Saturday, October 30, 2010

Major League Baseball's plan to expand the postseason is bad for the game

In the midst of the World Series, Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig made a big announcement.

After shying away from the subject for years, Selig is open to expanding the Major League playoffs to include more teams, and he believes it could happen as soon as the 2011 season.

The first reaction that comes to mind, after watching a postseason that seems like it started three months ago in baseball, is why would there be any reason to expand the postseason to even more teams.

Major League Baseball has already done enough damage by allowing networks like TBS and FOX to ruin the pace of baseball by twisting the schedule to involve what feels like more off days than game days. When the teams are playing, fans of smaller market teams better have days left off in their vacation budget, because their games begin around noon. To top it off, there is no need to rush to the refrigerator in between innings. Instead of a quick break, the networks take the liberty of squeezing in even more advertising between innings, during pitching changes, and every single other possible moment.

How long ago does it feel like the Reds were eliminated? How about the Rays? Keep in mind that baseball currently only has four teams from each league making the playoffs.

If the Rangers are able to crawl back into this World Series, a potential game seven will be played on November 4th. That's right, most kids will have already come off of their Halloween sugar high's before the baseball season comes to completion.

What Major League Baseball is proposing is adding another wild card team to the mix from each league. The two wild card teams would then play each other in a best-of-three series that would determine who moves on. It sounds great in principle. The excitement of a team throwing everything they have at a win-or-go-home scenario sounds fun. However, there are some serious issues that need to be factored in.

First, with the World Series already dragging into November, the prospect of a World Series game in mid-November in Detroit, Minneapolis, or Denver does not sound appealing to anyone. Late October is already pushing it in many cities.

Second, if Wild Card A and Wild Card B take a day off when the regular season ends, another day off for travel from site A to site B in between games two and three, then another day off to travel from game three location to game one of their next round, the three other teams that made the postseason are already staring at a five day layoff. The last thing a team that is playing well wants to do is sit around for five days. Two days gives guys a chance to catch their breath, five means hitters lose their timing and pitchers lose their sharpness.

The third problem is possibly the biggest. After watching the Colorado Rockies try to scramble into the playoffs late in the season, only to fall short and spin out of control, it became clear that they were a team that was very good, but had not played well enough to be in the playoffs. They did not deserve to be there. Even teams like the Atlanta Braves, who won the wild card. They were a good team, but frankly, they were a borderline average team with decent pitching and no depth. Their defensive miscues were embarrassing for a team that played in October. Even Bobby Cox said at a postgame press conference, "Listen, we aren't the best team in baseball, but if we get on a streak, we can beat anyone." That statement alone should be enough to squelch plans to expand the playoffs.

With all of the negatives that go along with it, the sad reality is that, possibly as soon as 2011, Major League Baseball will have expanded the playoffs.

Why? Not because it is in the best interest of the game, not because it is in the best interest of the fans, but for one simple reason. Money.

Expanded playoffs means more people tuning in to watch the wild card duel. It means more games to sell advertising for. It means more teams who get a chance to sell tickets at a playoff rate, which means one thing. More money.

Of course baseball is a business, of course the owners, players and commissioner should be looking for new ways to bring in revenue. That is not a bad thing. However, when it comes at the expense of the quality and integrity of the game, it should be questioned.

Would having the Rockies, a team that never put it together on the field, in a three-game playoff series be a good thing? Would it have been a good thing for the Padres, who collapsed down the stretch, to be given a chance at redemption by playing the Braves in a three-game set? The answer is no. Those teams were given every chance all season long to prove that they belonged in the playoffs. The Rockies never got it together, and the Padres didn't have the longevity to make it. Plain and simple, they didn't deserve to go to the playoffs.

The last thing Major League Baseball needs is for a season that already plays twice as many games as the next closest major sport, is for fans and players to think that each and every single game doesn't really matter. Teams who are barely above .500 can kick it into cruise control in September because they know that they have a good chance at simply getting in.

