Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Colorado Rockies trade Chris Iannetta; prepare to sign Ramon Hernandez

On Wednesday afternoon, the Colorado Rockies completed a trade sending catcher Chris Iannetta to the Los Angeles Angeles in exchange for starting pitcher Tyler Chatwood.

The move coincides with the Rockies nearing a deal with free agent catcher Ramon Hernandez. The deal with the former Red is reportedly a two-year deal worth just over $6 million.

The move brings a power arm in the form of 21-year old Chatwood. Despite a poor win-loss record, Chatwood shows promise. He is a hard thrower with a high ceiling. He went 6-11 with a 4.75 ERA in 27 games for the Angels, 25 of them coming as a starter. The California native will be just 22-years old on Opening Day.

The move ends a slightly odd era in Colorado. Iannetta was by far the most polarizing player to don a Rockies uniform. A highly touted prospect, Iannetta came into the big leagues with enormous expectations. The club had seen "can't miss" catching prospects come and go, from Jawhawk Owens to Ben Petrick to JD Closser, the Rockies had seen their fair share of catching prospects fail to pan out.

However, Iannetta never reached the ceiling that his talent suggested he could hit. He was handed the starting job in 2007, but quickly struggled to find his way. After being supplanted by journeyman Yorvit Torrealba, Iannetta never regained his footing. He was shipped back to Triple-A late in the season, returning in time to watch Torrealba catch every game of the famous 2007 run to the pennant.

The following year was going to be a different story. The Rockies were ready to give Iannetta the job once again. However, he stumbled out of the gate and lost the job to Torrealba again. After the Rockies fell out of contention in the disappointing season, Iannetta quietly put up phenomenal numbers. In the end, his offensive numbers were among the top five in baseball.

The following season is when the controversy began in earnest. Iannetta was coming off of a phenomenal season, and then matched that play in the World Baseball Classic. He seemed ready for a breakout season. Instead, the catcher regressed, hitting just .228. He did, however, launch 16 home runs and drive in 52 runs in just 93 games. A hot start from Miguel Olivo caused the Rockies to once again give up on Iannetta and play the hot hand.

Iannetta's supporters shouted that he wasn't given a chance. They said that he was a great player who was outplayed by a veteran in each of the season's beginnings, but should have been given a chance to play through his struggles. His detractors said that he was just another flamed out prospect in a long line of failed Rockies catchers.

The debates raged on.

Iannetta's supporters suggested that his low batting averages should be ignored because his on-base percentage was so high. They also pointed to his ability to hit for extra bases on a regular basis as reason to look passed the low batting average.

In May of 2010, after another slow start, Iannetta was shipped back to Colorado Springs for a refresher course. The move made many Iannetta fans believe that there was some sort of vendetta against him in the front office. Many thought that Jim Tracy or Dan O'Dowd had issues with Iannetta's attitude or personality. They felt that it wasn't fair to him, and that once again, he wasn't getting a fair shake.

In the end, however, Iannetta never lived up to his potential. It may not be fair to him. He is who he is. The fact that he never became the player that fans and the front office envisioned isn't his fault. Maybe he was a victim of bad timing. Every time he struggled, the other catcher on the squad seemed outplay him. However, the fact remains, he never hit his ceiling, which caused his eventual trade.

Iannetta may never have been used in the right spot. Tracy always seemed to pencil him into the eighth spot in the lineup, regardless of the other tinkering that he was doing throughout the lineup. In fact, on several occasions down the stretch, Tracy left Iannetta in the eight-hole, while light-hitting center fielder Dexter Fowler found himself in the three-hole. Even Mark Ellis found himself in the three-hole with Iannetta in the eighth spot.

Whatever it was, Iannetta simply never was the impact player that the Rockies envisioned. He made improvements, but failed to be anything above average.

The Rockies ability to pick up a young arm from the Angels, one that they will have control of for the next five seasons, is more than enough to make the trade a good one for the Rockies. The move bolsters the young starting rotation that showed a lack of depth when Ubaldo Jimenez started slow and Jorge De La Rosa went down.

Iannetta fans may be disappointed. They may think that the Rockies lost a chance to see what he can really do, but the fact is, Iannetta's value was as high after the 2011 season as it most likely ever will be. With the ability to sign Hernandez, buying Wilin Rosario time to grow up without pressure, and gain a pitcher at relatively close to the salary of Iannetta, the Rockies end up as winners.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Colorado Rockies trade Ty Wigginton, excitement still flatlining

Ty Wigginton is gone.

That is good news to anyone who watched the third baseman/first baseman/left fielder/right fielder struggle at every position that he was ridiculously put into.

Even worse than his defense, Wigginton at the plate was even worse. It went beyond his .163 batting average with men in scoring position. That was just the bitter fruit that resulted from the tree of Wigginton. The problem went beyond not being "clutch," the problem had everything to do with Wigginton's inability to change his approach at the plate.

The 34 year-old didn't play the game the right way. He came to the plate with the exact same approach every time he stepped to the plate. Instead of realizing that he was a utility-type of player, instead of being a role player, Wigginton thought he was the next Mark McGwire. Every time he stepped to the plate, he swung for the fences, whether there were runners on base, whether he had two strikes, whether the team was down by one run and the tying run was on third base with less than two outs. It never mattered.

