Rockies Diamondbacks Baseball

Colorado Rockies' Dom Nunez (3) scores a run as Arizona Diamondbacks' catcher Daulton Varsho, left, slides over to catch the ball during the second inning of a baseball game Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX — On Sunday afternoon, the Rockies left Chase Field and departed in their separate directions.

Some will stay in Arizona, and train at their Salt River complex. Others will head off to winter ball or back to their offseason home. But none will play in the postseason for the third straight season.

They’ll finish with a 74-87 record, their third consecutive season with a losing record, after the Diamondbacks beat them in walk-off fashion 5-4 in the final game of the season on Sunday.

Charlie Blackmon is one of the few on the team that have been to the playoffs twice. He remembers the adrenaline and the crowd that came with postseason baseball. At 35, he wants to experience it again before he calls it quits.

But next week he’ll be in his camper, far removed from the playing field.

“I want us to be a really good team,” said Blackmon, the unquestionable leader of the team. “It’s a personal responsibility. I feel like I need to do better to give us a shot to get to the playoffs. I’m frustrated watching a lot of the same teams play on TV in October and I’d much rather it be us.”

But Blackmon cannot control the people around him, which this season has largely been inexperienced players just aiming to stay on the active roster for as long as possible. It’s on the front office, which is now officially led by general manager Bill Schmidt, to take the next step.

They’ve done the first step, at least acknowledging what their needs are: more power in the outfield, pitching depth and someone to replace Trevor Story and CJ Cron, if neither return next year.

One person they do not have to worry about is Blackmon, who has a player option for the 2022 season and said he is loyal to the Rockies. But, try as he might, he can’t do it all by himself. Some of that much-needed power can come from Sam Hilliard, when he’s consistent, but more than likely will have to come from the outside.

Raimel Tapia, when he’s on, and keyword there is when, can make up for his lack of power with his leadoff skills. He could also be a valuable trade piece, with his those abilities potentially a hot commodity for some teams. 

All signs point towards Story not being in a Rockies uniform next year. He’s been told they would love to have him back, but nothing about a contract has actually been communicated. Brendan Rodgers, a shortstop growing up, is primed to take over, if the Rockies do not go out and bring in someone to take that spot. Rodgers had a breakout year, and has been groomed by Story for this moment.

“The group of shortstops that have come through Colorado have been elite,” Rodgers said. “I want to get to where I want to be next year. I definitely believe I can do that.”

At first base, the Rockies have high hopes for switch-hitting Michael Toglia, who finished the season in Double-A but will play in the fall league. They need someone in the interim though, with Toglia at least a year away from the majors still. Cron, who hit 25 home runs this season, is the obvious answer for that spot, if the two sides can come to an agreement.

Blackmon, who said he’ll make a decision soon about his future, knows it isn’t his job, despite his veteran status, to tell the front office what to do. But he communicates with the staff, and would like to see them make the necessary moves. He’s also going to stand by Story, and support him as he goes through free agency, no matter what his long-time teammate decides. 

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“It’s hard to significantly improve from one year to the next with the same group of players,” Blackmon said. “I think we are very talented. I think we played pretty well the past couple of weeks. Does that translate to playing really well all year next year? I hope so."

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