Major League Baseball is the last major professional sport in America where making it to the playoffs is truly a privilege. The last thing the sport needs is to let teams that haven't earned it get in.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

San Francisco Giants show why Major League Baseball is bad at marketing

Yankees and Red Sox.

That is all anyone in the media talks about all season long. When The Yankees get eliminated from the playoffs, the talk is about how no one will be watching the World Series this year.

The way they make it sound, it was only fair for the American League East powerhouses to allow the junior varsity kids to play in a World Series every now and then. The San Francisco Giants and Texas Rangers made it to the World Series, but everyone who follows baseball knows one thing. There is no way that a team from west of the Mississippi is actually better than the beasts from the east.

While much of the blame falls on the media, particularly ESPN, Major League Baseball must take it's fair share of the blame. Baseball is the only sport in which no one cares about teams outside of the major markets.

Case in point. In Major League Baseball, the team that plays in the Dallas area is a small market. In the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys are one of the league favorites.

It is always interesting to hear the commentators during playoff games. On Thursday night, Tim McCarver and Joe Buck talk as if Matt Cain was a guy who is coming out of nowhere. That he really isn't that good and that his performance is out of the ordinary.

For those who actually watch baseball, and not just the once-a-week national broadcast of the Yankees or Red Sox, know who exactly who Cain is, and just how good he actually is.

Take a look at the two teams in this Series. Why aren't the Rangers marketable? They have an incredible story in Josh Hamilton, a well-told story of redemption. On top of that they have a young team that can crush the ball. Even more, they have two guys on their team who have had very good Major League careers that are finally getting a chance at a ring in Vladimir Guerrero and Michael Young. Guys like Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andruws are good players who are fun to watch.

The Giants are very similar. They have a 22-year old catcher in Buster Posey who has the composure of a grizzled veteran. They have a starting rotation that is second to none in the league. On top of that, they have their own redemption stories in guys like Aubrey Huff, who toiled his way into obscurity in Baltimore and Detroit before becoming a leader in the Giants clubhouse. Cody Ross, possibly the biggest surprise of the postseason, was a waiver claim from the Florida Marlins.

Despite the stories that readily available, no one has heard of any of these guys. Why? The answer is simple. Major League Baseball has done nothing to combat the east coast media love affair with the Yankees and Red Sox. They have allowed everyone to believe that the rest of the league are also-rans to the two big boys in the game.

That type of marketing may be good for ratings on Sunday Night Baseball when Joe Morgan can rave about how good both teams are, but simply wouldn't compete with the Big Red Machine that he was not only a part of, but the unheralded hero of.

The ratings might be good during the regular season, but when those teams falter in the playoffs, fans are left without any knowledge of any other team. Instead of learning who those teams are, people simply figure that the best team didn't win and wait for next year when the Yankees or Red Sox can dominate again.

All the while, Major League Baseball sits around wondering why their playoff games can't compete in the ratings with week four of the NFL.

The answer is right in front of them. Instead of marketing two teams and allowing people to believe that the National League is the farm system for the American League, give face time to every team, let people know that, as good as those teams might be, there are clubs out there who can beat them.

Then, and only then, will people start to care about baseball again.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Grading the 2010 Colorado Rockies infielders and outfielders

Despite a tough season from most Colorado Rockies at the plate, there still was quite a bit for fans to be happy about. However, that joy is quickly doused by the reality of the young players under performance.

The offensive highlights of the season for the Rockies came from the two players who have not only proven to be great Colorado Rockies players, but have shown themselves to be two of the best young players in the game.

On July 31st, Carlos Gonzalez led the Rockies to victory when he drove a high fastball 464 feet into the third deck in right field. The home run propelled the club to a walk-off win and Gonzalez to his first-ever cycle.

The other memorable moment from Rockies hitters was Troy Tulowitzki's September for the record books.

By the middle of the month, Tulo had 13 home runs and 30 RBIs. The Rockies record for home runs in a month was 12 and RBIs was 34. The shortstop obliterated both of those records, cooling off slightly and finishing with 15 home runs and 40 RBIs. The hot streak was so incredible that analysts were talking about him having a chance to win the MVP, despite missing 33 games with a broken wrist.

