The Rockies’ struggles continued after the All Star break, going just 2-4 at 20th and Blake against the two Pennsylvania clubs. Clint Hurdle returned to Coors Field as the manager of the upstart Pirates and his presence served as a symbolic juxtaposition of the fortunes of the two franchises: the on-the-rise Pirates and the don’t-have-a-clue Rockies. In player movement, Jeremy Guthrie was traded to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for former Giant Jonathan Sanchez. Also, Todd Helton mercifully landed on the DL and opened up a roster spot for AA prospect Josh Rutledge, who has taken over short stop for the time being. This week, we look back at the Hurdle era, discuss the Guthrie trade, and forecast Rutledge’s future with the club.
1. Do you miss Clint Hurdle as the manager of the Rockies?
Brendan: Not really. I never liked his strategic approach to the game, as it always seemed a bit clumsy. When the Rockies let him go in 2009, the team ended up in the playoffs so it was the right decision at the time. What I do miss about Hurdle is his attitude and how he holds players accountable. Benching players (like Matt Holliday) for mental lapses is exactly what the current Rockies need. Hurdle is a far cry from the vanilla Jim Tracy and I have grown tired of hearing Tracy applaud the “effort” of his team after another putrid performance. Everytime Tracy talks about continuing to “compete” and “try hard,” I think about Hurdle’s comments regarding MLB being a do-good league, not a try-hard league. Would this team be better with Hurdle as manager? Probably not noticeably, but at least the post-game press conferences would be more exciting.
Kevin: There’s something here about distance making the heart grow fonder. Clint made some questionable moves, like inserting Willy Taveras into the starting lineup for the NLCS and the World Series. I was happy to see Hurdle fired in 2009, but leave it to Jim Tracy to make me miss Hurdle. Jim Tracy has an uncanny knack for creating questionable lineups (Aaron Brown hitting four? Ramon Hernandez hitting four after coming off the DL? Dexter Fowler hitting eighth? What imagination!) and questionable in-game decisions. For whatever reason, Hurdle was given a much shorter leash after achieving greater success: he was fired about 1.25 seasons after making the World Series. Tracy has somehow managed to hang on for 2.5 seasons after making just the NLDS. Tracy has slipped into the very things that got Hurdle fired: he favors old, big contract players over younger, more competent players. I would rather have Hurdle than Tracy, but I’d prefer to have neither.
Ned: When the Rockies fired Hurtle in 2009, I applauded the move because Hurdle always seemed to be tactically out-smarted by the opposing manager. Since Hurdle is such an affable guy, his success in Pittsburgh is very nice to watch. But, having watched the Pirates take two out of three from the Rockies this week, I still am not convinced that Hurdle is any smarter as a manager than he was in 2009, and therefore I would not want him back as the skipper. Hurdle does bring high energy and enthusiasm to the game every day in a very visible way. While Tracy is an excellent tactician, have we ever seen him excited and enthusiastic? When is the last time he was ejected from a game? It is too bad that we can’t do a “Vulcan” mind meld between Tracy and Hurdle to have both the tactical smarts and the emotions in the same guy.
2. Are you satisfied with the outcome (Jonathan Sanchez) of the Guthrie trade?
Brendan: Thrilled is more like it. I would have been happy had the Rockies simply designated Guthrie for assignment, so any trade was a bonus in my book. Yes, Sanchez’s numbers are even worse than Guthrie’s, but he has shown promise with San Francisco and has electric stuff. This is simply two teams moving on from prior moves that didn’t quite work out (putting it lightly). Hopefully it is a case of one man’s trash being another man’s treasure, similar to the Jason Marquis for Luis Vizcaino deal. The worst case scenario is that Sanchez performs even worse than Guthrie (is that possible?), but even then at least we get to watch something with hope rather than the dread of another Guthrie appearance.
Kevin: What’s the worst that could happen? Jonathan Sanchez could be a complete dud, which would mean the Rockies traded junk for junk and saved $1.1 million in the process. Sanchez has decent stuff, but he has been a total bum in Kansas City this year. He’s only had one year with an ERA+ above 100, so he’s nothing great, but this fresh start might be just what he needs to become a productive starting pitcher again. Either way, Guthrie is done giving up bombs every inning, and the Rockies saved some cash.
Ned: If the Rockies had traded for Jacob Cruz (again), I would have been happy with the trade. Guthrie was absolutely finished in Colorado. He publicly admitted that he could not pitch in Coors Field. Guthrie’s trade value went down more with every inning pitched. The Rockies were lucky to get a warm body for him. This year, Sanchez is making $5.6 million, and Guthrie is making $8.2 million. So it looks like the Rox did a little better on the money side unless there were cash considerations that are not yet public. In 2012, both players have been really bad pitchers for really bad teams. However, by Rockies standards, Sanchez’ 7.76 era in 2012 looks just fine. During his six years with the Giants, Sanchez had an era of 4.26. If he can duplicate those numbers in Colorado, he should be awarded the keys to the city. To summarize, it looks like a junk for junk deal, with each team hoping that a change of scenery will work a minor miracle for their new guy. As a side note, just how poor is starting pitching in the major leagues when two journeymen like Guthrie and Sanchez, who have a combined career record of 89 wins and 126 losses, make a combined 2012 salary of $13.8 million?
3. What does Josh Rutledge’s future with the Rockies hold?
Brendan: If his first few games in the Bigs is any indication, the Rockies may have a second baseman. Of course, it is way too early to draw any real conclusions, but I like what I have seen so far. He has been solid both with the bat and in the field, including a couple of plays that actually made the Rockies look like a major league infield. I doubt his future is as a shortstop (I have not been impressed with his arm) but he appears to be a capable infielder whose home will eventually be at second. The paranoid feeling I get is that between Rutledge and Trevor Story, the Rockies may feel like Tulo is now expendable and look to trade him in the offseason or next year, which would be an enormous mistake. Even the bright spots are cause for concern with this club and its management.
Kevin: Maybe second-baseman of the future. He’s a good prospect with a decent bat and a decent glove, and presents the next hope for a second baseman with a pulse. Trevor Story looks like a good middle infield prospect, and I think he ultimately will be the one to push Tulo to third. The future of the infield looks bright with Tulo, Story, Rutledge, and Arenado. That projects to be a pretty good infield offensively and defensively. On a side note, projecting future lineups is something Rockies fans are stuck doing all too often.
Ned: While the sample is very small, the results so far are very good. Defensively, Rutledge has excellent range. His arm looks good—better than Herrera or Scutaro. He is smooth on the pick-up, and quick on the transfer. The thing I like best about the kid is his plate work. In contrast to most very young players, he will take a walk. He seems to see the ball well, and can hit the curve. There is no obvious hole in his swing that has been revealed yet. Hitting in front of the pitcher in the 8th hole is handicap for any hitter, but Rutledge has nevertheless produced some nice numbers. Again though, the sample size is very small. Let’s re-evaluate after 50 games in the big leagues. If Rutledge is the real deal, does he go to second next year, or does Tulo move to third?
Have a different take? Let us know in the comments below.
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