For some, 2016 Spring Training marks the start of a brand new Major League Baseball season. For others, this time of year marks the height of the presidential primary elections. While many pontificate over who is best suited to lead the country, The Sports Fan Journal fam decided to take a look at which player, manager, or front office member is the best candidate to lead their team to the top of the baseball mountain.
The Colorado Rockies offseason moves left fans scratching their heads, wondering if the ballclub is truly looking to improve from last year’s 68-win season or not. The 94 games they lost last year made for a fifth straight losing season – nobody wants to see a sixth right? A streak of six consecutive losing campaigns would tie the young franchise's record, which they amassed from 2001-06. Yet with Troy Tulowitzki gone and Jose Reyes likely facing a lengthy suspension, how can the Rockies win more games than they lose?
Two words: Nolan Arenado.
At only 24 years old, Arenado is already three-time Gold Glove winner, doing so while leading all big league third basemen last season with 507 total chances. He also led third basemen in double plays turned with 42. And while a shortstop is a concern for the Rockies, maybe it doesn’t necessarily need to be: they went from using the shift a National League-low 114 times in 2014 to a league-leading 1,011 in 2015. Basically, Arenado has enough glove and speed and athleticism for both positions. But it’s being reported from spring training that even Arenado is impressed with prospect shortstop Trevor Story, who is battling Cristhian Adames for the starting job, so maybe a little help couldn’t hurt.
Yet it was offensively where Arenado made his largest arrival a year ago. If he replicates his tremendous 2015, where he tied for the National League lead in home runs with MVP Bryce Harper and led the NL in runs batted in on his own, he can make the Rockies a team that can easily remain a top five hitting unit, despite losing Tulowitzki and Corey Dickerson. In addition to those two notable feats, Arenado also set an MLB record with 89 extra base hits on the season. He is joined by outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, who batted .271, hit 40 home runs, drove in 97 runs and had a .325 on-base percentage, creating a potent duo at the heart of the Rockie lineup card.
The problem the Rockies face has nothing to do with Arenado at all and everything to do with pitching – an area where the Rockies finished last in nearly every statistical category, yet again. This year, they have a decent rotation with a lot of young promise and a focus on the fastball, which could be strategy or just a product (and potentially a victim of) its environment. At least the bullpen looks more encouraging with due to the additions of veteran late inning relievers Jake McGee and Jason Motte.
Last year, the Rockies failed to score 300 runs on the road (only the Braves scored fewer runs in road games) while batting .228/.277/.375 in those road games. Some like to attribute that to the “Coors Field Hangover,” but some of it was just average hitting.
Arenado is looking to dispel any doubts next year and attempt to break the losing-season streak. Can he do it? As long as the organization doesn’t make any more questionable moves, Arenado believes they have a fighting chance.
"We're tired of losing. Guys are tired of losing in general. It gets old," Arenado told the media at Rockies Fest. "Guys want to step up. Guys are getting better and the young guys are getting better. I think this team is going to be different than years past."
Sports writer. Avid fan, former player, once-upon-a-time coach, reluctant referee. I do digital media things with my friends. I also jinx kickers. Bay Area born & raised.