Tagged: Matt Holliday

Colorado Rockies Must Trade For Setup Man to Bolster Playoff Hopes

With an improbable June and a stellar July so far, the Colorado Rockies are showing naysayers they are here to contend.

 

With Monday’s 10-6 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks, along with the San Francisco Giants being pounded by the Atlanta Braves, the Rockies can say that if the regular season ended today, they would become the National League wild card winners for the second time in the past three years.

 

Problem is, there are still 68 games to play.

 

But with a record of 33-15 since May 29 when manager Jim Tracy took over, the Rockies look like they can compete to the end.

 

With the trade deadline approaching in T-9 days, what the Rockies desperately need is a strong middle reliever.

 

The club’s bullpen looks nothing like its opening day roster. With the exception of Huston Street, who also lost his role as closer once, the bullpen has been shuffled around and mix and matched in its entirety.

 

Matt Daley, Josh Fogg, Juan Rincon and Ryan Speier were not on the club’s opening day roster. Franklin Morales was, but not as a reliever. The club traded Jason Grilli while sending down players like Joel Peralta and Matt Belisle.

 

The team also lost a quality arm in Taylor Buchholz to Tommy John surgery and a veteran leader in Alan Embree to a broken leg. They recently added veteran Matt Herges to a minor-league deal and is reporting interest in free agent Mike Timlin.

 

Sure, signing a guy with the name Roy Halladay would bring excitement to Blake Street, but for what, two months? And Matt Holliday had a great stay in purple pinstripes, but a reunion tour is not what needs to be done to make an October push.

 

What the Rockies need is a reliable setup man.

 

Not some has-been or could-be. Not multiple washed up pitchers like in years past.

 

The organization has minor league depth in nearly every position. I’m not suggesting throwing away the farm, but package a couple prospects for a guy that can bridge the gap between the starting rotation and closer Huston Street. Or even better, if O’Dowd can find a club that will unload Garrett Atkins or Yorvit Torrealba, take it.

 

Chad Qualls is, perhaps, the biggest availability.

 

With 18 saves for a dismal Diamondback team, Qualls is paving his best year in the majors. He sports a lifetime 3.31 ERA, but one of his more impressive stats is just three home runs allowed this season. This would help in the thin air of Colorado.

 

Other possible names on the market: Boston’s Takashi Saito, Baltimore’s lefthander George Sherrill and Cleveland’s Rafael Bentancourt.

Colorado has a good team, no doubt. But with its bullpen ranked 14th out of the 16-team National League, it is apparent that a strong setup man is needed.

 

Perhaps the biggest evidence, however, is the last two nights. On Monday night the Rockies held a 10-1 lead leading up to the seventh inning, when the relievers surrendered five runs, causing our closer to get warmed up in the ninth inning.

 

In Tuesday’s loss to the Diamondbacks, the Rockies blew a 4-0 lead, with the relievers allowing the final runs for the loss.

 

In less than two months, the Rockies have jumped from 10 under to eight over. I believe it’s time the Rockies become buyers at the deadline and purchase a durable arm.

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2009 Brings Optimism For Colorado Rockies Fan

NLCS.jpg

With the 2009 season upon us, I couldn’t help but pull out my personal copy of 21 Days: The Rockies Run for the Pennant.

 

Even today I get chills when I see highlights of Todd Helton drilling a walk-off home run over the right field fence off of Takasha Saito and racing around the bases before throwing his helmet and leaping into his mob of teammates. Goosebumps spread throughout my body as footage shows Matt Holliday diving headfirst into home to score the game winning run to send the Rockies to the playoffs for the first time in 12 years.

 

Reminiscing on those memories will bring a grown man to tears.

 

I don’t care what type of team is put on the field or what anyone says about a team’s chances in a given year. Watching and remembering what the Colorado Rockies did in 2007 gives any fan the optimism that this is their team’s year.

 

The beauty of Opening Day is that it is the only time that your team is guaranteed first place.

 

Everyone is 0-0. It’s a fresh start.

 

The Rockies’ run at the end of the 2007 season will go down as one of the greatest streaks in baseball history.

 

Manager Clint Hurdle later stated, “Man cannot script what sport can create.”

