ARLINGTON, Texas — In word and deed, first baseman C.J. Cron is helping keep alive the “new vibe” the Rockies have been discussing since gathering together last month.
On Monday, he kept it going between the lines at Globe Life Field in the Rangers’ home opener. Cron tripled in a first-inning run and launched a 451-foot homer in the ninth inning of the Rockies’ third straight victory, this one a 6-4 win in 10 innings.
“It’s a lot different — I don’t know what it is,” Cron said. “Guys are loose. I think a lot of these guys had their first full season last year and were maybe not tight, but maybe just trying to do a little bit too much trying to impress people. You can see everyone is a lot more loose.”
The result was brought home in the 10th by José Iglesias’ RBI single — his fourth hit of the game — and Connor Joe’s solo homer, not to mention the crazy ending of the bottom of the 10th. The Rockies were awarded a game-winning double play when, after a replay challenge, the Rangers’ Mitch Garver was deemed in violation of rule 6.01(j), which requires a “bona-fide slide” and prohibits the runner from, in part, throwing “his arm or upper body.” More on that ending later.
Let’s revisit the calm of Cron, who has maintained a collected presence through a career that didn’t earn him a multi-year contract (two years, $14.5 million, signed last October) until he had reached his fifth team. Stuff doesn’t bother him.
For example, after the Rockies’ only bummer of the season’s first week — a loss to the Dodgers on Opening Day — he turned to teammate Ryan McMahon.
“He said, ‘Hey, we beat the Dodgers on Opening Day last year,’” McMahon said, leaving unsaid what he, Cron and the Rockies know, and anyone who calls up standings can find out — last year’s team finished fourth in the National League West for the third straight season.
“I think I’ve always tried to be pretty collected up there,” Cron said. “It’s a crazy game. A lot of things can happen. I just try to control myself as much as possible.”
It was Cron’s way of reminding everyone that the Rockies’ goal is an opposite kind of season from last year.
“Every player has their own different type of intensity,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “[Cron] keeps it to a point where his personality has an effect on the other guys. But yet he takes his at-bats and takes the game very seriously. It takes all kinds and he has. His way about him is very impactful on the group.”
In 2021, Cron, 32, had a positive impact on a team that lacked offensive production throughout the lineup. He knocked a team-high 28 homers and set career highs in games played (142), runs scored (70), hits (132), doubles (31) and RBIs (92).
The Rockies extended him long before he could become a free agent, then proceeded to build a better lineup. They added Kris Bryant, whose first-inning double preceded a rare triple from Cron that sailed past a diving Adolis García in center field.
“I only get them when they miss the ball like that,” he said, chuckling. “I don’t get them any other way. I got my one for the year, so now I’m good.”
Cron’s homer off Joe Barlow, into the second deck above the visiting bullpen just left of center, gave the Rockies a 4-3 lead in the top of the ninth. A lot happened after that, when the Rangers’ Willie Calhoun tied the game with two outs in the bottom of the ninth with a homer off Daniel Bard.
But don’t let Cron’s shot be forgotten. It was his Majors-leading ninth home run of 450-plus feet since the start of last season.
“It seems like when I get them, they go,” Cron said.
Now for the craziness …
The Rangers thought they had cut the difference to 6-5 when second baseman Brendan Rodgers’ throw bounced past Cron at first and Marcus Semien scored. But after advice from Brian Jones, the Rockies’ video coordinator, Black challenged Garver’s slide into Rodgers at second.
“In real time, that’s a tough question … but Brian thought it was a slide that should be looked at,” Black said.
The players awarded Jones the MVP chain, the gaudy purple chain with the Rockies’ interlocking “CR” logo hanging from it.
Garver, well, was fit to be chained. He maintained he touched the bag, remained within reaching distance of it although he went over the base, and wasn’t going for damage.
“You ever seen a game [end] in replay like that? … Just not how we expected that to end,” Garver said.
Here is the official ruling from the MLB Replay Center Supervisor:
“After viewing all relevant angles, the Replay Official definitively determined that the runner failed to engage in a bona-fide slide. Additionally, the runner’s actions hindered and impeded the fielder. The call is OVERTURNED, it is a violation of Official Baseball Rule 6.01(j).”
Under new protocols this year, crew chief Bill Miller had to announce the ending of the game and weather the booing of a crowd that wanted a victory as the Rangers began their 50th anniversary season in Texas.
“I’ve never had a game end like this,” Miller said. “And it’s the first time I’ve been announcing over the PA system. So, it’s all new to us. It’s an unfortunate way to lose, but those are the rules.”
Luckily, Cron and the Rockies benefited from the call and came out on top.