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Mark Knudson’s Three Strikes Blog: How should a team deal with trade rumors? Avs need to tighten up the D, and best local college football games to go see next fall


Strike One: A year ago about this time, fans of the Colorado Rockies were all twitter pated (pun intended) and up in arms about rumors that superstar third baseman Nolan Arenado, about to enter the final year of his contract, would have to be moved before or during the season so he didn’t leave as a free agent at the end of the year, with the team getting nothing in return. That was based, of course, on the common knowledge (at least among the national media) that the Rockies certainly couldn’t be re-signing him. They were, after all, the Rockies.

Maybe that ‘knowledge’ wasn’t so common. Or correct.

For their part, the organization remained silent on the subject.

Then, the team and their best player agreed to an eight-year, $260 million contract extension in late February, just after the start of spring training. Nolan wasn’t going anywhere.

Rumors, right?

Fast forward a year. Here we are again. Go to any sports page or site and there it is: “Teams that Nolan Arenado could be traded to.”

And once again, the organization remains silent.

Make no mistake, they hear the noise. They know what’s going on in cyberspace. They know that rumors – started on both coasts and fueled by agents (not Nolan’s) trying to impact the marketplace for their players, like Anthony Rendon (who signed with the Angels) and Josh Donaldson (still unsigned) – aren’t stopping any time soon…unless they stop them with a definitive statement to the contrary, the way the Cleveland Indians did recently with trade rumors about star shortstop Francisco Lindor.

They also know that when the team reports to spring training in mid-February, Nolan Arenado will be there wearing purple. The team has no intention of trading him. None.

So why don’t they just say so?

Here’s the issue: The team didn’t start these rumors. They don’t feel obligated to give them any credence, to lend any shred of credibility to them or their sources in any way by commenting on them. They aren’t the only ones who feel this way…there are others who agree that rumors aren’t worth the time they take to address. Start doing it now, and you’ll have to start addressing every single rumor that pops up on the internet. During the “hot stove” season – which is all about rumormongering 24/7 – and you might not have time to do anything else.

That’s the Rockies philosophy on the subject, like it or not.

We don’t all have to agree with this strategy. Some of us would like the team to poor cold water on this smoldering campfire. But they haven’t done it this way in the past, and probably won’t start in the future. It’s their MO and they’re sticking with it.

If we’ve learned anything the past three years from watching what’s unfolded out of our nation’s capital on a daily basis, it’s that even if something isn’t true…even if it’s a flat out lie…if it gets repeated often enough, many people will start to believe it, even some credible people. It’s a head scratcher for sure, but it’s today’s reality.

So even though the rumors about Nolan’s impending trade – which started as a murmur and have grown into full throated roars in some places – aren’t true, more and more people are giving them credence now. So we – and the Rockies brass – will continue to hear about it.

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That probably won’t change until the start of spring training when the Rockies resume the regular habit of interacting with the media and setting things straight…just like they did a year ago.

Strike Two: Seldom are the schedule makers in professional sports kind. Every team thinks they get the short end of the stick in terms of short homestands and long long long road trips.

The Colorado Avalanche have had some of that to be sure. But right now, they’re in the midst of what can only be described as a gift from those who put together the NHL schedule. What’s really important is how they take advantage of it.

From January 10th through January 20th the Avs play five home games, followed by the All-Star break. They don’t play another road game until next month. How sweet is that?

It’s a chance to get well after a 2-4 stint that included a single road win. A chance to heal up after getting bruised up in the Big Apple. A chance to re-establish themselves as the team to beat in a suddenly ultra-competitive Central Division.

Unfortunately, the home stand didn’t get off to a great start. An overtime loss to the Crosby-less Pittsburgh Penguins did net them one point, but it was a winnable game and every single point will count come April. The issue recently has been a less-than-stellar defensive effort that’s giving up way too many uncontested scoring chances to some of the best players on the planet. No goalie can save you when that happens…and Avs goalies Philipp Grubauer and Pavel Francouz haven’t exactly been standing on their heads recently, anyway.

Unless the Avs tighten things up at the defensive end, no amount of Nathan MacKinnon heroics will be able to save their season.

The rest of the homestand has two relatively easy games, including one again lowly Detroit (how weird is that to say?) and two critical Central Division games, against the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues and the Dallas Stars, both currently ahead of Colorado in the standings.

Colorado needs to come out of this homestand having gained eight points at least. That will get them back in the division title chase.

If they don’t, it will probably be because their defense rested a bit too much.

Strike Three: We are a long way from the start of the 2020 college football season, but with season ticket renewal packages being sent out now, it’s never too soon to start thinking and planning.

We all recognize that we don’t live in a college football hotbed, and that our idea of a ‘big game’ differs greatly from what they label a big game in Baton Rouge or Columbus. Still, there are some games on next year’s local slate that are noteworthy and worth planning ahead to see.

It all starts of course with the Colorado Buffaloes visit to Canvas Stadium on September 5th. It will be the last Rocky Mountain Showdown in the current series – the final time the Buffs and Rams get together until 2023 in Boulder. The last time CU came to Fort Collins was 1996, when Rick Neuheisel’s Buffs came to town and defeated Sonny Lubick’s Rams 48-34.

Will the game be a sellout? The math says that you can’t fit 67,000 people (last season’s attendance in Denver) into a 36,500 seat stadium, even when you count the space on the New Belgium Porch. But the number of Buff fans that make the short trip, plus the number of CSU students that decide to show up will dictate if the place is full to capacity or not. It should be, but who knows.

The Buffs home slate isn’t as exciting as it was last season, when visits from Nebraska and Air Force highlighted the non-conference portion. This year the Buffs host Fresno State before traveling to College Station to meet Texas A&M. The Rams travel to Oregon State and Vanderbilt.

So, the other most intriguing game of the non-conference season that local fans can drive to is clearly Northern Colorado and Ed McCaffrey visiting Canvas Stadium on September 19th. All eyes will be on the new coaches on both sidelines, with McCaffrey and Steve Adazzio having been hired just days apart and immediately vying for many of the same recruits. The Rams should have their way with the FCS Bears, but you never know, right? This will be the spotlight game of McCaffrey’s first season…and his players will know it. Just as the Buffs often feel like they have everything to lose and little to gain when they play the Rams, the cleat is on the other foot this time. The pressure to win is ALL on the Rams.

Air Force’s marquee non-conference game is a trip to Purdue, with the biggest home games being against Navy and Boise State. CSU travels to the Academy as well this year.

The Buffs will host Arizona State, Oregon and UCLA during the conference schedule as Mel Tucker tries to get his team to a Bowl game in his second season.

There aren’t the same number of “circle the date” games on next year’s local schedule that there were this past season, but if you love college football, you will have a few Saturdays that should already be spoken for.

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