 

It transformed hearts and turned Denver into a baseball town–even if they were bandwagon fans and it only lasted that season.

 

The feelings and emotions accompanied with the run brought more joy to me personally than any other sports moment. It made me concentrate my full attention on the game and lose focus on my schoolwork and everything else going surrounding me.

 

It was an improbable run. Something I will be telling my children and grandchildren about 50 years from now.

 

Ernie Harwell, the narrator of the documentary, said, “In the end, the Rockies’ run for the pennant will be remembered as a band of brothers. Believing when no one else believed, reaching a level that no one thought they could reach, but meeting all challenges with the confidence, resiliency and spirit of a champion.”

 

Many are already writing the 2009 Rockies off. Vegas is giving the Rockies 75:1 odds of winning the World Series–good for fourth worst in all of baseball.

 

Obviously most don’t believe it can happen.

 

I’m convinced, however, that our offense is better than it has been in years. Players will be running around the bases on a consistent basis this season. Our defense will support the pitcher and our base running is improving each day. Our bullpen is rock-solid while our starting rotation has some young arms that have plenty of potential.

 

And what better way to head into the new season than closing out spring training on a three-game win streak and winning seven of their final nine games?

 

21 Days closes with several Rockies’ players reciting an inspirational quote once written by Vince Lombardi:

 

“A man can be as great as he want to be. If you believe in yourself and have the courage, the determination, the dedication, the competitive drive, and if you’re willing to sacrifice the little things in life and pay the price for the things that are worthwhile, it can be done.”

 

Some say I have blind love for the Rockies, but I’m ready for another improbable run.

 

It can be done.

 

 This article is also featured on Bleacher Report.

Don Baylor’s Coaching Brings Power To Colorado Rockies’ Lineup

 

Don Baylor.jpg

Opening Weekend is upon us at last.

 

But baseball season right around the corner brings uncertainties for each ballclub.

 

Heading into his club-leading eighth season at the helm of the Rockies, manager Clint Hurdle has reached the end of his contract.

 

Owners Dick and Charlie Monfort have made it clear that Hurdle’s performance will be judged critically and that no Opening Day contract extensions will be awarded like in 2007.

 

During the offseason, the Rockies cleared out a majority of Hurdle’s coaching staff and brought in veterans like Jim Tracy (bench coach) and former Rockies manager Don Baylor (hitting coach).

 

A couple wrong moves by Hurdle and one of these guys could be getting a promotion.

 

Baylor led the Rockies for their first six years of existence before being fired for Jim Leyland, who had just led the Florida Marlins to their first World Series championship two years prior.

 

Leyland quickly fled, and then Buddy Bell managed for two years and a few games, and then Hurdle replaced him less than a month into the 2002 season.

 

Baylor, whose career coaching record in Colorado stands at 440-469 (.484), has the highest winning percentage in club history.

 

His tenure with the Rockies includes the team’s first trip to the postseason, a 1995 Wild Card berth, and a Manager of the Year award.

 

In his final season with the Rockies, he guided them to a fourth-place finish and a 77-85 record. With this statistic, it doesn’t bother me that he was replaced soon after.

 

What does bother me, however, is the fact that the Rockies have bettered that record just twice in the 10 seasons since, and just one time under Hurdle’s reign.

 

Despite his sub-.500 career record, Baylor is the best manager the Rockies have ever had. He has been so instrumental to the club that he was even selected to be an honorary member on Hurdle’s staff at the 2008 All-Star Game because of his influence to the ballclub.

 

Baylor has brought a noticeable amount of change to the Rockies clubhouse this spring. The team’s offensive numbers are showing evident improvements, with several players giving Baylor the credit.

 

The team’s offense shows a lot of potential with power in the lineup from the top all the way through. It even seems a little bit like the Blake Street Bombers–the offensive powerhouses of Dante Bichette, Vinny Castilla, Andres Galarraga, and Larry Walker during the late 1990s under Baylor’s managing.

