Friday, May 21, 2010

The curious case of the Colorado Rockies

The Colorado Rockies 2010 season was filled with promise.

The rotation was strong one through five. The lineup could gave opposing pitchers no breaks. The defense was as good as any in the league.

However, with one quarter of the 2010 season complete, there are only two words that can be used to describe the teams success.

Ubaldo Jimenez.

While the ace has been phenomenal, his great season was hardly the only success that the Rockies thought that they would have.

On Friday, the Rockies continued their struggles, losing the the Kansas City Royals 9-2. The story has been written time and time again so far in 2010. Those still paying attention to the frustrating team can be described as nothing less than gluttons for punishment.

The offense, full of power from one through eight, has just 38 home runs. Cleanup hitter Troy Tulowitzki has just long balls. Catcher Miguel Olivo leads the team with eight home runs. The team batting average heading into Friday night's debacle was .259, good enough for ninth in the National League. The Rockies rank no better than seventh in any major offensive category in the NL. Mediocre was never a word used to describe the Rockies in spring training.

Colorado has two starters who own batting averages of less than .230 in Dexter Fowler with a .228 average and Clint Barmes, who is sporting a .210 average. Carlos Gonzalez, the team's leadoff hitter, leads the squad with 28 RBI's. Second on the list is a tie between Ian Stewart and Miguel Olivo, who both have 20 runs batted in.

The Rockies offensive struggles go beyond simply a team-wide slump. Colorado has not scored more than six runs since May 8th in Los Angeles when they posted six runs in the first inning on knuckleballer Charlie Haeger.

Even that night the Rockies were nothing close to impressive offensively. Haeger could not find his knuckleball and walked three hitters before allowing a three run triple to Carlos Gonzalez. While patience a the plate is a virtue, the Dodgers essentially gave the game to the Rockies, the offense did not win it.

This team was supposed to strike fear in opposing pitchers. Instead, their is a consistent theme from Jim Tracy's post game press conferences. Much like a broken record, Tracy spouts off the same line day in and day out after his powerful offense once again put up just two runs. His statement? "We ran into good pitching tonight. (Fill in the blank) mixed his pitches well and had our hitters off balance all night."

Frankly, for a guy who says that his team will never make excuses, it sure seems that Tracy has a plethora of them. At some point he needs to take some of the blame. He needs to make it clear that the way his team is performing at the plate is nothing short of pathetic and unacceptable. Instead, he makes excuses for his under performing team and tries to chalk up another loss to great pitching by whoever the below-average pitcher on the hill for the other team was.

Watching this Rockies team is frustrating. Most fans continue to wait for the offensive explosion that seems inevitable. At this point, however, it must be wondered whether or not that explosion is ever going to happen.

When the results have been as bad as they have been, most are left looking for a sign that things are changing. Most look for at least one positive.

The only problem is that the way the Rockies have been playing, it seems like the fans care more than the team does.

Ian Stewart seems more concerned about updating his Twitter account with the latest item on the menu at Morton's rather than improving his swing with the bases loaded and less than two outs. Instead of being upset about his personal struggles as well as the team's inability to win games.

While fans are boiling over with anger, the struggling players have already shaken off the latest loss. While that is something that professional athletes must find the ability to do, it would be nice to see some emotion from this team. It would be nice to see that the Rockies actually care that they are under achieving and on their way to an extremely disappointing season.

Unfortunately, two of the past three seasons have given the Rockies and their fans a false hope that no matter the deficit, the Rockies can overcome it. The only problem with that line of thinking is that both of the latest playoff runs is that both of them were completely unprecedented in their own respects. The idea that the Rockies can recreate a huge turnaround simply is not realistic.

Until the Rockies figure out how to quit making excuses and find ways to win games, the only two positive words that the club will be able to use when describing the season will remain: Ubaldo Jimenez.

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  1. This started out as a good article but finished with a bunch of fair weather colorado fan drivel. As pro athletes, the rockies aren't going to go home and tweet about losing games or throw tantrums outside of the game. Look where that got Tulo (hand). If you watch any of their expression on the field lately, its pure anger and frustration. Hawpe throws his bat further than the ball, Tulo gave Stewie a bad look after his error the other night and Barmes is blaming whole games on himself because of one error. This clubhouse is full of frustration. Get a life, twitterr doesn't fix swings. In this digital world, we think that life is all about tweets tweeples and myfaces and spacebooks. Tulo and Ian Stewart would punch you in the face if you said this to their faces.

