Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Colorado Rockies kick their fans while they are down

Was losing 89 games not enough? Was the most trying season in the history of the Colorado Rockies not enough to endure?

Just when the Rockies fan base thought they were done with the suffering and could look forward to an offseason of change, an offseason that would once again lift their spirits, giving fans time to lick their wounds and not be sick to their stomachs every time they thought about the Rockies, the organization went out and dealt them one last kick in the teeth.

Last week Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd made it clear that he wasn't going to make the decisions about who stayed and who went when it came to Jim Tracy's coaching staff. For the first time in O'Dowd's tenure, it would be the manager who had complete say over who stuck around.

O'Dowd might be second guessing himself on that move right now.

Tracy made an announcement before the Rockies final game on Wednesday that all of the coaches from his staff would be retained. He made comments about how it wouldn't be right to pin the lack of success on to one coach. He said that they needed consistency within the coaching staff, not a constant rotation.

What the move proved to Rockies fans is that first, Jim Tracy doesn't get it. He truly doesn't understand what went wrong in 2011. He doesn't see that the message wasn't getting through to these players. He actually believes that this club was a few injuries away from being in the playoffs.

Second, Tracy actually believes that the fans are going to buy into that. He thinks that the fans don't pay enough attention to baseball to understand that the issue had nothing to do with injuries, but rather that this team played with absolutely zero heart.

Third, both it shows that Tracy, O'Dowd, and by default the Monforts, take for granted the fact that Colorado Rockies fans come out to Coors Field in droves, regardless of the product on the field.

Maybe they are right. Maybe the fans will be at Coors Field in 2012 regardless of what changes on the team. Maybe it doesn't matter if the club finished dead last in the National League in ERA again. Maybe it doesn't matter if all but one guy on the roster takes horrible at-bats, swinging at 3-0 pitches with the bases loaded, constantly letting the opposing pitchers off the hook. Maybe fans will still come.

However, this might be the one time that they are dead wrong.

Part of the reason the Rockies attendance was so high was because of the excitement heading into 2011. Many fans flocked to the ticket windows long before the snow melted, long before the players reported to the new spring training facility. The Rockies don't make the number public, but it would be a sure bet to say that the number of season ticket holders and mini-plan holders went up by 15 percent over the winter.

That number greatly influences the overall ticket sales number. Those fans are the ones who aren't coming back. The fans who shelled out hard-earned dollars to see a team that they thought would bring excitement, and had a good chance at winning their first-ever division crown, sure they would go see that.

Instead, they got a team that didn't win more than they lost at home, a place that even the poor Rockies teams dominated. They got a team that didn't get soundly beat by the opponent each night, they soundly defeated themselves by playing selfish baseball and forgetting how to play the game using fundamentals.

As the Red Sox walked away from a season that saw them blow a nine game lead in the American League Wild Card race, there are rumors swirling that Terry Francona will not be back as the manager next season. This is the same manager who led this team to a comeback over the Yankees in 2004 when the club was down 3-0 in the AL Championship Series. This is the guy who brought a championship back to Boston for the first time since 1918. He broke the Curse of the Bambino. He didn't stop there either, he brought them another championship in 2007. All of this, and he still is on the hot seat after blowing this lead.

If Francona is on his way out in Boston, how on earth can Jim Tracy still be employed in Denver? And if Tracy is going to be employed, how on earth can there not be even a single change in the coaching staff? How does that make any sense?

There is only one conclusion. The conclusion is that the Rockies ownership isn't determined to be winners.

Now, that is not to say that they don't want to win. Many fans have utter disdain for the Monforts, saying that they don't want to win. That is incorrect. This ownership group wants to win. They love to win. Their goal is to win. Make no mistake about it, every season, they desperately want to win. However, they are not intent on winning. Winning doesn't consume them. They don't live and die with each game. They aren't a pain to be around all offseason when the Rockies don't go to the playoffs.

These owners want to win, but they don't expect to win.

The problem for this club is that the attitude of the owners trickles its way all the way through the organization and into the clubhouse. It has been shown all season long. They want to win, but they aren't intent on winning. That type of attitude always takes a team to one place, and it doesn't involve first place.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Two more to go; Colorado Rockies on verge of losing 90

The Colorado Rockies record has ended up with a bad case of dyslexia.

At the beginning of the season, very few experts would have predicted that the Rockies would be closing in on 90 losses. Most would have thought that it would be the other way around, that the Rockies would be gunning for win number 90 at this point in the season.

However, there is no going back and correcting things now, they are what they are. The Rockies have been horribly disappointing.

The disappointment stems less from other teams being better than them, but rather that they had the talent to win a bad division but tripped over their own feet every chance they got.

When they had a poor May, going 8-21, the Rockies were still right in the thick of things. When they were seemingly dead in the water at the All-Star break, they could have simply gone .500 over the next three weeks and been within a good weekend from being in first place. They were even in at around the middle of August. A good run would have put them right back in the hunt.

The problem is, they blew it every chance they had.

No point in beating a dead horse, however. Everyone who watched the 2011 season of horrors for the Rockies knew that was the case. Everyone saw it. There is no sense in continuing to pound that fact into people's heads.

Despite the horrid season, there actually have been a few positives. First is Jhoulys Chacin. Take his second half for what it is worth. He still has mixed in flashes of brilliance. He still can be dominant. He has taken the next step forward and possesses the talent to be the ace of this club in 2012.

He has struggled with command of late. He tries to be too fine, throwing everything over the black part of the plate in an attempt to strike batters out. That aspect of his game is frustrating. However, keep in mind the Chacin is just 24-years old. This is his first season in the big leagues without a trip to the minors. He is still very immature. He will learn to pitch instead of throw, and when that happens, he could be among the best pitchers in the National League.

Beyond Chacin has been the second half of Dexter Fowler. Again, Fowler is a guy who still has work to do, but the strides that he has made since returning from Triple-A resemble his long strides in the outfield, rather than say, Ty Wigginton's strides while legging out a triple. Suddenly, Fowler can hit at this level, and will continue to grow up.

Also, who can't be excited about Jordan Pacheco and Wilin Rosario? Sure, Rosario needs to be better behind the plate, but don't discount the mental stress of trying to come to the big league level and figure out how to call a game at that level, all while trying to keep everything in front of him. Catching a big league game is tough for seasoned veterans, let alone a guy who never saw a pitch at the Triple-A level.

Pacheco has shown that he deserves a shot to be the everyday third baseman, not just a utility guy like Jim Tracy is demanding that he is. His poise and confidence at the plate is extremely unusual for a September call-up, especially someone who isn't supposed to be a star.

There is no doubt that it has been a tough year, but there have been some positives. Those are a few. Start there and try to build up. There is no sense in over-examining the wreckage of 2011.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Colorado Rockies outscore Broncos, on a Sunday, no less

Baseball is a funny game. Two days after getting blown out 13-1 by the Houston Astros, the worst team in baseball, the Rockies returned the favor.

