|Sorry Jeff, it's time for the Rockies to say goodbye.|
Tyler Colvin, making his 2013 debut after a rough spring training landed him in Triple-A, hit a Luke Gregerson pitch as hard as he could with the tying run in scoring position and one out. However, Gyorko robbed Colvin of the hero honors. After Dexter Fowler looked over matched in a strikeout, the game was over and the Rockies were left hoping for a four-game series split on Sunday.
The Rockies fan base is going to have to be reminded of something several times throughout the 2013 season. Take a step back and view this team for who they are. This is a team that lost 98 games a year ago. They are making strides. They are a much better team, but there are going to be major speed bumps in the road to recovery.
That is a hard fact to accept for fans that saw a franchise that looked like it had figured out how to win just four seasons ago. It was a long road to success before the 2007 season for Rockies fans who have been around that long, and waiting that many years for them to build a winner again doesn't sound that appealing.
However, the reality is, this team is a work in progress. Think about it, does a team that has Jeff Francis, a guy who hasn't been good since 2007, as the option they land on for a game within their division in June sound like a move that a contender makes? No offense to Francis, but his best days are so far behind him that he can't see them in the rear view mirror.
Blaming the offense for failing to get to below-average Padres starter Eric Stults, but when push comes to shove, the Rockies needed a quality start on a Saturday night after playing 12 innings on Thursday and needing plenty of bullpen help, including two innings from Matt Belisle, on Friday night.
The guys with the bats might not have done what they needed to do on Saturday, and frankly, there isn't really any good excuse for a team with the firepower that the Rockies possess to simply not show up against a beatable Padres team. However, sports psychology has to be factored in.
As seems to be par for the course, Francis gave up a 1st inning run and threw 31 pitches in the frame. That isn't the start that the Rockies needed from him. The offensive approach shouldn't change for the Rockies regardless of the situation that early in the game, but it would be worth betting that the guys on the offensive side feel the pressure of a game like Saturday's.
Batters know that the team is short in the bullpen, they know that there are tired arms down there that are going to have to be used. In the back of their minds, it wouldn't be hard to believe that the offense knows that when Francis didn't start the way that he needed to, they were thinking about the burden that they needed to take on.
They are called professionals for a reason, but they are still human beings. When Francis was removed from the game after just four innings of work and 91 pitches and four runs across the plate, there is pressure that is instantly mounted on the offense. Even though the bullpen was phenomenal, as they have been all season long, the Rockies offense needed to mount a comeback against a lefty in Stults who isn't great, but is good enough to have an ERA under 4.00.
Whether the psychology of hitting comes into play for the Rockies depending on who is on the mound is simply conjecture. However, the point is the same. The Rockies aren't going to be contenders with Francis on the mound for 25 or more starts.
Everyone knew coming into the season that the Rockies achilles heal was going to be their starting pitching. However, it has been much better overall than expected. They have had very good performances from Jorge De La Rosa, Tyler Chatwood and others that have given them a chance to win most of the games they have been in. However, despite the early results that have helped them be three games over .500 and in the thick of the NL West race, the Rockies are going to be a mirage if they don't make moves to improve.
Here is the other thing that Rockies fans are going to have to keep reminding themselves. The fantasy baseball inspired idea that they should "go out and trade for an ace" is about as close to reality as Jeff Francis' Cy Young chances. Don't blame the Rockies for not trading for an ace. Blame anyone who suggests that teams who own a legitimate ace are actually willing to deal that ace, and if they are, for a price that isn't completely ridiculous. David Price or CJ Wilson aren't on their way to Denver anytime soon.
However, the Rockies need to make bold moves if they want to make the 2013 season truly one that no one forgets. Of course, Roy Oswalt is on the cusp of his return to the big leagues. That move will happen before the end of the month, and likely in the next week. Drew Pomeranz has been good in Colorado Springs, but is still showing inconsistencies. Those are the two most obvious choices. However, both of them are also like flipping a coin.
Does the 35-year-old Oswalt have enough in the tank to help out? Would a promotion of Pomeranz help him flip the switch? Those are questions that can't be answered until the moves are made.
The Rockies could also look at some trade options. The Marlins should be interested in moving Ricky Nolasco. The righty sports an unimpressive 3-6 record, but he pitches for one of the worst teams in recent memory, and his ERA is still very good at 3.61.
The Cubs will most likely move Matt Garza as well, the righty has made just four starts since July of 2012 because of two injuries, one a stress fracture in his throwing elbow and the other a lat strain that he suffered just before Opening Day. Garza would represent a strong upgrade to the current rotation the Rockies sport, but don't expect Justin Verlander circa 2011 results.
The reality is, this Rockies team is far better than they were a year ago. They are giving their fans hope. That is a good thing. Just talking about being buyers at the trade deadline as opposed to sellers is a huge surprise. To be this far ahead of where they were is a very good thing for the Rockies.
However, if they want to do more than fool themselves, and truly contend, they are going to have to be bold and take some risks to bring in talent. Jeff Francis isn't going to cut it.
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