Colorado Rockies Are Rising and Troy Tulowitzki Is Becoming an Elite MLB Hitter

Ryan CookFeatured ColumnistApril 21, 2011

Troy Tulowitzki is fast becoming competition for Albert Pujols.
Troy Tulowitzki is fast becoming competition for Albert Pujols.Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Troy Tulowitzki wasn't happy with being just a firework.

Instead, he went for a fresh look and changed his at-bat song.

Now he appeals to almost everybody—that includes shaggy teeny-boppers. You know, the ones who patrol the internet looking for cheap Justin Bieber tickets.

Yep, Tulo' certainly is our baby. At least to Colorado Rockies fans, anyway.

There's something different about Troy Tulowitizki that we don't often see. He can hit home runs like I can flick on a light switch, sure. He is one of the most profound shortstops in the National League—that's definitely a bonus.

And when it comes to RBI, let's just say I'd hate to be a starting pitcher with runners on bag.

This is all stuff we know. It's no news to you. If you were to pick up a "Troy Tulowitzki For Dummies" book, expect all of the above to fill the contents page.

But what we don't acknowledge about this sometimes-underrated hitter is:

He is quickly becoming an elite slugger.

Tulowitzki claims he admires Derek Jeter—there's a fact that may win you a game of Trivial Pursuit one day. He also comes from Polish descent—I guess the last name kind of gave that one away. Yet, there is a lot we don't know about Tulowitzki. He's the international man of mystery; just waiting to be discovered.

Until now.

Consider Albert Pujols for a second. One of the leagues', if not the, best hitter in baseball, no?

 He may be going through a slump and Tony LaRussa still looks like a rabid insomniac in the dugout, but if there's a comparison worth making, it's between Tulo' and Pujols.

Aside from the fact that their names both sound cool, they have something else in common: they are scary. Not the kind of "big blue monster" kind of scary you worried about when you were a kid. It's the kind of "I wouldn't want to meet them in a dark alley" scary you see in prison documentaries.

(You probably get the same feeling when you see Ozzie Guillen, too.)

When Tulowitzki steps up to the plate, Coors Field doesn't fall silent. The fans anticipate a home run. They expect it. But if you are a major league heckler, Tulowitzki's 6-3 stature is a competition in its own right.

In his third game of the 2011 regular season, Tulowitzki went from Colorado cold to Texas chili hot. He hit two home runs against the Dodgers at Coors Field and another away at Pittsburgh. He eased off and then came came on strong hitting four against the Mets in New York. By the time that series ended, Sandy Alderson's eyes were bloodshot from antidepressants.

The rest of the National League West feels the same way.

Don't forget his shortstop abilities either. Tulowitzki is a Gold Glove winner for a reason. He isn't utterly useless on defense like other hitters. He makes plays—good ones—and that's part of the reason for the Rockies 13-5 record.

Looking at it now, perhaps big time slugger is an understatement. Rockies fans already believe Tulo' is their savior, and who could blame them?

That's what makes this storyline so compelling, though. Major League Baseball no longer features heroes; Bud Selig's league isn't allowed to. Children worshipping their favorite hitters went out the same door that hit Barry Bonds on his way out. Simply put, the steroid era has ruined what used to be. And it's a damn shame.

So now Rockie fans are left with a leader; someone they can admire while the Denver Broncos wallow in sadness, longing for the days of John Elway to return.

What's ironic though, is they may never have seen it coming.

This time last year, Tulowitzki's interests were a mile high. His contract was due to expire. He was only five years into his career and, with rumors swirling, Tulo' grew a wandering eye for other Major League clubs.

But when Rockies owner Dan O'Dowd called Tulowitzki into his office last October, much more was up for debate than just dollars and cents. The issue of Tulowitzki's future ambitions was a talking point and, to make a long story short, the Rockies played their cards right.

Tulowitzki opted to stay in Colorado. Not for the altitude rush one feels when they play at Coors Field. Not for "Dinger" the dinosaur. Not even for the fans.

Tulo' chose to stay because he wanted to create his own legacy and look at him now.

Six months later, we are left with a new Tulowitzki. It's one that is vanishing in modern day baseball. Players like to change teams like it's a game of musical chairs. Then the music ends, everyone stops caring, and they wind up with a struggling team.

Just another reason why MLB needs a salary cap, huh?

For Tulowitzki, the argument used to be versus Hanley Ramirez. Now it's against Albert Pujols; a comparison Tulo' is winning quite fiercely until Pujols steps up to the plate and makes LaRussa show a smug toothy grin while he tells reporters "I told you so."

The beautiful part of Tulo's game is he can bat anywhere. First, middle, you name it—he would still put up numbers. You might be thinking "How is he any better than Pujols?! Where is his World Series ring? All-Star appearances and MVP awards?"

They are all coming; quietly and subtly but, trust me, they are on the horizon.

"I want to be the best player in this game," Tulotwitzki recently told

I once wanted to be an astronaut, too.

Some things are unrealistic.

Becoming the best in baseball is Tulowitzki's destiny.


Check out Ryan Cook's new blog: The Front Page.

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