Trivia time: Do you know why the most majestic mountain range in North America is called the Rocky Mountains?
It’s because the very granite and other rocks that make up the mountains are eroding, crumbling to the ground, bit by bit, boulder by boulder.
The very same can be said about the Rockies of the MLB.
The once proud and seemingly rock-solid team has crumbled under the pressure of playoff expectations, literally and figuratively.
The injury bug is biting harder than mosquito’s in the Colorado summer, and the Rockies are falling like flies.
Arguably Colorado’s four best players—Jorge De La Rosa, Ubaldo Jimenez, Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez—have all missed time on the field with teammates, which has resulted in the Rox plummeting faster than a boulder breaking off of Pikes Peak.
Add to their injuries, the next tier of players—Aaron Cook, Esmil Rogers, Dexter Fowler and, newest to the DL, Charlie Blackmon—have all been hurt this year as well.
In case you missed Thursday’s day game loss to the Braves, Blackmon, the one bright spot among Colorado’s AAA call-ups, fractured his left foot while sliding into third base.
The Rockies lost the game, were swept in four contests in Atlanta and Blackmon went down.
Talk about adding injury to insult.
And injuries are truly telling of a team in Major League Baseball.
Simply stated, the grueling 162-game schedule claims many victims with the relentless repetitive stress put on the bodies of mere human beings. Every team in baseball goes through injuries—the great teams sustain while bad teams’ backs are broken.
The injury list shows more than the current health of the team too though, it also hints at the health of the entire franchise, farm teams included.
At the start of the season, the Rockies looked to be one of the deeper teams in the majors, at the mid-way point in the season, they look shallower than the kiddy pool at Water World.
Sure, Blackmon filled the void well in left by the floundering Fowler, but other call-ups Eric Young Jr., Chris Nelson, Clayton Mortensen and Ian Stewart (as of late) have shown no more than flashes of brilliance while proving they aren’t MLB-caliber, at least as of yet. (Some may never be.)
The Rockies’ farm system has been celebrated by fans and media alike for years, but is it really that fantastic?
Has GM Dan O’Dowd scouted, signed and put in place the young players that will propel Colorado to new heights?
Or, has he been given a free pass by the benefit of over-hyped and undervalued young talent?
Yes, O’Dowd did well to trade for Mark Ellis, and Ty Wigginton has worked well in Denver, but besides small trades for aging middle of the road players, what has O’Dowd done that has wowed fans, let alone ownership?
But beyond O’Dowd, the Rockies players have been working with a lack of confidence in themselves—it can be seen at the plate and even on the basepaths all year—which stems from a lack of confidence from their skipper Jim Tracy.
As my colleague Travis Lay said yesterday, “…the Rockies have had seven different players at second base, seven play third, eight different outfielders, 10 different starting pitchers and even three different starting first basemen.”
How can players gain confidence when their playing time is so inconsistent?
Tracy was at his best when he was considered a player’s coach in 2009. He put confidence in players like Clint Barmes, Ian Stewart and Ryan Spilborghs and they showed him love, literally, when embracing him with huge hugs after wild wins.
Yes, the Rockies went an amazing 74-42 after Tracy took over in 2009, but since the beginning of the 2010 season, Colorado is a less than mediocre 124-126 under Tracy’s tutelage.
So where does the onus lie?
Part of the blame has to go to O’Dowd, who fills the roster with talent, but more of the blame has to fall on Tracy’s shoulders.
Tracy has contact with the team every day, he decides the lineup and he can boost up their confidence by picking his best eight position players and putting them on Coors Field on a consistent basis. Tracy decides the strategy and he picks the coaches that teach hitting, fielding, baserunning and so on.
And when Tracy had to call not one, but two closed team meetings earlier this season, it was a sign that he’s lost the attention, lost the respect of the team.
Can he win them back?
Do these Rockies have another ridiculous run in them, like in 2007 and 2009?
Only time will tell, but at six under .500 and 8.5 games back of first in the NL West, it isn’t looking good for Tracy, or the crumbling Rockies.