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Former Brandon Spano Show producer and huge Tyson Barrie fan, Zach Fogg, told me once that he was waiting to see how the Colorado Rockies would change once Todd Helton retired. His theory was that the years Helton enjoyed as the sole superstar of the Rockies created an atmosphere with the club that made it hard for it to break out of its losing ways.
It wasn’t Helton’s fault, it’s just how it was. Helton’s presence imbued the team with a sense that one player would be the focal point, they’d lose a lot of games and people would show up anyway. And once he rode off into the sunset on the horse the Monfort’s gave him, the team would finally reach its potential because they could start anew without Helton’s star outshining them all.
Zach may have been right, but he was one player off. Fans were stunned when the team traded Troy Tulowitzki last season to the Toronto Blue Jays. The usual platitudes were thrown around about Monfort mismanagement and most just figured it was a bad trade that would haunt the team for years to come.
Well, not really.
Jose Reyes will probably be suspended and no one knows how much or how little he’ll play for the Rockies. And it could be some time before we know if the other pieces in the trade will have panned out. But the Reyes situation paved the way for Trevor Story to showcase his talents and the trade itself has set a tsunami of positives in motion.
And lost in all of this is the impact that Troy Tulowitzki, or the lack thereof, has had on the Rockies. By all accounts, a weight has been lifted since Tulo headed off to the Great White North. Listen carefully when you hear (if you’re lucky) any mention of this on local radio from people who have covered the team. What you’ll discover is that the clubhouse is supposedly in a much better place now that Tulo is gone and you’re starting to see it on the field.
When he was still here, I asked people I know who cover the team if Tulo, simply put, was a douche. No one ever copped to that but the sense I got was that he was a bit aloof and above it all. He knew he was a great player and said all of the right things about being a Rockie, but didn’t have the self-awareness to realize he was just repeating a carefully curated pattern.
It’s unclear whether Tulo woke up one morning and realized that he had become Todd Helton: A superstar talent and the face of a franchise who was being milked like a goat by the team owners because they couldn’t figure out how to win despite him. If you can point to at least one main failure of the Monforts – and boy howdy there are plenty – it is the simple fact that if they find a player to hang their hat on, they will put an anime convention’s worth of fedoras on him.
All teams want that special player to give the fans a focus. But one look at the Denver Broncos and you’d see the spotlight on that team this past year went well beyond Peyton Manning and on to players like Von Miller, CJ Anderson and Emmanuel Sanders. Even the woeful Colorado Avalanche have a few different faces you can associate with the team. But the Rockies like to put all of their dinosaur eggs in one basket and over time, it warped the team like a skateboard left out in the rain. And before Helton’s horse was even in the barn, they did it to Tulo.
Again, this was not Tulowitzki’s fault. He readily accepted the mantle of the Rockies superstar and I’m sure he played as hard then as he does now. But imagine if a talent like the recently retired Kobe Bryant played on a supremely bad team when he was in his prime. It would have made for a dicey situation in the locker room. And whether Tulo knew it or not, he facilitated a negative culture in the Rockies clubhouse. That is until now.
Now that he is gone, the clubhouse is a much better place to be according to media members covering the seasons, you’ll discover that Tulo was kind of a bummer. And having someone like that glowering in the corner as the season drips down the drain year after year probably wasn’t much fun for anyone else who had to endure it.
I’m not saying the Rockies are going to make a dramatic about-face from prior seasons just because a well- intentioned clubhouse cancer is gone, but would you rather have a well-intentioned cancer or none at all?
The closure of the Helton era seemed like it was the key to freedom for the Rockies, but it never came to pass. And about a year ago we realized we were right back where we started with yet another ersatz legend the Monforts would keep around at all costs while the team was dying on the vine. But from a morale and habit breaking standpoint, trading Troy Tulowitzki may have been the best decision the Rockies have ever made.
Tulo may never have been given one as a gift, but his departure from Colorado is one horse we shouldn’t be looking in the mouth.