Sunday, July 31, 2011

Colorado Rockies trade Ubaldo Jimenez to Cleveland Indians

The Colorado Rockies scored 10 runs on Saturday night in San Diego. Their offense looked good. They came up with clutch hits, they pitched well, they looked in sync.

However, that was the last thing anyone paid attention to, as the Rockies shipped off their first true ace to the Cleveland Indians in exchange for two former first round draft picks a Double-A sinkerballer and a utility infielder. Whether the move will be good for the Rockies long-term will remain to be seen.

It's easy to think with your heart when trades like this happen. It's easy to point fingers and talk about what a mistake it was, or what a great move it was. However, that doesn't really make the emotions that come along with what happened go away.

Much like the Matt Holliday trade to Oakland after the 2008 season, there is an incredible feeling of loss for anyone who truly loves the Rockies. There is a sense of betrayal from a team that fans feel they have been loyal to, paid their hard-earned dollars to, and spent their summer evenings rooting on.

Many fans will point to April 18, 2009 as the day they became bonafide Colorado Rockies fans, and Major League Baseball fans. As Jimenez sliced and diced his way through an Atlanta Braves offense, getting a little help from Dexter Fowler along the way. The snapshot from that day, however, is not Jimenez marveling at Fowler's catch, or Brian McCann grounding out to Clint Barmes, the memory is of Jimenez being surrounded by teammates, who were more than teammates at that moment, they were friends, and celebrating as if they had clinched a playoff spot.

Many fans will look back to the 2007 season, when Jimenez was called up before the club would have liked to have him on the roster. As a bright-eyed rookie he showed the poise of a veteran and helped guide the Rockies to a pennant. He could have folded under the pressure, but he calmly composed himself through a second-half that required the Rockies to be as good as any team in baseball just to have a shot at the playoffs, and then continued to get better as the Rockies rolled through Philadelphia and Arizona on their way to the World Series.

Jimenez defeated the odds and pitched his way nearly into the history books in the early part of 2010, winning 10 games before June began. He did something that many baseball experts would have thought impossible when baseball came to Colorado when he was named the starting pitcher in the All-Star game that year.

He was the first pitcher the franchise ever had that could be depended on. His stuff was nasty, his determination even nastier. Yet, when it was time to face the media after the game, the last thing anyone would guess he had done that day was throw 100 MPH fastballs past confused and frustrated batters.

His smile lights up the room. He never made a single excuse. He never pointed the finger at teammates in bad times, and he never pointed the finger at himself in good times. A man who possesses more talent than most Major League pitchers would dream of was as humble of a man, by all accounts, as anyone who has walked into a Major League clubhouse.

So while it is somewhat comforting to banter about the trade, whether it was wise or not, whether the Monforts want to win or not, whether this team will ever hang on to their stars, the reality is, Ubaldo Jimenez took off a Colorado Rockies uniform for the final time on Saturday night, after one inning of the most awkward baseball in team history, and made his way to Cleveland where he will join his new team, a team that is fighting for a chance at the playoffs. That is the only thing about the trade that is a reality at this point.

There is no doubt that as the division races tighten up and the summer turns to fall, many Rockies fans are going to be pulling for the Indians, and for Jimenez to once again show his talent to the world and help another team do something extremely special.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Colorado Rockies continue to make Petco Park their second home

Since 1993, when the Colorado Rockies go on the road, it has been a struggle.

Most teams aren't as good on the road, but the difference for the Rockies has always been profound. Regardless of the talent level on the team, the Rockies generally play very well at home and struggle mightily on the road. When the club plays in places like Los Angeles and San Francisco, even watching the game has a feeling of struggle.

In those parks, it seems like the Rockies might have one or two opportunities the whole game to score a few runs. If they don't take advantage, they generally lose. Why that happens may be the greatest mystery in the history of the franchise.

However, even more baffling, is that as much as the Rockies struggle on the road, regardless of the venue, the home/road splits go out the window when the team lands in San Diego.

For whatever reason, the Rockies play with a different level of confidence in San Diego. Maybe it is the relaxed feeling within the city that manifests itself within the club. Maybe the team gets a chance to enjoy a great city with great weather that makes them relax. Whatever the reason, the Rockies seem to play well at Petco Park, one of the best pitchers parks in baseball.

Those successes continued on Friday night, as Jason Hammel dominated the Padres. One start after giving up 12 hits and seven runs in less than four innings of work, Hammel looked much better. He gave up two runs in 6-1/3 innings, giving up five hits while striking out five and walking three. It was an outing that might have just shaken the monkey off of his back.

A win is a win, and Rockies fans should be happy with any win. However, it would be a mistake not to mention some questionable managerial decisions. On Friday night it didn't hurt the team, but with the Rockies out of the National League West race by double digits, questionable decisions by the man in charge of the club have to be pointed to as one of the reasons why the club has struggled.

In the seventh inning, Jason Hammel had already hurled over 100 pitches. However, Jim Tracy decided to let him hit for himself with one out and no one on base and a 3-2 lead. Hammel bounced out to second base. The right-hander then headed back to the mound for the bottom half of the seventh inning. After getting one out, Hammel gave up a double to Cameron Maybin. At this point, Tracy made his way to the mound and went to the bullpen. Lindstrom struck out a batter, then gave up an infield single that only moved Maybin to third base. Tracy then went back to the mound and called on Matt Reynolds to face Chase Headley. Headley walked on nine pitches, putting the go-ahead run on first base with the tying run at third. Tracy then went back to his bullpen and got Matt Belisle, who was able to get Ryan Ludwick to pop out to end the threat.

So why is the decision so crazy? First, if Tracy was going to have a short leash with Hammel in the bottom of the seventh, he should have sent a pinch hitter to the plate for him in the top half of the inning. That would have at least given the Rockies a chance to put up another run of support for the tall righty.

Second, this is the time of year when bullpen arms start feeling the work that they have sustained throughout the season. Piecing together an inning is acceptable sometimes, and none of the pitchers threw too many pitches. However, keep in mind, all three of those pitchers had to start throwing, warm up in the bullpen, warm up on the mound and then throw the high-stress pitches in the game. If Lindstrom had been able to come to the mound with a clean slate, the inning is much easier for him.

In addition, the Rockies were currently in a one-run game in one of the best pitcher's parks in the game. Had any one of those pitchers given up a run, the game easily could have gone into extra innings. Sure, Esmil Rogers is available for long relief, but burning three bullpen arms to get two outs is not necessarily the smartest move in that situation.