Without further adieu, here are the Rockies infielder and outfielder grades for the 2010 season.

Carlos Gonzalez- A

The 24-year old finally showed what all the scouts have been raving about since he was a teenager. His .336 batting average was good enough for the National League batting crown. On top of that, he finished with 34 home runs and 117 RBIs. His OPS was an incredible .974 despite walking only 40 times. There might be some talk about how Gonzalez isn't a great fielder, despite him only committing one error. Throw that talk out, however, as defensive metrics don't tell the true story. Gonzalez passes the eye test in the outfield. He is one of the best in the game.

Many fans are already wondering why the Rockies haven't locked him up to a long-term deal before he gets too expensive. The answer is simple. Gonzalez is represented by Scott Boras. What that means is that there is little to no chance that Gonzalez will ink his name to a long-term deal in the next four years. For Rockies fans, Gonzalez might not be with Colorado forever, but enjoy the ride, this kid is the real deal.

Troy Tulowitzki- A

Rockies fans can only wonder what might have been had Tulo not been out for 33 games in the middle of the season with a broken wrist. Expect him to finish in the top five in the MVP race. The shortstop in no product of Coors Field either. He hit 12 of his 27 home runs on the road and put up a batting average of .291 despite rarely having anyone on to protect him. Keep in mind, no one in the Yankees starting lineup hit over .300, at home or on the road.

Tulowitzki is the undisputed leader of the Colorado Rockies and it is clear that as Tulo goes, so go the Rockies.

Melvin Mora- B

Mora was brought in to be a guy who could play a wide variety of positions. After a month, it was clear that he belonged nowhere near second base. However, he still played a large part in the Rockies success. He was one of the few players on the team who could be counted on to take a professional at-bat. He fouled pitches off when he was behind in the count and hit the opposite way. With Ian Stewart failing to take the next step forward, Mora was able to fill in the holes and provide a good right-handed bat in the lineup. Mora could be back if the Rockies fail to get a right handed power bat through free agency.

Dexter Fowler- B

Fowler getting a B might turn some heads. There is no doubt that he struggled early on, warranting his demotion to Triple-A for a month. However, what he did from there on out was what was impressive. Instead of whining about being sent down, he took the opportunity to slow the game down and learn. He came back and was a completely different player. He was able to hit from the left side and had confidence at the plate. In addition to what he brought to the plate, he also played incredibly in center field. Down the stretch he robbed three home runs, including two game savers, one against the Cubs and the other against the Brewers.

Ryan Spilborghs- B

Spilborghs is one of those guys that everyone wants to have on their team. He can play both corner outfield positions well, and has a good bat against left-handed pitchers. When his name is in the lineup, no one is looking at him as a liability. On top of that, he is well-known for being a guy who lightens the mood in the clubhouse and keeps everyone loose.

Jason Giambi- B-

Despite Giambi hitting just .244, he had a bigger impact than his numbers. Like Mora, Giambi always took a great at bat. No matter what the count was, Giambi never seemed give in. He always fought for his pitch and had a keen eye for the strike zone. His walk off home run against Jonathan Papelbon gets an honorable mention for best moment of the season.

Miguel Olivo- B-

If someone would have said that Olivo would get a B- for the entire season at the All-Star break, no one would have believed them. Despite getting snubbed out of an All-Star berth, Olivo was the best catcher in baseball through the first half of the season.

The only problem was, for as good as his first half was, his second half was just as bad. In the first half the catcher hit .325 with 11 home runs and 42 RBIs. The second half was completely different, as Olivo hit just .211 with four home runs and 16 RBIs.

Olivo's problem may have been fatigue, or it may have been reality hitting, regardless, his season was the tale of two halves.

