And the Fans Say: Selecting the Best of the Rockies at Each Position

TheCowboy

The Rockies have 27 seasons of competition under their belts.

In recent days, fans have cast their vote on the best Rockies player at each posssion.

The team is now set with the selection of Clint Hurdle as the manager.

The fans had their say in the on-line vote for the best of the Rockies at each position.

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Manager

Clint Hurdle joined the Rockies as a hitting coach for the 1997 season, and on April 26, 2002 he took over as manager of the team -- much to his surprise.

That morning, word came out that manager Buddy Bell was fired. When Dan O'Dowd called Hurdle and asked for a meeting, Hurdle offered to come to Coors Field, but O'Dowd said that wasn't necessary. He would visit Hurdle his home.

"I told my wife, `We've been fired. Dan's coming to break the news,'" Hurdle recalled.

Not so quick. Hurdle was named the new manager of the Rockies. He managed the team for franchise record 1,159 games -- slightly more than seven full seasons. And in 2007 he oversaw an amazing sprint to the NL Wild-Card, capped off by a 9-8, 13-inning win against the Padres in a Game 163 at Coors Field to determine who would be the NL's Wild-Card representative in the post-season.

The Rockies swept the Phillies in three games in the NL Division Series, and the D-backs in four games in the NL Championship Series, capping a stretch that saw them win 21 of 22 games dating back to the regular-season surge.

Then, however, came a nine-day break, waiting for Boston to rally and beat Cleveland in the AL Championship Series. The Red Sox swept the Rockies in the World Series.

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​Closer

Left-hander Brian Fuentes was acquired from the Seattle Mariners along with right-handed pitchers Denny Stark and Jose Paniagua on Dec. 16, 2001 for third baseman Jeff Cirillo. He was a three-time All-Star in his five years with the Rockies (2005-06-07).

Fuentes had that funky submarine delivery that was particularly tough on left-handed hitters, but he also had enough life on his pitches that right-handed hitters had their struggles, too.

He won in the closest voting of all, gaining 44.9 percent of the fan vote, just edging out Huston Street at 44.5 percent.

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​Left-handed Starting Pitcher

Jorge De La Rosa had his struggles before and after his time with the Rockies, but in Colorado, and at Coors Field, he was impressive. His .582 winning percentage and 85 wins are the most in franchise history for a left-handed pitcher.

A journeyman who had been with four organizations before the Rockies acquired him from Kansas City in exchange for Ramon Ramirez on April 30, 2008, he found a home in the Rockies rotation. He became the most consistent lefty in franchise history.

Obviously, Coors Field was no concern for De La Rosa. Consider that in his career with teams other than the Rockies he was 18-26 with a 5.26 ERA - nearly a run higher than his Rockies ERA.

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Right-handed Starting Pitcher

Ubaldo Jimenez still had a smile on his face in the abbreviated spring training this year, when after sitting out the last two seasons, the 36-year-old Jimenez embarked on what he hopes will be a comeback.

He is the only pitcher to throw a no-hitter in Rockies history, and the fans have not forgotten. It came on April 17, 2010 against the Braves at Turner Field. Jimenez was overpowering, averaging 96.8 miles per hour on a fastball that occasionally reached the 100-mph level.

He walked six batters in the no-hitter, the final one coming to the first batter he faced in the fifth inning. After that, Jimenez junked his windup, working out of the stretch the rest of the game. Center fielder Dexter Fowler saved the no-hitter with a highlight film diving catch of a sinking line drive.

On July 31, 2011, he was traded to the Cleveland Indians in a deal that had its bizarre moments. The Rockies were playing in San Diego that Saturday afternoon, and when the Indians dragged their feet in finalizing the trade, Jimenez warmed up and made the start against the Padres, knowing he was being dealt. In the top of the second inning, the deal was done. Jimenez packed his gear and headed to the airport, saying an emotional good-bye to his teammates in the dugout.

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Right Field

Larry Walker is the first Rockies player to be inducted to the Hall of Fame. So it's not a surprise that the fans would vote him as the best right fielder in franchise history. His 232 home runs and 754 RBI dwarf the others who have played the position, and his .341 average in 10 seasons with the Rockies is No. 1 on that list.

Not bad for a guy who until he was 16 thought he was going to be a hockey player and never really played baseball (softball was the family game). He, however, made a quick impression when he gave up the dream of hockey and began playing baseball, and was quickly signed by the Montreal Expos.

He signed with the Rockies as a free agent prior to the 1995 season, and was a key part of the team earning the NL Wild Card in their third season of play.

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Center Field

Charlie Blackmon may have moved to right field a year ago, but in the previous eight seasons he had established himself as the best center fielder in Rockies history, running away with the fan vote in our poll. Blackmon picked up 70 percent of the support, 55 points ahead of runner-up Ellis Burks.

Blackmon is the accidental outfielder. He had been a left-handed relief specialist in college but after his junior year at Georgia Tech he was going to play summer ball in Texas. His arm was hurting so he told the manager, Rusty Greer, he was an outfielder. Blackmon had an eye-opening season that summer. When he went back to Georgia Tech for his senior season, with the endorsement of Greer, he was able to convince the folks at Tech to let him play the outfield.

The Rockies liked what they saw and took him in the second round of the 2008 first-year player draft.

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Left Field

The ability of Carlos Gonzalez as an outfielder is evident. He played more right field than left field for the Rockies, but voters didn't care. There is something about Cargo that transcends all else.

