Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tracy costs the Colorado Rockies another game

Hindsight is 20/20.

It is easy to second guess a managers decisions, but Jim Tracy makes it easy. The problem with being stubborn is that you are too stubborn to learn from your mistakes.

From the looks of it, Tracy doesn't realize that a run counts the same whether it is scored in the 1st inning, 4th inning, or 9th inning. He thinks that only the runs in the 9th count.

On Tuesday in the Colorado Rockies 5-2 loss to the San Francisco Giants Tracy did it again. Down 2-1 in the top of the 7th inning, the Rockies manager sent starting pitcher Esmil Rogers to the plate to hit. With Rogers pitch count barely over 60, there was some reasoning. The problem was not that Rogers shouldn't have remained in the game to pitch, the problem was that the Rockies needed runs badly and they were running out of outs.

Rogers ended up being the second out of a one-two-three inning and was sent back to the mound to pitch the bottom half. As many fans who have learned the ways of Tracy feared, Rogers gave up a base hit to start the inning and then a single on a hit and run. That is when Tracy did what he does best. He trotted out of the dugout and went to the bullpen.

Matt Reynolds quickly dispatched Pablo Sandoval, and once again Tracy trotted out of the dugout. He went to righty Matt Belisle, who has thrown more innings than any reliever in baseball in 2010. Belisle was able to get out of the inning, looking good doing it. Apparently good enough for Tracy to leave him in the game after Melvin Mora tied it up with a surprise home run to right field in the top of the 8th.

For some reason, Jim Tracy, the matchup mastermind, decided to leave a warm Joe Beimel in the bullpen and allow Belisle to pitch to the left handed hitting Andres Torres. Torres launched a home run to right field and made the Rockies chances seem very small. The reason Belisle remained in the game? Tracy was saving him for Aubrey Huff two hitters later.

Beimel got to face Huff, but it was too late, the damage was done.

Mistakes are made by everyone who puts on a uniform. Pitchers, catchers, outfielders, infielders, hitting coaches, base coaches and managers. They all make mistakes. The question is whether or not that person learns from their mistakes. Tracy clearly does not learn from his mistakes. After being guilty of the exact same mistake in the Rockies last loss on Friday night, Tracy defended his move saying that Ubaldo Jimenez is his ace and he would rather have him on the hill than anyone.

What will the excuse be when he made the same mistake with a guy on the mound who has made seven Major League starts? The one thing for sure, there will be an excuse.

The reason that Tracy was out of baseball in 2008, fired by his second franchise in four years, was because it was widely known that he is a stubborn person. In Pittsburgh and Los Angeles instead of admitting mistakes, Tracy made excuses. In 2009, when Tracy took over there were no excuses to be made, the Rockies were 12 games under .500 and 15 games out of first place. No one expected anything out of him.

In 2010, with expectations high, Tracy continues to hold his team back, and instead of admitting that he may have pushed the wrong buttons, he makes excuses. After he makes the excuses, he continues to push those same buttons that didn't work the last time.

On Tuesday the mistakes cost the Rockies a game in the wild card race. Eventually, the Rockies will not be able to outplay both the opposite team and their own manager.

The Rockies look to take the series on Wednesday with Ubaldo Jimenez taking on Tim Lincecum. Jimenez goes for win No. 18 for the fifth straight start.

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Monday, August 30, 2010

Colorado Rockies come up clutch in San Francisco

For eight innings it looked like the same old story was writing itself. "Rockies fall flat on the road," "Rockies leave bats at Coors Field...again."

Carlos Gonzalez, however, changed that headline to something that hasn't been seen in the 2010 season. "Rockies come from behind in 9th inning."

Gonzalez, named the National League Player of the Week earlier in the day, shattered his bat on a Brian Wilson changeup. The ball looked as if it was going to float harmlessly into the glove of right fielder Cody Ross. However, the ball carried further than Ross expected. As the ball carried over his head, Dexter Fowler who had walked to begin the inning, turned on the afterburners and scored from first base. The throw hit Gonzalez on his way the third base and went into the stands, allowing Gonzalez to score, giving the Rockies a 2-1 lead.

Ross misplayed the ball, but it would be wrong to not mention how far the ball traveled off of a shattered bat. The hit showed just how strong Gonzalez is. Most hitters when they break their bat on that pitch, fly out harmlessly to the second baseman. Gonzalez's strength allowed the ball to not only fly past second base, but carry deep into the outfield, over Ross' head.

The win marks the first time all season that the Rockies have come from behind on the road when losing after eight innings. The Rockies picked a pretty good time to change their fortunes.

Gonzalez gets the credit for the win on Monday, and it is well deserved. However, two names that won't be mentioned on Sportscenter or on Baseball Tonight are Jorge De La Rosa and Dexter Fowler.

