What will make you want to watch the next 10 weeks of Rox baseball?
My disappearance from the website has been no fun for me (probably good for you…but I am being selfisth, which is why I walked away in May!)
…and goodness the team has really stunk. But I am going re-join the community here again…now that I can watch the team without resorting to a full list of 4 letter words.
In a few private conversations over the past week I have been asked, “What does a team do when they know the season is totally shot?”
Well, here is the list I came up with for the remnant that has survived the DL list at 20th and Blake, what are yours?:
First….I wish we could just pretend that the pre All-Star break season didn’t exist. Because, in truth, the team the Rockies intended to use to fight for the right to play in October, never existed. It made the season useless for really evaluating the moves of the off-season and plans for the future.
With the call-up before the break of Brooks Brown, they now have used 25 PITCHERS! A whole team of just pitchers! And 13 starters. And amazingly, of their original starting group of relievers and starters, only 2 are no longer with the team because of performance issues – Chad Bettis (okay, he is back again) and Juan Nicasio. Wow!
Like I said, it makes it hard to tell what you have going forward (one hint – if Yolan Flande is in the rotation Opening Day 2015, quick, go buy Kansas City Royals jerseys because there will be no reason to watch 2015 Rockies ball.
Every team has injuries, but in my entire life of watching baseball – going back to the 1970s as a kid – I have never seen anything like what has happened to this team’s pitching and position players. The non-stop wave of injuries and poor play caused by players who should not be on a major league field and the absolute vanishing of a potentially fun season drove me and many more of the most optimistic of fans to simply walk away, turn off the television, and forget 2014 even existed. And I spent my summers as a teen watching the Atlanta Braves on TBS – this team has been worse than late 80s Braves…which is about as big an insult I can say.
With all that in mind, what should be the goals for the post-All Star Break?
1) Get to .500! Yes, it looks impossible. But this team needs to have something to build on for 2015. They are going to probably be around 18 games below .500 as the Break comes. That means each week they need to play about 1.5 games above .500. The good news is the 2nd half schedule is easier than the first-half season. The playoffs are an impossibility (strangely it was just the last 3.5 weeks that killed that dream, as they managed to hold on a full month after things started to fall apart after May 7th).
2) See if Walt Weiss can manage this team as it tries to build going forward. I still believe in Walt, but in 2 seasons he has had to play with injuries everywhere, worse this year than last. Can he manage this team if it has talent? Are the losses going to cause him to walk away? Will be throw away “the book” and start managing his own way to make this team unique, in the way that fellow-small market team manager Maddon in Tampa Bay has.We should see this as the team gets healthy this 2nd half of the season. If not…I think a change might be good for all involved. With that in mind, I really do hope Weiss becomes his own man.
3) See if Corey Dickerson can hit lefties. There have been a good number of comparisons to Seth Smith with Corey, but he is a better hitter and athlete than Seth, but…Seth learned to hit lefties well enough to play every day. He has hit largely against tough lefty relievers who come in later in his starts. If he can be an everyday player, with some off-days against tough lefties, this team could have a great outfield of CarGo, Blackmon/Stubs or Barnes, and Dickerson – which is also a fairly young and cheap group aside from CarGo.
4) See if CarGo is still CarGo. It’s been about a year since that weird game when CarGo got hit by a foul ball which started him off on a trail of injuries. Since then with his hand and knee tendinitis, he has become a poor outfielder rather than Gold Glover, a punch-and-judy hitter than than a 20+ homer guy, and a lump on the base rather than a 20+ steal guy. We need to see that CarGo. CarGo needs to see that CarGo. Otherwise going into the off-season they have to decide what to do with his huge salary and place on the team.
5) See if Nolan can hit with power on the road. Assuming his hand is healed, we have no doubts about the glove. Before the injury he had 0 homers on the road, and while he was arguably their best road hitter, they need power on the road from that slot in the lineup.
6) Determine if Rosario is the catcher of the present. This has been a huge set-back season, as his hitting has disappeared, his game calling remain in question, his framing of pitches is…poor, and he continues to allow wild pitches and passed balls, especially in key situations. Otherwise they have to decide if they are pursuing a free agent to take over the #1 slot, or see if one of the kids on the farms plays well enough this 2nd half to claim the job. Rosario might have value in the AL, but he needs to prove he can play everyday here.
7) Figure out the 2nd base position. DJ remains a great glove guy, with sneaky speed, and occasional pop (mainly doubles) in his bat, but a poor hitter on the road. Josh Rutledge has a bat to be a top 10 2nd basemen in the majors. But he has a glove to make him a minor league DH. Can he become an everyday league-average glove? If not, the team goes into the off-season without a situation to give them above-league production.
8) See if Charlie Blackmon is their starter in CF long-term. Dickerson could play CF, but it might not be the best option, especially at Coors. The CB the team had before May 7th was what they had always hoped for since the days of early Dexter. What is Blackmon? A potential All-Star, or a 4th or 5th outfielder? Yes, I know he is an All-Star but how much of that is based on a career year in April?
