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Pose a Rockies — or MLB — related question for the Rockies Mailbag.
With the current situation going on with Altitude TV (with the Nuggets and Avalanche) and reports that AT&T is looking to sell its regional sports networks, do you believe the Rockies are monitoring it and looking at other potential options for its next TV deal and whether they go into the streaming side? And what other option could they have if AT&T SportsNet and Altitude are not viable TV station options?
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Brandon, those are excellent questions, to which I don’t have a concrete answer for you. Here’s what I do know:
AT&T SportsNet has the Rockies contract through next season (2020).
Bids for the new contract began mid-summer.
There have been national reports that AT&T is open to selling its four regional sports networks, so that could make a huge difference in Rockies television.
I was told that Altitude was interested in bidding for the Rockies, but I have not heard the status of that.
But you’re correct in that the TV landscape is changing rapidly with streaming services and so many ways to watch live sports. Stay tuned.
Please provide any updates you can on Riley Pint and Mike Nikorak.
— Bill Beard, Highlands Ranch
Bill, I wrote about Riley Pint in my last mailbag but I’ll repeat it here.
The right-hander, the fourth overall draft pick in 2016 out of Overland Park High School (Kansas), missed almost all of the 2018 season with forearm stiffness and a strained oblique. He was injured for most of this season, too, and pitched just 17 2/3 innings a Class-A Asheville (mostly out of the bullepen). He’s 6-foot-4 and can throw 100 mph, but his lack of control has become a major issue. Over those 17 2/3 innings, he walked 31 batters and hit six. He’s averaged 11.7 strikeouts per nine innings, but that’s overshadowed by his control issues. Right now he’s a long, long way from his big-league debut.
Nikorak, a hard-throwing right-hander out of Stroudsburg (Pa.) High School, was selected by the Rockies in first round (27th overall) of 2015 draft. He missed all of the 2017 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery and pitched only a few innings for short-season Boise at the end of 2018.
He began this season pitching for Asheville, but the season was cut short in May due to injury. In 15 appearances (no starts) he posted an 8.03 ERA over 12 1/3 innings with a walk rate of 11.69 per nine innings. Obviously, he’s years away from joining the Rockies.
We hear a lot about the physical toll playing at altitude exerts on Rockies players. Yet I don’t seem to hear or read the same story when it comes to the Broncos, Avalanche or Nuggets. Am I just not paying attention or is the difference the far greater number of games baseball plays compared to the other major sports?
— Dave, Fort Collins
Dave, let me first say that the effect of playing at 5,280 feet are real. Every Rockies player I have talked to about the subject -– from Todd Helton to Jeff Francis to Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon -– has told me that aches, pains and lack of quality sleep are part of playing at altitude. So yes, a 162-game season (81 home games), plus spring training, takes its toll. Second baseman Ryan McMahon, for instance began the season weighing 210 pounds and he’s down to 192.
The Nuggets (82 games) and Avalanche (82 games) play a lot of games, too. And it can certainly be argued that they play a more physically demanding sport. The Broncos, of course, play 16 games.
I imagine athletes from the NBA, NHL and NFL have stories about altitude over a long season, but I think the Rockies get a lot of attention about the subject because altitude affects the outcome of the games so much. Plus, the length of games at Coors Field (sometimes approaching four hours) makes for a lot of time on the players’ feet. It wears on them.
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Why is (general manager) Jeff Bridich not being held accountable by owner Dick Monfort? Between his numerous, poor free agent signings and the overall lack of pitching prospects within the organization, how can he still be worthy of upper-management confidence? I love baseball and am a true Rockies fan, but I simply don’t see winning as a priority within this franchise. The Coors Field “experience” with The Rooftop and McGregor Square all seem to be more important than winning. I simply don’t get it! Can you explain? Thanks.
— Mark, Centennial
Mark, the media rarely gets to talk to Monfort, so it’s difficult for me to judge his feelings about Bridich. I would assume Monfort is unhappy with what’s gone on this season, and also with the idea that the pitching cupboard is pretty bare in the minors right now.
But I do know that Monfort is intensely loyal (maybe to a fault as he admitted to me in the past), and I would imagine that the Rockies’ playoff appearances in 2017-18 has bought Bridich some time. I know that’s not what you want to hear, but I think it’s the truth.
