Clint Barmes is a hard worker. He does not possess the natural talents to be in a big league uniform. In order for him to keep his job he must constantly work on his game, finding ways to get better. Through hard work, his defense has become better than almost anyone's in baseball.
The Colorado Rockies needed his defense in the worst way on Sunday against the Cardinals. With runners on first and third and one out and the Cardinals down a run, Ryan Ludwick looked as if he had at least tied the game with a flair into shallow right field. The ball was far enough over Barmes' head at second base that both runners took off, sure that the ball would drop.
As the ball flew through the air 42,032 fans held their breath for what felt like an eternity. Then Barmes seemingly defied physics and found a way to catch the ball over his shoulder as he dove to the ground. As he got up, right fielder Ryan Spilborghs alertly pointed to first base, telling him to throw to the bag to complete the double play.
It was the most intense finish of the 2009 season for the Rockies. That is saying something in this drama filled year. The Rockies have had their share of walk off wins. They have come from behind and basically found every single way to win a baseball game. While all of the previous wins have been great, none have matched the importance of this one for the Rockies.
The Braves had already completed the sweep of the Nationals, meaning that the Rockies had to win to keep their 2-1/2 game lead in the Wild Card race. A loss meant that the Braves were within a 1-1/2 games with seven more for them to play.
Barmes has had an interesting year. He could not seem to hit anything in the first two months. When Clint Hurdle was fired as manager, Jim Tracy moved him to the two-hole in the lineup. He thrived there, going on a complete tear. He raised his average all the way to .295 and was hitting balls in the gap and out of the park.
Then came July. The book was out on Barmes and the league figured out that he could not hit the low and away slider, but he also could not lay off of it. The second baseman found himself flailing at pitches, trying to pull everything instead of hitting it the other way.
Critics of Barmes complain that he takes a horrible approach to the plate with him. Unlike his good friend Todd Helton, Barmes is clueless when it comes to fouling off pitches. Instead of taking the outside pitch to right field, Barmes is constantly looking for a way to hook everything to left field. While he has found his power stroke, hitting 23 home runs on the season, he has also found a knack for striking out and popping up to the second baseman.
There is no doubt about it, when Barmes steps to the plate in a key situation for the Rockies, a betting man could become rich by placing money on an infield pop up or a strike out. Barmes has undoubtedly made many Rockies fans just as bald as he is after pulling their hair out watching him hit. The idea of fouling a pitch off until the pitcher gives in and throws a hittable pitch is nowhere in Barmes weaponry. The fact of the matter is, Barmes is not a very good hitter.
What keeps Barmes in the league, however, is not his offense it is his defense.
In the midst of Barmes struggles, Jim Tracy was asked time and time again if he was going to bench Barmes in favor of someone who might be able to get the bat on the ball a little better. Tracy, however, exuded extreme patience with Barmes, constantly saying that there is no one with a better glove in the league. Tracy's favorite thing to say is that if a ball is hit his way, it gets caught.
When Barmes makes a play like he did against the Cardinals on Sunday, it is easy to forget his shortcomings at the plate. The look on his face shows how much he cares about getting to the playoffs and contributing in some way. On Sunday, after going 0-for-4 at the plate, Barmes contributed in the biggest way possible, making the game saving catch, allowing the Rockies to stay 2-1/2 games up in the Wild Card race.
Clint Barmes catch may go down in Rockies history as one of their greatest plays.
For at least one day, Clint Barmes is the Rockies hero.
However, when it comes