On Sunday, a day that has produced recurring nightmares for the Rockies all season long, the club broke a club record. They recorded 25 hits, in route to scoring 19 runs to earn a series split with the lowly Astros.

The funny thing about baseball is that for all of the firepower the Rockies have stocked in their lineups throughout the years, from Dante Bichette and Larry Walker, to Todd Helton, Matt Holliday and Troy Tulowitzki, the lineup that produced 19 runs, 25 hits including four home runs, had nothing to do with those powerful lineups.

The lineup that produced a club record for hits in a game was full of minor leaguers and fill-ins. Tommy Field, who nearly missed his big league call-up because he was out of cell phone rang, recorded his first four-hit game. Field had never been above Double-A until three weeks ago. In addition, Jordan Pacheco, who made his Major League debut on September 6th, logged his first career four-hit game as well.

Of the four home runs hit by the Rockies, one came off the bat of Kevin Millwood, a pitcher who had never blasted a home run until this month, where he has hit two. Kevin Kouzmanoff, stuck on the A's Triple-A roster for the majority of the season, hit two home runs for the Rockies, his first two homer game since 2008.

Baseball is a weird game. The Colorado Rockies know that very well after the 2011 season.

After another impressive performance, one thing has become clear for the Rockies. They must offer Kevin Millwood a guaranteed Major League contract. Based on the work that he has done with the Rockies, Millwood is certain to get several teams calling him about joining them in spring training. If the Rockies think that they can get him on a minor league deal, they are going to miss out on him.

Even if the Rockies have to overpay to keep Millwood, it is a move that they should make happen.

The Rockies are in a position where they are going to need a veteran pitcher in the clubhouse. Their rotation, as it stands right now, looks to be extremely young. Two of the guys the Rockies are depending on to make an immediate impact, Drew Pomeranz and Alex White, are both under 24 years old. Those guys will need a veteran with big league success on his resume as a guy to look up to.

After Pomeranz's debut in which he went more than five innings and gave up no runs, he immediately credited Millwood with helping him to that success by watching video the night before. That type of leadership is extremely important for the young pitchers as the find their way at the big league level.

The Rockies have made it clear that they are in the market for a guy who can eat innings and be effective in the back end of the rotation. They may not have to look too far, they already seem to have one in their clubhouse, it is just a matter of locking him in.

Jason Hammel shows he belongs with the Colorado Rockies

There is no doubt about it, Jason Hammel has had a rough season.

After a stellar June, he seemed to forget how to pitch. He was spinning off of his front foot and was missing his spots on a routine basis. He couldn't figure it out. His season spiraled downhill in the same fashion as his team's.

The results on the mound resulted in a demotion to the bullpen for Hammel. The Rockies couldn't afford for him to continue to struggle every fifth day, so they sent him down to the 'pen, presumably putting him on the offseason trading block and ending his days in a Rockies uniform.

The only problem with that was, Hammel, who has the stuff to be a middle of the rotation starter, not just a back end type of guy. The Rockies, in desperate need of good pitching, would kick themselves if they dealt Hammel in the offseason, only to see him succeed somewhere else.

On Saturday night, while the Rockies finally broke their nine-game losing streak, Hammel was the reason why they ended the streak. He went seven strong innings, giving up just two runs on three hits. Both runs came in the first inning, and once the right-hander settled in, he was as dominant as the club has seen him been in the past.

The reality is, the Rockies need Hammel. They need him to have confidence, and they need him to be successful. The Rockies need pitching in the worst way. They can try to go out and trade for a good middle of the rotation guy, or they can simply work with a guy they already have signed and get him to be productive. It won't be easy, but that is a better decision than trying to deal him for someone who will have issues of their own.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Losing streak hits nine games for the Colorado Rockies

If there was a glimmer of hope for the Colorado Rockies it was that Drew Pomeranz was on the mound.

Pomeranz has had two very good starts in his brief Major League career, which makes it a little more pathetic that he represented the Rockies greatest hope.

Well, the Rockies found out what depending on someone with 10-1/3 innings of Major League action will get you.

The prized lefty went all of two innings. He gave up six runs on seven hits. Before he had recorded an out, the Astros had four runs in and two more men aboard.

Don't blame Pomeranz, he is who he is. It can't be expected that he is going to be nearly perfect every time out, especially this early in his career. No matter how much promise a young prospect shows--and Pomeranz shows plenty of promise--there is going to be a learning curve. There is going to be a league adjustment to him.

The issues for the Rockies run deep. It doesn't simply stop with the fact that their best hope comes in the form of a 23-year old late season call-up who has a grand total of five starts above the Single-A level under his belt. The issues go well beyond that, in fact.

There is nothing physical wrong with this team. They have all the talent they need. They should be able to compete with any team in the league. Some people point to injuries, and the Rockies have undoubtedly had their fair share of injuries. The problem with blaming injuries for a team's lack of success is that it should never be an excuse.

Using injuries as an excuse points to a lack of preparedness from the front office and from the development department. If a team can have a couple of guys go down and it is completely crippling, than they really aren't that good of a team in the first place. One of the defining characteristics of a good team is that when one guy gets dinged up, the next guy steps right into that role and the team doesn't miss a beat.

When Jorge De La Rosa went down, it definitely caused issues for the Rockies. However, the fact that the team was caught with their pants down, with no other options to at least plug the hole, showed that they hadn't done a good enough job of building up their prized farm system that has received so much credit in the past.

As the Diamondbacks clinch the National League West crown, the Rockies should have a sick feeling in their stomachs. They had a division that was theirs to lose. Not only did they lose it, they failed to ever show up. They had an easy route to the playoffs and they couldn't make it happen. The issue has been so harped on all season long that it is old to continue to think about. The Rockies are pathetic. There is no other way to describe it.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Colorado Rockies losing streak extends to eight straight

The torture continues.

Watching the Colorado Rockies should be part of some sort of plea bargain. Instead of serving two years in prison for committing a felony, convicts should be able to trade that in for two years of probation and one full season of watching the Colorado Rockies play. That seems fair.

The team looked better on Thursday night in Houston. They strung together a few hits and they had a little pop in the bats. Wilin Rosario continues to show that he is ready to get a chance at the big league level. However, he has also shown that there is going to be a learning curve behind the plate.

Rosario's arm is phenomenal. He will be fine throwing runners out. However, he has missed a few pitches and let some balls get passed him that he probably should have stopped. There is no reason to worry, that will come with experience.

Is there anything left to say about this club? They just finished getting swept in a seven-game home stand for the first time in club history. The topped that off by giving up nine runs to the worst team in baseball. The only positive that can be taken from this finally slump of a terrible season is that it will almost certainly improve the draft position for the Rockies in 2012.