That problem was hardly just a Wigginton problem, the problem went deep into the fabric of the Rockies clubhouse. Watching the 2011 version of the Rockies looked more like two guys trying to prove they deserved their contracts, and the majority of the rest trying to earn their big one. Playing as a team never happened for this bunch. It didn't seem like winning mattered as much as hitting home runs and accumulating stats.

As bad as Wigginton was for the Rockies, imagine where they would have been without him. To a certain degree, Wigginton was a savior for the club who would have been completely lost if they were forced to go with Ian Stewart at third base all season long.

The Rockies made their first significant move by dealing Wigginton. The only problem is that it is hardly a compelling reason to bring back a bunch of disheartened Rockies fans. The issues went well beyond Wigginton. The issues were from the front office down. It seems apparent that winning isn't the main priority for this franchise. Winning is good, but it really isn't an expectation.

The club had a chance to reject the season that was 2011, a season full of expectations that crashed and burned. They had a chance to prove to their fans that despite close relationships between the front office and management and coaches, that someone had to pay the price for the failure. Instead, they showed their fans that status-quo is just fine and that somehow, without changing the culture of the leadership of the Rockies, they would magically fix the ship that has been taking on more water than anyone would have ever expected.

Getting rid of Wigginton was a good start, but at this point, the Rockies have done nothing to show that the season they were responsible for was unacceptable. They have done nothing to try to lure their fans to stick around because things are going to be different.

At some point, the excitement might return for another Colorado Rockies baseball season, but at this point, trading Ty Wigginton isn't going to inspire the fans who remain bitter to re-embrace this team. Not with the same management that can't stick with a lineup for two consecutive days, not with the same front office that overvalued their farm system so greatly that there was very little talent to call upon when injuries hit.

At some point, the excitement might return, but it is going to take more than trading the past offseason's biggest mistake.

Monday, November 7, 2011

St Louis Cardinals blow Colorado Rockies excuses out of the water

If watching the Colorado Rockies pathetically stumble their way through a 2011 season that had so much promise wasn't bad enough, it only got worse with the words from the front office and the clubhouse.

As the season grew increasingly worse, with the Rockies falling further and further out of contention in a division that was theirs for the taking, the excuses began to mount. Jim Tracy was the leader of the excuse mill. On a nightly basis, the skipper continued to tell the media just how bad the Rockies luck was.

The excuses were hollow, but undeniable. The Rockies certainly dealt with injuries. They certainly dealt with under performing talent. They definitely had reasons to feel like luck wasn't on their side.

However, with all of the reasons to have excuses, the Rockies use of them became even more discouraging than the disgusting play on the field. The reason that it was frustrating for fans was because anyone who followed the club knew that the reason for the Rockies failures had little to do with injuries. It had little to do with one or two players in particular.

The issues came directly out of the clubhouse and the excuses were just fueling the raging inferno that the Rockies 2011 expectations were in the middle of.

The Rockies excuses might have worked. They might have had some legitimacy. The excuses may have been credible, until one team showed that excuses only come from a bunch of losers, not a bunch of winners.

For Rockies fans, the situation that the now-World Champion St. Louis Cardinals dealt with are eerily similar to what they went through in 2011. The results were a completely different story.

In Spring Training, before he ever had a chance to take the mound, Adam Wainwright, the Cardinals ace who had won 19 and 20 games in each of the past two seasons, was lost for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Before Opening Day, fans had declared the Cards dead to rights in the NL Central.

If losing Wainwright wasn't bad enough, Chris Carpenter, the club's other ace who had been a huge factor for the club in years past, went into July with a 3-7 record.

Could a team be more down and out than the Cardinals were?

If that wasn't bad enough, on June 20th, Albert Pujols, the best player on the Cardinals and perhaps the best hitter in baseball over the past 10 years went down with a broken arm that was injured in a fluke play at first base. He missed three-and-a-half weeks.

Not only did Pujols deal with injuries, but Matt Holliday, the Cardinals other slugger, dealt with a bevy of injuries that included a bad wrist, an emergency appendicitis removal and a number of other injuries that held the former Rockies to just 124 games.

Talk about bad luck where health is concerned. On paper, the Cardinals had no chance. However, they made no excuses.

As Labor Day approached, the Cardinals were well behind the Brewers in the NL Central, and the Braves simply needed to cruise in order to be the NL Wild Card team. However, 8-1/2 games behind the Braves, the Cardinals didn't stop. They battled to the end, got lucky, and found themselves celebrating a playoff berth on the final day of the season.

The Rockies would like to have their fans believe that they dealt with more adversity than any team in baseball. They sold that to their fans the whole second half of the season. They said that losing Jorge De La Rosa was a devastating injury. They said that Ubaldo Jimenez under performing was something they simply couldn't come back from. They said that the multitude of injuries that Carlos Gonzalez dealt with were too much to expect to overcome.

It might have worked. The excuses might have made sense. Fans might have accepted the excuses as winter they became further removed from the season.

It might have made sense, except for one problem. The problem with the Rockies excuses for not winning is that the one team that dealt with injuries, dealt with adversity, dealt with under performance more than the Rockies ended up hoisting the trophy at the end of the season.

Good teams don't make excuses. Injuries are something that every team has to deal with. Part of being a contender is having the depth to replace injured players. Instead of finding guys to plug into holes, the Rockies found excuses to give. This led to a team with a losing mentality, a team looking for a reason why it was alright to lose that day.

The excuses were the main reason why the Rockies didn't contend in 2011, not the injuries.