Baseball in Colorado either counts, or it doesn’t. Make up your minds MLB and BBWAA.
Breaking 100-year-old records, setting near unprecedented clutch rates, and generally excelling — even if it happens at altitude — is real… or stop accepting the absolutely legitimate cash from the denizens of Denver.
You can decide it isn’t real. That’s fine. There’s some data out there that, while heavily contested, will support your claim. But if Colorado is the only place one goes seeking that data, if we are deciding that Rockies players have to achieve practically super-human feats to be rewarded — if we are codifying into popular consensus the notion that baseball in this environment is fundamentally different than everywhere else — take away the team. No more Coors Field. No more Rockies.
But … fair is fair. So some other things will need to go.
Start with the Crawford Boxes in Houston and the short porch at Yankee Stadium in New York. I guess that means we have to rule out Jose Altuve and Aaron Judge as well. Man, baseball is getting less awesome by the second. Chase Field, which was set to implement a humidor but decided midseason not to, also has to go.
You need to not count four of the home runs from the best game in years, ‘The Slugfest’ in Houston. If cheap offense isn’t to be rewarded, there are 14 places in front of Denver that should have their player’s numbers more heavily scrutinized. In fact, there are 14 ballparks that give up more weak home runs than Coors Field that will all need to be modified.
Was the expansion of a beautiful game to the Mile High City a legitimate endeavor to grow the game or just a cash grab in a reliable new market? The latter is absurd and unlikely. Either way, it is in MLB’s best interest, both financially and in terms of its own integrity, to encourage a deeper look at Colorado Rockies baseball. Few franchises in all of professional sports are treated with such disrespect — such floating logic — as is the Denver baseball club. For proof of this, you needn’t look farther than the way Larry Walker has been treated by Hall-of-Fame voters. You can look farther to see a couple of missed MVPs for Todd Helton and Matt Holliday, but it doesn’t take much research to find an easily recognizable pattern whereby sportswriters — national and local — who find every excuse to laugh this franchise off as a joke at each turn.
Again, it’s not difficult to see why this might be. For most of their existence, the Rockies have not been a successful franchise. Setting aside how remarkably common that is for MLB teams in their first 20 years, it’s more than understandable that fans would be reticent to trust and even at times celebrate their own team. But those are the fans.
People who are paid to watch and research baseball shouldn’t be afforded the excuses of “but that team stinks so I don’t have to pay attention” or “they come on at a weird time, and I just skip over to the West Coast games.” If you’re willing to go on national television or radio and state a case against Rockies players because of where they play, at least do a little bit of research first.
Look… you can reach the conclusion that baseball in Colorado counts, have a fair understanding of a proper balancing of park factors, and still not believe either Charlie Blackmon or Nolan Arenado deserve an MVP nomination. While I doubt that such consideration was put into to this, or any other, year’s award process, it is still a reasonable position to potentially hold.
But you cannot do all of those things and then arrive at the conclusion neither Kyle Freeland of German Marquez belong outside the Top 3 for National League Rookie of the Year. Both fWAR and rWAR agree that Freeland and Marquez were among the top three rookies along with Cody Bellinger of the Los Angeles Dodgers. And that logic agrees with how the metrics treat Arenado and Blackmon. We’ll leave making their specifics cases for another time, though Arenado’s is just a better version of that from a year ago. Of course, a year ago, the primary argument against Arenado was his team’s lack of success. The ludicrous leaps in logic continue as Joey Votto and Giancarlo Stanton receive nominations this year on mediocre (at best) squads.
What all of this amounts to is, if you are being consistent about effects, there is no way to subtract enough park value from Arenado and Blackmon (and Walker and Helton and Holliday) to keep them out of the MVP nominations without adding it to the other side and giving the rookie pitchers their due.
Instead, the BBWAA gave a backhanded compliment the cute little baseball team all the way up in the mountains, recognizing Bud Black, I guess for pulling a team with no true MVP, Cy Young, or ROY candidates into the postseason.