Beyond getting a better draft position for next June, something no team wants to strive for, there isn't much left to comment on these Rockies. They have been the exact same team all season. Even when they were 11-2 they were struggling with runners in scoring position, they weren't taking great at-bats, they were getting thrown out at the plate on mis-timed contact plays.

The hope for the remainder of the season is that the young kids that are getting plenty of playing time find a way to continue to improve. It's tough to watch these guys struggle. The reality is, this season has been a train wreck. It started out with so much excitement and so much promise, and has faded away into a terrible disaster that only got worse when there were chances to get better.

Things will change in the offseason. However, one of the things will not be the manager. It won't be the general manager, and most likely, it won't be anyone on the coaching staff. The Rockies must do something big in the offseason or they are going to have a very hard time convincing their fans to be excited about this team again in 2012.

The reality is, most Rockies fans probably need a nice long offseason. They need to forget about baseball for a while and let a cold winter make them long for baseball again. After a terrible season, the icing on the cake is the way this club is playing down the stretch. It is only fitting that they can't beat anybody, whether at home or on the road. It represents the season perfectly.

Only six more games to go. It can't come soon enough.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Jim Tracy is either stupid, or he thinks Colorado Rockies fans are

Jim Tracy came into the Colorado Rockies job with nothing to lose. He was taking over a team that was 12 games under .500 and 15 games out of the National League West race. He couldn't fail.

That season went better than anyone ever could have expected. The Rockies were within a good weekend of their first-ever National League West title.

It has been downhill ever since.

The Rockies have played horrible baseball over the past two seasons. They have been awful. They made a little run in 2010, but for the most part, the under performed all season long. Coming into 2011, the focus was on the Rockies. They were predicted by nearly every expert to win the West going away.

They sure did prove those experts wrong.

The issues run deep for these Rockies. The don't take good at-bats. They don't play clean baseball in the field. Their starting pitchers can't get it together. Their prospects haven't developed quickly/ Their farm system was completely overrated. Their lineup changes on a daily basis.

Needless to say, the Rockies issues run deep. They can't find a way to get it together.

However, this club's biggest issues go beyond every reason listed. This team's biggest issue has become so pronounced in the last week that no one can ignore it.

No one, except for Jim Tracy.

For the past week, Tracy hasn't missed an opportunity to mention how many injuries the Rockies have dealt with. Every time anyone mentions how disappointing the season has been, Tracy harks back to the injuries. He mentions that the season would have been different had Jorge De La Rosa remained healthy. He talks about how good the team would have been with a steady 25 men in the clubhouse.

There are only two possible explanations for Tracy's comments. He is either stupid, or he thinks everyone who follows the Rockies on a daily basis is.

Anyone who watches the Rockies knows that there are hundreds of reasons why this team has failed. They can rattle off all of the issues from top to bottom. There are obvious things on the field that the Rockies need to correct in order to be a viable option as a contender. However, there is one glaring issue that is the root of all of the rest of the problems.

That issue? This team has absolutely no heart. This team is soft. They don't care about winning, they only care about their personal numbers. Winning isn't important to them. It starts at the top and trickles all the way down. This club has no clue where to even start to have a winning mindset in the clubhouse.

Calling professional players out for a lack of heart is usually met with a great amount of resistance. However, if there has ever been a talented team that has earned that title, it is the 2011 Colorado Rockies. There are very few people who would argue against it.

That brings us back to Tracy. Does this man still expect the fan base to buy that this would be a different team without the injuries? Does he think that it isn't as obvious as it looks to realize just how poorly this team actually plays on the field? Does he think that the fans can't see that the Rockies give up as soon as the going gets tough?

Or is it the other way around? Does Tracy actually believe that himself? Does he think that if only the Rockies hadn't have been plagued by injuries all season long that they would have actually been contenders? Does he ignore that the Rockies reserves could be starters for the Diamondbacks, who are going to walk away with the West? Does he really believe it?

There are only two answers to that question.

Either Tracy thinks that the fans are stupid, and don't understand that the issue isn't injuries, that the issue is heart. Or, option two, which is far worse, is that Tracy is not very smart himself and actually believes it himself.

Could option two really be true? Could Tracy actually watch 162 games and not see that his team plays with no heart? Does he see it, but just not want to believe it?

Either way, the fact that Tracy would even suggest that the issue is injuries shows just how disconnected he truly is. It is time for him to get with it, or get out. His management certainly hasn't helped the issues in 2011, and if he really thinks that simply staying healthy will propel the Rockies into the playoffs in 2012, than the issues go beyond the heart of the club, it starts with the mind of the manager.

Colorado Rockies fans should give Aaron Cook a standing ovation

It has been an extremely disappointing season, there is no doubt about that.

The Colorado Rockies look more like the 2004 version of the Rockies than a team that was supposed to contend for the National League West crown, and push for the World Series. The disappointment from the fans is evident. There is plenty of frustration to go around, from the front office, to the manager, to the coaches and to the players, there isn't a part of this team that isn't taking blame for the failures.

Aaron Cook is no exception to that. He simply hasn't been the same pitcher that seemed to win every time he was on the mound back in 2008. He was the stopper then. In another disappointing year, every fifth day it felt like Cook took the mound and stopped a losing streak.

That season earned him an All-Star appearance. It looked like it would be one of many, but unfortunately for the right-hander, he hasn't made it back since.

With the Rockies playing their final home game of the 2011 season on Wednesday afternoon, fans need to know that Cook will take the mound for the Rockies. It will be his 206 start in a Rockies uniform, and it will also be his last.

Cook hasn't been himself over the past couple of seasons. He has lost some velocity on his fastball, causing his sinker to have less bite. As his bread and butter pitch, Cook has been forced to mix in a slider and curveball more often, essentially changing who he is as a pitcher. He has still had some success, but the results haven't been what they were when his sinker was really working.

The Rockies have a $12 million option on Cook for the 2012 season, which will certainly not be exercised. That will make the redhead a free agent for the first time in his career.

After extremely tough seasons in both 2010 and 2011, seasons in which Cook battled injuries, many fans might not see Wednesday afternoon as anything significant, let alone sentimental. However, that couldn't be further from the truth.

What is easy to forget in the midst of disappointment is that Cook making his last start in a Rockies uniform marks the end of an era. It was Cook, coupled with Jason Jennings, who gave the Rockies their first glimmer of hope in the middle of a trying and difficult rebuilding. The second round pick was dominant. His sinkerball became the benchmark for what the Rockies were looking for in the draft and in free agency in order to be able to pitch effectively at Coors Field.

Cook being able to rise through the Minor Leagues and have success at Coors Field with his sinker gave the Rockies, and their dwindling fan base hope that the club was making the right decision by building from within.

Right when things starting going well for Cook, the Rockies almost lost him. Pitching against his hometown Reds on August 7th, Cook felt a shortness of breath. He tried to pitch through it, but in the third inning it got too difficult for him to continue on. Thanks in large part to Rockies trainer Keith Dugger, who miraculously was keen enough to decipher that the 24-year old was experiencing blood clots in his lungs, the Rockies were able to get him to the hospital before the issue took his life.