Tracy always says that he does everything that he can to win the game in nine innings, and then goes from there, but burning through bullpen arms is not a recipe for success. It worked on Friday, but it hasn't been the most productive management style for most of the season.

Regardless, the Rockies won. They found a way to get it done, and once again, they played relaxed in San Diego, a place that seems to be exempt from the standard road struggles of the Colorado Rockies.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Trade U or not to trade U, that is the question for the Colorado Rockies

When his name first came up two weeks ago, it seemed like desperate baseball writers trying to stir the pot in an otherwise boring trade deadline.

Now, with three days left before the deadline, there is a real chance that the Colorado Rockies move Ubaldo Jimenez.

Could this move seriously happen? It doesn't seem like a deal will get done. By all accounts, the Rockies asking price -- as it should be -- is enormous. They are asking the Reds to part with catching prospect Devon Mesoraco, flame-throwing Cuban Aroldis Chapman, and another player, possibly young lefty starter Travis Wood.

Don't hold your breath waiting for those names to be traded, especially Mesoraco. The catching prospect is hitting over .300 with an OPS of nearly .900 in the pitching-friendly International League. Reds fans have been eagerly awaiting his arrival at the big league level since he was drafted 15th overall in the 2007 draft. Big prospect catchers don't come around often, the Rockies know that better than anyone, therefore, they rarely get traded.

The Rockies are asking for a similar enormous package centered around pitcher Manuel Banuelos, a pitcher Mariano Rivera said has more talent than anyone he has ever seen, and a couple more prospects. Again, that move isn't going to happen.

The reality is, the Rockies will have to lower their asking price greatly if they really want to move Jimenez. Frankly, they would be stupid to do that.

Trading Jimenez, if it were to happen, would have to be a no-brainer. It would have to fill so many holes for the Rockies that they would have no choice. After struggling for essentially two months, then heading down the road to recovery, should not be a trade-able offense for Jimenez. The reality is, with his velocity down and his movement and confidence not always there, the right-hander may never be the early 2010 pitcher again. However, his early injuries may have set him so far back that he is simply having a down year.

Troy Renck, the Rockies beat writer for the Denver Post, has done a great job of reporting and investigating every ounce of Jimenez news available. He has reported that Jimenez took a trip to Europe in January, much to the Rockies chagrin, instead of pitching in winter ball like he customarily has in years past.

The Rockies believe that Jimenez's trip made his early injuries more pronounced because his arm strength wasn't built up and therefore he has been behind all season long.

With that information, the thought might be that this is a wake-up call by the club. This is their way of sending a message that Jimenez must continue to get better in order to earn a long-term deal like Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. Maybe it is the club's way of trying to help Jimenez develop a killer instinct on the mound. This might possibly be the way the club is trying to make things a little less comfortable in a stale Rockies clubhouse that seems content with losing.

Another possibility, first reported by Joel Sherman of the New York Post, is that Jimenez has had a rift with pitching coach Bob Apodaca. Frankly, if the club wanted to ship Jimenez, the best talent that the Rockies have seen on the mound in their history, because of a setback with their pitching coach, then they have their priorities all messed up. It's not like Jimenez is a clubhouse problem. It's not like he has a bad attitude. The reality is, if Jimenez is having a fight with Apodaca, then it is time for him to go, not Jimenez.

For the Rockies, the decision does not need to be made before the July 31st deadline, they could easily re-visit the idea in the offseason. However, the reality remains, if they are not able to hit the jackpot and fill multiple big league holes immediately, than they should call Jimenez into the office and explain to him their offseason expectations of him and believe that he will be the 100 MPH-throwing Jimenez in a season right around the corner.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Colorado Rockies Cook up a win in Los Angeles

Ervin Santana threw a no-hitter on Wednesday, and it wasn't the most surprising news of the day.

More surprising was the dominance of Aaron Cook on the mound. Cook went seven strong innings, giving up just six hits. He struck out two and walked two.

Obviously that statement is made in jest, but the point is the same, Cook throwing seven shutout innings was the last thing anyone predicted.

The redhead has been a nightmare for the Rockies since returning from the 60-day disabled list that he landed on in spring training. Most fans were questioning the decision by the club to leave him in the rotation when the Rockies made their All-Star break changes. In his last two starts, Cook is making the team look good for having faith in him.

In his previous start in Arizona, Cook's numbers are very pedestrian. He gave up four runs in six innings, but that doesn't tell the whole story. After giving up three runs in the second inning, he fought back. Instead of folding, he battled back and limited the damage, giving the Rockies a chance to score some runs and get back in the game.

On Wednesday night in Los Angeles, Cook continued down that path. He didn't give in to the whispers that he is done. He didn't believe that things were never going to be the same. Instead, he went out and looked like the All-Star of 2008. In his seven innings, he induced 13 outs via the ground ball and only three in the air. When Cook is going good, his sinker is forcing the opposition to hit the ball into the dirt.

The victory, along with the remaining victories that this club will have in a horrible season, was simply a moral one. Any ground that the team gains is going to make the season that much more bitter. This team clearly has the talent to at least compete in the National League West. Instead of competing, however, the Rockies have given away the best opportunity they had to raise an NL West banner for the first time in the history of the club.

The Rockies avoided the sweep, and a fall into fourth place, behind the Dodgers in the NL West race. The fact that they are closer to last place than first place is something that most would never have guessed going into the year.

Colorado heads to San Diego to finish off the final three games of a nine-game stretch through the NL West. At this point, the club is simply playing out the remainder of their games, looking forward to an offseason that will certainly be full of changes.

Those changes may start in the next few days, as rumors continue to abound about the future of Ubaldo Jimenez. The club could trade their former ace, or any combination of players including Ty Wigginton, Rafael Betancourt, Huston Street, Chris Iannetta, Ryan Spilborghs, Jason Giambi, or really, anyone who another team may inquire on.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Tulowitzki continues to fail in pressure situations

Troy Tulowitzki came to the plate in the ninth inning with the bases loaded and the Rockies down by three runs.

There is no doubt that special players do special things at special times, and there is no doubt that Tulowitzki is a super-hero. However, Tulo's ninth inning at-bat was annoyingly predictable. As he has done far too often in his Major League career, Tulowitzki swung at the first pitch, which was at his eyes, and popped out to second base.

Tulowitzki is a great player--one of the best in the game--yet, he still lacks maturity. All he had to do was pay attention to the game while he was on deck. All he had to do was watch one of the game's best hitter's when it comes to working counts. The hitter in front of him, Todd Helton, had just worked a 0-2 count into a full count, fouled off two pitches, and then took a walk on an 11-pitch at-bat, driving in a run in the process.

