Thursday, July 18, 2013

What will it take for the Colorado Rockies to win the National League West?

Can the Colorado Rockies win the NL West?
The Colorado Rockies return from a much-needed All-Star Break on Friday with an ultimatum. Win now, or watch interest head from 20th & Blake down to Dove Valley, where the Denver Broncos kickoff training camp in a week.

To say that the Rockies 2013 season has been a roller coaster would be an understatement. With a refreshed drive and spirit heading into spring training, with a new manager pushing for a tougher mindset and a clubhouse leader like Michael Cuddyer distributing t-shirts designed to eliminate a clubhouse full of excuses.

The mantra seemed to take hold. The Rockies stormed to a 13-4 start. They were winning games in 20 degree weather in dramatic fashion. They were coming from behind, they were holding leads. The Rockies were playing with a swagger that hadn't been seen since--dare it be said--2009.

Skepticism was at an all time high. Who could blame Rockies fans for still feeling the scar tissue from a 98-loss season a year ago? The Rockies dealt with injuries, but used them as an excuse. Instead of improving their team in the offseason, the silence was deafening. This was a team that did absolutely nothing to get better, yet started their season in first place through the first month of the season.

As the season progressed, even the most optimistic Rockies believers were waiting for the other shoe to drop. It wasn't possible that this team could stick around in the race for the whole season, was it? Well, on June 13th, the other shoe dropped. When Troy Tulowitzki, who was on pace for his best season at the plate, by far, hit the ground with a thud, the Rockies early success cracked just like their shortstop's rib.

The Rockies started to lose. They started to play bad baseball. The lineup was in disarray, the bullpen, for the first time all season, started to struggle, and the Rockies were on a downward spiral. The critics had their chance to tell all of the believers that they spoke too soon, and just as they had predicted, the Rockies were headed to a place they have become all-too familiar with in the past 20 years, the basement of the National League West.

With a terrible late June and July, the Rockies record sunk to .500, then below .500, then several games below .500. All of the early work that had been done was gone.

If a person only watched the Rockies and paid no attention to the rest of the league, they would never believe that the club who went 11-19 since June 13th was somehow in the race. However, as the Rockies faltered, so did both the Diamondbacks and the Giants. The whole National League West division looked like it had decided to take the month of June off.

What that means is that through 96 games, the Rockies sit four games under .500 at 46-50. That record is good enough to put them just 4-1/2 games out of first place in the west.

So what are the Rockies going to do? A team that is four games under .500 isn't fooling anyone into believing that they are a serious contender, are they? Maybe not, but the rule in baseball is clear, just get into the playoffs and anything can happen. Also, despite a weak division, the Rockies have never worn the crown as the top team in the National League West. When 20 years have passed with no championships, a team will take one where ever it can get it.

With the trade deadline just two weeks away, will the Rockies make a move? Much to the surprise of critics, the Rockies starting pitching has been much better than expected. Jorge De La Rosa has returned to ace form after Tommy John surgery, Jhoulys Chacin has figured out his focus issues, and Tyler Chatwood has gone from a guy who needed more minor league seasoning to a dominate, dependable starter at the big league level.

The problem with the rotation still exists. Despite three very good starters, the last two spots in the rotation are a black hole. Juan Nicasio has been terrible and to say that Drew Pomeranz has been a disappointment would be laughable. Another starting pitcher would go a long way to help the Rockies gain ground. However, there are about 15 other teams saying that exact statement currently. Most of those teams have both more money to spend, and better prospects to ship away in a deal.

The other glaring issue that has to be considered is the trade market for a starting pitcher. The only true Major League proven pitcher available is Chicago's Matt Garza. To assume that he would lead the Rockies into the playoffs is a huge stretch. Reality is, there simply isn't a great pitcher available to trade for. A game-changer isn't out there.

The other option is to add a bat. The starting lineup was supposed to be a strong point for this club. They have had their moments, but the end results have been disappointment. Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez have been phenomenal, along with veteran Michael Cuddyer, but beyond them, the Rockies offense have been a big disappointment.

The Rockies could make a deal with the Mariners for first baseman Kendrys Morales. The lefty slugger has 15 home runs in spacious Safeco Field and could be a great fit for Coors Field. He would also allow Todd Helton to move into a pinch hitting role that he might be more fit for. It would also allow Walt Weiss to write out a consistent lineup on a daily basis, which should help the rhythm of the lineup.

The conclusion is simple. If the Rockies are going to win in 2013, they cannot stand pat. They don't have the depth to go on a late season run. They have to figure out a way to make it happen now.

Starting with a 10-game homestand against the National League's worst teams, the Rockies will quickly determine if they have a chance. Anything less than 7-3 is a major disappointment and should signal the end for this upstart club. However, if they can go 8-2 or even better, management should make a move to get things going. They should be willing to trade some prospects, even if it hurts the team down the road. If they can win, they should win now.

However, the onus isn't on the owners to make something happen, the onus is on the current players to go out and win baseball games and prove they are player away from the playoffs. If they can't do that in the next 10 days, don't blame ownership for not wanting to pull the trigger on a big move.

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  1. Is Adam Dunn a viable option? Another starting pitcher would go a long way as well. Maybe there is a pitcher out there who's last names aren't Garza or Norris, maybe a diamond in the rough who needs scenic views like Denver.

    1. That is an interesting thought. He strikes out a ton, but he also sees a lot of pitches and gets on base. His power is hard to argue with. However, for some reason, I just can't warm myself up to the idea. Not sure why.

  2. I"m watching the game right now. Cubs just scored again in the ninth to go up 3-1. We have scored one run against the Cubs. At home!!! I think I am about done with this team. Frustrated beyond belief right now!!!

    1. Glenn-
      Frustrating doesn't describe what this team does to the emotions! It is downright brutal. I thought the break would give them the strength to come back strong. I was clearly wrong.