I have no problem with The Rooftop or McGregor Square. I think both help enhance the ballpark and LoDo experience. I think Monfort and his office have done an excellent job in regard to the ballpark experience.
Having said all of that, I understand hardcore Rockies fans’ frustration. The product on the field this season has been poor. Hopefully Bridich will address the media soon and we can ask him questions about what’s going on with the team.
Hey Patrick, you can tell Arenado seems frustrated right now with the state of the team. Also noticed how jacked up he gets playing at Dodgers Stadium and what he considers the best teams. Do you see him opting out of his deal?
If the answer is yes, the Rockies might have to consider trading him in 2021 to get something for him. Does he have a no-trade clause in his contract? Thanks.
— Mick, Byers
Mick, I have heard some fans say that Arenado regrets signing the contract, but I don’t think that’s true. Arenado and his agent had a certain contract number in mind and Rockies came through. And don’t forget that he’ll make $35 million next season.
And yes, Arenado has a full no-trade clause, so he controls his destiny.
Will he opt out after 2021? I honestly don’t know. If the Rockies continue to lose, then I do think he’s gone. But remember, injuries, money, the overall landscape of baseball and a new CBA will all factor into his decision.
Is Arenado frustrated with the Rockies’ record and overall play this season? Absolutely, but he told me recently that he’s come to realize that he can’t lift the team all by himself. I think his bad performance in July was due, in part, because he was stressing over the team’s awful play.
Lately, I think we’ve seen him freed up a bit. He realizes that the best thing he can do is play well and lead by example. Fretting over the direction of the team was not productive for him, so he cut loose some of that baggage.
Why in God’s name would we put Wade Davis to pitch in the ninth inning against the Cardinals on Thursday while we still had a chance to win? Honestly sometimes it looks like we’re throwing the game.
— Carole, Boulder
Carole, you know that manager Bud Black is not trying to throw the game, right? But this is a weird time of year. The Rockies have been out of playoff contention for more than a month now, so there is a lot of experimenting going on. That’s why we’re seeing Jairo Diaz and Carlos Estevez getting some much action at the end of games. The Rockies want to see how they react.
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The same goes for Davis. The Rockies owe him a lot of money ($17 million next year) and they need to know what they have in the right-hander. It’s frustrating, I know, but it’s the reality of September for a losing team.
Patrick, I was looking at some memorabilia I have in my office and got me thinking if you have anything cool, or special that you have on display. Keep up the good work.
— Tom, Highlands Ranch
Tom, thanks for the compliment. I’m sitting in my home office right now and here’s what I see:
My wife, Nancy, put together an amazing, framed display of a story I did on the Rockies’ Rocktober Streak in 2007. It’s got all sorts of World Series memorabilia within the display.
A bunch of bobbleheads, including the new one of German Marquez, which is maybe the best one yet.
A framed photo of Nancy and Tulo posing together during spring training in Tucson back in 2008.
A framed photo of me speaking at the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2017 when I was president of the BBWAA.
A number of baseballs that I picked up in the press box after I was nearly hit while covering games at Coors Field. I date those and put the name of the player on them. Included is one from Tulo, who nearly hit me with a ball of his bat. After the game, I said, “Tulo, did you see that your foul ball nearly hit me?” He quipped: “Yeah, but I was aiming for (Mark) Kiszla.” True story.
More baseball books than I will ever read.
A binder with most of the baseball cards printed in Todd Helton’s career.
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A framed photo of Helton being colorful during a photo session near the end of his career.
Patrick, I read your columns and articles regularly, because you are fairly direct about management’s and players’ shortcomings and you don’t shy away too much from making criticisms of Bridich. Could you please write a column on how your relations with your sources affect your writing? I think that would interest many of us who follow the Rockies.
As any moviegoer knows, coming attractions can be misleading. The same goes for September baseball for losing teams such as the Rockies.
In their 7-4 loss to the New York Mets on Wednesday, Colorado flashed some enticing potential, but ultimately, the same old bugaboo reared its ugly head. Namely, the bullpen’s inability to put a game away. In other words, it was a bad sequel.
Colorado led 4-3 entering the ninth inning, but New York scored four runs on three walks and three hits off relievers Jairo Diaz and Joe Harvey. The key hits were delivered by pinch-hitter J.D. Davis, Brandon Nimmo and Todd Frazier. Pete Alonso earned an RBI by drawing a bases-loaded walk from Harvey. Diaz was charged with a blown save and a loss.