De La Rosa's accomplishments go without saying. The lefty went seven strong innings, giving up just one run on four hits. He struck out nine while walking four. The only run he gave up was in the 4th inning when he started the inning with a walk to Aubrey Huff, who came around to score on a Buster Posey single.

De La Rosa showed why when he is on, he is one of the better lefties in the game. When his fastball is on it moves all over the place, but remains in the strike zone. Even better than his fastball, however is his changeup. Evidence of that came in the bottom of the 1st inning with runners on second and third base. De La Rosa went to a full count with Posey, but then threw a changeup that looked like it had a parachute on it, getting Posey to swing and miss to end the inning.

Fowler's contributions are far less evident in the box score. However, with Jonathan Sanchez going for the complete game, Fowler was able to work a lead off walk to start the 9th inning. The walk was not an average walk. Fowler started the at bat in an 0-2 hole. With the momentum swinging in the favor of a pitcher who had been dominant all night long, the speedy center fielder was able to work the count all the way back to full, and then had the patience to lay off of a 3-2 change up that missed low.

If Fowler isn't on first base, Gonzalez's at-bat is far different than what it was. Instead of looking to hit the ball out of the ballpark and tie the game up, Gonzalez was able to think about hitting a pitch into the outfield to move Fowler to third. Also, with Fowler's speed on first base, Wilson was forced to throw more fastballs. With speed on first base, Wilson, who has a slow delivery to the plate, had the runner in mind and was forced to throw pitches that Gonzalez was able to hit.

The win does more for the Rockies than the entire 5-1 homestand did. Instead having the looming black cloud of not being able to win on the road hanging above their heads, the Rockies can move forward with confidence, knowing that they are able to win on the road the same way that they do at home. It doesn't matter if they are losing after the 1st inning or the 8th inning, they have the talent to do what it takes to win the game.

Despite struggling on the road all season long, if the Rockies somehow find a way to break through and win away from Coors Field down the stretch than they have a very real chance at finding themselves in the postseason for the third time in four years.

The next step is to prove that the game on Monday night wasn't just an aberration, but a trend.

Winning one of the next two games could go a long way for the Rockies, not only in the wild card standings, but also as far as the team's confidence goes. If they take the series, or even somehow can pull off a sweep, history would say that it would be a good time to pick the Rockies to be playing in October.

The next step comes on Tuesday night against the Giants. Esmil Rogers looks to rebound from his last outing in which he couldn't get out of the second inning. He takes on Madison Bumgarner who also had a horrible outing his last time out.

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

What the Colorado Rockies must do to make the playoffs

These Colorado Rockies are the girlfriend who keeps breaking up with you, only to say that she made a mistake and ask for you back. You know she is going to break your heart again, but you have to take the chance.

After a convincing 10-5 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers, completing the club's first series victory over LA since August of 2008, the Rockies sit just 4-1/2 games back in the National League wild card chase. They have also crept within eight games of the National League West lead.

The Rockies are the only team in baseball that can go on a six-game road trip in late August, win just two games and score just eight runs on the entire trip, then suddenly have their fan base completely believing that for the third time in four seasons, that this team is going to make an incredible run to the postseason.

The Rockies completed a six-game homestand on Sunday with a 5-1 record. Essentially that erases the negatives that came along with the six-game road trip that saw the team get owned by the likes of Barry Enright.

The only issue for the Rockies? They have to go back out on the road again.

By Wednesday, the picture will be much clearer for these Rockies as to whether or not they actually have a chance to make a run at the postseason.

The Rockies head into San Francisco, a place where they never seem to play well, for a three-game series with the Giants. If the Rockies get swept, forget Rocktober. They are done. That would put them six games back of the Giants and probably somewhere around eight games out of the wild card lead. With 30 games left to be played, that would spell doom for the Rockies.

If the Rockies take one-of-three from the Giants, the odds are still against them, but they may have a fighting breath left in them, depending on what the Phillies and Cardinals do. A series victory, or a miraculous sweep of the Giants would propel the Rockies right into the thick of the hunt.

Jim Tracy was right about one thing, the Rockies must win 90 games to get into the postseason. That most-likely would be enough to get them the wild card. That number has been the magic number for the last four seasons in the National League. That means with 33 games left to be played, the Rockies must find a way to go 22-11 the rest of the way.

That makes the math easy. The Rockies must win every series that they are in, whether they are at home or on the road. If they drop a series, they are going to have to sweep someone to make up the difference.

Of the 33 games remaining, 16 of them are on the road. Those games include three with each of the division foes, plus four with the Cardinals to end the season. That means that 17 games are left on the schedule at Coors Field, including the Thursday makeup game with the Phillies.