    P.S. Fowler isn't starting, Jim Tracy is yelling his head off at these guys after games and lastly, this will not last. Tomorrow, Ian Stewart will hit a homerun off Davies and Tulo will go 3 for 5 with 3 RBI

  2. Kyle,
    First off, thanks for the comment.

    Second, I must be watching a different game than you are. I don't see Tracy yell at anyone and in post game press conferences all he does is make excuse after excuse after excuse. When is he going to light a fire under this team? When is he going to say that this isn't acceptable?
    The emotion that this team is showing right now is not an anger, but more of a pouty, feel sorry for myself, attitude. Maybe I'm wrong, but I've seen a lot of baseball and that is what I see.
    Third, Fowler hasn't started for a while, but I would still consider him a starter, Smith was just out there to play the hot hand, Fowler wasn't being benched. Spilborghs was just getting some at bats tonight.
    Fourth, I don't think that Tulo and Stewart would punch me in the face for saying that. They seem like they have a lot more to be worried about than punching some random blog writer in the face.

  3. What players say on Twitter doesn't bother me a whole lot. I'm never in a hurry to tweet about my day job so I can understand players not wanting their frustrations to boil over there.

    That said, it's not throwing a bat or taking blame in the media that defines emotion or caring either. Of course they're frustrated in the moment and react, but are they doing the work to prepare themselves for success in those situations.

    Are they reading scouting reports, watching video, talking amongst themselves about matchups, gaining whatever competitive edge they can before they even step on the field.

    Watching some of these awful ABs against very mediocre pitchers. Watching Tulowitzki get gunned down by a mile at third. It really makes me wonder if that work is getting done. And if they are doing their homework thoroughly, is the information their receiving not good enough.

    I think it's more than fair to wonder about that stuff. I think we'd be silly not to. Just a game or not, this is their job, and their job doesn't just involve what happens when 10,000-40,000 people are in the stands.

  4. It is frustrating, but this is why baseball is a long season. Take a look around the league. SF has now dropped 4 straight and is only 2 above .500. The Yankees got swept by TB. How do you think those fans feel? Believe you me, I was a die-hard Cubs fan as a kid and I am no stranger to disappointment. This feels different to me because the talent is there, and the confidence is a win or two away.

    Another thing I like are the late runs. Early in the season the Rox were scoring in innings 1-5 but very little in 6-9. That really bothered me because you need that confidence to know you can always come back. And you need to strike fear into the heart of your opponent when they turn to their bullpen. Knowing you have the ability to come back keeps you sharp, both pitchers and defense. This road trip has been a disaster, but look at the box scores. The Rox are scoring in the 7th and 8th. Actually it is the early runs that are missing as they face Cy Young every day. The early runs will come back. If the late runs stay then we will be in pretty decent shape.

  5. Mark,
    I agree with you. I think these players are frustrated, I just wish they would figure out how to turn their frustration into playing harder rather than playing mopey on the field. I think the Twitter thing bothered me because as fans are frustrated that the team is underperforming, Ian Stewart made it seem like all was good.

    I agree with you that the late runs are a huge positive. They are fighting when the game is on the line. I just wish they would put it all together and stick it to someone. They clearly have the talent, so it almost makes it more frustrating when they can't figure it out.

    Thanks for the comments!

  6. But, what I am saying is that as fans, we are all so used to managers coaches and players having to do little intermission interviews where say the same crap over and over again because they just want to get it over with. I love how in hockey games, right after a period, a player, huffing and puffing, has to go talk to some person who graduated in comm and doesn't know anything about the sport. And like Mark said, I don't go tweet about my day job and they probably don't either just to avoid the nonsense. To prepare for each opponent, Tracy has meetings with his coaches that last hours. Juts because we don't see him lighting a fire under these guys ass', doesn't mean he isn't. Also, aren't the Rockies the team that start late every year?

  7. Kyle,
    I see your point, and I agree that none of us really know what is going on behind the scenes. As far as the Twitter thing, as I mentioned above, it is tough as a fan to be frustrated that your team lost, then see one of the key players tweeting about their dinner that makes it seem like the fans care more about the game then the players. I realize that in baseball you can't go home and waste a whole day being mad about each loss, but it is frustrating when it seems like they care less than us.
    My point with Tracy is that maybe he is trying to light a fire under these guys, but it is clearly not working.

    The Rockies are the team that starts late every year, but reality has to hit at some point. In both 07 and 09 the Rockies made runs that were unprecedented. To think that they can continue to just go out and cram six months of baseball into four months isn't realistic. It happened twice for them, that means that it will probably happen again in about 120 years.