No one would have faulted Cook for quitting. He nearly lost his life. At that point, his career was an afterthought. The recovery process was extremely long. In order to get to the clot, the doctors had to take out two ribs.

Many thought he would never pitch again. Cook, however, proved his doubters wrong. Not only did he return late in the 2005 season, but he dominated in his return. He went 7-2 in 13 starts after returning to the mound on July 30th, nearly one full year short of his near-death. His 7-2 included a 3.67 ERA, impressive by any standards, but even more so when it is considered that the humidor was still two years away from being a reality at Coors Field.

Cook went on to win 72 games in a Rockies uniform. That is the most by any Rockies pitcher in the history of the franchise. Todd Helton is the only Rockie who has been with the team longer, and those two are significantly ahead of the rest of the pack.

The point is, Aaron Cook has left his footprint in the Rockies clubhouse and in the history books. He has been a huge part of this franchise. His success helped bring fans back to the Rockies when it was so difficult to root the team on. Cook may be a different pitcher today than he was three years ago, but there is no way to say goodbye without recognizing the enormous impact that he has had on the franchise.

Rockies fans have one last opportunity to acknowledge what Cook has done for their team before he moves on, probably for good.

Rockies fans should give Aaron Cook a long standing ovation, one that requires a curtain call, as he walks off the mound for the final time on Wednesday afternoon. That is what he deserves, and anything less would be a shame.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Colorado Rockies continue to embarrass themselves

This season can't get done soon enough.

The Colorado Rockies don't care. That much is evident. Caring is one thing, self-respect is another. These Rockies don't even care if they are thoroughly embarrassed.

The first thing many people argue is that it is not fair to assume that professional athletes, who dedicate their lives to a sport that they love, don't care. At this point, it's safe.

If they cared, things would be different on the field. If they cared, being down about the losses when they talk with the media after the games would start to turn into getting mad about the losses. Down doesn't change performance, that much is certain. Anger does. Unfortunately, this bunch could care less about doing anything about it.

Sure, the argument can be made that this team is plagued with injuries. It is easy to suggest that without Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez and Todd Helton on the field for the past five games, the Rockies don't stand much of a chance. The only problem with that argument is that the lack of interest in the games didn't start last Thursday. The lack of interest began in May, long before the Rockies were out of the playoff race.

If the Rockies had been playing the game hard all season long and were having the same struggles that they currently are, it would make sense to blame the injuries. The injuries aren't the issue. The issue is this team is dreaming of where they are going on vacation next month.

To a certain extent, it is understandable. The frustration has to be at an all-time high in the clubhouse. This team has to be exhausted from trying to find a way to get wins and being unsuccessful. The only problem with their effort was that it was in the wrong direction. They put pressure on themselves early instead of relaxing, and they relaxed when they should have put pressure on themselves.

On Monday night, facing yet another embarrassment, the Rockies nearly outdid themselves. Subtract one swing of the bat from Mark Ellis and the Rockies would have become the first no-hit victims of the San Diego Padres. The only question is, would anyone in the clubhouse have cared? The sense of urgency seems long-since gone. It is sad. It is a slap in the face to the fans.

It is going to take a huge move in the offseason to gain many of the fans back. After a horribly disappointing season that could, in all reality, end up in a last place finish, the Rockies are going to have to do something drastic. All of the fans that believed in them going into spring training are bitter. All of the people who paid hard-earned money in a very tight economy to buy tickets and go to games are going to bail. Getting fans back is not going to be easy.

The reality is, this 2011 season is by far the worst season in the history of this club, and the reality is, this team is closer to three years of rebuilding than contending. The road to redemption is not going to be an easy one, and there will be many fan casualties along the way.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Does anyone care anymore? Colorado Rockies lose again

The Colorado Rockies completed their four game sweep of the San Francisco Giants. And of course, by that I mean that they completed getting swept by the Giants.

Yes, the Rockies were swept by the Giants in four games, but it may have been the Tulsa Drillers being swept. Hector Gomez made his Major League debut, Wilin Rosario started three games, Thomas Field got three starts. Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki and Todd Helton all stayed on the bench, recovering from their respective injuries.

With the Rockies long out of the hunt, with clearly zero interest in playing the role of spoiler, does it matter anymore? Does anyone care? Do the players just want the season to be over so that they can go home and spend time with their families?

The fact is, this team has looked like they just wanted to go home for the last five months. Their lackluster play continues to frustrate the everyday fan.

The Rockies, mainly Jim Tracy, continue to insist that this team was plagued by injury issues all season long. That is a correct statement. The Rockies have indeed by plagued by injury. However, if Tracy thinks that is the reason why this team has under performed, he has missed the point.

This team didn't fail because of injuries. They failed because they are soft. When things go bad, they don't battle back to make them go better. They accept that things are bad and seem to pout. They have no fight in them. How many times has this team been down by several runs and actually made an effort to get back into the game? How many times have they had two outs and instead of doing what they can do to string a couple of hits together, they simply fold?

The problem for the Rockies goes far beyond the point of injuries. The problem with the Rockies is that they don't play the game the right way. Name a batter who fouls off pitches with two strikes besides Todd Helton. Helton is the only regular player who takes good at bats on a consistent basis.

As good of a season as Troy Tulowitzki's numbers suggest that he is having, he still takes horrible at bats. He still waves at sliders out of the zone, and he rarely puts the pressure on the pitcher to throw good pitches. Beyond that, his leadership in the clubhouse seems to be more of a strain on his teammates than a calming.

After Ubaldo Jimenez was traded, Tulowitzki's postgame comments were nothing short of rude. Not once did he talk about missing a great player and a great friend. His comments, in fact, were demeaning of Jimenez and made it seem like he was thrilled to see him leave. We aren't talking about a Manny Ramirez type of guy, we are talking about the ever-smiling, always positive Ubaldo Jimenez. We are talking about a guy who was half a season removed from 19 wins, and Tulowitzki made him seem like he was a cancer because of the way he played.

After Jason Hammel gave up six runs in three innings against the Dodgers in August, Tulowitzki ranted to the media after the loss that it is extremely difficult to win a game when the starting pitcher doesn't give you a chance to be in the game.

The irony of that statement is deafening. Tulowitzki quickly forgot that he hit .211 in May, the same May that saw the Rockies go from first place to third place after going 8-24 in that month. No one heard Hammel say anything about Tulo's lack of results in May when Hammel twice took the mound and threw seven shutout innings without picking up a win.

The problems with this team go far beyond injuries. The issues with this team begin in the clubhouse, and those issues need to be addressed immediately, or the Rockies are going to suffer the same fate in 2012 as they have been facing day-in and day-out in 2011.