 

Even without Matt Holliday in the lineup, the Rockies have known power coming from Brad Hawpe and Garrett Atkins. Todd Helton is showing that his back is healing just fine, while Ryan Spilborghs’ spring says that he can be a multi-tool center fielder, including a powerful bat. Troy Tulowitzki’s determination should help him bounce back from his sophomore slump, while Chris Iannetta’s numbers could top the chart among the league’s catchers. Seth Smith will get some outfield starts and even off the bench the Rockies are loaded, with names like Ian Stewart (hopefully not off the bench), and Jeff Baker.

 

Our pitching may be inconsistent, but the offense should be explosive. Maybe ditching the humidors and bringing back the days of the Bombers isn’t such a crazy thought.

 

Back in Baylor’s days as manager, he would hold The Don Baylor Show, a segment of the postgame show after Sunday afternoon games. Three kids in attendance were able to go on the show and ask the skipper a question for him to answer.

 

I once was lucky enough to get on the show. If I had the opportunity today, maybe I’d ask Baylor to bring back the power at Coors Field.

 

Baylor has been missed. Could his presence in the clubhouse result in the Blake Street Bombers 2.0?

  

This article is also featured on Bleacher Report.

Colorado Rockies Have Dynamic Duo Late In Games

Huston Street and Manny Corpas will pitch in the 8th and 9th innings

It was a difficult decision.

 

One that couldn’t be made until four simple days before Opening Day.

 

But nonetheless, it’s becoming a reoccurring decision for the Rockies organization lately.

 

I’m talking about the Rockies’ closer–the ninth inning guy that goes in with more pressure on his shoulders than anyone else.

 

Much like a pinch hitter, the closer enters the game after sitting for the first eight innings, waiting for his opportunity to shine.

 

When he does it right, he’s seen as a hero, a firefighter, and he’s given the accolade of a “save.”

 

When he doesn’t do it right, he’s often booed, and seen as the reason the team’s failure.

 

The Rockies named Huston Street as the club’s 2009 starter (at least for now) Thursday afternoon. Street was awarded the position over Manny Corpas, who won the hearts of Rockies’ fans during the playoff run in late 2007.

 

Corpas was lights out after taking over as the Rockies’ closer when then-closer Brian Fuentes blew four consecutive saves opportunities in late June.

 

The native of Panama had an ERA of 1.02 after the switch, and successfully saved 19 of his 20 opportunities. His only blown save was in the World Series.

 

After posting these numbers, Corpas was given the opportunity to close the 2008 season. However, once again, a series of struggles early in the season caused manager Clint Hurdle to revert back to Fuentes, who closed the remainder of the season before filing for free agency and signing with the Los Angeles Angels.

 

Corpas then seemed to be the Rockies’ 2009 closer, and even when Street was acquired from the Athletics in a trade for Matt Holliday, many fans believed he would still win the spot.

 

In roughly the same amount of innings pitched in spring training, Corpas allowed fewer hits (seven to 11), fewer earned runs (one to six), more strikeouts (five to four), and a lower ERA (1.00 to 5.23).

 

However, Street’s statistics can be read misleadingly due to the fact that he was still overcoming a quadriceps injury in early March. Take away Street’s first two appearances, and in his final eight, he gave up just one run, a single hit and zero walks.

 

Many fans are upset and have multiple speculations on why Street was given the role over Corpas.

 

One theory is to make the controversial offseason trade sending Holliday to the Athletics look better.

 

The three players the Rockies received in return for Holliday include Street, starting pitcher Greg Smith and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez. Smith and Gonzalez will both be starting the year in Colorado Springs playing Triple-A ball, while some say that Street was given the closer role so that at least one of the players featured in the trade would be seen as a major factor in 2009.

 

Another possibility is Street’s experience.

 

In his four-year career, Street is 21-12 with a 2.88 ERA. In addition, the former A’s closer has 94 saves on his resume. Street has missed time each of the last two seasons, however, due to injuries.

 

Despite the front office’s decisions sometimes, I do believe that this team’s intentions are to put the best group of players onto the field each day and to win ballgames.

 

Both pitchers will still get plenty of experience, with Corpas currently being the set-up man and Street closing it out.

 

The way I see it, the Rockies have two solid late-inning pitchers that are both capable of closing ballgames. Whether it is Street or Corpas that gets it done, having both pitchers in the final two innings of a game should be a very valuable asset to the club and very intimidating to opposing teams.

