Sunday, July 24, 2011

Colorado Rockies must make extreme moves in the offseason

There sure is a lot of elbow room on the Colorado Rockies bandwagon these days.

Even the most hardcore of Rockies fans are finding new things to do with their three hours every day. It doesn't make sense anymore to watch a team that, in reality isn't going nowhere, they are on a steady pace backwards.

True Rockies fans are the definition of die-hard. They braved the days when Jose Hernandez and Desi Relaford were in the lineup. They withstood the pain of trying to get excited about Jeromy Burnitz in the middle of the lineup, and endured Brian Bohanon taking the mound on Opening Day.

This is a tough bunch of baseball fans. However, the 2011 version of the Rockies is testing even the most hardcore fans patience.

It would be different if the team was 10 or 11 games back in the race, but continued to go out on the field everyday and give it their best. It would be different if they played with energy and life, and, even when losing, played like they were going to find a way to win the game.

These Rockies play as if they already booked October vacations and don't want to risk having to change their plans. They play as if they have no faith in each other in getting the job done, they play like no one in front of them or behind them can get the job done, so they'd better hit that home run now, or they will lose the game.

The lackluster play continues day-in and day-out. Despite team meetings and patience being preached from the manager's office.

If the Rockies want to earn some of their fans back, they must make drastic moves in the offseason. They cannot afford to use patchwork players to fill their holes. They have to make tough decisions that will make an impact on the attitude in the clubhouse.

The easy move probably involve giving up on Ian Stewart. The former first round draft pick has been perhaps the biggest disappointment in Rockies history. There could be an argument for Greg Reynolds, but Reynolds never showed the talent and potential that Stewart has. The reports come from high and low about Stewart. The problem is not about talent, it is about heart.

However, the moves need to go beyond the players. The moves need to go beyond simply firing a coach. To really convince the Rockies fan base that the club is not going to accept such mediocre play, the Rockies need to make sweeping changes.

The decision that needs to be made is to not just remove Jim Tracy from his post, it needs to be firing him, as well as his entire staff. While in his first season, Carney Lansford has been a failure as hitting coach. He was brought in to have a more in-your-face attitude towards the hitters. Don Baylor was fired because he was too passive. Well, Lansford is the polar opposite, yet things remain the same.

Tom Runnells, the Rockies bench coach since Tracy took over for Clint Hurdle, has not made any difference in Tracy's quirky lineup decisions, or poor bullpen management. Time to send him packing.

The final move that needs to be made is one that might not be popular among the fans, but will give the true sign of commitment to winning. That move is to fire pitching coach Bob Apodaca.

Apodaca is wildly popular amongst Rockies fans. He takes credit for Ubaldo Jimenez becoming a great pitcher. He has also been credited with reviving several journeyman pitchers careers.

However, there seems to be a double standard with Apodaca. When pitchers do well, he gets credit. When they fade away, or simply forget how to pitch, it falls on the pitchers shoulders.

When some things start to become a pattern, Apodaca's teachings must be questioned. Aaron Cook, a former All-Star, has suddenly forgotten how to pitch. It goes beyond simply getting older and fading away, Cook is terrible. He frankly has no business being in a Major League rotation.

Ubaldo Jimenez has come along as the season has progressed, but his velocity is still way down. His command is nowhere near what it once was, and his confidence looks severely shaken.

Jason Hammel went from a pitcher who won double-digits games two years in a row--something that Apodaca took credit for--and suddenly he can't keep his team in the game for even one inning. It goes beyond a rough stretch, Hammel looks lost. He is tipping his pitches and looks like he is shotputting his once-effective curveball.

Where has Apodaca been? Obviously he isn't the one throwing the pitches, but why does he get a free pass when the guys he is paid handsomely to teach, can't put his tutoring into practice.

The reality is, Coors Field is far less of a hitter's park than it once was, and almost every pitcher under Apodaca's tutelage has failed to meet expectations in 2011. It's time to pull the plug on him.

It may sound extreme, but the Rockies are going to have trouble in a tough economy proving to their fans that they should go back out to the ballpark in 2012 unless they have made big changes, not just a move here and there. They need to show that failing to meet expectations is unacceptable.

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