Eric Young Jr.- C+

EY still has a long way to go to prove that he can play everyday in the big leagues. However, his attitude suggest that he will prove that he belongs. There is no one who hustles more than Young. He is a player who when he looks good, he looks really good, but when he looks bad, he looks really bad. His defense is still in question at second base, but having him and Fowler at the top of the lineup is very intriguing.

Todd Helton- C

Helton has become everyone's favorite person to hate. People think that because he makes so much money, he should hit to that level. Nevermind the fact that he is 37-years old. Regardless of his age, Helton still plays with a fire that can be seen despite his calm demeanor. He definitely struggled at the plate in 2010, but people forget that after he came off of the disabled list in July he hit .310 the rest of the way. The key for Helton is that the Rockies have a reliable option behind him that can give him enough days off to stay healthy.

Seth Smith- C-

Mr. Late Night apparently forgot to show up most nights. The lefty was pretty good for most of the season, but after he was given his chance to prove that he could play everyday, saying Smith struggled would be a huge understatement.

After Brad Hawpe was released in mid-August, Smith notched just eight hits. Fatigue may have been a factor with Smith, but if it was, he needs to change his off season workout routine. He should be ready to be an everyday player, even if he was coming off of the bench most nights. On the road, sometimes Smith simply disappeared. When he was on camera, he often looked very tired. Many times I had the thought that he might not sleep well on the road. One way or another, the Rockies need Smith to take a step forward in 2011.

Clint Barmes- D+

It is tough to find someone who doesn't love Clint Barmes. He gives Charlie Hustle a run for his name. However, what has helped Barmes to the big leagues is exactly what hinders his career at this point.

The second baseman is very determined. He has his mind set on being good. However, at the plate, he is also very determined. He is determined to be able to his sliders off of the plate in the dirt. He is also determined to be a power hitter. If Barmes would look at himself in the mirror and realize that if he learns to hit the ball the other way and foul pitches off that he can't drive, he would be one of the best second basemen in baseball. Instead, he finds himself striking out too much and being dead weight at the bottom of the lineup.

Ian Stewart- D

The third baseman seems more concerned with updating his Twitter account than reaching his potential. Less than an hour after the Rockies lost to the Giants in a must-sweep series in Denver, Stewart was raving about his new phone on Twitter. While players have their own lives and have to put games behind them and go on with their lives, telling fans about how cool your phone is while they are still sick about the loss is not a good way to gain respect, especially when your season was as poor as Stewart's. The former first round draft pick was one of the young talents that the Rockies were anticipating would take the next step forward. It didn't happen. In fact, Stewart went backwards. When Troy Tulowitzki was quoted in the Denver Post as saying that there were guys who needed to step it up and be more concerned with baseball than "how many vacations they took" in the off season, the common feeling was that he was referring to Stewart.

The problem for Stewart stems from frustration. He has all of the tools to be an All-Star. He can hit the ball a mile and possesses the talent to be a gold glove third baseman and a middle-of-the-lineup guy for years to come.

One thing to keep in mind with Stewart is that he is still very young. At just 25-years old he still has a chance to find a sense of urgency in the big leagues and hit his stride.

Chris Iannetta- F

At this point, his 2008 numbers seem more like the fluke than the rest of his seasons. He is another player who simply can't find a way to take it to the next level. When he isn't striking out, he is hitting weak pop flies to the second baseman. When he was sent down to Colorado Springs in May, his attitude could not have been more opposite of Fowler's.

When I talked to him when I covered the Sky Sox for the Gazette I asked him what he was working on. He responded "I'm not working on anything. My swing is fine. I have never felt more comfortable at the plate. I don't know why everyone keeps saying there is a hole in my swing, I wish people would stop saying that."

Look no further for a reason why Iannetta hasn't become a star. He already thinks he is one, despite hitting .197 with nine home runs and 27 RBIs. Iannetta fans continue to believe that he should be the everyday starter, but the fact is, he continues to get beat out by the likes of Yorvit Torrealba and Miguel Olivo. When those two faltered, Iannetta was never able to put his foot down and take the job.

It would be great to see Iannetta take the next step forward, but the fact is, it might need to happen somewhere else.

