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BSN Exclusive: Matt Holliday bringing more than just a bat

Drew Creasman Avatar
September 15, 2018

DENVER – The history of the Colorado Rockies is marked mostly by lost seasons and a kind of malaise that means the club garners little to no national attention except when jokes are involved.

One way the Rockies have been able to turn some heads over the years is to boast a roster that almost always features some exciting and talented players.

From the very beginning, the Blake Street Bombers became the faces of a franchise, and to some, they still are.

Vinny Castilla, Dante Bichette, Larry Walker, Andres Galarraga, and then Todd Helton still rank as some of the best and most important members in franchise history.

But as they moved on having reached the postseason only once in 1995, the club experienced its first identity crisis. And so began the era of “Todd and the Toddlers.”

A group of young players grown from within began to emerge alongside Helton, eventually pushing the team to the World Series in 2007.

Brad Hawpe, Garrett Atkins, Jeff Francis, and others fit firmly into that category but prime “Toddler” was always clearly outfielder Matt Holliday.

Built like a truck with a smile that won’t quit, Holliday became the best player on the best team in organizational history and has since built a near Hall-of-Fame worthy career.

And now, after all of these years, he has returned to the place where it all started; the student has become the teacher.

Signed to a minor league deal for the league minimum on July 29, he is making as little as he did when he was 26-years-old over a decade ago.

Since being recalled on August 23, Holliday has provided the Rockies with some extra punch from the right side in the middle of their lineup.

After a pinch-hit double in the seventh on Tuesday night against Arizona, manager Bud Black heaped praised upon Holliday for what he’s brought to the Rockies.

“Overall, he’s been a great addition on many fronts,” Black said. “Matt wants to contribute like he did tonight. He wants to get base hits. He wants to knock in runs. He wants to be a contributor on the field. And we’re giving him that opportunity because I think we need that type of bat.”

Even off the bench, Holliday has been stepping up late in games to put himself on base. In five pinch-hit at-bats, he’s recorded three hits and one walk. Two of those pinch hits have been extra bases and one was a home run against his former team, the St. Louis Cardinals.

Garrett Hampson, who served as a pinch-runner for Holliday on consecutive days this week against Arizona spoke to BSN Denver about Holliday’s propensity for contributing off the bench.

“He’s just ready for any moment,” he said. “Obviously, that comes with experience, but I think that’s the type of guy he is, the type of leader he is. There’s a sense of poise around him that makes guys feel comfortable.”

One young player who has felt such support from the 15-year veteran is fellow outfielder David Dahl, whose approach to the game has been simplified and revamped.

“I’ve been picking Matt’s brain a lot,” Dahl said. “He’s helped me out. I told him the other day I wanted to hit 15 home runs and he stopped me right there and said, ‘Don’t chase numbers; chase good at-bats.’ That really helped me.”

Dahl’s tip of the cap to Holliday’s leadership has resulted in a slash line of a .379/.387/.793 in the month of September, not to mention manager Bud Black’s vote of confidence in the lineup against a left-handed starting pitcher for the 24-year-old.

Even Nolan Arenado, who has been in MVP conversations each of the last three years, has felt Holliday’s presence as a positive one resonating beyond the field of play.

“He’s very calm and collected,” Arenado said. “He’s very in control. He’s been through all of this, what we’re going through right now, and that’s what we love about him. He’s a good guy. You can talk to him about anything. It could life, baseball, anything. Everyone loves to talk to him about something because he’s got something to give.”

Speaking to us on a day when he and Trevor Story both hit monster home runs over 460 feet, Arenado also took a moment to stand in awe at and just appreciate the power that their new mentor also brings.

“I have power,” he says sheepishly. “But, I just get them over. Story might be able to [hit 500 foot home runs] or Holliday. I’m just happy my ball’s getting over.”

The numbers for Holliday in his fifteen games with the Rockies tell a similar story, albeit in a small size. In 43 plate appearances, Holliday has hit for a .371 batting average, achieved a .488 on-base percentage and totaled a .600 slugging percentage.

Over the past two weeks, Holliday ranks in the top twenty of NL outfielder in FanGraphs WAR and only the Dodgers’ Chris Taylor (233) has a higher wRC+ than Matt Holliday (206) for outfielders with at least twenty plate appearances during that span.

Holliday is showing that there is still more left in the tank for the 38-year-old.

“In the clubhouse, he brings a presence,” Black said. “He’s a guy with experience, poise, who’s been there, been down this path of contention. So, there’s a lot of positives for Matt being back from this reunion.”

We can mostly measure what the return of Holliday has meant on the field. But it is already clear that his presence is reverberating inside the clubhouse as a proverbial line forms to his locker and the next generation soaks in the secrets.

The next generation always owes a debt of gratitude to the previous one. But in this case, the Colorado Rockies can repay Matt Holliday for his time, and he for their faith, with a long run of October baseball.

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