Colorado Rockies-Forsaken At The Summit; Praying For The Future
Far be it from me, secular *** that I am, to impugn someone else’s beliefs as to the driving force behind their success or failure. The Colorado Rockies unexpected and unprecedented hot streak could very well have had something to do with an Angels in the Outfield moment which somehow led them to a level of success that they had never before achieved under their current, penny-pinching and previously clueless regime. The Rockies fervent religious crusade was detailed in a NY Times article I wrote about during the playoffs (Is This A Baseball Team Or A Religious Retreat?); the team has taken steps to not only bring in players who adhered to "Christian moral values", but has kindly allowed Jewish players like Jason Hirsh to feel comfortable in such an atmosphere.
This is all well and good, but the Rockies hot streak and sudden appearance in the World Series also might have had something to do with there not being a dominant team in the National League; they got hot at the right time; and they were due, after fifteen years of being mired in abject mediocrity and worse, to have some good things happen for them. Their bible-thumping may very well have had nothing to do with it. Either way, the Rockies burst onto the scene, for better or worse and they’re no longer going to be seen as the hapless and hopeless organization with the pinball machine ballpark and inept upper management—-all due to a four week stretch in which everything came together, by divine intervention or not.
The Rockies have built their team predominately from within. Their lineup is pretty well set and has the power to score plenty of runs, whether in Coors Field or not. Matt Holliday is finally getting some appreciation for being the best left fielder in baseball; he’s got immense power, hits in the clutch and is determined to win. The rest of the lineup with Todd Helton, Brad Hawpe, Garret Atkins and the emerging young heir to Derek Jeter, Troy Tulowitzki, is young enough to be kept together for several years and form the nucleus of a powerful lineup.
Kaz Matsui, who in 2007 finally showed why he was so in demand when he came over from Japan, has filed for free agency and the Rockies want to keep him. If I were advising Matsui, I would tell him not to be greedy and take the first reasonable offer the Rockies give him; greed and overthinking might end up costing Matsui more than money; he might revert to the oft-injured, underperforming player he was with the Mets. He’s comfortable in Colorado and should stay there.
Yorvit Torrealba was prepared to sign a deal with the Mets when someone—-no one’s saying who—-backed out of the deal. The Rockies had interest in bringing Torrealba back, but not at the price the Mets were willing to pay (with good reason); Torrealba wasn’t and isn’t worth that money and I’m sure that the Rockies will be perfectly willing to move forward with the likes of Paul Lo Duca or Miguel Olivo if they can’t come to a reasonable agreement with Torrealba. Willy Taveras is, in my mind, a wasted part of the Rockies lineup. There’s no reason to play him other than that he’s on the roster and can run. The team would be better served to play Ryan Spilborghs regularly. If the Yankees deal Melky Cabrera for Johan Santana, they’re going to be in the market for a defensively-minded center fielder and Taveras would be a perfect fit for that purpose.
The Rockies need starting pitching that can gobble innings at the back of their rotation. It’s doubtful that they’ll be in the market for some of the high-priced suspects that are available now, but they have some prospects to trade and might be able to pry a guy like Joe Blanton from the Athletics. As mediocre as he was, Josh Fogg showed some courage for the Rockies and should command more money elsewhere than the Rockies are probably willing to pay. They have a bunch of young pitchers like Jason Hirsh (who is extremely talented and looks injury prone); Franklin Morales and Ubaldo Jimenez (who I think is going to be a star).
One thing the Rockies deserve great credit for is the way in which they’ve built a solid bullpen over the last few years without spending a ton of money. They continually do what critics of the big money spenders on set-up men suggest by finding pitchers—-La Troy Hawkins, Taylor Buchholz, Matt Herges and Jorge Julio—-at affordable prices and plugging them in to get use from them. Manny Corpas looks like he’ll be a solid closer which should make deposed closer Brian Fuentes expendable. Teams like the Mets, Yankees, Tigers, and probably about fifteen others could make use of Fuentes.
For whatever reason, the Rockies got hot at the exact right time and blew through the National League and into the World Series; to expect that to happen again is not realistic. Unless they address the lack of innings they get from their starting pitchers by bringing in serviceable starters, they’re likely to revert back to what they were before their coming out party in 2007. Dan O’Dowd has made some utterly bizarre and downright stupid maneuvers as the Rockies GM. He’s been given one opportunity after another to fix his mistakes and the organization has delivered high-quality talent to the major league level; but they still seem reluctant to spend money (understandable given the disastrous signings of Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle, etc.), but they need to plug their holes and keep their own players. If they don’t do that, they’re likely to fall right back behind the Dodgers and Padres again next season when 2007 will be a distant memory with the Rockies back in their familiar position of fourth place.