Monday, August 1, 2011

Thoughts on the Ubaldo Jimenez trade, a day later

There is no doubt about it, the Colorado Rockies trading Ubaldo Jimenez to the Cleveland Indians revived a fan base lulled to sleep by the the team's lackluster play on the field.

Most of the thoughts have been extreme. Most believe that it is a terrible move on the Rockies part, and that Dan O'Dowd should be fired as general manager. It also has brought back the Monfort haters who insist that the owners have no intention of putting a winning team on the field.

One day later, it is a little easier to think clearly through the trade.

Some thoughts:

First, and foremost, no one wanted to see Jimenez leave. He became the golden-child for Rockies fans. He helped them to their first World Series and became the franchise's first true ace, something that many thought would never happen in the thin air of Coors Field.

Couple the play on the field with a young man who had ever right to be arrogant and full of himself, yet was far more humble than the average office worker. It was hard not to cheer for a kid who came from a 500-square foot home in the Dominican to ace at the Major League level.

Second, for the Rockies to move Jimenez, they maintained that they had to be completely overwhelmed with the package that they got in return. While the list of prospects who have fizzled far outweighs the list of prospects who have flourished, if the Rockies get what is expected from the two top prospects in this deal, they will be a much-improved team.

That is hard to understand right now for Rockies fans, but the fact is, this team should be a better version of themselves when they open spring training in 2012.

The glaring issues that have been revealed in 2011 is that the Rockies farm system, once a crown-jewel of the franchise, is suddenly depleted and full of non-producers. The club had to make a move to improve their diminished farm system. If there was a quick way to breathe some life into their farm system, it was through trading Jimenez.

Third, the trade was a statement to the clubhouse. Maybe trading a guy of Jimenez's stature isn't the best way to shake-up a clubhouse, but it certainly will do the trick. In several radio and TV interviews, O'Dowd made it very clear that there is a sense of selfishness in the clubhouse. He made it clear that the veterans in the locker room were not holding the younger players to a high standard because they were focused on their own playing issues. That type of statement says an immense amount about Troy Tulowitzki.

It has become clear that this Rockies team may have become too close of friends with each other. No one was holding anyone else accountable, and in-turn, no one was forcing anyone else to get better. That breeds content-ness, and in-turn, softness.

Fourth, the way the Rockies handled the trade was in-excusable. Both Jim Tracy and O'Dowd continue to insist that they couldn't scratch Jimenez from his start on Saturday because the deal wasn't finalized. That excuse makes no sense. Even if Esmil Rogers needs time to warm up before coming in to pitch more than a couple of innings, there is no reason to embarrass Jimenez the way they did. Why can't a guy like Matt Reynolds, or Matt Belisle throw one inning? They are used to getting ready quickly. That would have bought some time for Rogers to get ready, and it would have kept Jimenez on the bench. If the trade fell through, for whatever reason, then Jimenez pitches on an extra day of rest on Sunday. Whatever the excuse, it wasn't fair to Jimenez, and it was extremely unprofessional.

Fifth, the reaction from Tulowitzki in the clubhouse after the game was extremely disappointing. With a complete lack of emotion, Tulo quickly said that the team had to move on. He made it clear that he was excited about who the club was getting back from Cleveland and that is what happens when the team doesn't perform. That part was fine. He was preacher the company line. However, the next statement went too far. He said that Jimenez didn't pitch to his own expectations and that he didn't pitch to the club's expectations.

The statement came across heartless and emotionless. For a guy who is supposed to be the leader in the clubhouse, there wasn't even a sense of emotion for losing a guy who probably had the best chance of helping his team win immediately. There wasn't even an ounce of emotion for a guy who he had shared a clubhouse with since playing together in Single-A Modesto. Saying the company line is fine, but at least mention that you are going to miss him as a person, regardless of his performance on the field.

Finally, the trade is a tough one to swallow for obvious reasons. However, one thing cannot be denied, Dan O'Dowd is fearless. He wasn't worried about fans perception when he pulled of a trade of the most popular player on the team in Matt Holliday in 2008. Eventually, fans understood that trade, and loved it. This trade is much the same way, and holds the same type of risk.

If the prospects that O'Dowd is bringing over from the Indians don't flourish, and Jimenez finds his fastball once again, this trade could easily go down as one of the worst in the history of the game. If the Rockies don't get an immense amount of production from both of the centerpieces of this deal, it will be a big failure for O'Dowd and the Rockies. Knowing that going into it, and still pulling the trigger, is a move that has to be respected, whether it is agreed with or not.

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