For the Rockies to even entertain the idea of being in the playoffs, they cannot lose more than four more games at home. That gives them a little leeway on the road, where their struggles have been well documented. If they can find a way to go 13-4 at home, they can afford to go 9-7 on the road the rest of the way. Of course, picking up extra wins on the road would help immensely. The only problem with that is that the Rockies have done nothing to prove that they are capable of winning a series on the road, let alone two or three of them.

The long and short of it? The Rockies are going to have to turn on the after burners to get back into this race. Is it doable? Yes. Is it probable? No. However, if there is one team that no one should write off in September, it is the Colorado Rockies.

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Chacin taking shape for Colorado Rockies

This is what the Colorado Rockies are all about.

A 5-3 win over the Dodgers on Saturday night typified exactly what the Rockies organization is striving for. They believe that the route to winning is through growing from within. They rarely go after a big-name free agent and do everything that they can to stock the farm system.

Saturday night showed exactly why that works.

The Rockies were carried to victory by their oldest homegrown player and their youngest homegrown player. One a position player, the other a pitcher.

Todd Helton, the first true homegrown hero for the Rockies, smacked a huge home run to lead off the 6th inning for the Rockies. The blast was not only an insurance run for the game, it was insurance that Helton actually is starting to feel good and that his bat is starting to come through when the club needs him the most.

The home run gave the Rockies a two-run cushion, just enough to give some breathing room for the 22-year old starter on the mound.

Jhoulys Chacin, the Rockies latest homegrown contributor, showed exactly what all the hype is about. He bounced back from a rough outing in Los Angeles to dominate the same Dodger lineup. He went seven innings, giving up just one run on four hits. He struck out seven and walked four.

While the command is still coming around, Chacin is showing exactly the cloth that he has been cut from. He has the ability, in essentially a must-win game for the Rockies, to put the pressure on the back burner and use both a fastball, slider and changeup effectively.

The next step in Chacin's progress will be command. Four walks is probably one or two too many, but the fact that he was able to wiggle out of trouble in all but the 2nd inning shows how far he has come.

The Rockies are starting to play good baseball. Of course, it is coming at Coors Field, where they seem to be able to find their stroke. Sitting at 4-1/2 games out of the wild card lead, the Rockies are by no means out of the race. At the same time, they are not necessarily in the race either.

In order to prove that they are a legitimate playoff contender, the Rockies are going to have to prove that they are able to not only play well, but win on the road, and win consistently.

While they struggled on the road at the beginning of the season, the true struggles started after the All-Star break, where they went on a 2-9 streak that will be looked back upon with regret if the Rockies fall just short of a playoff appearance.

Winning on the road isn't going to be easy. One thing that the Rockies absolutely have to to in order to have a chance is to continue collecting as many wins at Coors Field as possible. Even if the club goes .500 on the road the rest of the season, they are going to need to continue to dominate at home, not allowing teams that they need to beat to win there.

If they can continue their dominance at home, then find ways to win games on the road, the Rockies will be in the hunt at the end of September. If, however, they even slip once, they are going to be out of it. The first test will come on Monday when they start a three-game series against the team directly in front of them in the standings, the San Francisco Giants.

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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Colorado Rockies lose because of bad managing

Jim Tracy cost the Rockies not only a game against the Dodgers on Friday night, but more importantly, a game in the National League wild card race.

It may get old to hear, but the fact is, for every button that Tracy pushed correctly in 2009, he is pushing a wrong button in 2010.

On Friday night as the Rockies dropped the opener of a three-game series against the Dodgers 6-2.

Were there other factors in the Rockies loss on Friday? Of course. However, the reason Colorado lost came courtesy of one decision from the Rockies dugout.

After ace Ubaldo Jimenez had pitched seven scoreless innings and was staked to a 1-0 lead, Tracy trotted him out there for the 8th inning. The rising-star had already thrown 114 pitches, 44 of which came in the first two innings.

Jimenez went out in the 8th and allowed two men to reach. That is when pitching coach Bob Apodaca trotted to the mound for what seemed like a time-buying gimmick so lefty Joe Beimel could get a couple more tosses in order to be loose. Instead, Apodaca turned and went back to the dugout and Jimenez faced Andre Either, who promptly lined a double to right-center field, scoring the tying run.

At that point, Tracy went to get Jimenez, who was showered with cheers as he reached the Rockies dugout, once again failing to pick up his 18th win.

Matt Belisle, who has been nothing short of phenomenal for the Rockies, got an out before giving up a grand slam to Casey Blake, giving the Dodgers a 5-1 lead.

Obviously hindsight is 20/20. It is easy to look back and say that Tracy made a bad move. But this time, it was evident before Tracy made the decision.