Colorado Rockies already getting results from Pomeranz

Losing Ubaldo Jimenez can't be a good thing.

How many people would have predicted that the Colorado Rockies would have traded their first-ever ace by the end of July back in March? The answer to that question is easy. Zero.

The departure of Jimenez marked the severity of how disappointing season the Rockies are in the midst of. Some predicted that the club wouldn't live up to the expectations that were predicted of them, but no one knew just how bad it would end up being.

Losing Jimenez was certainly a blow to the Rockies. No doubt, the move left a bitter taste in the mouths of so many fans who had put their hope in a team that seemed to have so much promise.

As hard as it was to see Jimenez go, the only thing worse would be to find out that the players that the Rockies got in return for the righty never panned out.

Drew Pomeranz is quickly relieving those fears. In his two starts, the highly-touted lefty has thrown 10-2/3 innings, giving up two runs on six hits. He has struck out seven and walked four.

The work by Pomeranz has been impressive to say the least. However, the work becomes even more impressive when the fact that he is barely a year removed from signing his first professional contract. Then, consider that since the trade, the lefty was relegated to three weeks of bullpen sessions before he could officially be traded. After that, he made one start and went in for surgery for a ruptured appendix.

With the Rockies content to shut him down for the remainder of the season, Pomeranz once again impressed teh club by quickly recovering and making another scoreless appearance in Tulsa. The work has been so impressive that the Rockies gave him a cameo at the big league level.

The results are already there for Pomeranz. While the other main piece of the Jimenez trade, Alex White, struggles to gain his footing at the big league level, Pomeranz shows absolutely no sign of needing time to grow up on the job. His stuff is great. He is already fooling big league hitters, and he is showing that he might not be a guy who needs to start off as a number five starter, but rather, a pitcher who can be relied upon as a number three or four. he might just be someone who can make an immediate impact.

That remains to be seen, and there certainly will be a hill to climb for the lefty in 2012, but the Rockies and their fans must be extremely excited about the early results.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Should the Colorado Rockies be worried about Alex White?

The Colorado Rockies made a bold, if not crazy move, trading Ubaldo Jimenez to the Cleveland Indians on July 30th.

The move sent the first true ace that the Rockies had ever raised through their farm system less than a year after he won 19 games for them. If nothing else, the move had many loyal Rockies fans wondering if their team was headed in the wrong direction.

Trading Jimenez seemed crazy. However, with his struggles early in the season, many felt that if the Rockies could get a steal of a deal, it might be worth it. However, a move would require an impact big league ready player.

The trade the ensured sent shock waves through Rockies nation. Jimenez was dealt to the Indians for their 2009 and 2010 first round draft picks. Drew Pomeranz, their 2010 pick, was the prized possession. However, White was viewed as a perfect fit for Coors Field with a heavy sinker ball.

Since his acquisition, White has shown talent. There is no question as to why he was a top prospect. However, the results haven't been very pretty.

Early on, it was very easy to blame the lack of success on White getting his feet wet in the big leagues. White showed poise and confidence, something that many rookies struggle with for the first few months. His early struggles were easily forgivable.

The issue now is that the results aren't getting any better. On Friday night, White gave up his 11th home run in just 22-1/3 innings with the Rockies. This would be alarming for any pitcher, but one touted as a great sinker ball pitcher raises immediate concerns.

White's struggles put that much more pressure onto Pomeranz. To give up a pitcher of Jimenez's skill, and even more, a pitcher who represented so much to the Rockies, required immediate Major League talent. In his early start, Pomeranz looked ready. However, White has shown that he is going to need more seasoning. He is going to require time before he becomes an average pitcher, let alone a dominant one.

The hope for the Rockies is that White will gain valuable experience from this September cup of coffee in the big leagues. It can show him what he needs to do to be successful at this level.

The fear is that he won't pan out, and the Rockies will be in a boat that sees them only having Pomeranz work out, and having a wild card pitcher, rather than knowing what they had in Jimenez.

The Rockies need Alex White to be dominant if they want to compete in the National League West race in 2012.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Colorado Rockies lack of discipline is their biggest failure

How many times has it happened so far in 2011? How many times have the Colorado Rockies had an opportunity to put up a big number, and then blow it?

On Thursday night at Coors Field, the Rockies had a chance. They were down 5-0 heading into the bottom of the third inning. Jhoulys Chacin wasn't sharp, and his defense was even less sharp. However, the Rockies still had plenty of outs left to work with to crawl back into the game.

Chacin walked to lead off the third inning, then came around to score on back-to-back singles by Dexter Fowler and Mark Ellis. Giants pitcher Ryan Vogelsong came back to strike out Carlos Gonzalez, but immediately walked Seth Smith on four pitches to load the bases with one out.

Suddenly, the Rockies were right back in the game. They had already put a run on the board, and with just one out, had the bases loaded and a pitcher on the mound who couldn't find his control.

Enter Ty Wigginton. After two straight pitches out of the zone, the feeling should have been that one swing of the bat could score a couple of runs, or even a pitch down the heart of the plate could end up being deposited into the bleachers to tie up the game.

The problem for the Rockies, however, is that no one who knows this team well expected that to happen. Instead, Wigginton decided to hack away at a 2-0 pitch, grounding into his 10th double play of the season.

That at-bat typifies the Rockies season. Look no further to see what is wrong with this team. That at bat by Wigginton, was horrible baseball. It was ugly, it was selfish, it was immature baseball.

Watch a good team every now and then. Watch the way they approach an at-bat. Take Ryan Braun for example. On Monday night in Milwaukee, Braun stood at the plate with a full count in the bottom of the 11th inning against Matt Lindstrom. Instead of being impatient and trying to drive the first pitch that he got a chance to hit, he waited. He didn't try to turn on the next pitch in the strike zone. He fouled off pitch-after-pitch-after-pitch, when he finally got a pitch to drive, he launched it deep over the center field fence.

Wigginton, and most of the Rockies, get impatient at the plate and try to force it. They swing as hard as they can at the first pitch in the zone. Instead of putting a ball over the fence, the results are usually what they were for Wigginton on Thursday night, a double play that gets the pitcher off the hook.

The pressure in a situation like that is completely on the pitcher. The guy on the mound is the one who is painted into the corner. He must be perfect to get out of the situation without giving up a run.

Good teams take advantage of situations like that. Bad teams get impatient and swing away.

This team has the talent to be in the playoffs. Anyone who thinks that the Rockies are less physically talented than the Arizona Diamondbacks is delusional. However, the standings would say differently. Why is that? Because the Diamondbacks play team baseball. They take good at-bats, and they keep the pressure on the pitcher.

The Rockies don't play the game the right way. They don't play team baseball, and that type of baseball gets you what the Rockies have earned. Fourth place.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Colorado Rockies need to re-sign Kevin Millwood

Don't expect him to be an ace. Don't expect him to be dominant. Don't expect awe inspiring pitching.

