One of the most honest and powerful quotes I’ve ever been in the room to record and report came from a struggling Carlos Gonzalez near the end of the 2017 season.
He had spent nearly a decade as the backbone of the team, the only holdover from the last time they had made the postseason. He was a multiple time All-Star who played at an MVP level in 2010 and showcased some of the most impressive raw skills of anyone in his generation.
But he wasn’t that player anymore. He was just trying to be a contributor on a team fighting for a spot. And he wasn’t contributing. After a particularly bad game at the plate he told the gathered media: “I know what it’s like to be the best player in the game and right now I know what its like to be the worst.”
The margins can be remarkably thin. In every direction.
Years later and at the polar opposite point of his career, Brendan Rodgers can safely say that he knows exactly what CarGo was talking about.
In April, Rodgers was the worst qualified hitter in MLB. In May, he was one of the Rockies best at the plate. In June, he was named the most valuable player in the National League for the week. What a turnaround.
“We know what he can do and he’s been doing it a bunch lately,” says teammate Ryan McMahon. “We’re all excited for him.”
The fact that so many of these guys had seen Rodgers at his best throughout the minors helped tremendously in terms of keeping them confident that it was in fact the first month that was the outlier.
“I don’t think anyone was worried about him,” says starting pitcher Kyle Freeland. “He’s still young, he’s still learning. He was able to make the right adjustment in a timely fashion to get him back on track to where he knows he belongs.”
Freeland further explains that he believes we have only begun to scratch the surface with the former first round pick.
“I think he’s going to continue to do stuff like this throughout his career,” he says. “He’s one of those players who is extremely passionate about his craft. Especially at the plate, he wants to produce for this team and he wants to win baseball games. He’s one of those guys who wants to be in the big situation. He wants to step into the box with the game on the line.”
Rodgers has had a few of these chances recently, walking off a wild one against the Marlins on May 31 but also recently grounding into a pair of game-ending double plays. “That’s baseball,” manager Bud Black would surely say.
And while there will always be the ups and downs of a baseball season, it is also clear that whatever was going on with Rodgers in April is a thing of the past.
If the Rockies are to save their season, an unlikely prospect at this point, they are going to need a similar dramatic turnaround as an entire roster.
There isn’t much evidence to suggest they can do this but then again there wasn’t much evidence for the Rodgers resurgence either.
In both cases, the trick is in an old baseball idiom about having a short memory.
Freeland explains: “Baseball is unique with how many games we play. You have to have a short memory. But with that comes learning the lessons from failure. You can turn the page but at the same time you have to learn. Every day it’s a brand new game. The game before is over with. It’s zero, zero. You start from right there. You can’t do anything about yesterday’s loss. You gotta move on.”
Some players develop strategies both mental and physical for trying to achieve that kind of consistency. McMahon puts it simply, knowing it’s easier to say than do.
“You have to come in here every single day with the same attitude,” he says. Sounds easy. But most humans tend to dwell on our mistakes and over analyze our situations.
This year’s version of the Colorado Rockies have likely made too many mistakes in the first half to make themselves truly competitive in the second half. However, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t still a litany of important lessons to learn.
On the large scale, this team simply needs to play better all around fundamental baseball and there will likely need to be some roster changes to make it happen.
On the small scale, if Brendan Rodgers can continue to build on this current momentum, he may well finally carve out that key role for the future that has so long seemed to be his destiny.
Then, he can join McMahon and Freeland in getting locked up long term as a part of the Rockies solution moving forward.
For now, as all three home-grown Rockies have said, the best we can do is take it day by day.