Carlos Gonzalez was going to be MVP. The Colorado Rockies’ All-Star outfielder was back. Through the first half of 2013 he was Colorado’s biggest threat at the plate. An amazing hitter with power to all fields, speed to steal bases nearly at will, and a cannon that could throw out runners from the deepest recesses of Coors Field, Cargo’s game was on full display. He was showing that he was one of the most unique and dynamic players in baseball. Then came the finger.
In a season where the injury bug appeared to have his own locker in the Rockies clubhouse, no injury was more frustrating or demoralizing than Cargo’s middle finger. Troy Tulowitzki injured his ribs, but his history almost guarantees he’ll be landing on the DL at some point or another during the season. Plus, while Tulo was down, Michael Cuddyer went on his streaks and kept the Rockies vying for first place in the division.
Cargo’s injury was different. It was serious, but didn’t appear serious. It would only take him out of a few games, but Colorado hasn’t been close playoff contention since it happened. The slugger could still swing, but it was more like a slap. He could still field, but a ball flying out of his hand didn’t look like the rocket we’re used to. No, this injury was different.
With Colorado’s season drawing near a disappointing close, we’re left to look back and wonder. You wouldn’t be a fan if you didn’t look back and ask what if? For the fans of teams like Colorado, it’s the what ifs that get you through the offseason.
Through the first half of the season, Carlos Gonzalez was on fire. With 25 home runs, 64 RBI, and a .302 average, he was on pace for a career-best season. How many people realized that? Hidden behind the front page news of Chris Davis’ home run tear and teammate Cuddyer’s resurrection, Cargo was living up to his seven-year mega deal. Then with an injury that seemed so innocent, Cargo’s bat was quieted.
A torn ligament in the middle finger took Cargo from an MVP caliber season to the DL, and will most likely send him to the operating room. Now considering surgery, the desperate hopes of rest being enough to heal have proved futile. As Cargo nursed the injury along, slapping at pitches as he went, the Rockies had hope that multiple days of rest would be enough to save their All-Star outfielder. As the Rockies fell further and further out of contention, they continued managing the injury as a sprain and not a tear. Alas, the outfielder is faced with considering surgery.
The Nationals were overly criticized by the media to no end when they shut down Stephen Strasburg last year. The decision has haunted them all season as Strasburg and the Nationals have not returned to their 2012 form. The Nats shut down Strasburg because he was an investment. The millions they’ve given him and the millions they owe him weren’t worth the risk of overworking their phenom in one season; a season that followed Tommy John surgery.
Colorado should’ve learned from their DC counterparts. Pitcher Stephen Strasburg was shut down despite the Nationals making the playoffs, despite Strasburg’s displeasure, and despite the media’s frenzied attacks. Cargo was nursed along despite no chance of playoff contention. Where was the Rockies’ front office? You’ve got one of the best outfielders in the game of baseball. You’ve got him locked up in a long-term deal that earned him $7.9 million this season alone. Why wasn’t Cargo shut down and protected for the future? Instead of pushing him into rehab starts, rest periods, and more rehab starts, Colorado should’ve shut him down.
For three months we’ve watched Cargo struggle to regain his first half form. It never came. Colorado refused to give up on his return. It never came. As they tumbled further and further from NL West contention, many began wondering why Cargo isn’t being shut down.
Carlos Gonzalez is a big piece of the Rockies future. Shutting him down, allowing him to recover, and getting him ready for 2014 should’ve been priority for the Rockies. Now as Cargo debates surgery, a surgery that may delay his return in 2014, Rockies fans are wondering why he wasn’t shut down, why he didn’t have the surgery in August or September when the race was over, and why no one said anything about it? One thing is for certain, should Carlos Gonzalez have his finger operated on, this offseason will be spent wondering if he’ll ever be the same.