably was not the pitcher of choice.
Here is what is becoming more and more clear by the day. The Rockies have a duo in Tulo and CarGo that are as good as any duo in the game currently, and in the past 10 years. These guys have talent that is rare to find. Having one guy on a team with the talent that these two possess is rare, having two is ridiculous.
There are other teams that have guys that are arguably as good or better at the plate than CarGo and Tulo, but combine the level of defense that both of the guys on the Rockies play and it simply can't be matched. The only reason the Gold Glove for shortstop isn't engraved with Troy Tulowitzki's name before the season is because he has to stay healthy to win it. Beyond that, it is his to lose. A shortstop with his defensive talent is usually a guy that a team is thrilled to have hit .270 with 15 home runs and 60 RBIs. Tulo has a chance to have those power numbers by the all-star break, and he is going to hit above .300.
As for Gonzalez, he hits above .300 just by showing up to the park. He is still often wildly undisciplined at the plate. He routinely swings at pitches not inches, but feet out of the strike zone. Even with that blemish, he has to be considered one of the top left-handed hitters in the game.
The knock on CarGo, and frankly every player who blossoms in a Rockies uniform is that they are a product of Coors Field. That was always the case with Gonzalez. Everyone assumed that he was an above average player who relished in the hitters haven a mile above sea level. The stats so far in 2013 have the doubters eating their words.
Gonzalez has 11 home runs on the road in 2013, as opposed to six at home. After his 3-for-5 night, Gonzalez is sporting a .348 batting average on the road, as opposed to .275 at home. He has 21 RBIs both at home and on the road.
The fact is, Gonzalez is among the elite in baseball. He can do everything, including steal bases and play phenomenal defense. The experts who still want to knock Gonzalez's game haven't watched him play for two straight weeks. If they had, they would know that the ball jumps off of his bat differently. There is a louder sound than the average player.
As much flack as the Rockies management was given in 2012, and deservedly so, it is time to acknowledge the amount of forethought that went into locking up both Tulowitzki and Gonzalez in the same offseason. The six-year, $118 million contract was mocked by some when the Rockies offered it to Tulowitzki, and the seven-year, $81 million deal for Gonzalez was ridiculed around the league as paying too much money for an unproven commodity.
The reality is, the way contracts have exploded around the league, both players are going to be considered absolute steals based on their contract values. If Tulo can stay healthy, he may be the most underpaid player in the game by the time his contract expires.
With that in mind, the Rockies organization has a responsibility. They clearly have the talent in the lineup to win every night. If those two guys are in the lineup, they have a chance to win. Don't forget that the rest of the lineup isn't too shabby either. This is a very good offensive team when everything clicks. What that means is that the front office must take advantage of the window that they have given themselves. They must grow talent, buy talent, acquire talent to get the guys on the mound to be good enough to give this team a chance every night.
The fact is, the pitchers don't have to be great, they just have to be good. With the duo leading the way, there is no need for a true ace. This team can go out and mash their way to victory every day.
The Rockies sit at four games above .500. They must take the next step in the homestand that they are about to embark on. They need to win seven of the 10 and make a statement that they are a good team, and an even better team at home. They need to take advantage of a home park that is difficult for other teams pitchers to dominate in with a decent lineup. With the Rockies lineup, pitching at Coors Field should be a memory that haunts opposing pitchers--and their ERA's--for a long time.
The road to contention in the National League West hits a critical junction over the next 10 games. The Rockies must continue to hit. They must pitch well enough to stay in games, and they absolutely must play with the same never-quit attitude that they have been doing a good job of playing with so far in 2013.
This team can win. They can win this season. They have already taken several steps forward. They must keep their foot on the gas pedal and continue to get better. The National League West is up for grabs, and there is no reason to think that they Rockies can't land on top of the pile when it all shakes out.
With the duo of Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki healthy, the Rockies might just be the favorites to win their first division title.
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