Instead of following Helton's lead, Tulowitzki continued to over-try in pressure situations. Instead of being the hero for the Rockies, he became the key to the Dodgers victory.

The reality is, Tulowitzki's desire to be the hero might be one of the biggest reasons why the Rockies have failed in 2011.

There is no doubt that Tulo is a phenomenal talent. He plays the game well. However, he still doesn't do the little things very well. He is a terrible base runner and he is nearly the last batter Rockies fans want to see up in a pressure situation. Both of those issues come from trying to do too much. Instead of simply playing the game, his gritty-ness gets in the way.

Tulowitzki's eagerness to be the hero is to the detriment of the team. He is the leader, both in the clubhouse and on the field. When he consistently thinks that he has to be the hero, it sends a message to the other members of the club. It says that he doesn't trust the other players to get the job done, and frankly, it sends the message that he is an attention-hog.

Tulowitzki might not be trying to send that message, but it would be easy to interpret it like that. At some point in his career, the two-time All-Star shortstop is going to have to learn how to do the little things correctly if he wants to be the leader of the club. He must be a leader in every aspect of the game. He must learn to take a good at-bat both in the beginning of the game, and the end of the game.

The shortstop isn't young anymore. He doesn't get the free pass that he used to. At some point, he must find a way to play the game well in every aspect, or he will never be the player that he is capable of being.

Colorado Rockies continue to be a great sleep aid

Copy. Paste. Repeat.

It gets pretty easy to write about the Rockies these days. The problem is, it's boring. This team could put the makers of Valium out of business.

At this point, anyone who thinks that the Rockies still have a chance to play in October is insane. A week ago, during the All-Star break it was a nice thought to believe that if the club went on a run, they might just have a chance. At this point, they look more likely to lose 100 games than to win 90.

Another lackluster, effortless performance was put on by the Rockies at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday night in which every batter tried to do too much, and everyone on defense played as if the other guy would get the job done. If this team struggles on the road when they have a chance to go to the playoffs, envision a team that could care less about the game and is more excited about seeing the sights in whatever town they happen to be in at that point.

A night after Troy Tulowitzki swung at a pitch at his eyes, he continued to try to be the hero, drubbing a double to center with no one on base, but then going 0-for-3 with runners on base, all three times with a runner at third base. If he doesn't learn to be patient soon, his stubbornness may be the difference between him being a very good player and him being a Cooperstown player.

To accuse a professional team full of professional athletes of not caring is almost a cardinal sin. Everyone points to the fact that these guys live and breathe baseball. They argue that they wouldn't make it to the level that they are at without loving the game.

Well, it's time to accuse these guys of not caring.

If they cared, they would be more embarrassed by the way they are playing. They would be showing fight instead of rolling over when the opposition scores runs. They wouldn't quit the way they have been quitting. It is ridiculous. Even in the bad days of the Rockies, the teams still played hard. Of course they had no chance of making the postseason, but they worked hard.

This Rockies team is full of talent. From top-to-bottom, they should be able to compete with anyone. Instead, they continue to be horrible. They continually make excuses and pretend like they can't figure it out. Yet, on the field, they play with no fire. When home runs are hit against them, when teams steal bases when they are up by six runs, when nothing is going on the offensive side of things, there are no bat racks paying the price. There is no Gatorade being spilled in the dugout, there is no collective beard-growing, there is no knee-high socks night, there is no opposing hitter being beaned.

The problem doesn't fall on any one person's shoulders. This team couldn't be this bad if it was simply one man's fault. The blame lies with each and every player, each and every coach, and each and every member of the front office in some way, shape or form. The price has to be paid in the offseason, and someone will take the blame, perhaps Jim Tracy, but the reality is, the Rockies are a mess, from top-to-bottom, they are a total mess.

Who would have thought that everyone would be talking this way about the Rockies when spring training started?

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.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Momentum, no thanks. Colorado Rockies rolled by Diamondbacks

A night after playing arguably their best road game of the season, the Colorado Rockies were looking to build some momentum.

Instead, they watched Jason Hammel continue his downward spiral. This was probably the worst outing of his career. Before recording an out in the first inning, the right-hander had given up four runs. He escaped the inning after giving up five, but saying he didn't have it would be a gross understatement.

It is crazy at this point to think that Hammel was the second best pitcher that the Rockies had through the middle of May. His win-loss record wouldn't say that, but he was keeping opponents off balance all season to that point. His problem was that the offense was in the middle of not knowing how to score more than a run or two per game, therefore Hammel's record suffered.

It is not a secret anymore, Rocktober has officially been cancelled, with no refund policy.

The big event in Denver that fans have been preparing for and planning as if it was a foregone conclusion is not going to happen. Coors Field will close it's doors in September, a month before it was supposed to.

Any hope that the Rockies have of making a run at the San Francisco Giants is going to live and die with the team's starting pitching. Based on the way the starting pitching has gone over the past month or so suggests that the Rockies are not going to be gaining games on the Giants, let alone overtake them.

Aaron Cook, despite a decent outing on Friday, has not been a huge surprise. He hasn't been the same pitcher for well over a year. However, Hammel's struggles are a big surprise. Before the 2011 season, Hammel looked like he could be a candidate for a great season. After a great April and May, Hammel hasn't been able to find it.

Hammel is showing his pitches early. It is very easy to determine if the pitch is a fastball or off-speed pitch right out of the hand. It almost seems as if Hammel is aiming his breaking pitches, hoping to get them over.

It has been said many, many times, but this Colorado Rockies season is going to go down in the books as the most disappointing season in the history of the franchise. It will be interesting to see how fans are going to react in the offseason when it comes to purchasing tickets and being excited about the 2012 version of the Rockies. The club is going to have to be very careful how much they hype the team.

For now, the best thing about watching the Rockies will be seeing how the future of the team plays. Hopefully at some point the club will bring up Wilin Rosario from Double-A. He is the most likely in the next round of catchers who the Rockies are excited about. He may be the first who doesn't let expectations down.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Colorado Rockies finally decide to show up

It only took 99 games, but the Colorado Rockies finally arrived.

Maybe a bus swung by the Rockies Scottsdale spring training complex where they dumped the impostor Rockies and picked up the real guys.

Whatever it was, the Colorado Rockies that everyone expected to show up--the team that pitched well, hit in big situations, stole bases, and scored runs with two outs--that team finally showed up.