The support for Cargo underscores the strength of his personality. Face it, he came to the Rockies in one of the most controversial trades in franchise history -- a prospect but far from proven product who was part of a package the Rockies received from the A's in exchange for Matt Holliday.

After opening the 2009 season at Triple A, Gonzalez was called up on June 5. When he was called into the manager's office on July 31, Gonzalez, hitting only .223, figured he was being shipped back to the minor leagues.

Not so quick.

Manager Jim Tracy smiled, and told him: "You are too good to go back to the minor league. You have the ability to be an elite big-league player, and it's time for you to accept the challenge."

Gonzalez did. He hit .320 with 12 home runs, eight doubles, four triples and 24 RBI the final two months, helping the Rockies rally to claim a wild-card slot in the playoffs. The Rockies lost to Arizona, the team that signed Gonzalez as a youngster out of Venezuela, in four games in the NL Division Series. Gonzalez however made an October statement, hitting .588.

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Shortstop

Troy Tulowitzki was an impact middle infielder, who became a fan favorite, and obviously remains a fan favorite in his retirement. Tulowtizki is currently an assistant coach at the University of Texas.

Called up from Double-A Tulsa on Aug. 30, 2006, Tulowitzki was a two-time All -Star and Gold Glove selection (2010-2011), and was a five-time All-Star. The Rockies signed him to a six-year contract prior to the 2008 season, with slightly over one year in the big leagues, and then, on Oct. 30, 2010 agreed to a seven-year extension. On July 27, 2015, however, he was dealt to Toronto in one of the most controversial deals in franchise history.

Staying healthy, however, became a problem for Tulowitzki, who was placed on the disabled list six times from 2008 through 2014 for a total of 336 days. He finally retired after appearing in only five games with the Yankees in 2019.

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3rd Baseman

Nolan Arenado ran away with what was a two-man race at third base. Arenado received 93.3 percent of the votes. Vinny Castilla picked up the other 6.7 percent.

But then Arenado has become the face of the Rockies franchise. A second-round draft choice out of high school in 2009, Arenado has won seven consecutive Gold Gloves, and since 2014 he leads MLB with 682 RBI, 464 extra-base hits, 1,951 total bases and 90 game-winning RBI.

To think, the initial thought when Arenado was drafted was to convert him to a catcher. He wanted to be a third baseman, and the Rockies challenged him to shed excess weight and show them he could handle the position. As Arenado's track record shows, he is motivated by being questioned, and continues to provide an impressive answer to that challenge.

He currently is 67 games shy of Castilla for the most games played by a Rockies third basemen -- and also trails him by 12 home runs and 11 RBI for the top mark among Rockies third baseman. But then, Arenado has two fewer seasons in the big leagues than Castilla spent with the Rockies.

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2nd Baseman

DJ LeMahieu came to the Rockies as a shortstop/third baseman. He was a smooth defensive player, but didn't really have the bat to be that every day third baseman, and wasn't about to take the shortstop job away from Troy Tulowitzki.

Initially he found himself in a utility role. But then former general manager Dan O'Dowd and manager Clint Hurdle decided to ignore tradition. They decided to put LeMahieu at second base, despite his height, 6-foot-3.

He became the tallest everyday second baseman in MLB history. Only one other time did a 6-foot-3 player even spend one season as a regular at second base. King Kong Kelly, a pitcher/first baseman for the New York Giants, was moved to second during the 1925 season because Frank Frisch was injured. Kelly started 107 games that season at second base, and only 137 total in his career.

LeMahieu, meanwhile, became a three-time Gold Glove winner for the Rockies (2014, 2017 and 2018) and a two-time All-Star (2015 and 2017). He also won the NL batting title in 2016.

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1st Baseman

Todd Helton is considered Mr. Rockie so it's no surprise he ran away with the voting at first base.

But what would have happened if . . .

Helton was the Rockies first-round draft choice in 1995, after his junior season at Tennessee, where he also initially played football before giving way to Peyton Manning.

Consider, however, that when Helton came out of high school he was the second-round selection of the San Diego Padres. Helton thought he had deal with the Padres, but when then-Padres scouting director Reggie Waller showed up he had a contract made out for significantly less than the agreed upon amount.

Waller told Helton his secretary obviously made a mistake, and challenged him to a foot race to decide whether Helton would receive the agreed upon figure or have to accept the lesser amount.

Todd stared, like he did at an opposing pitcher, and told Waller to get off the family property and never show his face again. Waller left, and Helton went to Tennesse as a quarterback-center fielder. Three years later he became a member of the Rockies organization.​

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Catchers

Yorvit Torrealba won in a landslide, receiving more support than the three other candidates combined.

There is a touch of irony to Torrealba's selection.

The early months of 2009 were trying for Torrealba. His playing time as the Rockies catcher had been diminished, and his displeasure was well-known. The decision was made that after a June 1 game in Houston the Rockies would release Torrealba. He had started only 18 games -- and six of those came after Chris Iannetta went on the disabled list. The Rockies were 6-12 in those games. Torrealba was hitting .230 with seven RBI.

During the game, however, word came that Torrealba's son, Yorvis, had been kidnapped in Venezuela. Then-Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd quickly changed plans, not wanting to add to the agony Torrealba faced over his son. Torrealba.

A touch of irony? Ten years later, Yorvis was a 20th-round pick of the Rockies as a catcher out of Tampa University.

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