Jimenez, who has shouldered quite a load in 2010, had pitched seven beautiful innings. The Dodgers had threatened, but failed to score on the right-hander. At 114 pitches, there would be very little chance that Jimenez would get through the 8th inning with less than 130 pitches, leaving one inning of baseball left to be played.

Although a one-run lead is difficult to maintain, the Rockies bullpen has shown that it has the capability to get that sort of job done. Instead of coming in with a clean slate in the 8th inning, Belisle was forced to start in a jam. He was able to get a ground out before giving up the slam to Blake. However, the story might have been quite a bit different if he had been able to start the inning.

With his pitch count where it was, there really was not much of a possibility that Jimenez was going to go the distance. Throwing 140 or more pitches is simply not going to happen. So why not let the bullpen finish the job? After all, if they can't get six outs and protect the lead, the Rockies really don't have any business playing in the post season anyway.

The move shows something that Rockies fans had only heard about when Tracy was named manager. He is stubborn. He lost his job in Los Angeles because of it, and was given his walking papers in Pittsburgh for the same reason. He gets something stuck in his head, and keeps at it, regardless of the situation.

In this case, Tracy was convinced that since Jimenez had an extra day of rest with an off-day on Thursday that throwing 125 or more pitches would be fine. Even though he has one of the most reliable bullpens in baseball who might be hurting slightly, but just received two fresh arms from Colorado Springs in Samuel Deduno and Franklin Morales. There is no reason the bullpen shouldn't have been handed the ball in the 8th inning.

Before the game on Wednesday, Tracy said Huston Street was available if he absolutely needed him even though he had pitched in four of the last five games because Street said he was ready to go. In his post game press conference on Friday, Tracy was asked why Jimenez was asked to go back to the mound in the 8th despite his high pitch count. Tracy's response? He said that Jimenez told him he was good to go.

It is a very good thing that Tracy believes in his players. That motivates them to be great when they have their manager behind them. However, there is not a single ace in baseball that, with his team in need of wins to get back in the race, would tell his manager that he is tired, or that he feels like he needs to come out of the game. Same thing for Street. What closer in baseball would actually be able to watch a one-run game being pitched by a setup man in a playoff race simply because that closer said that he wasn't good to go that day.

The fact is, Tracy is a manager for a reason. He is the one who needs to make executive decisions on how good a guy is feeling based on what his pitches are doing. He needs to be able to spot fatigue and tell his ace that despite feeling good, he is going to go to a fresh arm in the bullpen.

The Rockies loss on Friday night could prove costly to a team that needs to win as many games as possible, especially at Coors Field. As far as this game, the buck stops with Jim Tracy.

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Colorado Rockies overcome nine run deficit, sweep Braves

Heading into the 4th inning the question was not whether or not the Rockies could come back, it was which position player would end up on the mound.

The Rockies defied the odds, something that they hope is a theme this season, and rallied from nine runs down to defeat the Braves 12-10 at Coors Field on a beautiful summer afternoon.

With Jonathan Herrera on the roster in the place of Randy Flores, the Rockies bullpen was already one man short. With the morning news that Rafael Betancourt was out for the day due to an injured side, and Huston Street only available in an emergency situation, the Rockies headed into Wednesday's contest with just four men in their bullpen.

Things started looking bad when starter Esmil Rogers simply did not have his best stuff. The rookie couldn't get out of the second inning, giving up seven earned runs on eight hits in just 1-1/3 innings. With the game out of reach, Tracy went to Manny Corpas to eat up some innings. Things were going as planned until Corpas grimaced and grabbed his elbow. He was done after just 1-1/3 innings, leaving six innings to spread between three relievers, two of which are essentially situational lefties.

In stepped Matt Reynolds, a kid who was drafted in the 20th round, who made his Major League debut less than a week ago. With the Braves up nine runs, it would have been easy to mail it in. Instead, Reynolds dominated the Braves. He pitched three innings-something he hasn't done since junior college-he didn't give up a run and only gave up one hit.

"It was kind of a tough situation to come into," said Reynolds. "My job is to come in there and throw up a bunch of zeros. That was one of the most incredible wins I have ever been a part of."

Reynolds performance allowed the Rockies offense to chip away at the lead and climb back into the game. The Rockies scored three runs in both the 5th and the 6th innings before putting four on the board in the 8th to take the lead.

Carlos Gonzalez tied the game with a hard single up the middle with the bases loaded, and Troy Tulowitzki plated the go-ahead run with a single in between third and short.

"These players just don't quit," said Jim Tracy. "We've had some come-from-behind wins this year, but this one is the icing on the cake. The job that Matt Reynolds did just an absolutely phenomenal job."

