Monday, May 10, 2010

Rockies Problem is in the Dugout

The Colorado Rockies are struggling.

That line is something that has been all too common over the course of the last four years. For Rockies fans, its getting old. The question is, why does this team have so much talent, yet lack the ability to put it all together early in the season?

It's the reason that Clint Hurdle, barely a season removed from taking a youthful team to the World Series, was fired. It's the reason that every spring training is littered with the same questions to players and management. Why does this team never succeed early in the season?

The Rockies are just two games under .500. They are better off than they have been in the last four years, but the fact is, they are lucky to be so close to the mediocre mark.

Since the World Series team of 2007, there is one coach or manager who remains with the big league club. That man is in charge of the pitchers, Bob Apodaca.

Apodaca has been the recipient of much praise. When Jason Marquis started his 2009 season so hot, he gave credit to Apodaca. When Ubaldo Jimenez turned the corner, credit went to Apodaca. When Jorge De La Rosa became a confident pitcher instead of a ticking time bomb, Apodaca got the praise.

For all of the heaping praise and credit Apodaca has received, it might be time to acknowledge that he may have just been in the right place at the right time.

Crediting a pitching coach for Jimenez's success is like crediting Albert Einstein's junior high science teacher for making him smart. He is simply a one-in-a-million talent that was going to figure out how to pitch at the Major League level.

While Marquis had a great beginning of 2009, Apodaca was unable to cure him of his consistent second half failures that saw him nearly miss the postseason roster after having represented the Rockies in the All-Star game just a few months before.

Jorge De La Rosa, despite stuff that is better than any other lefty in baseball, was cast off by three franchises before landing in Colorado. He struggled with confidence until the Rockies started having him work with mental skills coach Ronn Svetich. Svetich got him to clear his mind and harness his talent.

Aaron Cook is the Rockies franchise leader in wins. When he is on, he is almost an automatic win, regardless of who he is pitching against. However, his struggles go beyond an early season slump. Cook has thrown one good game, and the rest of the time he has looked completely lost on the mound. In his last start, the sinkerballer threw nearly 20% curveballs. Why would a sinkerball pitcher start messing around with a curveball? Cook is trying to be someone who he isn't, and his pitching coach isn't telling him to go back to what has brought him success.

To see Apodaca's largest failures, look no further than the Rockies bullpen. Franklin Morales, a lefty with as much talent as anyone, has not been missing location on his fastball by inches, but by feet. His mechanics are so out of whack that he spins off of his front foot and simply lets it rip. The way he pitches makes him look like he has never taken the mound on a big league field in his life.

Manny Corpas has had enough struggles in the past three years to write a book on how to kill a career. His slider quit sliding and started finding its way into the outfield seats. He went from a dominant closer to lucky to be a long reliever in a year and a half.

After pitching well in his long relief role, Corpas found himself back as closer, due mainly to Morales' complete inability to get the job done.

On Monday night he looked like the same old Corpas who is overthrowing his slider and cannot get the ball over the plate.

Sure, the offense can be blamed for much of the Rockies failures. They have been awful with runners in scoring positions.

Sure, the defense can be blamed for their surprising ineptitude, botching what seems like two routine plays per game.

However, offense starts pressing when they know that getting a one or two run lead is not going to hold up. Instead of relaxing and knowing that their bullpen is going to lock the ballgame down, they have to figure that they are going to have to put up a couple of runs almost every inning.

While Clint Hurdle's staff took the blame after 2008, everyone was fired except for Apodaca. When Hurdle was given his walking papers at the end of May 2009, Apodaca remained. At some point, the question must be asked, how does Apodaca continue to avoid the blame for his failures? How long can he ride the success of Ubaldo Jimenez and Jorge De La Rosa?

It might be time to acknowledge that Apodaca might not be as good as everyone thinks that he is.

For more on the Rockies visit Rockies Review.

This article is also featured on InDenverTimes.com

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