Nolan wants, merits playoff at-bats
, we can check a three-homer game off the list. With Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado, it’s not a question of if he will make something amazing happen, but when. For a ballplayer only 26 years old, it’s already a long, trophy-case-stuffing list of amazing: four Gold Gloves, three trips to the All-Star Game …
“But,” said Arenado, “I’ve got no playoff experience.”
And there’s the most compelling reason the Rockies need to do everything possible to make the playoffs this year. Arenado wants October. He wants it real bad.
“I want to get there. I want to play in the playoffs. That’s what it’s all about,” Arenado told me Wednesday, after he slugged three towering, total-eclipse-ofthe-sun home runs during three straight at-bats in three consecutive innings of Colorado’s 18-4 trouncing of San Diego.
“Playoff baseball is where everybody gets noticed. Big Papi (David Ortiz) is famous because of October. Derek Jeter is famous because of October. I’m not saying I want to be famous, but I want be known as being a good ballplayer during October.”
While the Rockies battle for a wild-card berth in the National League on the field, there’s also a battle being waged for talent on cellphones, and Colorado general manager Jeff Bridich is off to a slow start. The Cubs ventured to the South Side of Chicago and picked up starting pitcher Jose Quintana in a trade. The Diamondbacks fortified the middle of their batting order by cutting a deal to rent slugger J.D. Martinez, who had hit 16 homers in 200 at-bats for Detroit. The Nationals put their messy bullpen in order by acquiring two relievers from a fire sale in Oakland.
It’s your move, Mr. Bridich. Let’s add some talent to the Colorado clubhouse. Show us you want the playoffs as badly as Arenado does.
Maybe I’m naive to think the Rockies owe anything to the 37,128 paying customers who sat at Coors Field on a summer afternoon that brought the heat more intensely than starting pitcher Jon Gray’s 95 mph fastball.
Yes, with the Los Angeles Dodgers so far ahead in the NL West that the Rockies are barely within shouting distance, they are playing for a wild-card berth and a Game No. 163, where their first playoff appearance since
2009 could be over and done in nine scant innings. There’s no way this Colorado team is better than a 50-1 longshot to win the World Series.
So I’m down with the idea it would be foolish to give away the farm for the Rockies to acquire either an arm or a bat before the July 31 trade deadline. But this Colorado team does have a little magic that won’t last forever. The window of opportunity for the Rockies as constructed is maybe three seasons, and a midmarket team cannot afford to waste a year.
Closer Greg Holland and his 30 saves could move on down the road prior to next season for a big payday. There’s no contractual guarantee either center fielder Charlie Blackmon or second baseman DJ LaMahieu will be starring for the Rockies beyond 2018. If Arenado keeps filling his glove with web gems while driving in buckets of runs at his current pace, some major-league franchise with deep pockets could make him an offer in the very ritzy neighborhood of a halfbillion dollars after the 2019 season.
It doesn’t seem too much to ask the Rockies to make a trade for a right-hander reliever who is comfortable in high-leverage situations and can serve as a bridge between a tiring Colorado starting pitcher and the beautiful noise Holland brings in the ninth inning. Possible candidates include Pat Neshek of Philadelphia, A.J. Ramos of Miami and Addison Reed of the New York Mets.
“We’re playing meaningful baseball games,” said Arenado, after the Rockies extended their winning streak to four games, putting the toughest stretch of their season in the rearview mirror. “That’s what it’s all about. That’s all you want. That’s all you ask for.”
Hitting three home runs in a game for the first time in his young career was awesome, so good the crowd gave Arenado a standing ovation after he flied out in the eighth inning. This is about as sweet as baseball in July can get for a player.
“But one game-winning hit in October would put it way over the top,” Arenado said.
How much bigger is the goose-bump factor for October baseball?
“One hundred percent,” Arenado said.