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DENVER – After putting together one of the single most impressive seasons in recent MLB memory, Charlie Blackmon came into 2018 with high hopes and, soon thereafter, a shiny new contract worth 106 million over six years.
Dealing with some back and knee issues early in the year, his production dropped a bit as his slumps seemed to linger longer than they have in his past.
In an early attempt to jump-start the offense, manager Bud Black swapped Blackmon and good friend DJ LeMahieu in the batting order, something a contingency of fans and media members had been calling for going back to 2017.
In the short term, the move appeared to work, sparking a road trip that saw the Rockies take two out of three against the Cubs in Chicago before sweeping the Mets in New York.
But as the season drug on and LeMahieu was forced to miss time with injuries, Blackmon found himself back in the leadoff spot, a spot he had to grow accustomed to in 2014 but had been calling home ever since.
“I’m familiar with it,” he told BSN Denver. “I think it’s sometimes harder to transition into it than out of it. So, sometimes, I feel like I’m better off in the leadoff spot because I’ve done it the most and I’m comfortable there, rather than making someone else do it.”
The very first time I interviewed Blackmon, it was about this topic and from the complete other end of the spectrum. He was still growing accustomed to the concept in 2014, having spent most of his at-bats to that point in the minors and early in his MLB career hitting somewhere in the middle of the order.
It was just a few short years later that he would put together one of the single best seasons we have ever seen from the leadoff spot. He clearly took to it at some point.
Which is why it was odd that so much commotion was made a year ago in an attempt to move him from the spot. Sure, his rise in power numbers suggested Colorado might be able to get more out of him if he was clearing the table rather than setting it, and while there was a brief moment this season where that reality began to come into focus, the Rockies have decided they are better off with Blackmon setting the tone for their offense.
For him, though, the 1-2 punch atop the Colorado lineup is a can’t-miss situation no matter how you line it up.
“I think me and DJ are interchangeable,” he said. “I think you can’t go wrong, really. I think it kind of happens that we’re playing good now and I’m back in the leadoff spot. We probably won’t mess with it, just as things are going good. But I don’t think it really matters how you throw that lineup out there. It’s a good lineup.”
Blackmon is currently in the midst of a career-high and league-leading 15-game hitting streak. And while he insists that his return to the leadoff spot was not the primary factor in his strong finish after a frustrating start, sometimes the tiniest of marginal improvements in feel can lead to huge results.
LeMahieu’s solid production leading off is all that more impressive given Blackmon’s statement about how much harder it is to transition to the role when it isn’t something you’ve done before. But it’s also hard to argue that Blackmon doesn’t look at his most comfortable when he is given the task of putting the first foot forward each and every night for his offense.
Even the way his walk-up song gets the crowd bumping at Coors Field screams for the beginnings of something big. With seven games remaining, the Colorado Rockies will need every bit of tone and table setting they can get from Charlie Blackmon.
And if he’s got any more of those patented leadoff homers in him, that would help too.