Monday, August 1, 2011

Colorado Rockies have a losing mindset in the clubhouse

The Colorado Rockies made a statement to the clubhouse by trading Ubaldo Jimenez.

That statement may have fallen on deaf ears.

After a changing-of-the-guard type of start from Jhoulys Chacin, who pitched 7-2/3 innings, giving up six hits and just one run, Huston Street made his defenders look dumb. After constantly playing with fire, Street blew his third save of the season, giving up a two-run homer to John Mayberry with two outs in the ninth.

Chacin did even better than his numbers suggest. He took the next step of maturity in the sixth inning, when he had the tying run at second base with no outs. He worked a ground ball and two pop outs, extracting himself from the situation without giving up the lead. It was a breath of fresh air for Rockies fans who think it might be another 18 years before an ace comes around again.

The issue for the Rockies, however, is not from the defensive side of the field. The problem is in the leadership in the clubhouse. Despite consistently seeing how to play team baseball in the dugout just 100 feet away, Troy Tulowitzki still lacks the maturity to lead a team to victory.

It has become increasingly obvious that the Rockies All-Star shortstop hates to lose, but isn't willing to improve his game to keep it from happening. When things are going bad, his stubbornness clearly increases. Instead of relaxing and playing the game the way it is supposed to be played, Tulowitzki presses, insisting on carrying the load on his back, which has cost the team more games than it has won.

It may sound harsh, but look at the shortstops approach at the plate. With two outs in the fifth inning and the bases loaded, the Rockies had Phillies starter Cole Hamels on the ropes. He was laboring to throw strikes and the Rockies were starting to get to him. That is when Tulowitzki stepped to the plate with one thing on his mind--going deep.

A grand slam would have put the Rockies up 6-0, clearly giving them a huge advantage. However, in that situation, Tulowitzki didn't need a grand slam. A double most likely scores three, a single scores two, and even a walk plates a run. Despite working the count full, Tulo ended up over-swinging and striking out, leaving crucial insurance runs on the bases.

In the 10th inning, Tulowitzki came back tot he plate with the Rockies down by a run and two outs. This time it looked like a flashback to Los Angeles. The All-Star swung at the first pitch, popping out to second base to end the inning.

The insistence on being the hero can be termed a different way: immaturity.

Baseball isn't an individual game. Watching teams like the Phillies and Giants proves that. Both teams have aging talent in their lineups that is good, but not vastly superior. However, they string together hits by working counts, and forcing the pitcher to give in to them. Instead of looking for the knockout punch, good teams use jab shots until the other team folds.

Make no mistake, Tulowitzki is a phenomenal shortstop. Probably the best in the game. He can hit for average and power and he is a feared hitter. However, he is not above playing situational baseball. The need for fundamentals starts with him. This is his team, and he must lead it.

Tulowitzki must be the example to the rest of the team, not the exception.

This Colorado Rockies team will not figure out how to win until Tulowitzki learns how to lead.

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