So let me hear it...what do you think? What did I miss? Where was I wrong?
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Saturday, October 9, 2010

Major League Baseball scheduling makes no sense

Congratulations to the New York Yankees for sweeping the Minnesota Twins and moving on to the American League Championship series.

What do the Yankees get for their efforts?

How about six days off.

That's right, Major League Baseball, along with their postseason partners TBS and FOX, have decided to start the ALCS when they think that the most fans will be sitting in front of their TV's.

Hitters lose their timing and pitchers lose their sharpness. It is as simple as that.

Even if both AL series went all five games, even with days off for travel, the ALCS match up would be set by Tuesday at the latest. So why start the series on Friday? One day off is obvious, but why does a team that won in five games need to be rewarded with two days off? In fact, why should there be an off day after game four of a five game series? These are players who routinely played 15 or 16 days in a row. Now they have a day off every third day.

The other issue with the scheduling is the attempt at allowing fans to watch every single pitch of every single game.

TBS was touting it all week as the playoff triple header. Starting at about noon mountain time, the action began. So, while Major League Baseball makes sure that no game is being played at the same time, they trip over their own feet, because most Americans are busy working during a random Wednesday at noon.

Worse is the fact that the Rays and Rangers (Rockies in their two recent postseason appearances) were forced to play the awkward day game both days.

Great job Major League Baseball. Two cities, one in which hasn't been to the postseason since most fans were worried about whether the world would turn inside out when the clock struck midnight on Y2K, were not able to watch their teams play in the playoffs.

The fact is, most fans are sick of watching the same teams in the postseason every year. Baseball fans are interested in watching a Rangers team that played on national television exactly one time all season. Fans want to see the Rays, who have found a way to win in the mighty AL East.

The solution is simple. If TBS is serious about broadcasting the playoffs, then they need to do what they do when a game goes long. Scrap the day game. Start the game that is being played on the east coast at 5:00 eastern time, then start the other two games at 8:00 eastern. Play one game on TBS and the other on TNT.

Most fans, sitting at home wishing their team was in it, would rather flip back and forth between the games anyway. Fans of the teams would leave it on one station, not concerned with the other series anyway.

That would allow fans to watch every pitch that they want to watch. Fans in Tampa and Arlington wouldn't have to call in sick two days in a row to watch their team play for a championship.

The reality is, even huge baseball fans don't have the time to watch three straight games that last much longer than the average baseball game because the station has sold an extra commercial during every single break.

At some point, Major League Baseball needs to quit disenfranchising their fans by trying to make every single one of them happy.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Grading the 2010 Colorado Rockies pitchers

There is no way around it. 2010 for the Colorado Rockies did not live up to its expectations.

The year began with expectations of the club's first ever National League West crown. After another slow start in April and May, the Rockies had a hole to crawl out of. They did that, coming within an error of being tied for first place at the All-Star break. However, their slow start did not give them the leverage to make it through another tough stretch.

That tough stretch came immediately after the break, as the Rockies embarked on a three-city, 11-game road trip. The well-documented trip included just two Rockies wins and essentially sealed the Rockies fate.

The Rockies go into the 2011 season with plenty to look forward to, however, there is still plenty to look back on before moving forward to before setting our sights on spring training.

In a two-part series, Rockies Review will be grading the Rockies players in 2010.

So here are the Rockies Review grades for the 2010 Colorado Rockies pitchers:


Ubaldo Jimenez- A

19 wins, an ERA under 3.00, the club's first no-hitter. A breakout season is an understatement. He did only win four games after the break, but might have felt the fatigue of eight starts in which his pitch count exceeded 120.

Jhoulys Chacin- A

Throw out the record. Despite losing 11 games, this kid impressed everyone. At just 22 years old look for Chacin to be no lower than third in the Rockies rotation in 2011. He still struggles with command, but has made huge strides. The Rockies future is bright with Chacin in the rotation.

