Sunday, March 17, 2013

Despite quiet offseason, 2013 Colorado Rockies should be fun to watch

Walt Weiss should bring energy to the Rockies.
Hope springs eternal.

For whatever reason, baseball has a way of making even the biggest pessimist a believer. Maybe when pitchers and catcher report to Arizona and Florida, there has been just enough cold and snow to make people a little crazy.

The Colorado Rockies, fresh off of their worst season in 20 years of playing baseball, didn't give their fans much to be excited about in the offseason. Despite losing 98 games, the Rockies did next to nothing over the winter.

There have been years in which Rockies fans haven't had much to root for, but in 2013, the optimists forgot to show up. The morale among Rockies faithful is at an all-time low, for good reason.

Maybe because it is spring, maybe because a long winter erases memories of horrible baseball, but there is reason for Rockies fans to be excited. This Rockies team has the potential to surprise people.

Make no mistake, barring a miracle, the 2013 Rockies won't be playing in October. However, there are reasons to believe that they will finish far better than in 2012. In fact, this team could potentially finish in the neighborhood of .500.

The Rockies didn't make many changes, but one change that caused the cynics to scoff may end up being the best move the Rockies could have hoped for.

Jim Tracy was by all accounts a phenomenal human being. He cared about his players, he cared about the organization, he wanted to win. All of those things are great qualities. The only problem, he was a terrible manager.

Blessed with an incredible vocabulary, Jim Tracy used his words to craft excuses night in and night out. After games in which Tracy clearly misused his bench, poorly handled his bullpen and completely mismanaged the game, he was a sure-bet to blame his starting pitcher, or tip his hat to the other team.

Those excuses got old, and more importantly, that attitude seemed to permeate the clubhouse, as players started to point fingers at each other. They also started to act as if they were always the underdogs, and any win was almost unexpected.

Walt Weiss, despite never managing a game above the high school level, brings a fresh perspective. He doesn't bring a perspective of someone who has been jaded by the fact that in baseball, losing three times a week is still pretty good. He played under both Tony LaRussa and Bobby Cox for eight of his 13 full seasons.

If Weiss manages the way he played the game, he will be intense, hard-working, and never making excuses. He will constantly be demanding that players don't accept situations, but that they push forward and get the most out of their talent.

That demeanor is exactly what the Rockies have been missing for the past three seasons. That style should also resonate well with Troy Tulowitzki, the best player in a Rockies uniform. Instead of a message that contradicts Tulowitzki's, Weiss will reinforce the message.

In addition to Weiss, fans quickly forget that Tulowitzki himself wasn't around much in 2012. Tulo saw his season end after just 47 games last season before ultimately seeing his season end due to a groin injury. Missing that aspect of the lineup cannot be understated. Not only is Tulo the best player on the field for the Rockies, but his presence makes everyone in the lineup better.

Carlos Gonzalez instantly sees more fastballs with Tulo healthy. Those two hitters change the dynamics of the Rockies lineup enough to win a handful of more games than they did in 2012.

Of course, fans can talk all day long about the managerial change and the added pieces to the lineup that will change the course of the 2013 season. However, the fact is, success for the Rockies hinges on one thing, the guys standing on a 10-inch hill standing 60 feet, six inches away from home plate.

A miserable failure in 2012, the Rockies failed to address their biggest issue, starting pitching.

The Rockies posted a team ERA of 5.22, a complete embarrassment. In 2013. Every March, the answer always seems to be the same from the Rockies. If a couple of the young pitchers turn the corner, the pitching will be fine. Well, that answer is wearing thin on fans. However, it is still true. Drew Pomeranz, the centerpiece of the Ubaldo Jimenez trade, is still learning. Bear in mind, he pitched just over 100 minor league innings before making his debut. He was also good enough to be selected fifth overall in 2010. The talent is there, whether it all comes together is still a debate.

In addition to Pomeranz is Juan Nicasio. While the righty is far from young, turning 27 in August, he is still getting his feet wet in the big leagues. He has started just 24 games before two separate injuries ended his seasons. If Nicasio can find another pitch, he has All-Star stuff.