Do expect Kevin Millwood to be the Colorado Rockies fifth starter in 2012.

After another extremely impressive start from the veteran, the Rockies should have seen enough of him to know that he still has what it takes to be in a big league rotation. Before the Rockies signed him in late July, Millwood was ready to retire after failing to get a big league call up with both the Yankees and Red Sox Triple-A squads.

As soon as Millwood made him plans to go home for the last time, the Rockies called, giving him an audition. The move came with grumbling from the fans. Many wondered why the team wouldn't give their prospects a chance to get their feet wet at the big league level and show what they can do. Many thought of Millwood as a re-tread who would give up too many home runs at Coors Field.

However, Millwood has done nothing but prove that he still has the talent to pitch at the big league level. He will never be the 2002 version of himself, a guy who won 18 games for the Atlanta Braves. Yet, he still has a chance to be an impact player.

If Millwood isn't the pitcher that he once was, he is quickly proving how good of a pitcher that he actually is.

The measure of a good pitcher is not how good of pitches they possess, it isn't about how hard they can throw the ball. The measure of a good pitcher is how many outs they can get. A true pitcher can pitch his way out of jams. He can find ways to induce ground ball double plays, get strikeouts when necessary, and not be afraid to throw all of his pitches in the strike zone.

That is exactly what Millwood does. In seven starts with the Rockies, Millwood has walked six batters. He pounds the strike zone and is rewarded with outs.

If Millwood's pitching isn't enough to convince people that he deserves to be in the rotation, look no further than Drew Pomeranz's comments to Root Sports Alanna Rizzo after his Major League debut on Sunday.

Pomeranz was quick to point out that his nerves were calmed in part because Millwood took him into the video room the night before the game and watched video of Red's hitters, helping him prepare his game plan.

That shows what kind of player Millwood is. He isn't the veteran who is self-centered and is too good to help out a rookie, he is a veteran, equipped with 162 career wins, who is willing to work with a guy who is barely a year removed from the day he was drafted.

That type of pitcher is exactly what the Rockies need on the mound. They need someone who can show the rest of the staff how to throw strikes and get outs without having the best stuff. However, even more importantly than a veteran who can be the example of what a pitcher is supposed to be on the mound is a veteran pitcher who can show the younger arms how to be a pitcher in the clubhouse.

The Rockies starting pitchers are extremely young. The potential starting five for the Rockies in 2012 will be Jhoulys Chacin, 23, Drew Pomeranz, 23, Alex White, 23, Esmil Rogers, 26.

At some point, Jorge De La Rosa will return and bring some experience to the staff, but that is a rotation full of very young pitchers who will need a veteran who can show them how to act and how to pitch at the big league level. Millwood has already shown that he can be that guy with the leadership that he has displayed in his short time in Colorado so far.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Don't expect Colorado Rockies to play spoiler

At this time of year, for teams in the Colorado Rockies boat, talk turns to the team playing the spoiler role.

In his pregame press conference with the media on Tuesday in Milwaukee, Jim Tracy alluded to that role, according to Jim Armstrong of the Denver Post.

There are plenty of stories of a team that seems to figure it out down the stretch. They suddenly start playing with energy and look like a completely different team then they were for the first 135 games or so. Teams like that seem to pop up on a contender's schedule about this time of year.

The spoiler role is also one of those things that a non-contending team's manager can point to as a way to motivate his team when they really have nothing to play for. It becomes something that they can rally around and finish a disappointing year on a good note.

For Tracy, no one can really blame him for hoping that his team can fill that role. He is the manager. It is his job to find something that will motivate the guys in his clubhouse to not just go through the motions down the stretch of the season, ending up even worse than they were before.

However, as admirable as that approach is, it is tough to believe that Tracy actually believes that this Rockies team can play the spoiler.

The Rockies couldn't get motivated when they had a seven game lead in the National League West going into May. They couldn't get motivated when they were just a few games out after a May that saw them go 8-24. They couldn't get motivated when they had a chance to turn their season around after the All-Star break. They couldn't get motivated when simply playing average baseball would have put them squarely back into the race.

So why would they suddenly embrace the spoiler role? The fact is, this Rockies team will do nothing more than play out the string of their games and try to pad their own personal stats. This team hasn't played like a team all season long. They play like a bunch of guys who are desperately trying to make their own batting averages and home run totals go up.

With the exception of Todd Helton, who always takes a good at bat, always works counts, and seems purely focused on helping his team win, there isn't a member of the regular lineup that has played the game with a team approach. Off season acquisition Ty Wigginton is notorious for swinging at 3-0 pitches when the pitcher can't seem to find the zone. Troy Tulowitzki looks like he often forgets that he can't hit a six run home run.

The reason that the Rockies haven't played up to expectations in 2011 is simply because they have played for themselves all season long. When teams start playing to pad their own statistics, the one stat that represents the team as a whole goes by the way side. That stat? Wins and losses.

If the Rockies want to contend in 2012, or anytime in the near future, they need to figure out a way to infuse the clubhouse with a team-first mindset. How they do that is going to be easier said than done.

Whether that is to get a few veterans in the clubhouse that can change the mindset around, or get rid of a few bad apples, the Rockies must do something in order to mix it up, or they will be in the same boat as they are now one year from now.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Pomeranz dazzles in debut

So much for butterflies.

With the season all but over, and Colorado Rockies fans shifting their attention to the Denver Broncos season, the Rockies gave one last reason to continue paying attention. When the team announced that Drew Pomeranz would start on Sunday, it became a "can't miss" game for fans.

Let's face it. The future of this current Rockies team hinges on Pomeranz. The tall left-hander was the centerpiece of the Ubaldo Jimenez trade. His talent suggests that he is going to be not a future ace, but an ace right away. He has all the weight of the world on his shoulders. If he fails, the Rockies are going to be forced to go in a different direction, and the ramifications of that might be years of struggle.

Perhaps the best part of Pomeranz? He seems oblivious to how much hinges on his success. He pitches with ice water running through his veins. After the game he told Root Sport's Alanna Rizzo that he wasn't nervous. Usually when a prospect making his Major League debut says that, everyone knows that he is lying. This time, it seemed genuine.

Instead of looking like a deer in the headlights, Pomeranz simply went out and did what he does best. He threw pitches, and he threw them for strikes. He was confident enough to throw his change up and he didn't try to get creative by throwing his curveball too much. The pitch selection shows confidence. It shows poise.

Limited to five innings due to being just three weeks removed from an appendectomy, Pomeranz showed no fear on the mound. This is a kid who barely threw 100 innings in the Minor Leagues at all. He was drafted fourth overall just 15 months ago.

Very few prospects making their Major League debut have the capabilities of pulling off what Pomeranz looked extremely comfortable doing. In his five innings of work, Pomeranz gave up just two hits. He struck out two and walked two, hitting a batter in between. The key line for the lefty, however is the final one, no runs. Despite dealing with a little traffic, Pomeranz kept getting ground balls, inducing two double plays to get out of jams.