Matt Belisle- A

Don't be surprised if news breaks that Belisle's arm has fallen off this winter. It seemed as if Belisle was on the mound everyday. His 92 innings was more than any other reliever in the National League. Not only did he eat up innings, he was extremely effective in those innings. His ability to put his foot down kept the Rockies in multiple games.

Matt Reynolds- A

Reynolds didn't make his Major League debut until August 19th, Reynolds made the Rockies wish they would have put him on the roster on Opening Day. He posted a 2.00 ERA in 18 innings, spanning 21 appearances. His presence allows the Rockies to have leverage in the offseason with Joe Beimel.

Rafael Betancourt- B+

In one of the least documented seasons, Betancourt quietly had a year for the history books. In 62-1/3 innings pitched, the Venezuelan struck out 89 batters while walking only eight. That is the best K/BB ration since Eric Gagne's 2003 Cy Young season. He doesn't get an A because he gave up too many home runs, with nine long balls, several of which were in crucial situations.

Jason Hammel- B

Despite his dead arm in September, Hammel proved his worth in June. He won four games in the month and lowered his ERA by nearly two runs. In his first four starts he gave up just one earned run in 29-1/3 innings. Coming into 2010 he was the No. 5 starter. By then end he was the No. 3. The dead arm kept him from an A.

Joe Beimel- B

Overall Beimel did his job getting lefties out. A few times Jim Tracy asked him to do something that Beimel shouldn't be asked to do, pitch a full inning. Righties his over .300 against him, and a few times the lefty specialist was hurt by that decision. His season ended quite a bit like his team's season, but to be fair to Beimel, there isn't enough ice in any clubhouse to take the swelling out of his left arm.

Jorge De La Rosa- B

He did everything that he could after missing two months with a freak finger injury. He has made huge strides to minimize his biggest issue, defeating himself. However, he still sometimes struggles with his own thoughts. The lefty has some of the best stuff in the league. If he decides that he is good and becomes a pitcher instead of a thrower, he could be an All-Star. He will dominate the offseason talk for the Rockies. Re-signing him should be tough, but the Rockies need to find a way to get it done.

Jeff Francis- B-

His career is, for all intents and purposes, done. He will never be the Francis that won 17 games for the Rockies in 2007. However, before his late season collapse, Rockies fans need to remember that he looked like a pretty good fifth starter. His debut against the Nationals in May was phenomenal and he was just as good when he picked up his first win in two seasons the following start in Kansas City. He gave up three or less earned runs in 11 of his first 16 starts. Francis should be back on a smaller, incentive-laden contract.

Esmil Rogers- C+

Rogers showed the talent to be in the big leagues. He struggled as a starter, but the inexperience should be taken into account for those struggles. He might be best suited out of the bullpen, but not as the long reliever, as many have suggested. If Rogers could use his stuff for just one inning, he could be a very valuable 7th inning guy, much like Matt Belisle was used in 2010. After as many innings as Belisle threw this season, the Rockies certainly need an alternative in the pen.

Huston Street- C-

Street was anything but the 2009 closer for the Rockies. After starting out on the disabled list, Street never was able to get a feel for his pitches. Even more than not having his best stuff, Street pitched scared. Instead of throwing strikes and challenging hitters to swing, the Texan nibbled at the strike zone and found himself in trouble. It seemed like Street dealt with trying to prove that he was both healthy, and good enough for his big three-year contract he signed in the offseason.

Manny Corpas- C

Rockies fans love to hate Corpas. He has struggled since anchoring the bullpen in the club's 2007 run to the World Series. While he struggled, he wasn't as bad as everyone makes him sound. His rolls changed on what seemed like a weekly basis. Early on he closed some games, then was asked to be a long reliever, then a situational guy, then back to long relief, then late innings, then long relief again. Corpas never complained. However, his arm couldn't handle it. His elbow finally said enough in the end of August. Tommy John surgery will cost Corpas his 2011 season.

Aaron Cook- D

Cook never had it. All season long he struggled to find his sinker. Before getting injured he gave up 11 leads that the offense had given him. The only reason that he doesn't get an F is because he pitched well after coming back from injury. The Rockies would have loved to dump even part of Cook's salary on any takers. Unfortunately, they are on the hook for $10 million in 2011.

