Charlie Blackmon is a rare breed.
Almost nothing about his career has played out quite the ways it was “supposed” to. Never considered a superstar prospect in his early days, he was seen as something of a fourth outfielder type when he made his debut at 24 years of age.
A famously hot April early in his career propelled him to more playing time but he stalled out a bit, leading many fans and analysts to conclude that he had maxed out his potential at 28-years old, as a league-average hitter and decent all-around player.
Then, for four seasons, he became a superstar. Right when the Colorado Rockies were at their most recent apex, so was Blackmon.
In 2017, the Rox first foray into the postseason in nearly a decade, Chuck Nazty put up arguably the greatest leadoff season of all time, leading the league in total bases, hits, runs, and triples while winning the batting title and setting records for home runs (37) and RBI (104) produced from the very top of the order. He came in fifth in MVP voting.
Over the next few seasons, he remained very good, an All-Star but not at the very top of the league anymore.
Then came 2020, which was of course weird for everyone, and it was tough to judge how the suddenly 33-year-old truly fared after a hot start and cold finish. The following season, though, was a clear sign that he was indeed aging and unlikely to have star-level production left in him.
So coming into this year, there were a ton of questions about how the veteran was going to age and whether or not he could perhaps get the most out of the final few years of his career by taking advantage of playing more at the newly minted DH position in the NL.
At the beginning of the season, though, both Blackmon and the team seemed reluctant to change his position full time. He remained a fixture in right field despite clearly showing that he had lost a step (or two) and simply was not the quality defender that he used to be. Outside of the occasional high baseball IQ play, he was costing the team regularly on defense and the bat got off to a slow start as well.
After 48 games of dealing with that dynamic, they made a change. It should have come earlier but it still appears to have been the right call on all fronts. The Rockies have been able to get younger, more athletic outfielders the opportunity to play and learn and also get the most out of Blackmon.
Other than the home run numbers, the bat had been sluggish (forgive the pun) but since becoming more of a full-time DH around the beginning of June, he is hitting .279/.320/.450 with nine home runs and 44 RBI in 65 games.
That isn’t a return to the best he has ever been, but it is right in line with reasonable hopes about how he might be able to age gracefully in the game.
Blackmon has one more year remaining on his contract, a player option worth $18 million that he will almost assuredly pick up.
So, what will the 36-year-old version of this rare breed of player look like? If his career up to this point has been any indication, it’s hard to say and whatever we guess will probably be wrong.
No longer a star, he clearly doesn’t look like someone who’s completely falling off the ledge either. With 16 homers on the year, he has already hit three more than last season and has a real chance to put up his fifth year of 20 or more. Could there be another surge in there as he continues to revel in his new role?
Either way, we know we are watching one of the All-Time Rockies do his thing. Charlie ranks second (after Todd Helton) in a ton of categories for this franchise, and he will climb up a few more over the next year-plus.
He will almost certainly wear only one jersey for his entire career, just one more thing unique to the Great Bearded One of the Purple Mountains.
It certainly has been a joy to watch, and sing, along with one of the more unusual careers in modern baseball history.