What that suggests is that Pomeranz already knows how to pitch. He isn't concerned with blowing guys away at the plate and he isn't worried about tricking batters. He is willing to pitch down in the zone and let the defense behind him field the ball and get outs.

It is extremely early to know exactly how well this trade is going to work out for both clubs. However, it is safe to say that after one quick start for the Rockies, many fans are not so upset with Dan O'Dowd for dealing the teams first-ever ace. Very few are angry that the team didn't get a Major League-ready player in the deal.

Pomeranz looks like he is the real deal for the Rockies, which is a good sign for the Rockies, Dan O'Dowd, and their fans.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Pacheco makes impact, attention turns to Pomeranz

Jordan Pacheco is "the other guy."

Despite a great spring training which nearly saw him make the opening day roster, Pacheco is not the prospect that everyone is focused on.

With the attention focused on Wilin Rosario, the next great Rockies catching prospect, and Drew Pomeranz, the prized-possession that made the Ubaldo Jimenez trade become a reality, Pacheco has been lost in the shadows.

For one, he is older than most prospects, the infielder-turned catcher-turned infielder again was drafted out of college. That means that he is older than the average prospect. At age 25, Pacheco will be cast into the bucket of being too old to turn into an impact player at the big league level.

Pacheco is already seeing those conclusions being made. The experts are calling him nothing more than a utility infielder who will have minimal impact. According to their predictions, he will be more of an Omar Quintanilla type of player, or Jonathan Herrera.

The only problem with those conclusions is that Pacheco still has his chance to show that he can get it done at the big league level.

On Saturday, he once again showed that he has the mentality to prove his doubters wrong. With the game suddenly tied up in the sixth inning, Pacheco blasted a solo home run to give the Rockies the lead for good. The first big league home run of his career was a shot to center field. The solo home run gave the Rockies the lead, but Pacheco wasn't done. In the bottom of the eighth inning, with the team still clinging to that lead, Pacheco came through with a bases-loaded two-run single, giving the Rockies a cushion.

It is easy to write Pacheco off. However, the same experts that relegate the 25-year old to a utility role are also the same experts who said that both Chris Iannetta and Ian Stewart would be regulars on the National League All-Star roster. With all due respect to Iannetta, who has made strides in his game, no one confuses him with a regular All-Star.

With the Rockies glaring holes at both second base and third base, Pacheco should not be written off before he gets a chance to prove himself as a player who can be a starter, not just a fill-in.

With Pacheco seeming confident at the big league level, all eyes turn towards Drew Pomeranz, who will make his Major League debut on Sunday.

His debut is odd, if nothing else. He will be 22 days removed from an emergency appendectomy, which at the time ended his season. However, he was back throwing a baseball less than a week later, and made another start for Tulsa last week.

There should be plenty of pressure on the left-hander. With the odd circumstances, to go along with the fact that he should have all of the nerves of making his big league debut. That, on top of the fact that Pomeranz is 15 months removed from being drafted and has just over 100 minor league innings under his belt should make for an interesting debut.

Obviously, nothing will be determined by one outing. Considering the surgery and the time off due to it, Pomeranz probably won't go past the fifth inning. Still, the impression that he leaves in his first outing will leave a lasting impression for disgruntled Rockies fans. If he looks bad, there will certainly be fans calling for the head of Dan O'Dowd for trading the best pitcher to don a Rockies uniform for a pitcher who doesn't show potential.

Whether Pomeranz has success on Sunday or not should not be a determining factor in how wise the trade of Jimenez was. That decision will be made well into the 2012 season, once both Pomeranz and Alex White have had a chance to get comfortable on the big league stage.

Regardless, watching what Pomeranz brings to the table should be very interesting. A successful outing could go a long way to bring back interest and excitement from a burned out Rockies fan base.

Friday, September 9, 2011

CarGo and Tracy get ejected, Colorado Rockies fail to respond

If you want to see Jim Tracy get animated, you may never get a better opportunity than Friday night.

After Carlos Gonzalez was ejected for arguing balls and strikes in the bottom of the fifth inning, Tracy came onto the field to get his money's worth before hitting the showers himself.

Gonzalez struck out swinging, but broke the unwritten rules of showing up an umpire on the second strike when he motioned with his hand that the pitch was low. At that point, home plate umpire Mark Carlson gave Gonzalez an earful. The next pitch saw Gonzalez wave at a pitch well out of the zone, knowing that anything close was going to earn him a seat on the bench if he didn't swing.

The right fielder slowly walked back to the dugout, where he decided to let Carlson know how he felt. Carlson pointed to the Gonzalez in the dugout and gave him the first ejection of his big league career.

At that point, Tracy came storming out of the dugout and furiously got into Carlson's face. He earned an ejection of his own when he made the same hand motion that Gonzalez had made on the second strike.

Tracy is a very even-keeled person. It is hard to ruffle his feathers. However, he knows the game of baseball, and he knows very well that if your star player gets ejected in a one-run game in the fifth inning, it's time to follow suit and stick up for your guy.

Generally, a manager's tirade, especially while defending a player who was just ejected, will light a fire under a team. It will inspire them to go out and play with passion. These Rockies are different. Instead, it made their sense of urgency go away. It made them play flat, and pack it in.

The following inning saw the Rockies give up four runs, commit two errors, and completely fall apart. It was yet another embarrassment to add to the growing list of embarrassments that this franchise has suffered through in the 2011 season.

When all is said and done, many people will point to injuries as a reason the Rockies failed. Specifically Jorge De La Rosa's elbow injury in May. However, the reason why this team failed to contend has nothing to do with injury. It has everything to do with lack of heart. It has everything to do with them playing flat on a regular basis and never gelling as a group.

To light a fire under these Rockies might not be enough, their whole clubhouse might have to be on fire before they felt a sense of urgency.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Rosario, Pacheco impressive through two games

The scores don't matter anymore. The Colorado Rockies won't even finish at .500. The season is a huge disappointment.

When that happens, the focus turns to the future.

For the Rockies, the long-anticipated arrival of Wilin Rosario, whose arrival was delayed by a torn ACL at the end of the 2010 season. With another year logged in Double-A, Rosario has finally made his trip to Coors Field to show what he can do.

Beyond Rosario, the Rockies also get to take a month-long look at Jordan Pacheco. Both players are catching prospects. However, Pacheco was originally an infielder, so he is being converted back to his original spot so that Rosario can play behind the plate.

There is no doubt that Rosario is the much more highly-anticipated arrival. He is 22-years old and there isn't a top-prospect list that he doesn't appear on. Everything suggests that his defense is Major League ready, and his offense is raw, but very capable.