 

And for you Corpas supporters, having him not being named the opening day closer might not be that bad of a thing. If history says anything, he may regain his role. The last two years, the backup has been the one that ends up closing games by the end of the year.

 

It’s a long, 162-game season. Things can change. But either way, the Rockies have a reliable duo that they can count on.

 

This article is also featured on Bleacher Report.

Huston Street Claims Rockies’ Closer Role

One of the biggest questions facing the Colorado Rockies coming into spring training has been answered.

 

Manager Clint Hurdle will announce this afternoon that Huston Street has beat out Manny Corpas for the club’s closer role.

 

The decision brings much controversy among Rockies’ fans.

 

After Street’s slow start to spring training, many believed Corpas would claim the spot.

 

Street’s spring stat line is not impressive. In 10.1 innings pitched, the former Oakland Athletic has allowed 11 hits, seven runs (six earned), surrendered two home runs and walked two in addition to a hit batsman.

 

Corpas, the Rockies’ opening day closer in 2008 until losing the role to Brian Fuentes partway through the season, pitched 9.0 innings this spring, allowing seven hits and just one run.

 

Many fans believe Corpas deserved the ninth inning position. In roughly the same amount of innings pitched, Corpas allowed fewer hits (seven to 11), fewer earned runs (one to six), more strikeouts (five to four), and a lower ERA (1.00 to 5.23).

 

One theory of why Street was given the position is to make the controversial offseason trade sending Matt Holliday to the Athletics look better.

 

The three players the Rockies received in return for Holliday include Street, starting pitcher Greg Smith and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez. Smith and Gonzalez will both be starting the year in Colorado Springs playing Triple-A ball, while some say that Street was given the closer role so that at least one of the players featured in the trade would be seen as a major factor in 2009.

 

I don’t buy the theory, and believe that both Street and Corpas will be valuable assets whether pitching in the eighth or ninth inning.

 

In addition, Street’s statistics can be read misleadingly due to the fact that he was still overcoming a quadriceps injury in early March. Take away Street’s first two appearances, and in his final eight, he gave up just one run, a single hit, and zero walks.

 

This article is also featured on Bleacher Report

 

Colorado Rockies Remain Aggressive on Bases

Colorado Rockies remain agressive

They’re not a team made up of speed, but they’re showing aggressiveness.

 

“What you don’t want to see is to have this type of program in spring training and then drop back to Plan B in the regular season,” manger Clint Hurdle said. “We can’t afford to do that. We’ve got to stay aggressive and look to pick up 90 feet whenever we can, with whoever is on base.”

 

In 2008, speedy Willy Taveras led the major leagues with 68 stolen bases. It stands as quite an accomplishment, especially considering he posted just a .308 on-base percentage as a leadoff hitter.

 

His offensive struggles kept him from a spot with Colorado in 2009.

 

Hurdle made it an immediate emphasis this spring to be more aggressive and steal more bases.

 

As of Sunday, four Rockies rank among the MLB’s top 50 this spring in stolen bases. The team as a whole ranks second in the MLB with 36 bags, behind only the young Rays with 38.

 

This doesn’t mean that they are the quickest team out there. The Rockies have been caught stealing 18 times, which is tied for first.

 

What it does mean is that they are being aggressive and attempting to steal more bags than any other team.

 

Despite ranking among the top teams in 2008 with 141 stolen bases, the Rockies were not a team full of speed. The team’s top two players based on stolen bases are no longer with the team (Taveras and Matt Holliday). Out of the rest of the team, only four players successfully stole more than two bases–Clint Barmes with 13, Scott Podsednik with 12, Ryan Spilborghs with seven, and Jeff Baker with four.

 

The Rockies had one player with speed, but not an entire team that could catch an opposing pitcher off guard.

 

Speed can be an essential element to the game.

 

In 2007, Taveras and Kaz Matsui led the charge for Colorado with a strong 1-2 punch. With the two players at the top of the lineup, it became a key component to scoring early runs.

 

There were multiple games where Taveras would get on base to start the game, steal second and then either score on a Matsui base hit, or move over to third on a groundout. This would bring the heart of the order to the plate with just one out and a runner 90 feet away from scoring.

