|Arenado's slide finished off the Rockies season.|
When Matt Holliday slid into home, or close to it, in 2007, the Rockies were headed to the playoffs, capping an amazing comeback in an amazing game in the middle of an amazing run. On May 23rd in Atlanta, the Rockies had their infamous slide.
Nolan Arenado slammed a pitch high off of the left field wall. It was nearly a home run. However, the ball was hit so hard that it didn't get the height to leave the yard. It bounced right back to Justin Upton in left field, who fired the ball into second base. Arenado had hesitated going to second, then went, causing enough of a delay to make the play close. The Rockies third baseman slid head first, jamming his left middle finger on the base.
The result was a broken finger and a broken season.
Anyone who watches the Rockies regularly knows that while the injury to Arenado wasn't the reason that the 2014 season is going to end without a playoff appearance, however it was a large factor in the reason the Rockies season started on a downward spiral.
The Rockies get their third baseman back on Thursday. With the Dodgers in town, Arenado will give a huge boost to a lineup that had to sport the likes of Charlie Culberson and Josh Rutledge at third base for the past month and a half. With all due respect to those guys, they simply aren't Arenado, both in the field and at the plate. Culberson is a guy who should never be more than a 25th man, and suddenly he was thrust into a semi-starting role. Rutledge shows flashes, but he certainly doesn't have the arm to play third base.
Entering Thursday, the Rockies are 36-49, 12 games behind the San Francisco Giants and 11 games behind the visiting Dodgers. With Arenado's return, and the return of Brett Anderson shortly behind him, can the Rockies still make a run? No. The reality is, the Rockies don't have the pitching depth to go anywhere. However, they need to readjust their goals and get back to respectability.
With the return of Arenado, the club actually stands a fighting chance-- maybe not on Thursday when the Rockies trot Franklin Morales out to the mound-- however, they should be able to stick around in a few more games than they have been.
It is time for Rockies fans to face the music. To make the playoffs, this team will have to be close to 90 wins. At 49 losses currently, the Rockies could only lose 23 more games all season in order to reach the 90 win mark. That would mean that starting on Thursday, the Rockies would have to finish their season 54-23. With this team's track record, even if completely healthy, they will not be able to win enough games on the road to even make that thinkable.
However, with the return of Arenado, the Rockies have a chance to start climbing their way back to respectability. They have a formidable lineup again that isn't full of guys who are fringe big leaguers. Arenado is a borderline All-Star and his defensive highlights have left Rockies fans with jaws wide open since he came to the big leagues.
With the return of Arenado, it is time for the Rockies to ditch the excuses. They have horrible pitching, however, two of their five starters have shown that they can keep the team in the game. Jorge De La Rosa isn't having his best season, but even with some struggles, he still knows how to get outs and he provides his team with a chance to win.
After Wednesday night's performance, Tyler Matzek has shown that he too, is capable of being a stopper. His only flaw was reaching the Rockies magical arbitrary pitch count limit one batter too soon, allowing Matt Belisle to come into the game and promptly allow the game-winning home run from Ian Desmond.
In all, Matzek looked like a true first round pick. He went 6-1/3 innings, giving up three runs on six hits. Most impressive, he struck out six while only walking one. If he can live around the strike zone, his stuff is good enough to be effective at the big league level.
While the other three spots in the rotation are a huge question mark, the return of Anderson will provide the Rockies with three reliable starters. Couple his return with Arenado's presence back in the lineup, and the Rockies don't have any excuses. They have enough talent right there to win Major League Baseball games.
The goal for the rest of the 2014 season should be simple, don't give up. This team needs to keep fighting, get better and find out what the young kids can bring to the table. This is a great time to evaluate the type of talent that the Rockies have in-house. The games matter, but not really. If someone messes up, there is no reason to not look at it like a learning experience. This is a time for guys to interview for their 2015 job by showing up and proving what they can do.
Unfortunately for the Rockies, any chance of them contending is long gone. However, there is still plenty to focus on. Even with the injuries, the Rockies should have enough talent on the big league roster that they can pull off wins. As guys return from the disabled list, the Rockies should be in even better shape.
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