The truth is the Colorado Rockies just aren’t as good as I thought they were.
That’s the only explanation I can come up with this morning after a weekend spent reading and evaluating the shocking decision of the organization to send away the best pitcher in franchise history. The Rockies, picked by several baseball minds to win the NL West this year, just aren’t the team I thought they were before the season began. It’s one of the most sobering moments for a sports fan to admit and quite frankly it sucks. It’s the truth though. The Rockies are basically just Tulo and Cargo with dashes of Todd Helton in between and that’s it. This team has become notorious now for never living up to expectations. Every year they’re picked to do well before the season they end up falling flat on their faces while a fan base is left trying to figure out just what exactly went wrong.
Let’s attempt to evaluate this decision though. The Rockies sent away number one pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez and his incredibly friendly contract, and in return got three of the Cleveland Indians’ top pitching prospects, highlighted by former Ole Miss standout Drew Pomeranz, along with a throw in utility player. Cleveland is well documented over the years as being one of the premier talent-evaluating teams in all of baseball and thus it makes me a little more comfortable that the Rockies chose to do business with them as opposed to someone like the Yankees. Rockies fans need only look at the success of this year’s incredibly young Cleveland roster to see just how much the Indians excel in this regard. But what exactly do we know about these farm system players?
The short answer is not very much. It’s no secret that in recent years the Colorado Rockies have had some colossal failures in terms of how their early round draft picks panned out at the professional level. One could argue that they actually haven’t turned out a good prospect since, well, Ubaldo himself decided to go all Nolan Ryan on us for the first half of last season. This decision absolutely represents an admission by the front office that they have failed in regards to re-stockpiling the farm system with viable pitching candidates for Coors Field. Two of the pitchers in the deal, Alex White and Joe Gardner, are notorious groundball pitchers, which Rockies management have widely elected to go with in recent years due to the nature of the Coors Field effect. Pomeranz, allegedly the key to the deal for the Rockies, is the player projected to have the most long-term impact. I’ve seen the highlights now and I can tell you the guy has the potential to be an ace one day. He’s a six foot five inch beast of a left-handed pitcher who currently owns an awesome 1.98 ERA while striking out 11.1 batters per nine innings. I’m not saying he’s the next CC Sabathia, but in watching his minor league highlights it’s clear that he is the pitcher Pomeranz most resembles. God knows though how many players have been named the next big thing only to never pan out. It’s a huge organizational risk for Colorado.
Let’s take a look at this from the Cleveland angle as well, if only as an attempt by me to blind myself to the fact that the Rockies just traded away their best pitcher ever. Almost every single person who has come out and written on the topic thus far blasted the Indians for this move. This made me feel a little better as it seems the Indians emptied their pitching bank account to make this deal happen. Most writers widely agree that the Indians aren’t exactly real contenders this year and are merely a young team overachieving. Basically they’re a bubble that’s about to burst in a manner in which is only appropriate for a team hailing from Cleveland. From their perspective, they must be 100% convinced that Ubaldo Jimenez is actually a top of the rotation pitcher who will be able to succeed in a much tougher AL while handling the organizational and fan pressure of being the ace of the staff. They also must be convinced that they can actually get to the playoffs this year and next before Ubaldo’s contract expires and he no doubt skips town. And thus the key to this deal is whether or not Ubaldo Jimenez is actually an ace ,after all.
Cleveland believes that the answer is absolutely yes. And although Rockies management would never quite admit it, their answer to that question now is obviously hell no. If you’re not down with totally biased fan defenses in the fashion of the Bill Simmons school of sports writing, this is the time to skip town. The only real conclusion here is that the Rockies don’t believe Ubaldo is a true number one starter. It’s not a big conspiracy like they know about some destructive off the field habits he has or that he has secretly been nursing an injury all season. It’s way more simple than that. Ubaldo just isn’t a major league ace. His first half last season was quite possibly a statistical anomaly. And if you think you’re getting an apology for my shameless support of my baseball team, forget about it suckers!
Let’s look at the facts. Since last year’s All-Star game, a game which Ubaldo started for the NL, the former Rockies pitcher was 10-16 with a 4.19 ERA and an inexplicable loss in velocity across the board on all his pitches. That’s not exactly ace-like numbers. The real indicator though was watching any at-bat from last year versus this year. When Ubaldo was “on” last year, there was this undescribeable presence he had on the mound, like the hitters had absolutely no clue what pitch was coming next and even if they did, there was no chance they were going to hit it anyway. This year when you watched him throw, it was like the hitters couldn’t wait to see what was coming next. There was no fear, only a quiet confidence that Ubaldo would no doubt leave a flat pitch over the heart of the plate. And so we’re left with the incredibly difficult decision of whether or not Ubaldo was ever an ace in the first place.
I’m the first to admit that before the trade went down I was the guy saying that he was most certainly an ace. It’s really hard to shake the memory of just how dominant he was for those 80 or so games in 2010. But I think it’s time to finally admit that almost everyone in Colorado had the blinders on to the fact that he’s pitched like a number three starter at best during the time leading up and immediately preceding that performance. How many times have we needed a win over the past 12 months from our number one guy only to have him fail to deliver? Did the Rockies just pull of a heist for the ages along the lines of these very same Indians getting Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee, and Brandon Phillips in a deal for fat Bartolo Calon early last decade? Did Dan O’Down just put a clown suit on the Cleveland front office?
God I hope so. Because for Ubaldo’s desireable contract and the endearment he had with the fans, there’s no excuse otherwise.
Generation Y, where we can’t wait to see the next New York athlete who gets prosecuted by an overzealous DA trying to make a name for himself.
Cleveland win a title? Lolz.
Whether it’s because of the food she tries here or the Red Sox play thus far, we’ll never know.
They were the only twelve fans in attendance.
“A fan wearing a Miami Heat jersey of LeBron James drew the ire of the crowd at the Indians-Yankees game last night and was escorted out of Progressive Field,” this according to the AP via the Plain Dealer. Anyone else starting to wish Cleveland would just let go? I understand the betrayal and the narcissism and all that crap, but can’t they rise above it? Let me be the first person to point out the hypocrisy in Cleveland fans explaining how an all-time great player would have stayed and tried to win by himself while simultaneously hanging on to the past and not trying to get pumped about building for the future so that they can work their tails off towards beating LeBron’s face into the ground in the coming years. The behavior that has been exhibited by the city since the LeBacle leaves casual observers with no lack of reasons why the city has failed to produce a championship sports team: the people who live there are losers. They can’t even figure out that their management is entirely to blame for not being able to put a supporting cast around their former star. This latest incident is sad and pathetic. [AP via Cleveland Plain Dealer]