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New leaders will emerge for Colorado Rockies in the Tulowitzki trade aftermath

David Martin Avatar
July 29, 2015

 

Breaking up is hard to do.

As the Colorado Rockies sent Troy Tulowitzki to the Toronto Blue Jays, there were clearly hurt feelings. The All-Star shortstop felt betrayed and blindsided. He felt that the Rockies had violated their verbal commitment to keep him informed of all trade discussions. Suddenly, on Monday night, Tulo was pulled in the 9th inning and informed that something was in the works.

Tulo made his feelings hurt on his way out. Nolan Arenado made his feelings felt on Tuesday before the game.

Both players have the right to feel what they were feeling. They both had the right to say what they said. They have both earned the right to be hurt and they have earned the right to feel like the Rockies organization didn’t handle the situation correctly.

The reality, however, for Tulowitzki, and more importantly to Rockies fans, Arenado, is that there is no easy way to make a trade, especially a trade of the caliber that Jeff Bridich and the Rockies made on Monday night. There is no way to handle the situation well. Very similarly to ending a relationship, or having to let a long-term employee go from a job, there is simply no way to keep emotions from being hurt. Both from the departing person, and others who may be effected by the decision. There simply is no way to handle the situation well.

Rockies fans spent part of the day worrying about the fallout that the trade would have on the clubhouse. That is a fair concern. The last thing Rockies fans want is for a guy like Arenado to get sour towards the organization and turn his eyes to free agency, longing for the day when he can leave the club.

However, in time, wounds heal.

What is certain is that the way the Rockies were constructed with Tulowitzki on the roster wasn’t good enough to compete in the National League West. There had to be changes made. Frankly, the Rockies had to figure out how to get some sort of semblance of pitching that was even close to being Major League caliber.

While Tulowitzki certainly pushed some of the younger players to work harder and improve their craft, as evidenced by comments from both Arenado and DJ LeMahieu, Tulo’s leadership style may not have resonated with everyone. By nearly all media accounts, the Rockies clubhouse culture has been a terrible one for years. There are fractures within the relationships between hitters and pitchers.

It isn’t fair to blame Tulowitzki for those clubhouse issues. Certainly he wasn’t responsible for those problems. However, much like when a new general manager is brought in, or a new manager, suddenly the reset button is hit on the culture of a club. The same is true when a leader in the clubhouse is removed. Tulowitzki may have provided solid leadership, but him being moved will force someone else to take over the reins and become a strong leader on the team. That person may have a different style, and a different way of motivating his teammates. That style may resonate better with certain players in the clubhouse and start to create a different culture.

The Rockies will certainly miss Tulowitzki. However, despite a stellar outing from Yohan Flande on Tuesday, going five innings, giving up just one run on four hits, the Rockies aren’t going to go anywhere with guys like Flande pitching every fifth day. The fact that Kyle Kendrick has remained in the starting rotation for the entire season exposes the lack of depth in the minor league system.

The idea that the Rockies could slug their way to victory every night has been dis-proven on so many occasions. The teams that win don’t have one good starting pitcher, they have several good starting pitchers. They don’t rely  guys like Kendrick to keep them in games, they rely on good pitchers to carry the team on occasion. The Rockies simply don’t have that. Keeping Tulowitzki meant having to wait years for the team’s depleted farm system, with top talent in the lower levels, to improve their games enough to pitch effectively at the big league level. By that point, Tulowitzki could be far less productive than he is at age 30.

There is no way to avoid the fact that the trade hurts Rockies fans. However, even if the Rockies don’t get a great return from the pitchers that were received in the trade of Tulowitzki, the fact that the franchise finally understands the desperate need that they have for good pitching is refreshing.

Once the emotions of losing Tulowitzki fade from the Rockies clubhouse and the team gets back to normal, new leaders will begin to emerge. The team will undoubtedly seek out new veterans who can set the tone for the team. The loss of Tulowitzki isn’t a fun one, but it does turn the page for this team and allow the culture to shift.

There is no denying that Tulowitzki is a great player, but there is also no denying that the Rockies need a culture shift, and this move may help them get to the point where that can happen.

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