Honor’s the big loser in Nolan Arenado saga

Judging by the ovations he received during the four-game series with St. Louis over the Fourth of July weekend and again at the All-Star Game, Coors Field fans still consider Nolan Arenado one of their all-time favorite players. 

I’m not one of them. 

I marveled at his amazing defensive skill, cheered his clutch hitting and loved his passion as much as any other Rockies follower.  

But I avoided those four games when he came in with the Cardinals. And I stayed in my seat when he came to bat for the National League and responded to another deafening roar by placing his hand over his heart as a gesture of thanks. 

No boos, but no cheers or applause from me. Just polite silence. 

Why? you ask? Disloyal, you say? 

Consider this: 

Nolan Arenado gave his word that he’d stay at least three years, then reneged. At least that’s how I see it. 

I bargained labor contracts with eight unions for more than a decade, and had to trust that their negotiators would live up to their commitments once we reached agreement. Those talks were often difficult. Sometimes unpleasant or uncomfortable. 

But that handshake at the end meant everything. 

Not so with Nolan Arenado. 

He signed a long-term contract for hundreds of millions of dollars then whined his way out of it before he honored it up to the escape clause. 

It would have been disappointing to see Arenado exercise his opt-out option at the end of the 2021 season, but that was part of the deal. He had every right to walk then if he didn’t want to remain with the Rockies. 

But petulance to the point of forcing your way out of what you agreed to is not honorable—especially not when you’re being paid millions for your perceived suffering. Don’t give your word if it’s not your bond. 

Some will argue that Jeff Bridich and Dick Monfort, general manager and owner, respectively, didn’t keep their words to do everything they could to build a contender for Rockies fans. 

That may be Arenado’s view, and it may be shared by a majority of those who go to the games. But that doesn’t excuse what he did. Commitment isn’t conditional. 

Bridich (since departed) and Monfort may not have made decisions Arenado agreed with or thought would achieve what he expected. 

But he wasn’t the first employee at odds with management, and he won’t be the last. His remedy was to opt out when the contract he agreed to honor allowed him to. Meantime, accept the millions and give your all, in return. 

Are the Rockies, minus Arenado, headed in the wrong direction? Time will tell, but a closer look suggests they might not be.

You wouldn’t know it to listen to all those who continue to lament that trade with St. Louis, but the Arenado-less Rockies have a winning record since May 21. As of the completion of the six-game home stand on Sunday, August 8, they’re 36-31. (While St. Louis is 30-38 over the same 11 weeks.)

Assuming Trevor Story is not a part of the team in 2022 and beyond, the years ahead still may not be as bleak as some would have you believe.

The starting rotation is arguably the best it’s ever been (Chi Chi Gonzalez notwithstanding). It’s a solid foundation on which to build a contender. 

In Raimel Tapia, Ryan McMahon, and possibly Brendan Rodgers, Yonathan Daza and  Garrett Hampson they have young players who can be parts of a winning team. They need several relief pitchers, a catcher (unless Elias Diaz is for real), a first baseman (C.J. Cron is not a long-term solution) and could use another outfielder ready to step in for Chuck Nazty when that time comes. Sam Hilliard may not be the answer, but he’s at least raising eyebrows lately. Connor Joe might be a find.

Bottom line: With young players growing and maturing every game, the Rockies could show improvement and hope for the future the last two months of this season—without Nolan Arenado. 

Was the Arenado trade as bad as most fans think? Time will tell on that, too.

If Austin Gomber finishes with 12-14 wins, as it appears he can, and with the tandem of Ryan McMahon and Joshua Fuentes (until he was sent to AAA) equaling or exceeding Arenado on offense and in the field—combined—the only negative becomes the $50 million the Rockies agreed to give away. That’s real money, granted. But a solid lefthanded starter shouldn’t be dismissed., if indeed that’s what Gomber proves to be.

Arenado probably will win another Gold Glove, though McMahon should be a finalist. (Wouldn’t it be something if he won it instead!) And Nolan can hit 35 homers and drive in 120-plus runs again this season. But justice will be served if Arenado and the Cardinals miss the playoffs, as they seem destined to do, and even more so if his chosen new team finishes under .500. 

Denny Dressman is a veteran of 43 years in the newspaper business, including 25 at the Rocky Mountain News, where he began as executive sports editor. He is the author of 13 books, seven of them sports-related. You can write to Denny at info@comservbooks.com.