The Coors Effect

September 25, 2009 11:43 PM

Matt Holliday returns to Coors

Aaron Cook will be starting for the Colorado Rockies tonight, making his first appearance in over a month.  But that isn't the biggest story of tonight's game.

No, the return of Matt Holliday is an even bigger story.  I shouldn't have to recap how much Holliday meant to the Rockies during his five years with the club.  Holliday hit 128 homers in a Rockies uniform, sixth on the franchise's all-time list (after the Blake Street Bombers and some guy named Helton), finished second in MVP voting in 2007, and was the key player on the Rockies' 2007 World Series team.

It will be a bit odd to see Holliday in Coors Field wearing a St. Louis Cardinals uniform, wearing number 15, but Holliday deserves a standing ovation from the crowd during his first at bat.  While some may be bitter about the way the contract extension negotiations were handled -- those negotiations ultimately leading to a trade, as the Rockies realized they had almost no shot at retaining Holliday beyond 2009 -- I can't really blame Holliday for wanting to be paid in line with what his talent demands.  Holliday's departure had more to do with the Rockies being unwilling to pay fair market value for him rather than any unreasonable demands that he was making.

I know that the questions are inevitable: as good as the Rockies have turned out to be this season, how good would they be if they still had Holliday?  My honest answer is that I think the impact on the team's record would be negligible.  At the time of the trade, I thought the Rockies were getting fair value for Holliday, and that view has been vindicated over the season.  As good as Holliday is, Carlos Gonzalez has been pretty good this year.  While the Rockies' offense would be better with Holliday in left field, and Gonzalez's superior defensive value doesn't make up for that loss, where would the Rockies be without Huston Street?  The rest of the Rockies' bullpen has been pretty shaky; without Street around to nail things down in the ninth, the Rockies might have a couple more losses in there -- in fact, potentially the difference between making the playoffs and missing the playoffs.  And beyond 2009, Carlos Gonzalez will be roaming the outfield at Coors for a few more years; the same can't be said for Holliday, who likely would have left as a free agent.

As for the game tonight -- Cook really needs to show something.  For a few weeks following the All-Star break, up until he was injured in August, Cook just wasn't very good.  That needs to change; the Rockies have gotten too many bad pitching performances over the last week to be able to weather another one from Cook.

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