Thursday, May 2, 2013

Little changes make a big difference for Colorado Rockies

Dexter Fowler has emerged as a serious All-Star candidate.
Maybe Tony Robbins was wrong when he famously said "by changing nothing, nothing changes."

The biggest complaint about the Colorado Rockies after losing 98 games in 2012 was that they stood pat with their roster. The only changes that were made came in the form of management and coaches. However, a large part of the team that played with little life, made excuses, and routinely got outplayed and beaten would be back to take the field in 2013.

Well, through one month of the season, the players on this Rockies team look very much the same as 2012, but they play entirely differently.

On Wednesday night in Los Angeles, the Rockies put together another impressive offensive performance in a 7-3 win over the Dodgers. With Josh Beckett on the mound, the Rockies plated three runs in the first inning, then, after Juan Nicasio allowed the Dodgers to tie the game up, the Rockies bounced back and scored four more runs.

Carlos Gonzalez notched two doubles, Josh Rutledge reached base four times, Troy Tulowitzki had two hits, including a bases loaded double in the 1st inning, and Michael Cuddyer also had two hits.

The number of hits and runs that the Rockies produced isn't a huge surprise. This offense is loaded. They can score runs against anybody. However, it is a far different feel to this ball club than the team that played a Rockies uniforms a year ago. This year, the team plays with fight.

Imagine the Rockies from 2012 having a game in which the opposing starter struck them out 13 times. Those 13 strikeouts came on a west coast road trip, where most fans are very much aware that the Rockies struggle not only to win, but to score runs in general. In 2012, the Rockies would have followed up that performance with another clunker. The bags would have been packed for the trip home, anticipating better luck when they were at home.

Instead, this Rockies team doesn't quit. Instead of letting a bad loss gain momentum in the wrong direction, through the first month of the season, this Rockies team has fought back. They haven't given in to defeat.

There seems to be an edge that this Rockies team is playing with. There is an intangible factor with this club. It is amazing what a group of talented individuals can do with a little added motivation.

On Wednesday, the momentum turned when Dexter Fowler, suddenly a no-brainer candidate for the All-Star game, made a gorgeous catch in left-center field in the 4th inning, robbing Adrian Gonzalez of his second home run of the night. With two men on base, the home run would have given the Dodgers a 6-3 lead. Instead, the Rockies got out of the inning, headed back into the dugout with the score tied. From there, they were able to piece together a few runs and secure the win.

As mentioned, Fowler suddenly looks like an All-Star. However, he isn't the only one who has made strides. Troy Tulowitzki, long criticized for his lack of clutch hitting, took a great at-bat with the bases loaded in the 1st inning. In years past, Tulo would have been trying to do nothing but hit a home run. With no one out, the goal should be to get the ball in play and score a couple of runs.

On Wednesday, that is exactly what Tulo did. He found a pitch on the outside half of the plate. He flipped his bat at the ball and got it down in the outfield, scoring two runs.

In the past, when Tulo would try to be the hero in those situations, he would end up striking out. That would mentally allow the opposing pitcher to know that a double play got them out of the inning. Instead, Tulo kept the inning going, getting a base hit down and scoring a couple of runs.

Could it be possible that a change in managers has made this much of a difference? The answer is simple. Yes.

Jim Tracy was a great manager for the 2009 Rockies. No one needed motivation. The entire team worked hard to get to the playoffs. They were tired of Clint Hurdle's disciplinarian mentality. Tracy didn't get in the way. However, the 2012 team needed someone less like Tracy, who always seemed to have an excuse. They needed someone who would hold them accountable from time-to-time. They needed someone who had played the game and understood the grind.

The hiring of Walt Weiss was mocked by those who were quick to point out that he had only coached at the high school level. Those complaints were short-sighted, however, as Weiss played for years under the likes of Bobby Cox and Tony LaRussa. He was the kind of player who had dirt on his jersey by the 2nd inning. He played hard and got the most out of his talent.

The attitude that the Rockies are playing with strongly resembles the attitude that Weiss played with in his career.

Instead of being set back for days after a tough loss like the Rockies suffered on Tuesday, they washed it out of their minds and came out on Wednesday and won the series. For Rockies fans, the ability for this team to do that is huge. It is a gigantic step forward and shows that they aren't afraid of anyone and that they are willing to fight.

The Rockies may not stay in first place all season long, but they certainly are going to be more fun to pay attention to than they were in 2012.

Ironically, the team that is suddenly fun to watch is comprised of nearly the exact same players as the team that was almost torture to watch a year ago.

For the Rockies, changing next to nothing seems to have changed plenty.

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1 comment:

  1. ScoMan @MLBColoRockiesMay 3, 2013 at 4:40 AM

    As you said there is one big change....Walt is our skipper. He doesn't make excuses like Tracy did. He has these guys playing like a gang of playground bullies, instead of the playground bullied.