Franklin Morales- F

Nothing went right for Morales. He looked like a little leaguer praying to hit the strike zone. When he did, the ball usually got crushed. Late innings are not for him. In fact, mentally, the big leagues might not be for him with his mentality right now. It might be time for the Rockies to take the opportunity to stretch him back out to be a starter. The bullpen is not for him.

Keep an eye out for infield grades over the weekend. Feel free to agree or disagree, just make sure to give a reason.

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Monday, October 4, 2010

Thoughts on the Colorado Rockies...a day later

One day after the Colorado Rockies ended their season by tying the worst 14-game stretch in club history.

The only people in the state of Colorado that were happy with the results were the outside sales reps for Tums and Pepto-Bismol. Sales had to have been up 100 percent for Rockies fans.

The nicest way to put the Rockies play was gut-wrenching.

Sure, for the final week of the season the Rockies were out of the race. That fact allows for a certain amount of disinterest in the remaining games. The only problem was that this club took it to the next level. It might have been slightly less embarrassing had the team simply told the umpire before the game that they forfeit.

Obviously, this is an exaggeration of what actually was going on, but it sure seemed to be the way the Rockies were playing, especially as they scored a whopping two runs over the course of four days, one of which would have simply required them scoring one run to win.

While the Rockies definitely were not trying to lose games, the final two week stretch did show quite a bit about the team.

Regardless of standings, the message from Jim Tracy is simply not getting through. Think more long term and the answers might become even more clear.

These Rockies don't like to be coached. They don't like to have an authoritative figure telling them what to do and when to do it.

Back in 2007, Clint Hurdle was a popular man in the clubhouse. He was friendly and was "one of the guys." When things went bad in 2008, Hurdle decided to tighten up the strings and be more of a disciplinarian. Spring Training in 2009 was more like a boot camp. The players did not react well. After finding themselves 12 games out of first place at the end of May, Tracy was tabbed to take over for Hurdle.

The cycle continued.

Tracy's style was to stay out of the clubhouse, let the players lead the way, let them discipline each other. It worked beautifully, just like it did in 2007 when the team was young and Hurdle was in charge. Everyone knows the results. The Rockies stormed from behind and nearly overtook the Dodgers for the National League West crown. Their efforts were good enough for the wild card.

At that point, the cycle for this Rockies team was 180 degrees from where it was in 2008.

The Rockies then went into Spring Training in 2010 with a fresh perspective. The boot camp spring training was gone. The Rockies were back in Tucson just the way they liked it, in vacation mode. They did what they wanted, and dropped the "stressing fundamental baseball" line that had been at work in the Hurdle days.

The results were very similar to 2008. They played sloppy baseball that included mental errors in the field, bad base running, and worst, horrible at-bats.

The lack of fundamentals finally did the Rockies in, eliminating them from the playoffs. Then, the worst part. When the team lacked motivation to put their best foot forward when they were out of contention, the Rockies lacked the discipline to listen to their leader.

The fact is, Tracy may have done whatever it took to get his team motivated. The problem, however, was that they weren't listening. That is the problem with this Rockies club. They don't want to be disciplined, they don't want to be motivated, they don't want to have someone tell them what to do. So instead of being a team that is 25 men all in tune and playing together, they have become 25 men who march to the beat of their own drummer. It makes sense why they never quite hit on all cylinders.

If the Rockies really wanted to win, they would be willing to be coached and disciplined. Instead, they settle for being just better than average.

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Sunday, October 3, 2010

Colorado Rockies mercifully ends

Finally. It's over.

Two weeks ago, who would have thought that the Colorado Rockies and their fans would be dying for the final game of their season?

Just two weeks ago, the Rockies were sporting a 6-1 lead in Los Angeles in the 4th inning, on their way to what should have been a sweep of the Dodgers. The win would have moved them within 1-1/2 games of first place in the National League West and tied for second place with the Padres.