The third piece is Jhoulys Chacin was once a top prospect for the Rockies. His season didn't go as planned in 2012, but injury derailed his season in May, but after comments about being out of shape from Dan O'Dowd came out in spring training, the Rockies ace didn't want to admit injury, perhaps making things worse. Regardless, he should be better, especially if he throws his changeup to right-handers at the same rate that he did in 2011.

The Rockies will improve by the simple fact that Jeremy Guthrie, who proved to be a mental midget with his performance and postgame comments at Coors Field, will be closer to sea level in Kansas City.

When it comes to pitching, there are a ton of "ifs." If everything comes together exactly right, the Rockies will be successful. The odds of that are slim. The pitching is really a huge question mark. However, they will be better. If for no other reason, the young pitchers should gain more experience that will help them.

The reality is, this Rockies team is far from contention. Yet, they should be more fun to watch. They should play with more energy, and they should be a better team. That alone should make them more fun to watch.

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  1. The Rockies were far from contenders in '07 but had a run for the ages and kept it up right into Rocktober. I'm not suggesting that will happen again, but we have to remember the Rockies seem to play better when they are the underdogs.

  2. I will look forward to the season when they get rid of the owners, until then they continue to treat this club like a AAA team, they're worthless.

  3. I really LIKE the Rox' one through eight lineup and I think that last year's injury problems allowed them to find quality depth in players like Colvin and EY Jr. I just don't understand why the front office seemed to REFUSE to address their starting pitching issues. I admire Walt Weiss but I'm not too optimistic about Geivet hovering in the clubhouse all the time. It certainly didn't work last year and I predict that it will devalue any success Walt has. Finally, if I hear ONE negative thing about the altitude, I'll know that ownership is still looking for excuses. Why hasn't anyone pointed out to the Monforts that altitude should be a strength and not a handy excuse every time something goes wrong? There have been successful baseball teams in Colorado for more than a century. All Charlie Monfort needs to do is remember the historic baseball success of his own alma mater: UNC, to realize that you learn to adjust to your environment and then kick ass.

  4. David,

    Both of the people commenting here completely add to the stereotype of the baseball fan in this city/state. One suggests that a run in October like yesteryear is perfectly acceptable so lets not pay attention or root till October while the other cites that they are worthless and if I am reading right suggests that he won't watch until they get great again. Some of your readers are missing the point of your article. Their is nothing that will or ever should imply that the Rockies should be the favorite year in and year out. However we as fans should demand that they put a competitive product on the field annually. With the addition of the extra wild card there is no reason for the fans to not expect to be at least 5 games back of that spot every year September begins. Furthermore if you as a fan want to hold the team accountable stay the course root for and more importantly show up at the ballpark and fill the seats every night. Which in turn will give Colorado more money to make moves down the stretch to get the extra piece we need to make the playoffs. Fans as much as management and ownership is to blame the fingers must be pointed at both. The fans spoke and ownership listened by inking Tulo and Cargo to long term multi -miliion dollar deals. Now quit crying and support these guys and fill the seats I assure you a stadium that's full with the community behind it will translate into more wins and much deeper accountability on player and ownership.

    1. As the author of the second comment,I'm wondering just WHERE you got the notion that I think the Rox are "worthless." Look at the FIRST sentence! I wrote no such thing, nor did I imply it! What I DID write was that I thought that the Rox front office did virtually nothing to address the vital issue of starting pitching. If that is wrong, please indicate just WHAT they did to improve their part of their ballclub. My comments are hardly calling the team worthless. The other thing I noted was that I think that the Rockies "powers that be" in the front office have provided themselves with a ready excuse: the altitude, for their own incompetence. I think that using the altitude as an excuse is a COPOUT by the Monforts, O'Dowd and Geivet! (Is that clear enough for you?) As for "showing up" at the ballpark, the Rockies were in the top half in all of MLB last season in attendance (13th out of 30). This during for the worst season in 20 years (David's assessment) so I hardly think that it's lack of support that caused the Rockies to go off the rails last year. In fact the Rockies (Wreckies?) outdrew FIVE playoff teams (Cincinnati, Oakland, Washington, Baltimore and Atlanta)! It might help if you actually read what I wrote!!