The sweep of the Braves, coupled with a Giants and Cardinals loss, means that the Rockies are five games back of the Wild Card lead. Is five games a lead that is surmountable? Absolutely. Can the Rockies do it? Games like Wednesday's would suggest that they can. The problem for the Rockies, however, is that games like Wednesday's only come at Coors Field. For whatever reason, this club cannot score runs on the road.

It is almost infuriating how much the team struggles on the road. A prime example of how bi-polar this club is comes from Wednesday's game. In one day, against a good pitcher, at Coors Field, the Rockies scored 12 runs. That is four more runs than they scored in their entire six game road trip.

The fact is, this Rockies team is good enough to be in the playoffs. They are good enough to be in the World Series. However, they aren't good enough if they don't figure out how to win on the road. Winning at Coors Field is great, but if they don't win on the road, they may as well reserve their October vacation plans now.

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Colorado Rockies continue to dominate at Coors Field

Dr. Jekyl, meet Mr. Hyde.

The Colorado Rockies won again on Tuesday night at Coors Field 5-2, defeating another pitcher with a long resume of Major League success.

A two-run first inning homer off of the bat of Carlos Gonzalez and a solo shot in the 6th gave the Rockies enough to get past the Braves. Just for insurance, Dexter Fowler added two more with an 8th inning bases loaded hit up the middle.

A win is a win. The Rockies will take it. However, the game adds to the increasingly frustrating fact that the Rockies are one team at home and a completely different one on the road.

In a six-game road trip that saw the Rockies play the two teams in the NL West basement, the club scored a combined eight runs. That's right, eight runs in six games. They were shut out twice, scored three runs twice (once in extra innings) and scored one run twice.

On the road trip the Rockies did not hit a ball out of the ballpark.

A day later and the real Rockies decided to show up again. In two games, the first against a Cy Young candidate in Tim Hudson and the second against a former All-Star and World Series Champion Derek Lowe, the Rockies have scored a total of 10 runs and hit three home runs.

Every time the Rockies go on the road fans give up hope for the playoffs. The hope is suddenly revived when the Rockies arrive at Coors Field.

There are as many theories for the road deficiency as their are blades of grass in the Coors Field outfield. Some make a slight amount of sense, most seem pretty far fetched.

With wind once again being blown into the sails of a once-shipwrecked dream of the playoffs, there is one thing for sure. If the Rockies want to make their third miracle run in four years, they simply have to find a way to win on the road.

The Rockies do not have to score five runs per game. They don't have to hit the ball out of the ballpark. They simply have to find a way to scratch out wins in opposing teams ballparks.

The way for the club to do that is to throw all of the formula's out the window. Who cares what makes the disparity so huge. There is always time to question why, but that will never change. The fact is, if this club wants to find itself battling it out for a wild card berth, they have to quit examining the reasoning behind why they can't play on the road and just find a way to win games.

When that happens, and it may not, the Rockies will most likely find themselves playing baseball that is more relaxed on the road. They don't have to think about why things aren't working and suddenly they won't be pressing anymore. Suddenly they will be moving runners from first to third on base hits instead of thinking that they have to hit a grand slam with only one runner on base.

So while it is fun to watch the Rockies play at Coors Field, and while the playoff race is still within reason, the fact is, this team is going nowhere if they cannot start winning games on the road and winning the majority of them.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Raising Helton: First Baseman delivers for Colorado Rockies

There is a growing cry around Colorado Rockies nation. It has become louder and more accepted.

An injury-filled 2010 campaign has made Todd Helton look like the shell of his former self. Almost from the beginning of the season, Helton was dipping his back shoulder, causing him to either miss pitches or hit them weakly.

Who can blame most Rockies fans? After all, when Helton was doing most of his work, the majority of fans were busy rooting the Broncos on. They all said that they would be Rockies fans when ownership committed to putting a winning team on the field.

What that meant was that a first baseman was busy putting up numbers that will get him considered for Cooperstown, most people who should have been enjoying watching the best player to wear a Rockies uniform wanted nothing to do with the franchise.

Those fans were justified by reading articles by the likes of Mark Kiszla who told them that the Rockies should be selling off their farm system for big name free agents.

When the Rockies finally got good enough for them to jump back on the bandwagon, Helton was beyond his prime. All those fans ever heard was how good he was. They, however, simply did not see it. This Helton that everyone talked about did not look like the Helton that they saw on the field. This new Helton struggled to hit the ball out of the park. He was a single's hitter.

There was one simple conclusion for those fans. This Todd Helton that they had heard so much about must have been on steroids. After all, while they were watching football, they had heard blips on ESPN about how a steroid problem in Major League Baseball. So Helton must have been a user. What else would explain his dropoff?