Pacheco's situation is slightly different. While he had a great spring training that turned some heads, most think of him as a utility guy. Those who have watched his whole minor league career suggest that he won't put up the offensive numbers to be an everyday guy at the big league level.

Both prospects, in just two games, have been extremely impressive. Pacheco came out swinging, recording two hits in his debut. He also made two very good pickups at third base, a position that he only played five times in Colorado Springs during the 2011 season. He went 0-for-4 on Wednesday, but squared up the ball and took good swings.

With his 0-for-3 night out of the way, Rosario took center stage on Wednesday night, rolling his first Major League hit down the third base line. If any of his teammates were giving him a hard time about the cheap hit he got to start his career, he quieted them in the fourth inning, when he launched a 448-foot home run to straight away center field.

Two games is far too small of a sample size to make a judgement, but the initial reaction from the Rockies front office has to be good. Both players seem to be playing with confidence, eager to prove that they belong. Many prospects come up and have a deer-in-the-headlights look for the first couple of weeks, and then struggle to build their numbers back up after digging a big hole. Both of these prospects, however, seem to be ready to go.

Rosario is definitely the most anticipated prospect, but Pacheco should not be written off. His offensive numbers struggled in Triple-A, but keep in mind that he was the primary catcher. Move him away from the stresses of catching everyday and his bat may wake up. He has a good looking swing, and might just be the type of prospects who really blossoms at the big league level.

So far, so good for the first two prospects. The next debut is as highly anticipated as it gets. Drew Pomeranz makes his Major League debut on Sunday against the Reds. The left-hander was extremely impressive throughout his short minor league career, and now gets a chance to show what all the hype is about.

If all goes well, the Rockies can start to solidify their 2012 plans with those three prospects factoring into them.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Colorado Rockies win behind strong Hammel performance, late rally

It's been ugly in 2011 at Coors Field. There is no way around that.

However, as the Colorado Rockies play out the final string of their season, there is still quite a bit to be watched. On a day when prospects Wilin Rosario and Jordan Pacheco made their Major League debuts, the Colorado Rockies rallied for six runs in the bottom of the eighth to defeat the first place Diamondbacks.

The offense rallied to win the game, but they wouldn't have been in it if it wasn't for Jason Hammel.

Hammel, relegated to the bullpen due to ineffectiveness, was called upon to start with Jhoulys Chacin being pushed back to Friday. It may have been Hammel's last chance to prove to the Rockies that he can be an effective starter in the big leagues.

The right-hander dominated the Diamondbacks. He delivered seven innings, giving up only one earned run on six scattered hits. He struck out six and walked only one. The fastball command was back for Hammel. He pitched with confidence and attacked the strike zone.

There is no shortage of people looking to ship Hammel out of town. However, those people are forgetting what Hammel has done in the past. This is a guy who set a Rockies record for consecutive scoreless innings in 2010. He went 29-1/3 innings, giving up just one earned run in June of that season. This is a guy who can pitch at the big league level. To have someone of that ilk in the back of the rotation is a very good thing. He should not be given up on so quickly.

In addition to Hammel's performance were two very notable performances. First, Jordan Pacheco, in his Major League debut, showed no signs of butterflies, making a slick play at third base, and then roping his first base hit an inning later. He went 2-for-4, collecting two RBIs, one of which tied the game in the fifth inning.

Everyone says that Pacheco won't be a major contributor at the big league level. They say that he will be a utility-type of guy. All too often, players are pigeon-holed into a role. The key is to let players decide their own fate. Confidence is 90 percent of the battle, and Pacheco seems to have it.

The final point is the platoon outfielder, Seth Smith. The lefty once again proved that his name should be in the lineup on a daily basis. All he does is get hits, and seemingly lately, all he does is get extra base hits. It's time for Jim Tracy to put down the notebook that tells him Smith can't hit lefties and let him go out there and prove the book wrong.

The reality for the Smith is that his lefty-against-lefty splits for his career are misleading. Keep in mind that for the better part of three seasons, Smith was a late-game pinch hitter. When he came into the game, the opposing manager would often go to his bullpen and get the tough side-arming lefty, or the lefty who fires 96 MPH. Give the guy a chance to start everyday against lefties, and just like the rest of his game, Smith will show improvement.

A hit off of a side-arming lefty on Tuesday should be the first sign, but two triples earlier in the game against a starting pitcher that no one could hit is an even bigger sign that Smith can be successful.

The way the final 18 games of the season play out should be interesting for Rockies fans.

Focus shifts to September call-ups for Colorado Rockies

The Colorado Rockies watched a team with far less talent cruise past them on their way to a National League West title.

It was a familiar story line for a club that hasn't performed the way anyone expected. This was a team that was at least supposed to contend for the National League West title. Now they are a team who is going through the motions for the final month of the season.

The news of the day didn't come on the field, although Dexter Fowler continues his hot streak, belting two home runs, and Troy Tulowitzki eclipsed the 100-RBI mark for the first time in his career.

The news that everyone should be excited about is that the Rockies made a few moves to expand their current roster.

The team has finally called up highly-anticipated catching prospect Wilin Rosario. The stout catcher has been on the club's radar for three years and has the makings of the catcher of the future. With all due respect to Chris Iannetta--who has had his best season in the big leagues--Rosario represents another catcher coming through the system that has scouts wide-eyed and excited. The Rockies are hoping for different results this time.

Rosario should receive an adequate amount of playing time. He is just getting his feet wet in the big leagues, but the Rockies are very interested in what he can bring to the table. He was on fire offensively in Tulsa before suffering a torn ACL that ended his season in August of 2010. Because of that injury, the Rockies had him remain in Double-A for one more season, not trying to rush him back.

The catcher's offensive numbers have suffered slightly, but his defense has greatly improved. If he can put it all together at the big league level, he might just have a starting job heading into 2012.

The other notable call-ups are Jordan Pacheco. The University of New Mexico alum impressed everyone in spring training, showing pop at the plate, but more importantly, a confidence that he can get it done at the big league level. Pacheco is another catcher, but the Rockies have made it clear that they are going to experiment with him at third base and second. Pacheco struggled offensively in a very offensive-friendly Pacific Coast League. However, sometimes minor league numbers don't paint the whole picture.

Finally, after another strong performance in Tulsa after undergoing an appendectomy, Drew Pomeranz, the centerpiece of the Ubaldo Jimenez trade, has joined the team. When he starts is still up in the air, but it looks like he will get a chance to make his Major League debut sometime before the end of the season.

Just seeing Pomeranz on the field is a surprise, after the Rockies all but counted him out after the emergency surgery. When he does make a start, there certainly will be eyes of Rockies fans everywhere eager to see how well he does. That trade is essentially a make-or-break deal in Dan O'Dowd's legacy with the Rockies.

With nothing left to play for, the Rockies still should be an exciting team to watch with those three guys making their big league debuts. Quick big league starts for them and the team can build back some excitement that they lost in this disappointing season.