Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The fallout from the Ubaldo Jimenez trade continues

July 30th, 2011 will be remembered by Colorado Rockies fans as a very dark day. 

Few fans pictured this image before the 2011 season began.
As news that the team had indeed traded their ace, Ubaldo Jimenez to the Cleveland Indians, fans stood in shock. Despite a disappointing first half of 2011, Jimenez was the first true dominant pitcher in club history. 

Making the move even more shocking was that Jimenez was not only still in a Rockies uniform, he was on the mound, awkwardly pitching through a distracted final inning.

The finger-pointing began. In the clubhouse after the game, when the mood should have been somber, team leader Troy Tulowitzki made some scathing remarks that showed what fans later found out to be a huge issue throughout the failed 2011 season. There was a huge divide in the clubhouse.

On Wednesday, Tracy Ringolsby published an article for Fox Sports Arizona in which Jimenez revealed his side of the trade. It became apparent that the two contracts signed by fellow superstars Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez had affected Jimenez's mindset.

Upset that he was left out and told to wait for another year, Jimenez was distracted. When injuries plagued his season, things got even more tumultuous in the clubhouse for the first pitcher to throw a no-hitter in Rockies history.

Read responses on Twitter and it is clear that many fans instantly forgave the club for the way they handled the situation. Suddenly, the blame fell onto Jimenez's shoulders. Some fans even antagonized Jimenez directly on Twitter, telling him that he is selfish.

The problem is, the article may have shown that the club wasn't completely at fault, but it definitely doesn't exonerate the team.

Put the shoe on the other foot. Imagine being Jimenez. He had just posted the best season by a Rockies pitcher by far. His 2.88 ERA and 19 wins were both club records. He had thrown the first no-hitter in club history and started the All-Star game--all while calling Coors Field his home.

Ringolsby quotes Jimenez as saying "I read in the paper that they were only going to sign two guys, they couldn't do three guys."

While that may or may not have been the situation that the club was in, the problem lies in the fact that Jimenez was getting his news from the same source as the fans. He was reading it in the newspaper.

Why, after what Jimenez did, would the Rockies front office not have Jimenez very well-versed in the fact that he was in their long-term plans. Why wouldn't Dan O'Dowd, or Dick Monfort or both get on the phone or get on an airplane and meet with Jimenez. They didn't have to sign him then, they just needed to let him know that his day was coming. They needed to keep him in on the plan. Clearly, they never did that.

What that led to was a distraught Jimenez, who thought that despite his great season, was on the outs with the club. He came to Spring Training scorned, rather than feeling appreciated. Clearly it affected his training, which most likely led to his injuries that ultimately de-railed his season.

Was Jimenez immature? Absolutely. Did he handle the situation wrong? Absolutely.

However, imagine going to work and setting record numbers for the company. Imagine being the top member of the team and helping the company gain notoriety. Then, two other team members, who were also big parts of the company got rewarded with huge raises. The raises are publicly celebrated, with the boss saying that the core of the company has been locked up for years. 

Isn't there a little hurt? Isn't there a little questioning that would go on to anyone that this happened to? There certainly would be a great amount of bitterness, even in the heart of the most dedicated and understanding employee. 

The fact is, the Rockies dropped the ball with Jimenez. They may want the fans to see him as a problem. They may want to paint the picture that he wasn't a team player. The reality, however, is that Jimenez felt scorned by the club, and bitterness crept in. The lack of communication from the Rockies made him feel as if he was under appreciated. Was it justified? Maybe not 100 percent, but the feelings were legitimate, and very much understandable.

The Ubaldo Jimenez trade, no matter whose fault it was, and no matter how Drew Pomeranz and Alex White perform at the big league level, may forever be remembered as the darkest day in Colorado Rockies history.

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  1. I really do feel bad for Ubaldo. Had Dan O'Dowd just told him that they were going to re sign him in a year or two (as the article by Ringolsby suggests) this could have been avoided. It would really suck to not have any communication from the front office. Shame on O'Dowd. He has a HUGE target on his back if this season goes poorly

  2. There are a lot of Indians fans still questioning this trade too. We have yet to see the real Jimenez as he fights to find his dominate side.

  3. Stan-
    It certainly seems like Jimenez was never called in and explained the situation. You can't justify Jimenez's actions completely, but wouldn't one of the first phone calls you made be to Jimenez to tell him not to worry, that he will be taken care of?

  4. CS360-
    I think you will see the real Jimenez this year. He has too good of stuff not to turn it around.

    Thanks for the comment.

  5. David, appreciate your thoughts. However, I recall O'Dowd stating that signing a starting pitcher to a long term deal is an entirely different contract than a position player (remember Hampton/Neagle?) due to injury concerns and Coors Field affect on SPs.
    Also, do you have it on record that O'Dowd or Monfort(s) never reached out to communicate to Ubaldo? I'd like to hear their story, before one calls them out as being uncommunicative.
    thanks for your input.

  6. Kevin-
    I don't have a source that says Jimenez was never contacted by O'Dowd or the ownership group. However, when Jimenez said that he is reading in the paper that the team can only sign two of the three, it would point to me that he either wasn't communicated with, or felt lied to. Either way, the team lost their trust in Jimenez's eyes.

    If they felt that offering him a longer-term deal was more of a risk because he is a pitcher, they should have communicated that with him and told him that he still could get a deal, it would just be different.

  7. Heya David
    Yeah, you and I wrote about the same things, but of course from opposite sides (at But the problem is that even if most fans understood why the front office was hesitant in signing a pitcher after previous years of fiascos, ether Ubaldo didn't know it, or didn't care to know. If it was the former, shame on the media for illustrating exactly why the front office was hesitant--or blame the front office for explaining the situation about it. If it's the latter, then Ubaldo was at fault for not doing his research on past pitchers. I'm sure many players would want to know how their predecessors stacked up.

    And yet, I still think Ubaldo took a lot of it himself, since I believe the press even briefly mentioned Denny Neagle fiasco. So he still needs to grow up.