Those fans missed out. They missed out on a legend. They missed out on a guy who could carry a team on his back not just on offense, but on defense as well. They were busy hoping that Jake Plummer would become the town's next John Elway when the town's next John Elway was playing at 20th & Blake.

Those who watched Helton in his prime know that he has done one thing wrong in his baseball career. He has gotten old. His drop in numbers coincides perfectly with his back aging on him and not allowing him to hit for the power he once had.

Those who watched Helton knew that he was not a Coors Field hitter, the way that the likes of Jeff Cirillo and others had been. He could hit anywhere, and he did.

On Monday night at Coors Field, the highlights will show that Todd Helton had four hits and drove in two runs, including the game-winner in the 8th inning. The story that isn't told is actually the biggest one of the night.

In the 4th inning, Helton stroked a double down the first base line. The singles hitter had stroked just his 523rd career double. It tied him for 37th all-tome with some guy named Willie Mays who apparently played in the Giants organization for a few years.

Coors Field or not, when a guy is putting up numbers in his career that are outdoing people who have statues built for them, they have had an amazing career.

Whether Helton ever did steroids or not is a question that most likely will never be answered. He claims he didn't and there is no proof that he did. That does not mean that he is innocent. The fact is, no one who played in the "steroid era" will ever be given the benefit of the doubt.

One thing is certain, however. If Todd Helton would have played for a team that is on the East Coast, we wouldn't be talking about a singles hitter who needs to think about retiring. We would be talking about one of the greatest players to play the game and how he has a spot on the roster until he says otherwise. The talk wouldn't be about sending him off, it would be about what his speech would be like on a late-July afternoon in upstate New York.

On Monday, he showed that he still has it, and when he is healthy he is still the guy that a manager wants to send to the plate. Not the 24-year old slugger, not the 28-year old in the prime of his career, the 37-year old grizzly veteran who still knows how to take a phenomenal at-bat.

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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Chacin gives Colorado Rockies something to be excited about

The future looks bright for the Colorado Rockies.

The present is a whole different story for the club.

On Sunday Chacin gave the Rockies something to be excited about. He dominated the Diamondbacks, showing what he can do with confidence. Despite holding just a one-run lead, the 22-year old stayed strong and salvaged the finale of a three game series, 1-0.

Chacin had his best stuff since his shutout of the Red Sox in June. He went 7-1/3 shutout innings, giving up just three hits. He walked only one batter and struck out nine.

While Chacin's performance was a breath of fresh air for the Rockies, the other problem that the Rockies are dealing with rared its ugly head once again.

The Rockies offense was once again as stale as an old bag of potato chips. When they scored their one run in the 8th inning, it almost felt like they had scored 10 runs.

The problem, while easier to figure out than to fix, is simple.

Rockies hitters take horrible approaches at the plate. When they have the opposing pitcher on the ropes, they continually let him off.

The prime example of the Rockies struggles came in the 9th inning on Sunday. Ryan Spilborghs came in to pinch hit for Clint Barmes. The bases were loaded after Melvin Mora was intentionally walked with two outs. Spilborghs found himself in a 3-1 count. He swung at the next pitch, and while he hit it hard, he hit it right to Stephen Drew at shortstop. He quickly recorded the out and got the Diamondbacks out of the jam.

In a situation in which the team is struggling to score runs over such a large time frame, and are currently leading 1-0, there is no reason why Spilborghs should have had a green light on that pitch.

An insurance run at that point means everything. So even if the 3-1 pitch is down the heart of the plate, the next pitch is a full count pitch, which means that the runners will be on the move with the pitch. A ball hit anywhere near the gap guarantees two runs and most likely gets three. In addition to that, when a hitter has a 3-1 count, the pressure is on the pitcher to throw strikes. If he misses the zone on one of the two pitches, a run walks to the plate.

Swinging at the 3-1 pitch is doing a huge favor for the pitcher. Instead of having to throw two straight pitches over the plate, he gets out of the situation with one pitch, even when the ball was hit hard. If the count goes to 3-2 and the runners are in motion, the pitcher is essentially going to have to take his chances and throw a pitch that isn't anywhere near the corners, but closer to the heart of the plate to ensure that he doesn't walk a run in if he misses.

Luckily for the Rockies, they were able to get out of the game with a win. However, it would have been much easier if they could have gone to the bottom of the 9th with an extra run or two to play with.

It worked out for them on Sunday, the rest of the season, however, has been a different story. Because of that, the Rockies have found themselves looking towards next season.

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Ubaldo Jimenez once again victim of Colorado Rockies offense

It almost sounds like a joke.

This is the offense that all of the pundits said would win the Colorado Rockies their first ever National League West crown.

This is the offense that needed to help this Colorado Rockies team win five-out-of-six on this road trip and after five games has scored a grand total of seven runs. It doesn't take an expert to figure out that averaging 1.2 runs per game is not going to do the job.

