'We'll keep the same team together'
Decisions ahead, as Monfort plans to get Rockies a title
DENVER -- Rockies chairman and CEO Charlie Monfort wore a team jacket that was buttoned, as if he was ready to lead his team right back out onto Coors Field and avenge that World Series sweep at the hands of the Red Sox.
"I think this team is a better team," Monfort said Sunday night, standing in the clubhouse, letting competitive juices flow while fighting deep emotions. "We didn't play our best baseball during the World Series.
The Rockies, of course, will have to make it back to the World Series to prove it. Monfort said the best way to do that is to keep the core of the team together.
That means dishing out the arbitration-dictated dollars for left fielder and National League Most Valuable Player candidate Matt Holliday, third baseman Garrett Atkins and right fielder Brad Hawpe. It's expected to mean picking up right-hander Aaron Cook's $4.5 million option for 2008.
It means making efforts to re-sign free agents Kazuo Matsui, the second baseman, and Yorvit Torrealba, the regular catcher.
"We'll keep the same team together, we'll get better, a little more experienced," Monfort said after a 4-3 loss to the Red Sox in Game 4. "This team could've won the World Series this year, but didn't quite get basically where we wanted to."
There are some dicey questions. Left-hander Brian Fuentes, who lost his job as closer but had his moments during an up-and-down year, is eligible for arbitration but could also be used as trade bait. Back-end starting pitcher Josh Fogg is a free agent. But the team has brought along exciting young pitchers such as Ubaldo Jimenez and Franklin Morales, and Jason Hirsh showed well as a rookie, so will there be room for Fogg? Veteran right-hander Matt Herges revived his career and would like to re-sign.
Players weren't ready to give much thought to 2008 beside the fact they want to be together again.
"They just beat us," Hawpe said. "We're going to be mad for a while, but at some point we're going to be able to sit back and be proud of how far we went as a team.
"We've got a good team here. We've got good players. We've got a great group of young guys. We've got a great group of veteran guys. There are some free agents, but that's part of the business. But as far as this team goes, we've got a good-looking future."
The team heads into the offseason hungry.
Rookie shortstop Troy Tulowitzki stayed on the field for much of the Red Sox's celebration, letting it motivate him. By season's end, those who hadn't seen Tulowitzki realized he was a viable Rookie of the Year candidate. But Tulowitzki struggled offensively during the postseason.
For now, that sticks with him.
"You never know if you're going to get back, so you kind of sit back, take it all in, use it as a motivational thing," Tulowitzki said. "In the offseason when I'm working out, hitting in the cage, taking ground balls, doing everything I can to become a better player, I'm going to remember it."
History will show the Rockies were swept, and the numbers were lopsided in the Red Sox's favor. Holliday, who led the National League in batting (.340) and RBIs (137) during a year in which he gained national notice, won't let that notion slide.
"I can't control what people think," Holliday said. "If they think that, obviously they think that, they didn't pay attention to what we did, the pitchers we were able to beat.
"They outplayed us in four games, but we beat them two out of three during the regular season."
And Monfort, his voice quivering, said it means continuing to rally behind longtime leader Todd Helton at first base.
Last winter, the Rockies obtained Helton's permission to trade him to the Red Sox. But the Red Sox felt the Rockies wanted too much in return, and talks broke off. Helton is still guaranteed $71 million through 2011.
Although his home run production is down -- he hit 17 this year -- he still batted .320 with 91 RBIs, and during the team's 21-of-22 run to make the Series it was obvious that he was a uniting force for a mostly young team.
"He's going to have a World Series ring," Monfort said. "Remember all that talk about him making it to the playoffs? Now, he needs a ring. Now that we see where we're at, I don't see why we can't win it.
"I don't see why we can't win it at all."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.