The reality is, it is probably too late for the real Rockies to show up and make a run. Even after climbing within nine games of the San Francisco Giants, Colorado will need more than a nice little run to get back in it. They would need to play around .650 baseball, and even that wouldn't guarantee anything.

Regardless of the position in the standings, it was nice to see a Rockies club play the way everyone expected them too. At least for one night, the questions of when this team will show up do not need to be answered. The club can feel good about themselves, beating a team directly in front of them in the standings, and gaining a game on the division-leading Giants.

Many experts point to Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez and Ubaldo Jimenez having down years as a reason for the club's lack of success. However, the reality is that it is the complete opposite of that.

The reason the Rockies have struggled is because the role players like Dexter Fowler, Ian Stewart and Aaron Cook didn't turn out the way the club was hoping.

Since his call-up, Fowler has been phenomenal. He adopted a high leg kick when he is hitting from the left side, which is allowing him to let the ball get deeper on him, forcing him to keep his weight back. On Friday night, Fowler put together another great night at the plate. He went 3-for-5 with another triple, which was nearly an inside-the-park home run.

Stewart didn't get the start, but came in and delivered a base hit on a well-executed hit and run.

Cook finally looked like he belonged at a level above Rookie ball. Being as nice as possible, Cook has been a complete disaster. He hasn't looked anything close to the All-Star that could wiggle out of any jam in 2008.

On Friday, after giving up three runs in the second inning, Cook didn't fold. He gave up only one more run in six innings of work, and that run came when Seth Smith over-ran a ball hit to him for the second straight day, allowing a triple instead of what should have been a single.

The win on Friday night shows how good the Rockies could have been had Stewart or Fowler had a breakout year. If Cook would have even resembled the average fifth starter, the Rockies still might have a fighting chance at the NL West. Instead, those players are just now seeming to play the way that they are capable of.

The Rockies might be out of the race, but if they can play the final 62 games the way that they were advertised, it will be fun to watch.

Jorge De La Rosa's injury has taken it's toll on the Colorado Rockies

Injuries happen. Every team deals with them. They should never be an excuse.

That said, when Jorge De La Rosa went down with tear in his throwing elbow, the Colorado Rockies season pretty much went up in smoke.

Imagine a rotation that currently featured a progressing Ubaldo Jimenez, De La Rosa, Jhoulys Chacin, and then Jason Hammel and Juan Nicasio.

The guys at the back end of that rotation have certainly had their struggles, there is no doubt about that. However, for the most part, they have given their team a chance to win in most of their appearances. They haven't been perfect, but very few back end rotation guys do much better than .500, so they have been as good as can be expected.

However, with De La Rosa, there would have been a confidence in the rotation. Before injuring himself in late-May, the left-hander had already picked up five wins and posted an ERA of 3.51. Those numbers came while he was dealing with a blister in three of his 10 starts.

With the injured lefty still throwing every fifth day, the Rockies might possibly have a different confidence in the clubhouse. Instead of knowing that beyond Jimenez and Chacin that they are going to have to put up a bunch of runs to win, they could have the confidence that even in a tight game, they would have a chance to get the job done.

On top of that, these three and four game slides that the Rockies seem to continue going on would be eliminated, or at least curtailed. De La Rosa, it would seem, would be a much better option than Aaron Cook. The club would be able to go out and play competitively, knowing that their starter was going to give them a chance to win that day. With Cook, the body language from the Rockies almost seems as if they are going through the motions, hoping to pick up a win when Cook isn't on the hill.

The problem with that is turning on and off the switch is tough to do. It seems that the Rockies will play well for a day or two, then drop three or four because they can't find their groove offensively. Maybe that happens because they are able to let their guard down every fifth day. Maybe they lose their focus every fifth day because they know that they essentially have zero chance to win the game that day.

With De La Rosa, the Rockies could at least have the feeling that at some point they were going to have a chance to win the ballgame.

The old saying says that momentum in baseball is only as good as a team's next day pitcher. That makes sense when talking about the Rockies. If they do get on a roll after a couple of games, it seems to come to a screeching halt when Cook toes the rubber. Many times that lethargic play has bled into the next few games, snowballing and keeping the Rockies on the outside of the race.

Excuses are just that, excuses. However, with the Rockies depending on a 23-year old in Chacin to not hit speed bumps along the way and Jimenez to suddenly re-capture his 2010 form, it is easy to think about what might have been had De La Rosa been healthy.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

CarGo makes the Braves pay in walk-off Rockies win

Apparently Fredi Gonazalez hasn't heard about a guy who plays for the Colorado Rockies who shares his last name.

With Dexter Fowler on second base and Ty Wigginton coming to the plate with two outs, the Braves manager elected to walk Wigginton in order to face Carlos Gonzalez. The thought was the age-old baseball theory that a right-handed batter hits a left-handed pitcher better than a a same-side matchup.

That theory makes some sense when all things are equal. However, there are very few managers in baseball who would take a CarGo matchup over a Wigginton matchup, regardless of the man on the mound. The move simply didn't make sense.

The move made no sense, and if there was any doubt about it, Gonzalez removed it when he laced the first pitch into right field to plate Fowler, giving the Rockies their second walk-off win of the season.

It may be a day late and a buck short for these Rockies, but progress is still progress. Seeing them find a way to win is encouraging. Seeing them not quit is a good thing, regardless of whether they are 9-1/2 games out of the race or not.

The Rockies would have needed more than just one run to win the game in the 9th inning had Todd Helton not continued looking like the 27-year old version of himself. In the 1st inning, the first baseman continued his career assault on Tim Hudson. He connected for his 11th home run of the season, giving the Rockies an early 2-0 lead.

Helton and Gonzalez stole the thunder from a kid who is showing how good he can be. Against a very good Braves lineup, rookie Juan Nicasio put a poor start in Atlanta behind him. He pitched seven incredible innings, giving up just one run on five hits. He walked only one and struck out four.

In a season full of disappointments, Nicasio is giving the Rockies a glimpse into a positive future. Despite an offense that hasn't played well, a starting rotation that has failed, and a bullpen that has been largely unreliable, Nicasio gives the club hope. Consider a rotation that includes a corrected Ubaldo Jimenez, Jhoulys Chacin, and Nicasio anchoring down the first three spots. With that, the Rockies have an excellent opportunity to be excited about the future.