    2. I'm wondering as well where you get the information saying I think it's acceptable for only a late season run. I have reasonable expectations for the season. We will have one of the top offences in the bigs this year. We will also have a pitching staff that could be average (not great or even good) or it could be a repeat of last year.

      Alls I said is it appears the Rockies seem to play better when they aren't included in post season talks at the beginning of the season. Because of work and school issues I cannot buy season tickets, as much as I would love to do so, but I will continue to watch them on Root Sports nightly (even recording the games I can't watch live)and I will also make it to several games once school is over in May.

      So while you can say you want to blame the fans, you really can't. The previous poster said we were 13th in attendance in our worst season ever. The owners and front management staff are the ones to blame. Trying to push blame on other groups is the problem with this current franchise.

  5. Second comment guy. Are you a chick? Where did I get the idea that you said or think they're worthless? Ummm lets just start with the fact that you said it in above comment. I must really be way off base with that one. As for the person in school. Thank you for clarifying what you meant in your comment. Sometimes translation can get lost in email and text. I truly can appreciate someone in school being as busy as you and totally understand the financial end as well. Most of us in our lives have been broke college students at one time or another. Good luck on getting your degree. It is hard work but very rewarding once you obtain it. I am also glad that you find time to continue to watch on TV and attend a couple games a year.

  6. Mikey: from "2nd comment guy"- Hard for me to understand how criticizing the Rox' lack of willingness to address or improve their starting pitching says or implies that the whole team was worthless. As i said, the Rox 1-8 lineup will hit the ball and I think it will be pretty good defensively as well. To be specific: Their rotation as it stands now is Chacin (coming off injury), DeLaRosa (coming off an even worse injury, Nicasio (still recovering from a horrifying injury), Francis (a serviceable pitcher who will fill the no. 4 slot nicely, and Pomeranz- a pitcher who doesn't look as if he's going to reach his potential. All if these guys were on the Rox last year at one time or another. The Rox front office (particularly O'Dowd)has already indicated that they think the altitude wears out pitchers (especially) earlier in their careers- so why didn't they do anything to bolster their starting pitching? I mean, after the last two years, and the front office's belief that the altitude wears you down, do they REALLY think that they are going to go through this season without injuries?? (especially with the fact that three of the five are coming off injuries and surgery. I think that their whining about the altitude hurts their competitiveness, but I do think that both Weiss and Bichette (both being successful players with Colorado) will work to put an end to that b.s. I've read and reread my first comment and can't for the life of me understand where you got the "worthless" notion. If there is a part of the team which approaches worthlessness, it's ownership and the front office. I DO question the desire to win in the Monforts and O'Dowd. Geivet- I'm not sure about but I'm wondering just how this unique management model is supposed to be better than the ones the other 29 teams use. BTW, not a chicj and you can address me as JR.

  7. Mike- misunderstood which anonymous guy I was. I guess I'm the third, not the second. I guess it would help to reread the previous comments, but when I started the comment (the one that starts out "I really LIKE the Rox' one through eight lineup..."- the second column slipped in while I was typing up mine, so I thought I was the second guy. There was only one previous comment. Big misunderstanding. I still think that it's fair criticism to question the front office's inaction in addressing their starting pitching and that it is a copout to blame the altitude. (I agree with your criticism of "No 2" commenter.)JR

  8. Goodness gentleman this could go on forever but the bottom line is the front office has tried time and time again to bring in pitching even big names to fill the void of a star pitcher but the bottom line is. We are who we are and yes due to Coors field and the huge outfield we are going to score and give up runs. Its just the environment of Coors Field. However our management has done the best with what we have and is trying to develop guys in AAA and bring them along slowly to help the staff. The best point made is Ubaldo who was thought to be the next Tom Seaver and they dumped him at the right time and all fans cried. Turned out to be the right move. Have faith guys. We will never have a top of the line ace here so lets just groom them from within as far as starters go. However we could use a straight heat guy in the bullpen but its easier to develop them then it is to overpay for one.