The 2011 Colorado Rockies season was one to forget. A team that was destined to win their first-ever National League West title fell on their faces. They came out of the gate winning 11-out of-13, then proceeded to win just 62 of their next 149 games.
Injuries were a huge part of the disappointment. It seemed that almost every Rockie went down with an injury of some sort at least once throughout the season. Carlos Gonzalez hurt his wrist running into the wall in July, and if the truth were told, he never fully recovered.
As the season came to an end, Jim Tracy pointed to the nagging injuries as a reason why the Rockies ended up contending for the basement of the National League West rather than the crown. The excuses were empty. They were just that, excuses.
The reality is, every team deals with injuries. All 30 teams in Major League Baseball will have their depth tested throughout the course of a 162-game season. Some teams are more fortunate than others, but the reality is, injuries are a part of the game. They cannot be used as an excuse.
What injuries really point out is how deep a team really is. They expose the truth in a farm system. The Rockies have pointed to their farm system as their crown jewel for several years. They have been overly hyped as having one of the best farms in baseball. Oftentimes the Rockies have held on to prospects instead of trading them for big-name players that could help their current big league team out. Those players have hit the big league level and never shown their potential.
The glaring problem for the Rockies in 2011 was not their injuries, but what the injuries pointed out. The Rockies farm system was over hyped. They have players that the valued as impact players at the big league level that will most likely amount to average, at best.
The other big issue for the Rockies was in the clubhouse. It became clear after Ubaldo Jimenez was shipped off to the Cleveland Indians that he had lost favor with certain team leaders--particularly Troy Tulowitzki.
Apparently Jimenez took a trip to Europe in January instead of continuing with his offseason throwing program, which generally consisted of him playing in the Dominican Leagues. Instead, Jimenez took the site-seeing tour and wasn't ready for spring training. When a groin injury and a thumb injury came up in March, it compounded, and the end was beginning for the former ace.
Jimenez's trip to Europe was most likely an innocent one. However, it seems as if it sparked clubhouse dissension that ultimately led to the team's failures. The Rockies were known for having a tight-knit, family atmosphere in the locker room. However, that seemed to go away with the Jimenez issue, and players took sides.
Those issues seem to have forced the hand of Dan O'Dowd, who has nearly finished shipping out all of the players whose attitudes never contributed to a winning clubhouse. The offseason has been full of one thing for the Rockies, getting rid of the passive personalities on the club. First it was Ty Wigginton, the player who never learned team baseball, then it was Chris Iannetta, shipped out for pitching depth. Next came Huston Street, then it was Ian Stewart, given up on after a miserable season. Within weeks the final decision will be made when the Rockies find a suitor for Seth Smith.
The reality is, the players the Rockies are getting rid of are not the fiery-type. They aren't the ra-ra types that thrive under the leadership of a player like Tulowitzki. They go about their business, and go home. Losing may make their skin crawl, but they don't wear their emotions on their sleeve like Tulo. It may not be a bad thing, but it was clearly deemed a problem by the Rockies front office.
It was clear. The objective was to create a winning atmosphere in the clubhouse. One where losing is unacceptable and makes the players sick.
So have the Rockies done enough to make that happen? They brought in Michael Cuddyer, a Twin who has seen what it takes to win. They may have overpaid for him, but he may be the answer to some of clubhouse issues.
Beyond Cuddyer, the Rockies haven't done much to add proven talent to the big league roster. There are some patch-work fixes that have been made, and some flyers taken on a few players, but the team really seems to be hanging their hat on Cuddyer turning things around, and an addition by subtraction in the clubhouse.
Will it be enough?