The Rockies go for the series victory and a winning homestand on Thursday afternoon at Coors Field. The Rockies face a tall order, trying to defeat Tommy Hansen. The home team sends Chacin to the mound, which should present a good pitching matchup.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Ubaldo Jimenez dominates Braves while rumors swirl

Baseball is a business.

Nothing will remind the average fan of that like news that no fewer than 17 teams had scouts in the stands watching Ubaldo Jimenez.

As rumors swirl about the ace, he insists he will go about his business in the exact same way that he always has. He proved that to be true on Tuesday night as he completely dominated the Atlanta Braves. Behind six runs of support in the first three innings, the subject of trade rumors pitched 6-2/3 innings, giving up two runs on seven hits. He struck out nine and walked just two. The final part of that line being the most important.

When Jimenez is ahead in the count, he is able to mix in all of his pitches. When he is behind in the count, he is forced to throw his fastball, which doesn't have the same life that it did in 2010. Throwing fastballs being down in the count is a recipe for disaster for any pitcher. Jimenez has done a great job in his last three starts of staying ahead in the count.

Make no mistake, despite what some national baseball experts are saying, the Rockies are not actively shopping Jimenez.

This is the same team that has been extremely hesitant to deal the likes of Eric Young, Jr. and Chris Nelson because they want to see what they can do at the Major League level. There is no way that with a team-friendly contract like Jimenez is locked into, the club is going to deal him because his velocity is down and he isn't having the best season.

The only reason that Jimenez will be dealt is if the Rockies know something about the right-handers health that no one else does. If there is something that would suggest to them that he will never regain his previous form, and on top of that, he will continue to regress and possibly suffer a major injury.

That said, if the Rockies do deal Jimenez, fans should be upset at the loss of their first-ever true ace, but they should know that the return that they get for the Dominican will be so good that the club could not refuse the offer. It will go a long way to help the depth issues that the team has been experiencing for the first time in the past few seasons.

At this point, it is easy to forget how good Jimenez can be. Frankly, he is a major reason why the Rockies won't be playing in October. In a season full of expectations, Jimenez was the first sign of trouble for the club, as he just didn't seem right in the opener.

However, if Jimenez doesn't have an injury that no one is making public, the Rockies should be very hesitant to deal him. Even with his velocity way down, he is still very effective at 95 MPH, with a great curveball.

In short, the Rockies might be tempted to deal Jimenez. If they do, it will be tough to see him go, but the Rockies are smart enough, and hesitant enough, to make sure that they get a deal that they can't refuse if they did choose to move him.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Colorado Rockies continue to make excuses, continue to lose

"The harder I work, the luckier I get."

Someone needs to tell this Samuel Goldwyn quote to the Colorado Rockies, who continue to hope for a long run, while playing poor fundamental baseball.

When is it going to get old?

Once again, in the post game interview with the media, Jim Tracy responded to a question about the changing expectations of the club by saying "this club has a history of doing special things in the second half."

Really, Jim? With less than 70 games to go in the season, and a club that has done nothing but fall exceedingly short of expectations, and the excuses continue?

It's fine when fans point to the great runs of 2007 and 2009. They were great runs. The Rockies were dead by anyone's standards. They had no chance. Then, when everyone had finally given up on them, they rose from the dead and went on a streak that took them into the postseason.

No one can take those runs away from the team. However, someone clearly needs to remind the team in the clubhouse, and the manager who leads them, that they cannot rely on a late season run to get them where they need to be. Sure, being optimistic is a very good thing for a manager. Optimism is good, until it simply isn't realistic.

At some point, optimism is the wrong message. At some point, pretending like there is plenty of time to climb back into the standings, when the leader of the division is the reigning National League Champions, is unrealistic. In fact, it is almost insulting.

The reality is, going on a run is only realistic only if the club starts to take the obvious steps towards playing better baseball. Hoping for a run when the defense is consistently making errors, the pitchers are missing their spots, and the hitters aren't hitting in big situations is stupid.

Do the Rockies have poor work ethics? Of course not. Very few people become Major League Baseball players without an extremely great work ethic. However, this team's focus is far from right. Part of a good work ethic is being able to focus on the little things that help a team win. This team does not do that.

The fact is, these Rockies are done. They aren't working on getting better everyday. They are hoping that they get a few breaks that go their way, instead of working hard for those breaks. Nothing is going to change, and their skipper isn't about to rock the boat, he is going to continue to make excuses.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Colorado Rockies continue to disappoint

It started off too well. The Colorado Rockies won the first two games after the All-Star break and gave their fans hope.

After playing two solid games against the Brewers, then going up 3-0 on Saturday against Zach Grienke, the Rockies had their fans thinking about a four-game sweep.

That is when reality set in. That is when the true colors of the 2011 Colorado Rockies showed. Any hope that the Rockies had to turn their season around ended when Saturday's home plate umpire blew an easy call at the plate. Emotions errupted. Both Jim Tracy and Chris Iannetta were thrown out of the ballgame. It could have been a launching point.

Moments like that are make or break for teams. Managers know that when they go out on the field, they are very rarely going to get a call reversed. They are going on the field to stand up for their players.

The reaction to that, however, is supposed to be a team that has a fire lit underneath them. It is supposed to inspire a team to no simply continue on as if the game is just another Saturday night game, but rather, potentially the game that is the turning point in the season.

When a team has the opposite reaction, it is the clearest sign of a team that has given up.

That is exactly what happened to the Rockies. Instead of fighting back. Instead of determining that they would not let a bad call defeat them, they folded. They gave into the victim mentality and started pointing fingers at umpires and acting as if they couldn't catch a break.

Instead of coming out looking for blood on Sunday, they played yet another flat game. The reality is, this team rarely shows up in day games. They have lost their last 13 Sunday games, all being played in the daylight.

While there may be some coincidental value to that statistic, it speaks volumes about the preparation of the team. Instead of finding a way to get ready for the early games, it seems like the Rockies don't sleep enough the night before. It seems like they can't turn the page from the previous night's game and simply go through the motions.

What that results in is blown opportunities. The Rockies had a gigantic opportunity to tell everyone in the league that they aren't dead just yet. They could have easily taken three games from the Brewers, and a sweep was certainly not out of the question. Yet, what do they do? They end up with a four game split and walk away in no better shape than they were before the All-Star break with four less games to play.

The time bomb is ticking for these Rockies. They have very little time left to make a move. They now see the Atlanta Braves come into town for four games. In order to have a fighting chance in the division, they must win the series, and even that might not be enough. A split of the four game set would essentially be checkmate for the most disappointing Colorado Rockies team in their history.