“(Jairo) just couldn’t seem to get his fastball and slider in good spots in the ninth inning,” Colorado manager Bud Black said.
As for his decision to go with Harvey, Black said: “We tried to bring a guy in who had some power to him and had some velocity against Alonso.”
In the waning days of the season, Black is mixing and matching relievers to see how they respond to late-game situations.
“These are growing pains for some of our younger-service-time players,” he said.
Colorado finished its penultimate homestand with a 6-3 record, though it ended on a sour note. The Rockies are 40-38 at home this season.
Some snippets from Wednesday’s matinee at Coors Field:
— Right-hander Jeff Hoffman, perhaps the biggest enigma in the rotation mix, limited the Mets to two runs on five hits over 5⅓ innings.
— Versatile rookie Garrett Hampson, starting at second base, flashed his speed and stole two bases. He has 11 thefts this season. He hit 1-for-4 on Wednesday and finished the homestand 12-for-27 (.444) with eight runs, one triple and one home run.
— Rookie outfielder Sam Hilliard slugged two solo home runs for his first multi-homer game and now has four blasts in 18 major-league games.
If Hoffman can harness his talent, he could be a huge asset to Colorado’s rotation next season. The right-hander relied heavily on his 92-94 mph fastball, mixing it in with some changeups to keep the Mets off-balance on a day when his curveball was not sharp.
“My curveball was probably the worst it’s been this year, and I couldn’t really find a release point,” Hoffman said.
His ability to make in-game adjustments and rely on his fastball and changeup was a step forward.
“That means that hopefully I’m growing a little bit,” he said. “I don’t know if that would have happened a year ago or maybe even a few months ago. To me, that means that the work we are putting in is in the right place.”
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Hoffman’s two big mistakes ended up in the seats. Jeff McNeil hit a curveball to right field for a solo homer in the first inning. Alonso slugged his 49th homer, a solo blast to left in the sixth, on Hoffman’s hanging curveball.
In his previous start, Hoffman issued a career-high six walks (one intentional). Wednesday, he walked only one, given up a free pass to Todd Frazier in the sixth inning, the final batter he faced.
Mets right-hander Noah Syndergaard, pitching for the first time at Coors Field, gave up four runs 10 hits over 5⅔ innings. Hilliard showed some patience vs. Syndergaard.
“It’s coming with repetition and I’m starting to feel more comfortable,” Hilliard said. “I’m trying to be stubborn up there and look for my pitch.”
Tom, “sources” can be tricky, but they are necessary to my reporting. There have been many times through the years that players want to send a message to the front office or the fans, yet they don’t want to be quoted.
Of course it works the other way, too. Jeff Bridich or even media-friendly manager Bud Black won’t speak the whole truth, at least not on the record. As a reporter, I have to ask “background” questions to find out what’s really gone on.
Kiszla: Having great season for bad Rockies team, Nolan Arenado says: “I can’t play GM”
Rockies blow ninth-inning lead; right-hander Jeff Hoffman turns in solid start vs. Mets
Rockies podcast: Should he stay or should he go? Assessing accountability for 2020
Sam Haggerty, a Mullen High School product, capitalizing on versatility in big-league chance with Mets
Rockies vs. Mets live blog: Real-time updates from the Sept. 18 MLB game
For example, if a player is on a terrific run statistically but has not really proven himself, I can go to Black and ask him, off the record, to critique that player. On camera and in stories, Black will almost always try to put a positive spin on things — it’s his way of publicly protecting his players -– but I can get a more truthful evaluation behind the scenes. Black is very good about that.
Let me add one more thing. I know fans criticize writers when we don’t “blast” players. Truth is, when you cover a big-league team, you can’t do that. I can be critical and tell the truth and voice my views from time to time, but if I start ripping the players constantly, I soon won’t have anyone to talk to in the clubhouse.
You have to remember that the clubhouse is their sanctuary and teammates treat each other like brothers. If players start believing all I do is write negative stories or if I betray the trust of one player, that news spreads quickly. Pretty soon, I wouldn’t have any sources left. Plus, there are already plenty of players who would prefer that reporters go away entirely. I think that feeling is becoming more and more prevalent.