Troy Tulowitzki was a special athlete dating all the way back to high school. Not many people can say they batted .536 in junior in baseball, while also averaging 22.6 points per game on the basketball court.
The man later nicknamed as “Tulo” was a complete stud, and after making his name as a member of the Long Beach State Dirtbags in college, was on his way to becoming a top pick in the 2005 MLB Draft.
Tulowitzki was picked seventh overall by the Colorado Rockies, and completed his first full season in 2007 when he played in 155 games. At age 22, Tulo batted .291/.359/.479 and played a large role in the Rockies making it all the way to the World Series.
The next season he regressed a little bit, but from 2009-2013, Tulowitzki had a slash line of .304/.378./.546 for an OPS+ of 133. Tulo was also known as one of the most elite defenders at shortstop, always ranking amongst the position’s best in fielding percentage. In 2009 and 2010, he finished top-five in National League MVP voting.
In 2014, Tulowitzki was right in the middle of his prime at the age of 29, and started out the month of April with a batting average of .364, winning NL Player of the Month. At that time, Troy was challenging Mike Trout as the best player in baseball.
After 91 games, Tulo was slashing .340/.432./.603 for an insane OPS+ of 170 when things took a turn for the worse. In late July, Tulo injured his left hip and was forced to undergo season ending surgery. I have no doubts that this man would’ve gone on to win his first MVP if it wasn’t for the injury.
In 2015, Tulowitzki was once playing at an All-Star level, but he was on a losing team that hadn’t made the playoffs since 2009. Everything changed when the Toronto Blue Jays made a blockbuster trade out of nowhere for Tulo, with four time All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes and a couple prospects going the other way.
In his debut for the Jays, Tulo looked rejuvenated, hitting a home run and two doubles. But during a game in September in the Bronx, Tulo cracked his shoulder blade in an awkward outfield collision with teammate Kevin Pillar on a routine pop fly.
Tulowitzki went on to miss 18 games, and really other than his first game as a Blue Jay, struggled offensively at the plate for Toronto. In 41 regular season games, he batted a disappointing .239/.317/.380 for a below average OPS+ of 89.
On a positive note, Tulowitzki’s defence and leadership presence was still felt and that helped propel the Blue Jays to the playoffs for the first time since 1993. Tulo’s plate vision and deteriorating bat speed continued to show in the playoffs however, as he batted .095 in the ALDS against the Texas Rangers.
In the ALCS, Tulowitzki’s number’s improved but it was still clear that he was no longer the threat that he once was in the batter’s box.
In 2016, Tulo’s struggles at the plate continued, hitting for a mediocre slash line of .254/.318/.443 in 131 games (OPS+ of 102). His season was cut short the next year when he badly sprained his right ankle in a late July game versus the Angels. In 66 games, Tulo batted a paltry .249/.300/.378.
The next year in spring training, Tulowitzki was only 32, but his body was failing him. He was battling a bone spur in his right leg and was put on the 60-day DL to begin the season. Tulo never ended up playing in 2018, and was released in the offseason. Toronto was paying $38 million over the next two years to simply have Tulowitzki go away.
In 2019, Tulowitzki signed a one-year deal with the Yankees for the league minimum. With Didi Gregorious injured, Tulo was named starting shortstop for opening day.
His reign with the Yankees only lasted five games thanks to, yes, injury. Tulowitzki went on the IL with a calf strain, and never played Major League Baseball again. He retired at age 34.
Tulowitzki leaves behind the legacy of what could’ve been. Once compared to the likes of Cal Ripken Jr. and Derek Jeter, Tulowitzki showed flashes of greatness when he was healthy, but it feels like five All-Star nods and two Gold Gloves/Silver Sluggers doesn’t do him justice.
10 years ago, Tulowitzki felt like he was well on his way to the HOF, and now that seems like a pipedream.
Instead, even Rockies fans have forgotten about the man of Troy. A guy by the name of Trevor Story replaced Tulo in 2015, and he hasn’t looked back. He’s become one of the best shortstops in the game and is still only 27.
Tulowitzki is now a member of the Texas Longhorns coaching staff, and will most likely become a manager in the MLB at some point. This is a man who loves the game too much and has such a great baseball IQ. It’s just unfortunate that baseball hasn’t really loved him back up until this point.