Colorado Rockies lose heart breaker, but reveal character

Chris Iannetta.

Just mention the name to Colorado Rockies fans and their are no weak opinions. People either love him or hate him. There is no in between.

On Saturday night, he gained a few more fans.

After home plate umpire Cory Blaser botched a terrible call at the plate, Iannetta did what his critics have been asking him to do for four years. He showed emotion. His normal deadpan demeanor rubs some the wrong way. Many fans have longed for the catcher to show some concern on the field.

His critics hoped for enough emotion that would show he had a fire lit underneath him. On Saturday night, he showed enough emotion to light a fire under his entire team.

Make no mistake, Saturday night's game was a heart breaker for the Rockies. There isn't a single member of the team who is going home happy. However, this game is a season changer for the Rockies. What happens after this game will determine where their season ends up, good or bad.

The 25 men who make up the Rockies roster experienced more emotion on a baseball field than they have in the entire 2011 baseball season. The passion that Chris Iannetta showed went far beyond anything the stoic catcher has ever shown behind the plate or in the public eye.

That emotion will have an effect on the club. It made the game more than just one of 162 games that is played throughout the season. It became far more important. Instead of just accepting defeat and hoping for another night to pull off a victory, the Rockies fought. They wanted to win this game. There was no doubting that.

On Sunday, it will be interesting to see how the Rockies respond. The loss, and the pain from losing a game with so much emotion, should inspire the team to play with an even heightened desire. They will either come out looking for blood, or they will fold up and accept that things simply haven't gone right for them in a tough season.

If Rockies fans want to see the club make a run, this might be what it takes for them to get going. If the Rockies want to have any chance at October, they can't afford to waste any more time. They must start playing well now.

Iannetta's ejection may be what does that for the Rockies. When the least emotional member of the team has an emotional outburst, the rest of the club has no choice but to respond as well.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Colorado Rockies shutout Milwaukee Brewers

Colorado Rockies fans should be used to it at this point.

The club has made a habit of rising up from the dead, right when the most loyal of their fans have given up.

It looks like they are going to do it again in 2011. Going into the All-Star break, the Rockies were .500 at home, something unfamiliar to even the early 2000's Rockies clubs who found ways to dominate at Coors Field despite mediocre talent.

With a lifeless first half in the books, the Rockies have come to life, albeit a two game streak. The team is playing with a sense of passion, something that they haven't seen since the 13th game of the season.

On Friday, the Rockies put aside their ho-hum attitude and found a way to win. This time in large part due to the pitching of Juan Nicasio. The 25-year old rookie completely baffled the Brewers. With his rotation spot in question less than two weeks ago, the right-hander looked like an ace. In seven innings of work, Nicasio gave up just four hits. He struck out four, and most importantly, walked no one. He may have had his first chance for a complete-game shutout, but was at 97 pitches after seven innings, and at his experience level, does not need to be pushed.

When Nicasio is throwing strikes, there is no doubt that he belongs in the big leagues. His stuff is good enough to get Major League batters out.

The performance should give the Rockies something to be excited about in the future. The prospect who hasn't pitched a day in Triple-A is quickly becoming a good Major League pitcher with the chance to be a dominant one. There will be some hiccups along the way, but the talent is there. That is apparent.

Todd Helton made things a little easier for the rookie, taking vintage Helton at-bats twice in the game, driving singles to the outfield to score Mark Ellis from second base twice. The runs gave the Rockies breathing room. Helton has done nothing but prove his critics wrong. In fact, he is making fans wonder if he might even have three solid years left.

The Rockies have a chance to win the four-game set on Saturday. With a win, the certainly will have fans wondering if they are going to come all the way back from their death bed to make things interesting in the National League West race.

Colorado Rockies start second half with a bang

If the Colorado Rockies want to play in meaningful games in September, they are going to have to play like they did on Thursday night far more frequently.

Going into the 2011 season, most expected far more games like this. Twenty hits from an offense that has depth and talent, and a pitching performance that featured a guy actually pitching, rather than just throwing.

Maybe a break is what this team needed. Maybe they needed to get their legs back underneath them after a grueling first half. Whatever it is, the Rockies seemed like the team that they promised to be way back in February. They seemed like a team capable of making the playoffs.

Playing in October is going to take a miracle from the Rockies, but this group of baseball players knows drama better than the halls of a junior high school. If there is a team who is going to put their fans through another agonizing stretch trying to make up ground that never should have been lost, it is the Rockies.

Coming back from such a huge deficit is more draining on the mind then on the body. To wit, the Rockies put 20 hits on the board, defeated a very good Milwaukee Brewers team, and look ready to battle in the second half, then look up and see that they didn't gain a single game in the standings after the Giants rallied for four runs in the 12th inning against the Padres. Eventually, not gaining ground takes a mental toll.

This next week will go a long way in determining whether this team is cooked or if they actually have a chance to make yet another run at the playoffs. Simply put, if they stumble at all in this eight game home stand, they may as well pack it in. They cannot afford to go 4-4, or even 5-3. They have to find a way to put together a statement home stand. That means that they must win each four game set at the least, going 6-2. A 7-1 home stand, while difficult, would most likely put the club right back into the thick of things.

The good news for the Rockies is the names of guys who recorded hits on Thursday. Ian Stewart had two doubles, Chris Iannetta recorded two hits, and Ryan Spilborghs had his best night of the season, going 4-for-6 out of the leadoff spot with a home run, a double and four runs batted in.

Those are three names that must contribute for the Rockies to be successful. Those are guys who the Rockies are leaning on to pull their weight. They simply cannot win if they are solely depending on Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez.

If the Rockies want to make noise in the playoff race, games like Thursday's have to be commonplace, not once in a while.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The hard facts about the Colorado Rockies and October

"We're a second half team."

"Ubaldo Jimenez is turning the corner, if he can return to form, we have a chance."

There are plenty more quotes that have emerged from the Colorado Rockies clubhouse. They all sound nice. They all are very optimistic. They all give fans hope that their team can once again emerge from yet another disappointing start and find themselves playing in October.

I am on record as saying that they are done. I would like to be more optimistic. I would like to believe the optimism in the clubhouse. I would like to infuse fans with hope that their team can indeed win the National League West.

However, believing that the Rockies are still in the race is ignoring the eyes and believing the heart. It simply isn't logical.

Let's take a look at what it is going to take for the Rockies to have a realistic shot at making the playoffs.

