Out of Respect for Story, Rockies Can't Feel Sorry for Themselves
Trevor Story has been a rock of stability for the Rockies.
On Monday night, at Dodger Stadium, however, the foundation was shaken.
Story came out of the Rockies eventual 8-2 loss to the Dodgers that dropped the Rockies into second place in the NL West, a half-game back of the Dodgers, and third place in the battle for the NL’s two wild-card spots, a half-game back of the Cardinals.
He swung and missed at a 2-1 changeup from Dodger left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu, and couldn’t deny the pain in his right elbow any longer. The injury, which led to immediate speculation that Tommy John surgery will be necessary, was the result of the throw to first at the end of a brilliant defensive play he made in the first inning.
“He bounced up and made the throw and felt a twinge in his elbow,” said manager Bud Black. “At that point it continued to tighten up, and when he took a swing (in the fourth) he felt a twin again. We decided at that point to be cautious and took him out of the game.”
Story was examined by doctors in Los Angeles on Tuesday, and despite speculation from various sources of a serious injury, the report came back as positive as possible — no structural damage.
“We got pretty good [test] results this afternoon, just moments ago,” Rockies manager Bud Black said in his regular pre-game media session. “There’s some inflammation and a little bit of soreness around the joint but the ligament seems to be fine.”
Story told media in Los Angeles that his “gut” feeling is he will be okay. That feeling has to be tempered because of the competitive nature of Story, who never wants to sit and watch.
He will have to sit for some time now, to at least let the soreness disappear and swelling subside.This isn’t the type of injury a player rushes back from. It’s one where there has to be a certain amount of patience to make sure the swelling and soreness subside.
That means Black is going to have to be creative in filling what will be a major void.
Story has emerged this season as a legitimate MVP candidate, and along with Nolan Arenado, becoming a middle-of-the-lineup force at the plate, as well as one of the best defensive players in the game.
You don’t replace Trevor Story. But you also don’t throw your hands up in despair and consider that the season is over.
To steal the line from a League of Their Own, “There’s no crying in baseball.”
Black gave Garrett Hampson the start on Tuesday.
Hampson is one of four in-house options:
— Move Ian Desmond back to shortstop. That was where he had played throughout his career, until becoming a free agent, and signing with the Rangers in 2016 with the understanding their shortstop position was filled and he would move to the outfield. A year later, he signed a multi-year deal with the Rockies to play first base, although he has also seen time in the outfield, and made a token appearance at shortstop.
—Go with Pat Valaika, who is more a utility-type player than an every day shortstop. He won’t disappoint in determination and desire, but the range is lacking, and he has struggled offensively this season.
—Give Hampson a look. A prime prospect, who was up two times earlier in the season and was recalled when rosters expanded for September, Hampson’s arm is lacking for the position at the big-league level, but the hustle and desire isn’t. He’s most likely a second baseman in an every day role, but also has played in the outfield.
—Mix-and-match with the three, looking for matchups against the night’s pitcher.
If Desmond goes to shortstop, first base isn’t a major concern. Valiaka provides a right-handed bat with experience at the position and prime prospect Ryan McMahon, a left-handed hitter, not only has made a solid transition to first base, but has shown an ability to put together competitive at-bats against left-handers.
Whatever Black and the Rockies decide to do, it won’t fill the void created by the loss of Story.
That’s going to come from a team effort.
As a longtime baseball executive once said when his team was hit by a rash of injuries,
“Do I feel sorry? I don’t have time. We’re trying to win. I can guarantee you one thing. Nobody else is feeling sorry. They are feeling better about their chances.”
That’s not being cold or oblivious.
It’s just being honest.
Really, the players and management from the Dodgers and Diamondbacks, who are battling with the Rockies for the NL West title, or the Cardinals, who are in the midst of the battle for the second wild-card, have to feel bad for Story.
But not when they are at the ballpark, on the field, looking to win.
And that, in reality, is a sign of respect for Story.
The opposition knows that Story is a difference maker, and losing a player of Story’s caliber, both on and off the field, is not something a team can replace.
And the Rockies, they can’t afford to feel sorry for themselves.
That would be a disservice to Story.
He put too much into helping his teammates get to the point where the first Division Title is very much within the Rockies grasp with only 12 games to play in the regular season.
Now, it’s up to his teammates to finish the job.