Sunday, August 21, 2011

Colorado Rockies defy the odds, win on Sunday

Shhhhh, don't tell the Colorado Rockies.

Everyone who walked into Coors Field on Sunday knew what day of the week it was. Everyone except the team wearing purple pinstripes. Whether they were told it was Saturday, whether they were simply just due, the Rockies pulled off what has proven to be a difficult task.

They won on a Sunday.

After 17 defeats in a row, dating back to April 17th, when the club nearly blew their eighth inning opportunity against the Chicago Cubs, the Rockies finally got their third victory of the season on a Sunday. It took a couple of two-run shots from Carlos Gonzalez and Seth Smith and a yeoman's like effort from veteran starter Kevin Millwood, but the Rockies finally accomplished the feat.

Despite playing horrible defense, awkwardly sliding for a ball in left field on Sunday, Smith is doing everything he can to prove that he deserves to get a real chance at playing everyday.

Heading into the season, the Rockies were committed to giving Smith a chance to start everyday in right field, with Dexter Fowler in center and Carlos Gonzalez in left. Despite that commitment, manager Jim Tracy, who insists on running a roster as if he has 12 starters, was determined to get Ryan Spilborghs consistent at-bats.

The result of Spilborghs, a right-handed hitter, getting starts meant that Smith, a lefty, rode the bench when the team played against a lefty starter, regardless of how dominant or hard-throwing that lefty may be.

Even in inconsistent playing time, Smith has still put up extremely respectable numbers. Going into Sunday, Smith had put up a .283 batting average, to go along with 13 home runs, 50 RBIs and 26 doubles.

Smith's detractors refer to him as a poor defender, which he probably is, who doesn't hit for enough power for a corner defensive position. The only problem with that statement is that he does hit for power. He isn't necessarily hitting the ball out of the ballpark on a regular basis--although 14 home runs in limited duty is still good--he still has an OPS of .831, a very good number for a guy who isn't the centerpiece of a lineup.

The other problem with that argument is that lately, the person replacing Smith in the lineup has been Eric Young, Jr. With all due respect to Young, who brings his fair share of excitement to the field, he is a downgrade in batting average, defense, and certainly in power numbers. The idea of Jim Tracy using him over Smith against lefties simply doesn't make sense.

With the Rockies in a double digit deficit in the National League West, isn't it time to put Smith in the lineup every single day until the end of the year and really see what he can do with regular at-bats?

Baseball players are creatures of routine. The worst thing that a manager can do is let a guy get into a rhythm for three or four days and then take a day or two off. Smith has been stuck in that role for the entire season, yet he has found a way to be very consistent in that role. He could be that much better getting to play everyday, even if that includes some struggles against lefties.

The rest of the season is about evaluation for the Rockies. It is about seeing who will be back in 2012 and who will be shipped off. The worst thing the Rockies could do is give up on Smith as a guy who can only hit righties, and then watch him thrive in a different uniform because he didn't get the chance to show what he could do while playing at Coors Field.

However, at this point, who plays everyday and who doesn't is the last thing the Rockies are concerned about. They walked away from Coors Field with a Sunday win, which at this point in a miserable season, is something to cheer about.

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