How quickly things can change.

Two weeks later the Rockies had blown their lead in Los Angeles, been swept in the Arizona desert, won one game out of three against the Giants, swept by the Dodgers at home and scored two total runs in a four game set against the Cardinals.

Finally, the calender caught up with the Rockies, who had long been acting as if the date was October 4th.

The losses piled up, showing what exactly is in the heart of these Rockies. Some would argue that the Rockies cared so much about going to the playoffs that when it was apparent that the Rockies wouldn't be playing in the postseason, that the disappointment was just too much for them to be able to get up for the remaining games.

That theory makes some sense. However, the more realistic answer is that the Rockies showed what they truly were in 2010.

They were quitters.

Looking back on the year, there were plenty of examples. How many times in the early part of the season did the opposition come from behind and beat the Rockies? How many times did the Rockies put up a few runs, then put the bats away?

Look no further than the June 23rd magical comeback against the Red Sox at Coors Field. Sure, the victory was sweet. Seeing Jonathan Papelbon walk off of the field with a look of disgust on his face was pure pleasure to Rockies fans who watched him celebrate his World Series victory in 2007.

However, look deeper and realize that the game on June 23rd was the first time all season long in which the Rockies had come from behind when trailing after the 6th inning. Read that again. The first time.

Save for two great homestands, one in which the Rockies won 8-of-10 heading into the All-Star break, and another 8-2 2 homestand that propelled them back into the race in September and the Rockies were simply average...if not worse.

Why the negativity? The answer is simple. After a season that ended so bitterly, with the Rockies tying a club record by losing 13-of-14 games, the reality of how badly this team underperformed became a true reality.

This 2010 Rockies team should have been sick watching the San Francisco Giants celebrating their division title. With all due respect to the Giants, they should send a thank you card to the Rockies for gift-wrapping the division. The truth is, if the Rockies had played to their potential for even two full months in 2010, they would have clinched the division two weeks ago.

There is one thing for sure, as Troy Tulowitzki alluded to earlier in the week to the media, the Rockies are at a make-or-break point in 2011. There are several players that need to decide whether they want to be above average players, or actually reach their potential. What that takes, however, is work. Hard work. After watching the Rockies for the final two weeks of the season, there are serious questions as to whether this team actually cares enough about being more than average to put the work in necessary to be a great team, instead of just another team that played 162 games.

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Saturday, October 2, 2010

Is it over yet? Colorado Rockies misery continues

It's as if the Colorado Rockies enjoy losing.

Obviously that isn't the case, but one thing is certain, they don't like winning enough to work hard for it.

One thing is clear after 161 baseball games. The Rockies are looking forward to not playing baseball for a while. That became quite obvious when they quit playing baseball after 154 games.

To be fair, the Rockies quit once they were out of the race. However, the losses, now at 12-of their last-13 games, are very telling of the team's character. It proves that when nothing is on the line, they simply do not care.

Regardless of the fact that the each game literally means nothing in terms of the postseason, at some point it would seem that winning meaningless games would still be more fun than losing them. For these Rockies, however, it is clear that that is asking them to work too hard.

The victim of the Rockies lackadaisical attitude on Saturday was Ubaldo Jimenez. He did everything in his power to pick up his 20th win of the season. He pitched eight shutout innings, giving up just three hits while striking out 10 and walking just two. If nothing else, it showed that after 211 innings, Jimenez still has the same stuff.

At this point, it is a wonder why Jim Tracy hasn't simply been filling out the lineup card with 40-man September call-ups. Why has Chris Nelson been given more of a shot? Why hasn't Mike McKenry been given a shot to lose the deer-in-the-headlights look and get four or five starts under his belt?

It would make sense if the everyday starters actually cared about what their final record was, but with this group of guys, there is no reason to think that the young players shouldn't get a shot.

Regardless, the misery continues for one more day. It would be nice to see the Rockies show some heart and actually try for one more day...that, however, might be asking these Rockies for too much.

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