First off, the wild card is not coming out of NL West. It might come out of the East or the Central, but it's not coming out of the West. So to make the playoffs it is going to take winning the division.

The Rockies currently sit 8-1/2 games out of first place and 5-1/2 games out of second place. They must find a way to jump both the Diamondbacks and the Giants in order to bring Rocktober back to Coors Field.

Let's assume that it is going to take 90 wins to win the division. It might take a few more than that, but 90 wins usually secures a playoff spot. So, with 71 games to go for the Rockies and 43 wins in the books, the Rockies will have to find a way to notch 47 more wins. That means that they have to go 47-24 the rest of the way. That is nearly .667 baseball, a better winning percentage than any team in baseball at the break.

Is that possible? Sure. Baseball is a crazy sport. Crazy things happen all the time. However, it would be yet another comeback of epic proportions for this franchise. Lightening would have to strike the same spot three times. However, it is possible. The Rockies would have to come out of the gate playing far better than they have all season long, including their 11-2 start when they were getting away with many mistakes at the plate, but still finding a way to win.

So yes, it could happen. However, based on the way that the Rockies have played through the first 91 games, it just doesn't seem like it is their year. In 2007, the streak at the end of the season is what everyone remembers. However, the Rockies were on a roll since a seven-game winning streak at the end of May. After that, the Rockies started winning. They swept the Yankees and were playing with a purpose the rest of the season.

In 2009 the Rockies pulled off a miracle. However, the miracle came when Clint Hurdle was dismissed. Almost immediately the club went on a run. Their 11-game winning streak that propelled them into the playoffs started on June 2nd.

The point is that both teams were playing inspired baseball long before the All-Star break. The 2011 Rockies have yet to play baseball with a sense of urgency. They have played with a sense of panic, and they have played as if they had all the time in the world, but they never found the middle ground that generally produces wins.

It's not what Rockies fans want to hear. It's not the popular thing to say, but the reality is that it is going to take another miracle if the club wants to make the playoffs. Miracles happen, they just can't be depended on.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Colorado Rockies finish first half with a loss

The All-Star break is three days long, apparently one day too short for the Colorado Rockies offense.

With their ace on the mound, and a chance to go into the All-Star break with a sweep that would erase the bad taste of getting broomed in Atlanta, the Rockies failed to show up offensively. Apparently, Jhoulys Chacin didn't get that message. He pitched seven strong innings, giving up just one run on four hits. He walked only one National batter, and struck out four.

The performance by the club was a micro chasm of the first half of the season. The team had several chances to tie the game, or take the lead, but found themselves fishing for pitches well outside of the strike zone. For every good at-bat that Ty Wigginton has taken, it seems like he has taken two bad ones in the last three weeks.

The reality is that the biggest issue for the Rockies hasn't been their pitching, although that has been an issue lately. The biggest issue for the Rockies in the first half was their lack of hitting. A lineup that was easily the best in the division on paper has failed to show up.

Take one minute and consider where the Rockies would be had Todd Helton not completely exceeded anyone's expectations. Ask even his greatest fans and they would most likely tell you that they expected a rebound, but not to the level that he has performed.

Beyond Helton and the emergence of Seth Smith, the Rockies offense has been the biggest disappointment in the history of the franchise.

The Rockies go into the All-Star break 8-1/2 games out of first place in the National League West. Of course, considering the history of the Rockies, no one is going to write them off yet. However, making up that many games in two-and-a-half months, it is going to take an about-face from this team. They are suddenly not only going to have to figure out how to hit, but they are going to have to learn to take good at-bats, bunt, move runners over, and hit sacrifice flies instead of ground balls to the shortstop.

Is it possible? Sure. There is enough time for the Rockies to surprise the baseball world again. However, the reality is, they haven't even shown flashes of the team that they were supposed to be. That doesn't bode well for them to make a run. At this point, it makes more sense for the team to never reach their potential, and continue down the path of mediocrity.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Ubaldo Jimenez dazzles as Colorado Rockies win

One walk.

That is the key for Ubaldo Jimenez. There is a line full of good numbers for Jimenez, eight innings pitched, five hits, one earned run, eight strike outs. All of those numbers show a great performance by the right-hander. All of them are great, but the number that is key to all of them is the one walk.

When Jimenez is pitching in the strike zone, he can mix his pitches effectively. Lately, Jimenez has had no luck getting his off-speed pitches anywhere near the strike zone. That allows opposing hitters to sit on the fastball, then tee off.

When the breaking pitches are strikes, it allows Jimenez to use his fastball with more confidence. He isn't using the pitch to get ahead in the count, he is using it to get guys out. When his breaking pitches are in the strike zone, he becomes far less predictable to hitters.

Far too often in 2011, Jimenez has struggled with his command. He finds himself in deep counts and has to rely on a fastball that still lacks the velocity that it had a season ago.

However, even with reduced velocity, Jimenez can still be one of the best pitchers in the game when he is confident and throwing all of his pitches for strikes.

In typical Rockies fashion, the club is playing better baseball right when they were on the brink of no return. Right after their starting pitchers posted an ERA above 11.00 in a four game set in Atlanta, they have looked like a completely different team on the mound in Washington. Jason Hammel and Jimenez have been outstanding in back-to-back nights.

The concern still lies with the offense. Despite two wins in two nights, the offense has scored a combined five runs. Even with Carlos Gonzalez on the bench again, the lineup simply isn't performing like everyone thought that they would. The anticipation of the starting eight putting it all together has turned from a when to an if. The fact is, this team has far more talent at the plate than the San Francisco Giants, but they can't find ways to execute the way that teams with less talent than them do on a regular basis.

Huston Street may be the next Harry Houdini. Despite having runners on first and third with no one out, Street wiggled out of the jam, getting Laynce Nix to strike out, then getting the biggest free agent bust, Jayson Werth to ground into a double play to end the game.

With a win on Sunday, the Rockies will somehow finish off a road trip that started as a disaster and turn it into acceptable. They also have a chance to go into the break less than seven games out in the National League West. At the beginning of the week, when Troy Tulowitzki joined Carlos Gonzalez on the day-to-day list, it looked like the club might go into the break nine or ten games out. Instead, they could keep their fans believing just a little longer.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Colorado Rockies break losing streak with Hammel's fine performance

The Colorado Rockies have been a major failure by anyone's definition. They have disappointed in nearly every aspect of the game.

However, as they look forward to the All-Star break, the Rockies are in desperate need of a few wins to at least hold a whisper of a chance in the National League West race. They already may have played themselves out of the race, but they can ensure that with a series loss in Washington.

