Sunday, June 22, 2014

Problem for the Colorado Rockies isn't just the pitching, it's the culture

This was the scene at Coors Field on Saturday.
Cue the circus music.

Since 1993, the Colorado Rockies are no strangers to embarrassing themselves, but they may have hit a new low on Saturday at Coors Field.

In the top of the 3rd inning, with the bases loaded, spot starter Christian Friedrich threw a pitch over catcher Michael McKenry's head. The cross up didn't allow McKenry time to catch the pitch, and the ball bounded off of the brick wall behind home plate. One run scored on the wild pitch, then another came around when McKenry attempted to throw the ball to Friedrich, covering the plate, but overthrew him. With the ball rolling near the dugout and the second run in, Friedrich picked up the ball and looked angry as he walked back to the infield. However, Jean Segura, now at third base on the passed ball and throwing error decided to make a run for it. He slid in to home just before Friedrich could tag him, giving the Brewers three runs on one wild pitch.

The embarrassing play was one of many on Saturday afternoon. The Rockies combined for four errors.

The comedy of errors, however, started with the front office in the morning. The team announced before the game that they had purchased the contract of Wilton Lopez and send Chris Martin back to the minors. When Wilton Lopez is the answer for even one day in the bullpen, there is a serious problem. If Lopez's performance from 2013 wasn't bad enough, the work that he did early in 2014 should have been enough to show that he doesn't belong in a Rockies uniform. However, the Rockies decided that he was the guy who should get the call.

If the Rockies play on the field isn't embarrassing enough, the fact that the injury excuses have kicked into fifth gear again makes the embarrassment that much more. The Rockies have worn out that excuse over the past few seasons, and after going out and getting Brett Anderson, Jordan Lyles and Boone Logan for their pitching staff, the Rockies insisted that they had enough depth to cover up for injuries that would inevitably come up.

The Rockies have certainly been snake-bit with injuries, but that isn't why they are struggling. This is a rotation that, even if completely healthy, would have started one of either Juan Nicasio or Franklin Morales in the starting rotation. When Jhoulys Chacin showed up to camp with a sore shoulder, both of those pitchers were slated for the starting rotation. If Lyles hadn't have pitched above his pay grade for the first six weeks of the season, the Rockies rotation may have been worse than it has ever been, and that is a significant statement.

Fans want to point to the fact that the Rockies have had 11 different pitchers start a game for them. Sure, that means that the Rockies have dealt with injuries more than many teams, but face the facts, it's not like the difference between starter No. 5 and starter No. 11 has been that great.

It is nice to think that if Brett Anderson and Tyler Chatwood in particular had been healthy that the Rockies would have been in a much better place. Certainly it would have helped the situation. However, let's stop pretending that those two pitchers are game changers. Anderson has top of the rotation stuff, but he has started 30 games in the past three seasons. It is more realistic to assume that he would get hurt then to wonder what would happen if he had stayed healthy.

Chatwood has shown promise in his time with the Rockies, but he has also shown a propensity to get injured himself. While wins might not be everything when determining how good a pitcher is, it still shows something. In his career, Chatwood has never been a double digit winner. Make no mistake, he is a very good pitcher, but fans need to stop pretending that they had Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine in the rotation and lost them both on the same road trip.

The problem with the Rockies isn't the injuries, it isn't the pitching. The issue is that there is an excuse culture that is allowed to thrive. Instead of creating their own luck, the Rockies front office crosses their fingers and hopes for the best. There is clearly an "awe shucks" mindset when it comes to how things are viewed from ownership.

There is no demand for excellence from the Rockies. The ship isn't tightly run. It is loose and free. The culture has allowed everyone from the top down to become content. There is no pressure or expectation of excellence. Instead, whatever poor-me excuse of the day is just fine for this franchise.

When things like a three-run past ball and a four-error game happen, it points to undisciplined baseball. Undisciplined baseball is worse than bad baseball. At least bad baseball can be improved. Undisciplined baseball is a slow spiral to the bottom of divisions.

The pitching and the injuries might be a problem, but a lack of demand for excellence from the top down is the real problem for this team. Until that changes, the Rockies will finish every season in a familiar position.

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  1. This has been going on for 20 years--I'll give them a pass in the inaugural season of 1993--and yet, how many batting titles, gold gloves, and other offensive awards have some of their players achieved? A select FEW actually demand excellence of themselves, but the organization, as a whole, keeps putting a mediocre team on the field and the fans keep showing up. Time after time. Maybe next year. We are rebuilding for the future.

  2. Passed ball, not a ball from the past. Lol. I agree with you, but until they start losing money in ticket sales and merch the attitude will stay the same.

  3. Passed ball, not a ball from the past. Lol. I agree with you, but until they start losing money in ticket sales and merch the attitude will stay the same.

  4. This article is spot on correct! The owners have no clue how to run a Baseball club, let alone know anything about Baseball. The front office...a total joke, but they keep paying them. If they were paid by performance, they'd be broke. We have a small core of great players and a whole lot of minor league wanna Be's. Say good bye to the Tulo's and Cargo's and Cuddyer's, I sure as hell wouldn't want to play for an owner or team like this in while in my prime.

  5. The Rockies will not sign anyone except men of 'character'. This excludes a majority of the talent pool. What do you expect to accomplish on the field when the possibilities for signing talented players is severely diminished???

  6. The Rockies are a JOKE, they only have one quality player, Tulo, and he is only for himself. After the comedy of errors, against the Brewers, maybe now, the fans will start staying away. I played in the old Sugar Beet League, and I think that some of the quality, Greeley Grays, teams, could have beaten this bunch, who are posing as a Major Leauge team.

  7. This column is spot on. I have said the same thing on numerous occasions. The Rockies have a number of really good players, including Tulo (who is not at all selfish, but has not been a very good situational hitter before this year). Arenado is the best fielding 3rd baseman I have ever seen. Cargo was the best left fielder in baseball until his hand problems started last year.

    But, the team develops the mentality that playing at altitude is hard in the minor leagues. So by the time players, and particularly pitchers get to the big leagues, their are already making excuses. Until the team can embrace the altitude and develop players who think of it as an advantage, which will require a whole new front office, this is going to be a mediocre team with flashes of greatness, thanks to some of their offensive/defensive ability.

    And one last thing, when the Rox signed Hawkins, I commented on the Post's website that it was clear what would happen: Brothers would come to Spring trying too hard, suck, get sent down, traded, and flourish with another team. This is a team that can't get out of it's own way. They had a fireball throwing lefty in Brothers who was a beast, and they rewarded him for a great 2013 by screwing with his head. THAT is why O'Dowd should be fired; he does not know how to develop players.