USA TODAY US Edition
TULOWITZKI’S ANGER LINGERS
Shortstop says Rockies were dishonest
Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Troy Tulowitzki still seethes recounting how it all went down, and there are Colorado Rockies executives whom he never wants to speak to again.
The last time he talked to Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich was the evening of July 27. Tulowitzki was sitting with Walt Weiss in the visiting manager’s office at Wrigley Field, and he was screaming at him after being notified he had just been traded to Toronto.
“I’ll never talk to him, never talk to those people,” Tulowitzki told USA TODAY Sports. “You get lied to, straight to your face, you get upset. I believe in forgiveness, but at the same time I don’t plan on being friendly with them or anything like that.”
They likely will never become friends, but if they do talk again one day — and the Blue Jays visit Denver in June — it might be Tulowitzki thanking Bridich and the Rockies front office.
“I thought at one point in my career it would be neat to stay with one team,” Tulowitzki, 31, said. “But now that this has happened to me and I get to play with all of these great ballplayers, I think there’s a reason why this happened.
“Hopefully, at the end of the day, we can do something special here and win a World Series, and, really, the picture will come together.”
Tulowitzki, who conceded it was a culture shock to his system when he was traded, never could have imagined that he’d be in Florida this spring, tossing a football with reigning American League MVP Josh Donaldson in the Blue Jays’ antiquated spring training facility. The Blue Jays’ digs are the last of the old relics in spring training, with players boarding buses to travel to the practice fields 31⁄ miles away.
Considering he was leaving behind the Rockies’ 185,000square-foot spring training facility in Scottsdale, Ariz., including a 1,000-square-foot weight room, it’s like going from a Beverly Hills mansion to a Death Valley trailer park.
All in the eyes of the beholder, apparently.
“I like this place a lot better than Arizona,” Tulowitzki said. “That place was like a country club. Guys got comfortable because it was so nice.
“This place has a better feel. It reminds you of spring training. The way it’s supposed to be.”
Tulowitzki, who rented Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria’s home for spring training in Scottsdale, actually purchased a home on the water in nearby Palm Harbor for Blue Jays spring training. Donaldson is living in his home, so they can talk even more baseball away from the park. He figures he’s not going anywhere now and has no intentions to ever leave, with five years and $98 million left on his contract.
He’s finally back on a team with a legitimate chance to reach the World Series, leaving behind a team that finished last or next-tolast since he signed his 10-year, $157.75 million deal. He’s in a clubhouse full of veterans and stars, not one where he was spending much of his time teaching kids how to play the game.
And, for the first time in years, he no longer has to listen to trade rumors or details of the team’s perpetual rebuilding project.
“You look around here, and there are some great players in this locker room,” Tulowitzki said. “It’s different than in Colorado, where I was leaned upon so heavily. Now, I’m just another guy. I enjoy that.
“The biggest difference is that I don’t feel like a teacher anymore. The young guys were scared to walk around. I was trying to teach these guys how to handle themselves, instead of just going out there and playing the game the right way, playing the game to win. Here, we got so many veterans, it makes everyone relax.
“I enjoy not getting all of those questions now.”
The Rockies realize life is different now. Tulowitzki’s All- Star running mate, outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, could be moved at any time. The torch is being passed to premier third baseman Nolan Arenado, but he only has two years of service time.
“It’s definitely a little weird not seeing him here,” Arenado said. “He was always the first one to the clubhouse. It’s like when he first got traded, it didn’t hit me until a couple of days later. But when I came down here, it hit me again. It really threw me off.
“I can’t believe he’s not there. It’s so different. You have to move on.”
It’s the same feeling for the organization. They’ll never forget Tulowitzki’s impact: five All-Star appearances, three top-10 MVP finishes, the two Gold Gloves, two Silver Sluggers and, of course, the magical 2007 run to the World Series.
Yet, if the Rockies were ever going to rebuild the franchise into a contender again, Bridich knew there would have to be painful moments.
The Blue Jays had eyed Tulowitzki for six months, former Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos said, but he realized “the only way this deal gets done was if it was kept quiet. Both sides were sensitive to that. The minute things leak, teams get wind of it, run interference, and the whole thing blows up.”
It wasn’t until the bottom of the eighth inning that June night at Wrigley Field that the deal was consummated. The trouble was that the Rockies were still playing. They rallied from a three-run deficit in the top of the ninth to take the lead, but as Tulowitzki was about to take the field in the bottom of the ninth, Weiss pulled him.
“It was emotional,” Weiss said. “We had a very special connection and still do. I know it’s a business, but it’s still tough when you see a guy leaves that you had a bond with.”
Tulowitzki, who says that the Rockies promised they would keep him informed if trade talks became serious, was livid. Bridich yelled back. And the next day, Tulowitzki was off to Toronto.
“All I wanted was to be informed and not be caught offguard, and I was caught offguard,” Tulowitzki said. “They always told me, ‘Hey, we’re going to inform you. If anything were ever to get close, we’ll let you know.’
“All I wanted was them to be honest with me, and that didn’t happen, and that’s why I was so upset. I didn’t have anything against this place, I was just shocked.”
Bridich said Sunday that he didn’t want to rehash the emotions of the trade. If Tulowitzki wants to be angry, it’s up to him. The Rockies are moving on.
“I feel we handled our business professionally,” Bridich said. “If he feels that way, too bad. There’s no use talking about it. I choose to stay above that.”
Bridich, like Anthopoulos, thinks the deal would have been killed if word had leaked. He thought he was doing the humane thing by keeping quiet until the deal was consummated.
“Frankly, I think it’s a crime that the media does what it does, basically creating stories and creating lies and not even considering players and their families and their loved ones,” Bridich said. “Basically, the media has lost all respect for what rumors and innuendo can do.
“I have great respect for Alex that we were able to keep those conservations to ourselves. It’s nearly impossible this day and age, because nobody really looks out for the people involved. The media just looks out for themselves now.”
Time will heal all wounds, or perhaps a World Series ring on Tulowitzki’s finger will ease any lingering resentment. Toronto is his new home and where he wants to prove that, even away from Coors Field, he’s one of the premier shortstops in the game.
“I look forward to playing here just to prove people wrong,” said Tulowitzki, who had a slash line of .239/.317/.380 ( batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) after the trade. “Last year was a tough transition for me. But you’re going to see a different player this year. The sky is the limit now.”