5 observations as Desmond prepares for season

February 18th, 2020

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies outfielder can hear the ticking.

Two more years are left on his five-year, $70 million contract, and he’s not sure there’s much beyond it. As a player with perspective, he can see both sides of the tension between star third baseman Nolan Arenado and general manager Jeff Bridich. And there is a team that faces an uncertain future if it doesn’t rebound from last year’s 71-91 record and make the playoffs the way it did in 2017 and ‘18.

It’s a combustible situation only winning can resolve.

Through injuries, offensive struggles, multiple position shifts and at times just plain bad luck, Desmond, 34, has a minus-3.5 WAR since signing the much-critiqued deal that involved more than stats prior to the ‘17 season. He could be in a left-field platoon this year.

Before Monday’s first full-squad workout, Desmond talked about his attributes and struggles, the rift that has dominated the offseason and ways to move forward.

1. Getting beyond the stats
“When I signed to come here, it was as a culture-shifter, to help bring winning baseball to Colorado,” said Desmond, who was a driving force for postseason teams five of the previous seven years before last year’s struggles. “That’s what I said in the press conference.

“The last couple years, I lost focus on that, got trapped in my own statistical successes and failures. This offseason, I had to step back and regroup -- and it made me realize exactly what I am here for, to be a culture-shifter. My No. 1 priority this season is being a better teammate, helping these young kids along and passing on all the things that I’ve learned.

“Two years left on my contract. I’ve got four kids. I don’t know how much longer I’m going to go. I’ve got to empty my tank and give as much to these guys as I can.”

2. Suffering for a purpose is OK
“You can look at it as a loss last year, or you can look at the fact that we identified a lot of things that went wrong and we’re going to use it to make a championship team this year,” Desmond said. “There were a lot of bad things that happened, a lot of turmoil and a lot of headaches. But they’re only that if you don’t use them to benefit you.

“There are a lot of guys who have a renewed focus and a positive direction.”

3. Desmond knows Arenado’s situation is unique
“I can’t pretend to know what it’s like to be a superstar to Nolan’s level, to have all the Gold Gloves and Platinum Gloves, the All-Stars -- to have that Hall of Fame trajectory career,” Desmond said. “None of us can, to be honest. So I can’t tell you what the pressure is like in your mind to think that, ‘Hey, I’m gonna do all this stuff and I’m not gonna win a championship.'

“I think there’s fear that goes with that.”

4. Desmond knows Bridich has a tough task
“Jeff is coming into a situation where the team has never won a championship -- a young GM who probably has one of the most difficult ballparks to construct a pitching staff in, financially, not to have the freedom that some of the teams in our division have,” Desmond said. “To do his job and have a passion for winning, I can’t understand that [position], either.”

5. Desmond has an idea how to fix this
“What I do know is that communication is essential to winning teams, and if this is a means to communication, then I’m all for it,” Desmond said. “It’s already sparked conversation, and it’s benefiting us right now.

“I guess there might be a little bit of a scar left, but that scar tissue can be pretty tough at times.”