Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Colorado Rockies think little league style baseball will work in the big leagues

The Colorado Rockies need to go back to in the box thinking.
Remember in coach pitch when a guy would play shortstop one inning, catch the next, then go to the outfield? At the high school level, that type of position movement goes away. However, the Colorado Rockies still employ it.

On Tuesday night against the white-hot Los Angeles Dodgers, manager Walt Weiss put Carlos Gonzalez into the game in a double switch. A double switch usually is done to allow a pitcher to throw more than one inning, or get the better bat to the plate sooner. However, with a swollen thumb that flared up again on Monday, Gonzalez couldn't bat.

Weiss moved CarGo to left field for the final two outs of the 8th inning, but put him in the spot in the lineup that was due up first in the bottom of the 8th inning. That means that after two outs in left field, Gonzalez was removed for a pinch hitter.

The move forced Charlie Culberson, a second baseman in the process of learning the outfield, to go in the game in left field. In the top of the 9th, with two outs and the bases loaded, Mark Ellis hit a deep fly ball to left center field. Culberson did a good job of tracking it down, but the ball glanced off of his glove, dropping to the grass and scoring three runs.

It is easy to yell at Culberson. It is easy to get mad at Weiss for his head-scratching move. For what it is worth, the move with Gonzalez made no sense. None what-so-ever. However, the issue goes beyond the one move that ended up costing the Rockies the game. The move was one small example of one of the big issues Rockies fans are forced to deal with when it comes to the team that they root for.

The Rockies tinker far too much. They mess with their pitchers too much, they turn infielders into outfielders, outfielders into infielders, catchers into infielders and back into catchers. They seem to think they can take any athlete and make them whatever they want them to be.

The Rockies, bent on building a winner through the farm system, can count the number of big league players that they have developed on two hands. That isn't enough for a team that claims to build from within and has existed for 20 years.

There is nothing wrong with converting a guy like Culberson to left field. The Rockies have depth at second base and look to have found their starter in DJ LeMahieu. If Culberson wants at-bats, and if his bat is good enough to hit at the big league level, moving to the outfield isn't a bad option. The only problem is how the Rockies go about it.

It isn't going to help Culberson to be put into the game in the 9th inning of a one-run game. Moves like that aren't going to further his development as a left fielder. There are far more bad things that can happen in a close game when an infielder is playing in the outfield, specifically a guy who is essentially trying out for a spot on the 25-man roster in 2014.

The move by Weiss didn't make much sense. After the game he told the media that he essentially made the move to force Dodgers manager Don Mattingly into putting in a lefty to face Gonzalez, at which point Weiss would counter with a right-handed hitter. The only reason Weiss' explanation held any water was because Josh Rutledge pinch hit for CarGo and homered to left. The problem is, the solo home run doesn't add up to the three runs that Culberson gave up with his error.

What has become more and more clear as time goes on is that the Rockies run a loose ship. Their expectations aren't to win at all costs, it is to roll the dice and hope for the best. This is a franchise that doesn't have demands of excellence on anyone. They take things day-by-day and say "shucks" and move on to the next day.

Teams that don't accept losing, teams that want to prove that they are more than a bottom feeder, have better plans. They don't throw away games, even in September when they are far out of the race.

If the Rockies want to make the injury excuse, and claim that with CarGo hurt, they only had Culberson on the bench to play the outfield. The problem with this argument is that it is September. The rosters expand from 25 to 40, meaning the Rockies can have a bench deep enough to carry almost their entire Sky Sox roster if they would like. Despite his struggles, Tyler Colvin didn't receive a September call-up. He probably didn't earn one, but if a team is going to put an infielder in the outfield in a defensive replacement type of move, maybe they should actually have an outfielder that they can bring in.

There are plenty of factors in not bringing up a bunch of players, the biggest being money. However, the Rockies continue to tell their fans that they aren't going to quit and that they are playing every game to win. However, they continue to make moves, both on and off of the field, that counter that argument.

Maybe it is complaining at this point. Maybe it is splitting hairs. However, the point must be driven home with a heavy hammer. The point must be yelled as loud as possible. The way the Rockies front office manages this team, from personnel to theories, simply isn't good enough. There is more desire to play around with silly theories than there is to focus on fundamentals. The basics get ignored while the abstract refined.

For the Rockies to turn their fortunes around, they must stop thinking outside of the box. They have been thinking outside of the box for so long that they have forgotten that inside the box is what has made many teams winners. The Rockies won't be winners again until they go back to basics.

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  1. Your comments are both right-on & disheartening. The view "they [Rockies] roll the dice and hope for the best" is a pattern that is quickly making the team almost impossible to watch and care about. I could handle a below .500 team as long as it competes, is fun to watch, and has a plan for future success. This 2013 version of the Rockies is none of these things.

    1. I agree with you sentiment, "I could handle a below .500 team as long as it competes, is fun to watch, and has a plan for future success." The problem is when have gone through multiple "building" phases with "Todd and the Toddlers" teams in the early 2000's and GenR recently. The problem is the organization never puts a team together that can compete over a 5-7 year span. If we were building I could handle it, but it all comes back to the "roll the dice and get lucky" mentality...2007's don't happen very often and 2009 was one of the only solid teams O'Dowd has ever put together.

  2. Will WW be back in 2014? I hope not.