While the playoffs are a pipe dream for a club that looks like the offseason can't get here quick enough, the least they could do is show up to play when their ace, Ubaldo Jimenez is on the mound. On Saturday, Jimenez looked like he had no-hit stuff again. In the 4th inning he gave up a double to Justin Upton to break up the no-hit bid. Two batters later Upton scored on a wild pitch to end the shutout threat. Two innings later Upton smacked a two-run homer to left field on a hanging breaking ball to make the start look far less dominant than it actually was.

How dare Jimenez ask this Rockies offense to pick him up after a bad pitch? Didn't Jimenez know that the offensive gas tank was running on empty after putting up a whopping three runs on Friday night? To ask this offense to score three runs two nights in a row is like asking Sarah Palin to give Barack Obama a big bear hug. It just isn't going to happen.

Sorry folks, this team is done.

The only people that still care about how the Rockies perform are not the ones putting on a uniform everyday. Even Jim Tracy, Mr. Optimist, had a dead-pan look on his face when the Diamondbacks put up their third run.

The question remaining is not whether the Rockies will make the playoffs-- they won't. It is not whether Ubaldo Jimenez will win the Cy Young--he won't. The only question remaining is when, and if, the Rockies will show Don Baylor the door.

Someone has to take the blame when a team with as much talent as the Rockies possess falls flat on their faces. If one or two guys found themselves in season-long slumps it wouldn't be Baylor's fault. When more than half of the club's regular players are having the worst season on their careers, it is time to make a change.

Make no mistake, the problem is not that the Rockies are not hitting. The problem is that the approach they take at the plate is non-existent.

Watch closely. When Ian Stewart, Chris Iannetta and Clint Barmes come to the plate is it just coincidence, or are they constantly stuck in 0-2 and 1-2 counts?

There is a reason for that. In Stewart and Iannetta's case, they are not aggressive enough. Pitchers know that they will not fire on the first pitch, so they groove it across the plate. For Barmes, it is quite the opposite problem. He comes out swinging. Pitchers know that, so they throw a slider outside and in the dirt. More often than not, Barmes waves at it and either misses or hits a weak popup to the second baseman.

Those are just three examples. The team as a whole is far too homer happy. With runners on base, a single usually does the trick. A home run is nice, but when a guy like Barmes, who has eight home runs on the season is swinging for the big fly it just doesn't make sense.

If the approach at the plate is off, blame shifts from the players to the coaches. In this case, Don Baylor.

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Colorado Rockies defeat themselves...again

Face it. The Colorado Rockies are not good.

Sure, they may be talented. This is undoubtedly the most talented team the franchise has ever put on the field. The problem? Execution.

The Rockies lost 4-3 in 10 innings on Friday night, ensuring no fans will be chomping at the bit for playoff tickets.

Huston Street blew yet another two-run save. It seems as if he has blown every opportunity he has gotten lately. Even his save in Los Angeles came when Dexter Fowler and Troy Tulowitzki threw Reed Johnson out at the plate for the final out.

Street's problem is not mechanical. His pitches are working fine. He acknowledges that and everyone following the team continues to repeat that. His problem has nothing to do with what his pitches are doing, his problem has everything to do with where his pitches are.

Street continues to nibble. For whatever reason, he is not trusting his ability to get outs, so he is trying to get batters to swing at pitches off of the plate. That has resulted not in strikeouts, but in walks. After a base hit in the bottom of the 9th inning, Street walked the tying run, which eventually came around to score when Street was forced to throw a good pitch to Miguel Montero.

The rage in Rockies nation will be directed at Street. That is the easiest person to point a finger at. That is the guy in the spotlight when the game slipped away. However, that anger is misdirected.

The Rockies offense, facing an inferior pitcher in Ian Kennedy, continued to get runners on base. Then, as the story has gone all season long, they failed to execute the little things in the game and could not score runs.

Colorado collected 12 hits. They scored three runs. They had opportunities in the 1st inning, 2nd inning, 5th, and 6th inning.

One of the most pivotal moments came in the 6th inning when Todd Helton belted a double to lead off the inning. When a runner is on second base with no one out, he needs to score. Teams who execute fundamentals score those types of runs. What did the Rockies do?

Chris Iannetta, a catcher who has had nearly four full seasons to reach his potential, swung at a first pitch and did what he does best, hitting a high pop fly that landed in left fielder Gerardo Parra's mitt 20 feet beyond the infield dirt. With one out, the run should still score. Basically the team had two chances to get a base hit and score the run.

Clint Barmes stepped to the plate and got down in the count 1-2. On the next pitch Helton made Barmes' job easier. The 37-year old grizzly veteran made a great read on a ball in the dirt and took off for third base. He barely beat the throw, sliding awkwardly to avoid the tag, but knew how important it was to be at third base.

