Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Losing continues as Dan O'Dowd continues making excuses

Dan O'Dowd sounds burned out.
Dan O'Dowd has thrown his 75 pitches. He is ready for a reliever.

As he Colorado Rockies continue down the road they have never been before. On Wednesday at Coors Field, the club lost 11-5 to the Washington Nationals, a sobering display of two franchises headed in different directions.

With the Rockies looking lost and pathetic on the field, the story lately has been coming off the field. That was the case again on Wednesday. The same day that the Rockies held a fan forum with owner Dick Monfort and general manager Dan O'Dowd, an article was published in the U.S.A. Today highlighting Bob Apodaca resigning as pitching coach and some of the odd routes O'Dowd is taking to try and win.

The words out of O'Dowd's mouth paint the picture of a burned out, worn down general manager who has spent so much time dwelling on making the product at Coors Field a good one, that he has lost touch with the rest of baseball.

The article details the heavily-covered 4-man, 75-pitch-limit rotation. However, beyond the story in the article is what sneaks out of O'Dowd's mouth. When talking about Apodaca resigning, he said "I could tell there was a sense of relief. In some ways, I was almost envious."

On the surface, that statement is made about Apodaca feeling the heat of a pitching staff in disarray. However, the last part of the quote is the most telling. Why would O'Dowd be envious? The only logical reason for O'Dowd to be jealous of the relief that Apodaca felt upon quitting is that he himself is ready to throw in the towel.

Political candidates will say that in a heated race, they can never envision themselves losing, because it changes the mindset and the campaign will spiral out of control. Body language changes, the tone of speeches change, and desperation sets in.

The same can be said of O'Dowd. The stress of trying desperately to win and failing has defeated him. He isn't managing the team with a sense that they can win, but rather a feeling that he has already been defeated. A general manager who already feels defeated, believing that not only is the other team trying to beat him, but the home field itself is against him, will be defeated before the day begins.

O'Dowd also clearly blames Coors Field for the team's struggles once again. He cites the Coors Field ERA's of Randy Johnson (4.01), Curt Schilling (5.51) and Greg Maddux (5.09). He points to them as proof that pitching at nearly one mile above sea level is next to impossible. The problem is that the majority of Johnson's starts at Coors Field came well after his prime. The majority of the starts the came during his prime were pre-humidor. Same goes for Schilling. His final year in the National League was 2003, the year the humidor made it's debut. Maddux's best years came in the 90's, well before the humidor, and in the two plus years he spent in the N.L. West, he posted ERA's above 4.00.

On the conference call, O'Dowd made a few more statements that suggested that it is time to move on. To the season ticket holders asking about the poor pitching performances, O'Dowd said, "the changes we have seen from Coors Field are not an excuse, they are reality."

O'Dowd truly believes that statement. He has become so frustrated with failing to build a winning team, that he has resorted to excuses. In fact, he isn't even using typical excuses like injuries, or players not panning out. He fictionalizes the ballpark to be something that it is not.

The general manager said that Coors Field has yielded 25 percent more home runs, both by the Rockies and the visitors,  to date in 2012 than it did in 2011. He then went on to say that statistic points to Coors Field changing, for whatever reason. The only problem is that O'Dowd fails to give himself credit where credit is due.

The logic suggests that the Rockies lineup got better. In fact, there is no denying that. Wilin Rosario has joined the bottom of the lineup and clubbed 11 home runs. Compare that to the 14 that Chris Iannetta hit in all of 2011.

Dexter Fowler, who seemed lost at the plate in 2010 and 2011, has found his stroke. With that has come a power surge. Is that Coors Field's doing, or has the player become better?

The Rockies also added Michael Cuddyer and Tyler Colvin, both of whom have added pop into the lineup. The fact is, the Rockies are a better hitting team in 2012 than they were in 2011.

On the other side, maybe opponents aren't hitting the ball out of the park due to Coors Field magically changing, but rather because the Rockies pitchers are that much worse. Even with Jason Hammel not at the level that he is in 2012, he certainly didn't yield the long ball the way Jeremy Guthrie has. Jamie Moyer seemed to serve up two home runs a game. Was that due to Coors Field, or the fact that an 80 MPH fastball better not cross the middle of the plate?

Let's face it, the Rockies talent on the mound isn't anywhere near what it was in 2011.

As for O'Dowd, by all accounts, he is a great person. However, he actually buys into his own excuses. These are not pathetic attempts at keeping his job an extra year and hoping for better. These excuses are truly what O'Dowd believes.

It has to be frustrating. There is no doubt that O'Dowd works hard at his job. He spends time pouring over the stats. So much time that he has figured out just how long an average pitcher lasts at altitude before flaming out.

However, that might be part of the problem. O'Dowd has burned himself out on trying so desperately to win that he is tired. After 12-1/2 years, he still has no formula for winning, and he is no closer now then he was in 1999. So instead of continuing to try and figure out a strategy that works, O'Dowd has come to the point of feeling sorry for himself and making excuses.

What it shows is that O'Dowd needs some downtime. He needs to get away from the game. He is spent. He is not thinking rationally because he has been examining the situation with a microscope instead of having the luxury to take a step back and see the whole picture for a while.

O'Dowd may have done some good things with the Rockies, but at this point, it is time for him to move on and let someone else try and figure it out.

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