On Friday though, the Rockies showed some fight. Jason Hammel, one of several Rockies pitchers who simply hasn't looked like himself lately, pitched extremely well.

Sporting a new approach on the mound, raising his hands above his head on the turn out of the windup, the lanky right hander threw 6-1/3 innings, giving up five hits and two runs. He walked two and struck out three.

With both Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki out due to injury, it really wasn't a huge surprise to many people that the Rockies left Atlanta without a win. The Braves pitching staff is the most underrated in baseball, and as Freddie Freeman proved, they have a good lineup that might be good enough to sneak up on the Phillies.

With four games already dropped on the seven game road trip, the Rockies were in danger of hitting the break in a position that no one would have ever imagined after they started out 11-2.

If the Rockies can find a way to win all three against the Nationals, they could salvage an otherwise terrible road trip, finish the first half with some momentum, and at least give themselves a shot at going on a second half run and staying in the race. It would also put them just three games under .500 and in a position to get back to the even mark and go from there as the second half gets going.

That is very positive thinking at this point. The reality is, it is going to be very tough for the club to overtake the Giants in the National League West. San Francisco might not be that talented at the plate, but they have a starting rotation and a bullpen that will put them in a position to win games 1-0 and 2-1. When teams win games like that consistently, they are hard to overtake in the standings. It means that they find ways to win games that they don't play particularly well. They also have the ability to win against other team's aces.

If the Rockies want even a whisper of a hope, they must gain some momentum going into the break.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Face the facts, the Colorado Rockies should start selling

It's over.

All the hype. All the anticipation. All the predictions. All the talk. Everything that went into how good the Colorado Rockies were going to be, and, on July 7th, the verdict is in.

The Rockies stink.

It may sound negative. It may sound like pessimism, but let's be honest, this team is looking more and more like a team that is quitting than a team who is about to turn the corner. It doesn't get much worse than Thursday afternoon, when two of the Rockies heroes over the past week showed that they can't be relied upon either.

On three separate occasions on Thursday the Rockies had the bases loaded. They were a base hit away from doing serious damage. All three times, the Rockies had a guy who had been getting it done in the clutch at the plate. Twice it was Mark Ellis, the newest member of the team to come down with the disease that prevents him from hitting in the clutch, and Ty Wigginton, the third baseman who caught fire on the previous road trip.

Twice Ellis had the bases loaded. The first time he hit into an inning-ending double play, the next time, a tapper back to the mound. When it was Wigginton's turn, he flailed at a slider in the dirt, allowing the Braves to wiggle off the hook and secure a four-game sweep of the reeling Rockies.

Face the facts, it's time to sell on this bunch of Rockies. Whether it is clubhouse chemistry, coaching, pitching or hitting, the Rockies have issues that are as deep as the Grand Canyon, and with the loss and the Giants win on Thursday, the team is now 8-1/2 games out of first place. Even one more game out before the All-Star break and they are, for all intents and purposes, done.

The Rockies need to sell. It is clear that the farm system is void of the talent that seemingly was continuously flooding the Major Leagues over the past five years. The biggest indicator of that is Aaron Cook continuing to climb to the mound and get embarrassed every fifth day. The reality is, there is no one in the Minor League system that is anywhere close to ready to step into the big league rotation. Christian Friedrich might be the closest, but he is repeating Double-A for a reason.

Rockies fans, and frankly, their ownership, continuously point to both 2007 and 2009 as a reason that that the Rockies are still in the race, and shouldn't sell their talent off. As great as those runs were, and as many fun memories as both of them brought, they have lingered as only a curse for the future of the franchise.

Because the team pulled off two of the most improbable runs to make it to the playoffs, the club and their fans now believe that they can do it every year. They think that it doesn't matter how bad of a first half they have, they just need to win 11 or 12 in a row and get right back in the race.

There is a reason that both of those runs were dubbed miraculous. They were so special because they don't happen often--or in the Rockies case--ever. Both of the Rockies recent runs to the playoffs were completely unprecedented. No team had ever done what the Rockies did. Not once.

History should be a lesson. History should tell the team that if they don't make up a game or two over the weekend, that their season is over.

Now is the perfect time to get value out of underperforming players, or players with large contracts that could be dealt to teams who will help re-stock the Rockies minor league system.

Here is a list of perspective trade candidates:

Chris Iannetta:

I get it. He's having a good year. He's made strides. He has been better defensively. But be honest, he isn't the catcher that everyone envisioned four years ago. He is never going to be. He has a modest contract with a year-and-a-half left on it. Plenty of teams are looking for a good catcher, and those teams in the race will pay dearly for it. If a good fit is out there, pull the trigger and see if Wilin Rosario, the Rockies next big catching prospect is ready.

Huston Street:

Street is having a great year. Sure, Rockies fans are generally missing half of their fingernails before he locks down the save, but the point is, he usually locks down the save. It might not be pretty, but he gets the job done. There isn't a single team in baseball that wouldn't like to have a guy like Street in their bullpen for the stretch run. With another year on his deal, worth $7.5 million in 2012, it is financially wise to get rid of him, plus he could net some very good prospects from teams looking to win now.

Rafael Betancourt:

Betancourt has struggled in 2011. He is giving up home runs far too often and lately seems to be giving up a run or two every time he goes out. However, his track record suggests that he is one of the best eighth inning guys in the game. With his career numbers, he won't struggle for a long time, and most teams know that. He would be a great guy to bolster a bullpen for a contender, plus he is scheduled to make $4 million in 2012.

Seth Smith:

This might come as a surprise, with Smith being the most consistent offensive performer for the Rockies in 2011. However, he heads to arbitration for the first time in 2012 and stands to get a huge raise. Couple that with the fact that he has played far better defense in 2011 and is a left handed bat with pop and the Rockies could trade Smith to a contender for a significant return.

Ty Wigginton:

The third baseman has been an overall bright spot for the Rockies. Imagine where they would be without him considering Ian Stewart's struggles. However, he is not a long-term solution, and he could be seen as a role player for a contender. Saving the $4 million he is due next year wouldn't hurt either.

Those are the guys with real trade value at this point. Those are the guys who could bring back enough to not only save money to get a few quality players in free agency during the offseason, but they could also help to rebuild a dying farm system full of players who don't look to make a big splash at the big league level.

It might be surprising to say that the Rockies are done on July 7th after all of their expectations, but the reality is, if they don't have a great series in Washington before the All-Star break, they may as well pack it in.