 

Other times, the top of the order was even successfully able to steal both second and third base during the same at-bat, allowing the runner to score on a base hit or sacrifice fly and giving the Rockies the lead two batters into the game.

 

Team speed was something that the Rockies missed last season, and in result, their offense never got going.

 

Let me reemphasize that 2009’s team is still not a team made up of speed.

 

No player on the current team has stolen more than 15 bases in a single season and the team leader for most career stolen bases is Todd Helton, who has a modest 36 in 12 seasons.

 

What this team is, however, is a team that’s willing to take that extra step while leading off in order to get a good jump off of a pitch or maybe two bases on a base hit.

 

If the Rockies keep up their spring pace, they will successfully steal 216 bases in 2009. That stat would rank first among any team this decade.

 

I think Hurdle is on track with being aggressive on the bases. There might be times where it hurts the team, but I think that in the end, it will pay off.

 

Hall of Famer Joe Morgan once said, “Whether you steal or not, you’re changing the rhythm of the game. If the pitcher is concerned about you, he isn’t concentrating enough on the batter.”

 

This article is also featured on Bleacher Report

Colorado Rockies Have Plenty Of Depth: Now Is The Time To Trade Atkins

Garrett Atkins is a career .298 hitter
Trade Garrett Atkins?

Many probably think I’m crazy for this statement. Perhaps I am.

After trading away the club’s star player (Matt Holliday) and losing the best closer (Brian Fuentes) in team history over the offseason, it’s easy to assume that trading Atkins, arguably one of the team’s most talented players, means throwing away the season for the Rockies.

And although I’m not one of the rare few who support the front office’s plan of building from within and starting over once those players become too good and too expensive, I think that trading Atkins could bring some positives to the team.

Without a doubt, pitching has been the Rockies’ biggest struggle for as long as I can remember. With Jeff Francis missing all of 2009, this year is no different.

Even without Holliday and Willy Tavares, the outfield is stacked. Brad Hawpe and Ryan Spilborghs will be starters, while prospect Dexter Fowler is trying to prove that he’s also big-league ready. Seth Smith, Matt Murton, Scott Podsednik, Carlos Gonzalez and even Ian Stewart and Jeff Baker are also viable options.

In 2008, the Rockies used more second baseman than I can count on one of my hands. Despite the fact that none of them have stepped into the shoes that Kaz Matsui left in 2007, there is depth at the position.

Troy Tulowitzki is a lock at short stop, and many of the second baseman can shift to play either middle infield position when he needs rest.

Todd Helton will get the first look at first base, but with his unstable lower back, it is uncertain how much or how often he will play in 2009. Behind him, the Rockies could use Joe Koshansky as the primary starter.

Baker, a very versatile player, has experience at first base, while Christian Colonel, who is having a very impressive spring, will be waiting in the minors.

Chris Iannetta has more than earned the starting catching role, and although Yorvit Torrealba wants out of his contract with Colorado, teams aren’t showing interest in paying his remaining salary, meaning the Rockies will have a veteran catcher with plenty of experience coming off the bench.

That brings us to Garrett Atkins and third base.

Don’t get me wrong, Atkins is a proven player with a lot of talent. His career batting average is right around .300, he has plenty of power and his defense is on the rise.

It may seem foolish to trade a star, but that’s what makes this idea work. Stars draw interest.

Stewart has proven that he is more than ready to start for the Rockies this year. He greatly improved towards the end of 2008 and has been playing solid all spring. Not to mention that his defense would be a step up, and that he is still just 23 years old and still improving.

The Rockies need to get him in the lineup.

Atkins will most likely be gone after this season with his contract ending, so it would be ideal to get some value for him.

It doesn’t matter how we get it, but the fact is, the Rockies need starting pitching.

As shown, there is quality depth at nearly every position, which should draw interest. Many of these players are ready for the big leagues, there’s just no room for them.

Who knows, there might not be teams that are willing to give up their top arms, but it doesn’t hurt to at least give it a shot and see what’s out there. There are several teams that are in need of a third baseman.

The Rockies have plenty of talent to replace Atkins. Losing him and gaining solid starting pitching will only improve the team.