Barmes then found himself in a place where he could score a run by basically doing anything. If he hit a grounder to the right side, the run scores. If he hits a pop fly to the outfield, the run scores. A base hit scores a run. Essentially, anything but a bullet to an infielder and a strikeout should score the run. So what did Barmes do? He swung at the next pitch, which was above his eyes, striking out. Esmil Rogers bounced back to the pitcher and the threat was quickly averted.

Watching Clint Barmes flail at the plate should make any Rockies fan wonder if the club designated the wrong guy for assignment. Watch the Little League World Series and you will see far better swings than Barmes brings to the plate. The book on Barmes is very thin. Sliders away, and fastballs way up. Everyone knows the book, everyone watching the game knows what is coming when No.12 steps to the plate. Everyone except for Barmes.

Despite a flurry of sliders, Barmes looks like a slow-pitch softball player, getting so far out on his front foot that even if he makes contact the best that can happen is an infield pop up.

The problem is that Jim Tracy runs a lineup that features a huge hole at the bottom. Any rally that the club starts has the brakes put on it when those three come to the plate.

The fact is, the Rockies are done. They are not mathematically done, but they are mentally done. To be more precise, the Rockies are not done because they never started. The club never got going. They have gotten away from what was a fixture of Rockies baseball, fundamental play. The defense has been sloppy all year, the at bats have been sloppy, and the coaching has been atrocious.

If the Rockies hope to compete in 2011, they have their work cut out for them.

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

The beat goes on for the Colorado Rockies

What's new? Nothing with the Rockies.

On Thursday night in Los Angeles, a place the Rockies go to lose, dropped the final game of the three game series. They were shutout once again, 2-0.

In 28 innings in the three game series, the Rockies scored a total of three runs. One of those was a gift, in the 10th inning of the Rockies win on Wednesday. Octavio Dotel had three wild pitches in one inning that allowed the Rockies to score the winning run.

Ted Lilly was the recipient of the Rockies latest gift. The newly-acquired lefty threw his first complete game shutout since 2004 when he was a member of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Credit should not be taken away from Lilly, but the fact is, Lilly is not the first pitcher to have a career night against the Rockies in the last few weeks. Add Lilly's name to the list of Ross Ohlendorf, James McDonald, Mike Pelfrey, Zach Duke.

It is no coincidence that a guy who hasn't pitched a complete game shutout in six years goes out and does it against a Rockies team that is supposedly still in the playoff hunt.

A perfect example of where the Rockies continue to fail was in the 9th inning. With Lilly reaching the 100 pitch mark and the top of the order seeing him for the fourth time through, Eric Young Jr. worked a five pitch walk. Even the one pitch that was called a strike was not thrown where Lilly wanted it. Dexter Fowler stepped to the plate, representing the tying run. Instead of forcing Lilly to throw a strike and get himself in trouble, just as he had done with Young, Fowler swung at the first pitch, grounding into a double play to end any threat the Rockies had.

A day after the release of the once-productive Brad Hawpe, the critics are still silent about the true problem with the Rockies bats. Frustration mounts with struggling hitters like Miguel Olivo, Chris Iannetta, Todd Helton, Seth Smith, Ian Stewart and Clint Barmes. The hitters continue to struggle, toiling away.

The problem however, is not that all of the Rockies are falling into long slumps at the same time. The problem is that their approach never changes. Every hitter is swinging for the fences. Top to bottom of the order the Rockies hitters are not being patient at the plate. They are not taking smart at bats. They quickly get behind in the count and are hitting the pitchers pitch instead of their pitch.

If a hitter is ahead in the count, the pitcher has to throw a pitch over the plate, allowing the hitter to have a better chance at getting the barrel on the ball. When a pitcher gets ahead in the count, he can throw pitches off of the plate, knowing that a hitter does not have the luxury of taking a pitch near the zone. The snow ball effect continues to affect the Rockies.

When one hitter is not making adjustments it can be blamed on the hitter slumping or not listening. When one-third of club is not just in a slump, but mired in a month long or more drought, the finger has to be pointed in a different direction. In this case, that direction is the hitting coach, Don Baylor.

The only time Baylor seems to come out of hibernation is when a manager around the big leagues gets fired. On three different occasions Baylor has made it very clear that he would like to take that ousted manager's spot. He was even quoted earlier in the season as saying that he is basically bored not being the guy who is calling the shots. The facts make it clear, Baylor is burned out with his job and is simply going through the motions. That attitude is penetrating to the players and shows up in the game. It is time for Baylor to find his way to the door.

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The shutout marks the fourth time in the last six road games in which the Rockies have been shutout.