9) See if Jorge De La Rosa should be traded or re-signed. I am probably member #1 in the DLR fan club – he is the best pitcher this team has had over a career. He knows how to win at Coors. He is what you want in a staff leader – looking at him pitching through a bad back and finger when he knows the team cannot afford another DL situation and how often he is the stopper of losing streaks. DLR should be signed to another 3 year deal. But it might make sense to see if they can get a piece for the future at July 31 (remember when this team was still close in the Wild Card 3.5 weeks ago, he was envisioned as the equivalent of a trade pick-up for the Rox…how quickly things changed).
10) See if Jordan Lyles is the kid of April to early May, or early May to his injury. I like this kid a lot, but he started to lose the strike zone again before his DL stint. The hope is that his re-hab starts will give him a chance to get his motion locked in again and become the groundball machine he was early in the season. He projects to being a solid #3 for the next few years…if he is what we saw in April
11) See if Tyler Chatwood has an elbow anymore. He had TJ surgery about 8 years ago I believe. His pain in his elbow this year and last year has to worry the team. If he needs a 2nd TJ, getting it done in August is better than October. I like Tyler’s tenacity – a good fit for this team – but they need to know he can give them 25+ starts each year.
12) See if it makes sense to give Eddie Butler more time in the minors or up here. He was dominating last year in his time at AA, and was dominating early this year. But the last few starts before his call-up he looked less than top prospect material. His one start was “okay,” but not what you expect from a high prospect. Add the shoulder issues…does it make sense to keep him in Coors or go down to Tulsa or Colorado Springs and get fully on page again.
13) See what Tyler Matzek and Christian Bergman really have. My last column I wrote for roxwalkoff was after Tyler’s first start. I love stories like his – most of us don’t have great talent, but most of us have experienced the deep failure he had. He has pitched well up here. As the league gets more of a read on him, can he keep it up? Will we get some 7 BB games or is that over? Bergman is an intriguing guy – I liken him to a right-handed version of Mark Buhrle. Not great stuff but throws the ball to his spots and gets outs. His hand injury was another cruddy misfortune. When he comes back does he add his name to Tyler’s to begin to make out the rotation of 2015?
14) See if anyone in the pen is worth keeping for next year! Okay, we know Kahnle is a keeper (though I would not be surprised to see him spend time in the minors next year when they can safely send him there). But the rest of the group has been so up-and-down, that it makes you wonder if anyone comes back. Belisle is probably finished, though I really like him and he is a good guy to keep the pen together. Zero can be so lights out…but since mid-May the slider has no bite (It may be the league decided to not swing at it and so he is throwing it harder and harder, and thus it is flatter and flatter). Boone if he is great the rest of the season (or just healthy) might be trade-bait, as the two years left on his contract become more acceptable to team looking for lefties. Does Morales come back? Does he want to start only? Would any team take that bet? Brothers….he is still cheap and there is all that talent. He will be back…but which Rex? He needs this 2nd half for his confidence. Do the Rox bring back Hawk at 56 years old (not quite)? Or do they trade him to a contender (you can get a nice potential prospect for him if a team is desperate enough). Is there someone out there to become the first home-grown genuine closer?
15) Decide if Wright and Doyle are the coaches you want. I love Jim Wright, having watched him work down here so long. This was a good pitching team until the injuries caught up (and I include in that guys like Morales who are supposed to be fill-ins but are throwing too many starts). The hitting was good on the road until the 2nd game in Texas in May and since then…wow, has it been bad. But again, the lineups have been poor. There have been too many strikeouts on the road.
16) Decide if you can have a healthy team in Colorado? Does the altitude just set players up for injures? Remember, this team played 40 games in 42 days to start the season. They looked really tired towards the end. And then you had rain-and-hailed out game followed by the delayed charter to Atlanta the day Nolan got hurt. Plus just the wear and tear of flying from Colorado any direction. It’s a real issue. A season this long, played with this little oxygen, and that much plane travel? I really ask, can the team stay as healthy as the average team in baseball? How many DL stints await them in the 2nd half?
17) In the next 2 weeks determine if any of your players can bring back good talent via a trade. We might be surprised what teams come calling for…and if the next few weeks players perform who are not part of the long-term plan….move them! Honestly, I was hoping the Rays would be dead and the Rox alive so we could get Ben Zobrist. Now its more likely DLR is pitching in Tampa.
But yes, I will be back watching this team following the All Star game. I love baseball, but this team drove me crazy…and that was before the injuries really came in a flood. I am really interested to see how this team – which played with such never-say-die spirit before things fell apart at the end of May – plays knowing that there is no chance of the playoffs. I am interested to see if this team can prove its talent is enough to play toe-to-toe with the rest of the NL (okay, other than the Dodgers, who I think are the best team in baseball and will probably win it all in October).
Baseball should be fun. With these 17 questions, at least there is something additional to watch for even on days when the team still stinks.
What things are you interested in for the rest of the season?