Arenado Trade Throws A Painful, Yet Unsurprising, Gut Punch To Rockies Fans
On Jan. 29, the Colorado Rockies agreed to hand over star player Nolan Arenado, and $50 million, to the St. Louis Cardinals. In exchange, they picked up for four Minor Leaguers and one pitcher who’s barely dug his cleats into a Major League mound. While Denver Post sports columnist Mark Kiszla dubbed the move “the dumbest trade in Colorado sports history,” he wasn’t entirely surprised by the management’s betrayal to the team and fans.
Colorado Edition producer Alana Schreiber talked to Kiszla to better understand how the loss of Arenado comes at the end of a long line of poor and petty trade decisions in the 30-year history of the Rockies franchise.
These interview highlights have been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Alana Schreiber: Why did the Rockies general manager trade the star player?
Mark Kiszla: Nolan Arenado signed a $260 million contract in February of 2019. And when he did it, he fully expected, number one, the Rockies would be a regular playoff contender, and number two, that he would finish his career in Colorado. But that very year in 2019, two things happened. The Rockies’ fortunes went down the tubes. They lost 90 baseball games. And the relationship between Arenado and the general manager, Jeff Pritish, got — pardon the pun — very, very rocky.
I think Arenado believed he should be a partner in decisions made about the baseball team. When you're getting paid a quarter of a billion dollars and you're the star of the team, that's certainly understandable. In so many words, Jeff Bridich told him to shut up and play. And that did not go over well at all.
Until this point, Arenado has only played in the major leagues as a Rockie. During the last eight years, how has he contributed to the team and the fan base?
The loyalty to Nolan Arenado among the fan base is huge. And this is a fan base that regularly supports the Rockies with an attendance between 2.5 and 3 million fans a year. I've been watching baseball since I was a little kid in the 1960s. My dad loved the game and so we spent a lot of time at Major League ballparks. And I can tell you this, in-person the two greatest fielding baseball players I've ever seen are Roberto Clemente and Nolan Arenado. In any given night that you went to the ballpark and Nolan Arenado was playing third base, you could see a fielding play that made your jaw drop and left you speechless.
In your article, you wrote that franchise owner Dick Monfort, "takes his stars for granted and plays his fans for suckers." Can you explain that a bit more?
This Nolan Arenado trade is not an outlier, and that's the unfortunate thing about it. Years and years ago, Matt Holliday, one of the heroes of Rocktober that many baseball fans remember, was getting toward the end of his deal and he wanted a new deal and they wouldn't be paid market value. The Rockies portrayed him as selfish and shipped him off to Oakland. So this is a recurring pattern. And now with Arenado gone, Trevor Story is the face of the franchise and his deal is up very shortly. I just fear that this pattern will continue and there will be more heartbreak for Rockies fans.
Speaking of trades like Holliday and also DJ LeMahieu, you wrote in your article that, "their relentless, heartfelt efforts to turn a two-bit baseball operation into something worthy of civic pride ended in betrayal by management they were foolish enough to trust." Can you describe how those trades not only affected the team, but really impacted the fan base?
DJ LeMahieu left the Rockies as a free agent and then he went to the Yankees and became a most valuable player candidate, and a core player for one of the most beloved and acclaimed franchises in all sports. He was what's known as a glue guy, a player in the clubhouse that teammates look to in good times and bad for leadership and reassurance. So when he departed, that had a very, very adverse effect on this team. Especially when they were struggling.
The fan base, that's a whole different thing. I just wonder if this Arenado outrage will finally make baseball fans in Colorado pause and wonder if they really want to spend their money with a franchise that is mismanaged as bad as the Rockies often are.
Do you have any advice for Rockies fans who are really feeling the pain of losing Arenado, and feeling a general mistrust of the management?
Fans have a choice. If you don't like the way the Rockies are being operated, don't buy a ticket. It's simple as that. But I do believe this: Denver, Colorado is a Broncos town first and foremost. The mood in autumn on Monday mornings in Denver is influenced, for better or worse, by whether the Broncos have won or lost a silly football game. That's not the case with the Rockies in this town. So fans, I believe, do have power and a responsibility to hold management of a team responsible.
This conversation is part of KUNC’s Colorado Edition for Feb. 4. You can find the full episode here.