Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Don Baylor's failures will haunt the Rockies

When Clint Hurdle brought the Colorado Rockies first manager back on to his staff before the 2009 season, the move was celebrated.

The club had gone back to it's roots and hired someone who understood the culture of the Rockies. However, that move will continue to haunt the Rockies for years to come.

It became increasingly clear as the 2010 season progressed that Baylor was failing miserably at his job. When players fell into slumps, they never recovered. Hitters were continuously failing with runners in scoring position, and striking out when a ground ball could get the job done.

After the 2010 season, the Rockies had made no decisions on their coaches being retained or not. However, the club made it very clear that they were willing to let Baylor interview for open managerial positions. Nothing materialized, and the next step became inevitable. The Rockies hired Carney Lansford, their former Triple-A hitting coach who has had success with several of the current 25-man roster, and gave Baylor the token front-office-job-offer. Baylor turned down the job and took the Diamondbacks open hitting coach position.

As obvious as Baylor's flaws were, Dave Krieger of the Denver Post wrote an article that was meant to show what Lansford was capable of, but was perhaps more telling of Baylor's faults.

Lansford, upon being hired, went to work individually with the Rockies three most underwhelming 2010 performers; Seth Smith, Chris Iannetta and Ian Stewart. All three had worked with Lansford in 2007. The results were clearly stunning to the new Rockies coach. Stewart was suddenly a pull-hitter who never bunted, Iannetta was a mental mess, switching his stance and forgetting a see-it, hit-it mindset, and Smith going little league and trying to hit the ball out of the park every single time he went to the plate.

While the proof will come in April, the article makes the issues that made Rockies fans pull their hair out for the greater portion on the 2010 season, was a quick fix. Lansford seems to have the issues of all three pinpointed and on the way to being resolved.

It goes without saying, if those three Rockies suddenly find their strokes again, the club will be in very good shape. However, the success would be bittersweet. The Rockies and their fans would celebrate the return of three very good hitters, but the damage has already been done.

There are several players who will no longer be wearing Rockies uniforms who at one point were regarded as great hitters. Brad Hawpe started his 2009 season as well as anyone could have imagined. It seemed that he had put it all together. His start was rewarded with an All-Star appearance. The problem was that the All-Star game was the peak. He struggled for the next season-and-a-half, culminating in his August release.

Garrett Atkins also looked like a future All-Star. In his first four full seasons in the big leagues he had never hit worse than .286. He logged 419 RBIs and 88 home runs. His OBP was never worse than his 2005 season where he finished at .773.

Enter Baylor, and Atkins suddenly couldn't hit. In 2009 Atkins hit just .229 with nine home runs and 48 RBIs. His OBP was a terrible .650.

To be fair to Baylor, Tracy Ringolsby of FOX Sports reported on several occasions that Atkins was in horrible shape when he reported to camp in '09 and never worked hard enough to regain his form.

The next case is slightly different. Clint Barmes was never going to be an All-Star at the plate. His plate discipline has always been awful. However, under Baylor, Barmes became home run happy. The slick-fielding 2nd baseman suddenly was trying to hit every ball deep into the left field bleachers. The occasional home run is obviously welcomed, however, hitting out of the eight hole, as Barmes generally did, is not normally thought of as a home run spot.

If Barmes would have focused on hitting the ball to the opposite field, he would have been far more successful at moving runners over, or even simply turning the lineup over so that the Rockies didn't have to lead off the next inning with the pitcher.

Those three players are all gone. They have moved along, hoping to find their swings elsewhere. It would be nice to see what those guys could have done with a hitting coach that was able to identify and fix their problems. Instead, they were forced to try and figure it out themselves and their frustrations ended with their release or trade.

What they could have done in purple pinstripes will never be known.

5 comments:

  1. I like the hard line approach that Lansford brings here - I think it will translate well with these particular players

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  2. why cant they replace the pitching coach Apodaca, as he never got his pitchers back on track either. Look at the terrible ERA

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  3. If there is a guy whose job is secure, it is Bob Apodaca. He is the last holdover from the Hurdle days, and seems to be invincible. I am not the biggest Apodaca fan, but with pitchers like Ubaldo Jimenez and soon Jhoulys Chacin having a ton of success, he is going to be able to ride the wave of great talent, whether he had anything to do with it or not.

    Thanks for the comment.

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  4. Honestly you cannot look at the past. With the new faces of the franchise (Tulo and C Gon), look up and see that the Rockies can really win the NL West this year. They have a good rotation and if Tulo stays healthy, he'll contend for the HR leader in the league. Rockies are going to win the West. Check out my blog: baseballsoup.blogspot.com

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