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You’ve got to be careful. The Colorado Rockies star shortstop is extremely talented. However, he is extremely fragile.
The Rockies have invested $137 million into their shortstop, so it makes sense that they would try and keep his legs healthy. He’s struggled with groin injuries, hip injuries, quad injuries, and even heavy legs. There is no doubt that the Rockies have to be careful about overusing their star. Keeping him healthy is paramount to the team.
The problem is, there is no magical formula. There is no way to ensure that a rest schedule will keep Tulowitzki healthy longer, or even keep him healthy at all. That means that scheduled rest is simply a guess, and it might be taking things too far.
Through 60 games after the Rockies were once again shutdown offensively in Miami on Friday, Tulowitzki has played in 54 games. That doesn’t sound all that bad. If Tulowitzki was taking every 10th game off, the Rockies could deal with it. However, that number doesn’t tell the whole story. That includes several games in which Tulo has come in late as a pinch hitter.
Through 60 games, Tulowitzki has only been in the starting lineup 49 times.
While the need to be careful is very important, so is winning baseball games.
On Wednesday, with a chance to sweep the best team in the National League in the St. Louis Cardinals, Tulowitzki was on the bench. It might not have been a big deal, except for one issue. In the Rockies 10-game homestand, it was the third time that Tulowitzki wasn’t in the lineup.
Tulowitzki missed the first game of a doubleheader against the Dodgers on June 2nd. On Thursday, June 4th, the Rockies had a scheduled off-day. Tulowizki played on Friday the 5th, then sat on Saturday and played again on Sunday. After a Monday and Tuesday game against the Cardinals, Tulowitzki missed the game on Wednesday.
Caution is one thing, but at some point, if the Rockies want to win, they are going to have to take a few more chances with their hero.
The reason isn’t simply to throw caution to the wind and hope for the best. The reason is because mixing up the lineup that often can often disrupt the flow of a team. It can also create the idea that one game is less important than another. It defies what the Rockies are trying to do; change the losing mindset in the clubhouse.
Sweeping the Cardinals, while not imperative, would have been a huge statement. It would have said that this Rockies team can and is willing to go up against the best that the National League has to offer. A series like that has the potential to convince a team that they don’t have to act like a second-tier team anymore, but that they can actually go out and beat anybody on any given day.
Instead, the Rockies sent out a lineup without their top player and, while they still fought, they weren’t able to complete the sweep. Instead of a 6-4 homestand, the Rockies settled for a 5-5 record. Consider the fact that Tulowitzki only started seven times in those games and the reality is, the homestand, which included seven games against the Dodgers and Cardinals, could have been a huge step in the right direction.
Instead, the Rockies dropped their final game, then headed to Miami where they seem to have heavy feel and simply do not look like the team that the kept fighting against the league’s best opponents.
It might not sound like a huge deal, but the Rockies biggest issue hasn’t been a lack of talent, but rather a mindset that they weren’t good enough to compete. They played as if they were always the underdog, so when they lost those games, it was alright because they were weren’t supposed to win anyway.
There is no easy answer. The reality is, Tulowitzki simply can’t play every day. He will get injured. In fact, even with his reduced schedule, the odds would still suggest that he will eventually succumb to injury. However, the Rockies can’t continue riding the momentum roller coaster that they are currently on.
However, at some point, Tulo probably doesn’t need to rest for a day game after a night game when the Rockies were off the day before that night game. At some point, maybe simply keeping him out of the lineup isn’t enough. Maybe on those days, Tulowitzki shouldn’t even show up to the park. Does it really help his legs by still stretching, running, taking batting practice and infield practice, then going back to the clubhouse and settling in? It could be argued that the most strenuous part of his day isn’t the actual game, but all of the parts leading up to it.
This shouldn’t be read as a piece ripping Tulowitzki for being injury-prone. That isn’t his fault. It isn’t meant to suggest that he isn’t living up to his contract. He earned every dollar of that deal. It is meant to suggest that the Rockies might need to stop being as conservative with Tulowitzki’s schedule as they have been.
This is a team that needs all of the momentum that they can get. It is a team and a franchise that needs to change the mindset that they have had for the past four years. To do that, they absolutely need to take some chances with Tulowitzki, specifically when they have a chance to put their foot on the throat of a very good team like the Cardinals.