A full quarter of the season is complete and the Rockies are a dreadful 16-27: on pace to lose a franchise record 102 games. Enough games have been played to rule out the excuses of a “slow start” or a “bad stretch” and the simple truth is that we could be watching the worst team in franchise history. The fact that this is a bad team in need of change is obvious to everyone, except of course to the guy who writes the checks. This week, we react to ownership’s comments on the front office, brainstorm ideas to improve play, and give our reasons for continuing to watch.
What 3 words describe your reaction to Dick Monfort’s praise of Dan O’Dowd?
Brendan: Frustrated; depressed; helpless. When I first heard that Monfort endorsed DOD and the coaching staff I was excited that it was the “dreaded vote of confidence” that comes before a firing. Then I saw what he said and was just shocked: O’Dowd is “head and shoulders above everybody else” and “is the most brilliant guy [Monfort] has ever met”. And he was completely serious. It is frustrating that ownership is so out of touch with reality (4 winning seasons in 12 years) and depressing that they have confirmed what we have long suspected: that they only care about the bottom line. The worst part is that as fans we are completely helpless to effect change and are left with a single option: boycotting our beloved Rockies (which I doubt will ever gain enough momentum to be effective).
Kevin: Wait and see. The mere fact that Dick Monfort interviewed with the Post about Dan O’Dowd and company shows that the Monforts know O’Dowd is on the hot seat. Owners never issue “votes of confidence” when things are going well; rather, they often precede a firing. However, Monfort expressed oddly enthusiastic confidence in O’Dowd: “I can’t think of a general manager in baseball that’s as good as him. Granted, I don’t know all of them . . . I just think [O'Dowd] is head and shoulders above everybody else.” Hopefully this is a smoke screen, otherwise Dick Monfort is putting child-like confidence and stupidity on full display.
Ned: Nothing but spin. Either Dick Monfort is a totally clueless hayseed, or he just delivered the dreaded vote of confidence. I believe it is the latter. The owners can’t be happy with DOD for several reasons. First, the draft results over the past seven years have been abysmal. Of the 70+ players selected by the Rockies in the first ten rounds of the draft from 2004 through 2010, only 3 (Tulo, Friedrich, and Pacheco) are on the active major league roster. In batting terms, DOD’s draft results are under .043. The only thing that has kept the Rockies afloat is the team’s success in signing Latin American players (such as Nicasio, Chacin, Rogers, and Rosario). Second, while the owners have loosened their purse strings, the club’s performance has stagnated under .500. Third, there is no light at the end of the tunnel. The farm system is strong at the lower ranks, but not exactly bursting with talent ready to push the major league roster. Firing the GM during the 2012 season gets the Rockies nowhere. However, if I were the brothers Monfort, DOD would be gone very shortly after the 2012 season is completed.
What are some personnel/strategy changes that could help immediately (without firing the entire coaching staff)?
Brendan: Embrace the crazy strategy of Tony La Russa and always look bombed bat the pitcher 8th. Much has been made of Scutaro’s struggles at lead off and Fowler’s great OBP from the 8 hole. However, Fowler is just not successful as a lead off hitter so it is time to try a new approach. The goal is to get guys on base for CarGo and Tulo, and something like Fowler-Colvin-Pacheco- Cargo-Tulo-Cuddyer-Rosario-Scutaro should work. Hitting Fowler 9th positions him in the lineup to set the table for the big guns while simultaneously keeping him where he has been successful. I have always been against hitting the pitcher 8th, but it is time to think outside of the box and try something new to put the players in the best places to succeed.
Kevin: Benching Rosario. The kid has talent, but he is nowhere close to being an MLB catcher. He cannot frame a pitch and constantly turns strikes into balls. He allows too many passed balls. He does a poor job of preventing wild pitches. Imagine that you are a pitcher, and throughout your entire MLB career you have had a catcher who can actually catch the ball and can smother balls in the dirt. Suddenly you have Rosario behind the dish; you no longer have the confidence to bury a ball in the lowest part of the strike zone because if it gets in the dirt, Rosario is going to allow the runner to advance. Because of this, you start nibbling, you start trying to be too accurate, and suddenly you’ve lost your edge. Grumblings out of spring training were that pitchers hate pitching to Rosario, and it is clear why they do.
Ned: The abominable starting pitching early in the season should surprise no one. The absence of quality starters was driven home by the selection of Jamie Moyer as a starter going into the season. I continue to believe that the Rockies’ young arms will come around before this season is wasted. But, inconsistency of the hitting is the most maddening. Can’t Carney Lansford see that Tulo has been lunging at the ball and (until Wednesday night) constantly popping-up? And if Lansford sees the lunging, why can’t he correct it? Either Tulo is uneducatable, or Lansford is incapable of doing the job. Having zero production in May from both Tulo and Helton is crippling to the offense, especially when the team needs consistently big offensive production to counter the poor pitching. My immediate fix is to terminate Lansford as the batting coach, and bring in Rene Lachemann who, in Colorado Springs, has consistently demonstrated the ability to diagnose and correct hitting problems. Let’s hope that, if given the chance, Lachemann can also teach Rosario to recognize a breaking ball.
Why are you going to keep watching?
Brendan: Two reasons: to witness CarGo’s feats of strength and to follow the development of the young players. Lost amid the Rockies struggles has been CarGo’s brilliance at the plate. He leads the team in virtually every offensive category and seems to be completely locked in (although that intensity has not always translated to his defense). The young players have also been exciting to watch and the lineup feels much more dynamic now when Colvin is at 1B (sorry, Todd), Pacheco is at 3B, and Rosario is catching. Add in the potential mid-season call up of Nolan Arenado, and the kids should be fun to watch swing the bat the rest of the season.
Kevin: This might sound crazy, but I am going to keep watching because there is a lot of potential in the pitching rotation (granted, this potential probably won’t be able to fix this year). With pitchers like Nicasio, Friedrich, White, Pomeranz, and Chacin, the Rockies have five young and talented arms. Throw in de la Rosa, and the Rockies have another power arm. Although none of these arms might project higher than a 3 spot in the rotation, if they can develop this year, the Rockies could have a strong, young rotation next year. Watching the development of the talented young arms is reason enough for me to keep watching.
Ned: The Rockies are ranked 27 of 30 in the ESPN’s May 21 power rankings, just ahead of the Cubs, Twins and Padres. This ranking may be a touch generous after the death spiral the Rox have been in this month. But, the boys can only get better—and I believe they will. On Wednesday, Tulo broke out of his hitting funk in a big way with good patience, solid contact, and no pop-ups. June will be telling for the Rockies. Pomeranz should come back from AAA, and both White and Friedrich will have more seasoning. If Chacin can regain his health and his stuff, and if de la Rosa fully recovers and returns to his pre-injury form, we will have strong pitching to complement a very potent offensive line-up. In short, the Rockies have a realistic shot at a good summer.
Have a different take? Let us know in the comments below.
Got an idea for a future 3U3D discussion? Email us at BlakeStBulletin@gmail.com