Cubs Fire Baylor; Press Doesn't Get it

July 5, 2002. Don Baylor was fired today by the Chicago Cubs, mostly because of public pressure. The Chicago Press obviously didn't want him fired, and Cub management expressed regret, as if they were being forced to do something against their will. Sound familiar? The Denver Press is still lamenting the firing of Baylor by the Rockies four years ago, and will probably start campaigning to bring him back. Why? For some reason, numb-brained sportswriters love Baylor - maybe it's because they are so much like him. For example, in the Chicago Tribune, Rick Morrissey warns Cub fans that they shouldn't expect much from the next manager because the current sad state of affairs is due entirely to the fact that the players have not been playing well. The pitching has been lousy, the team doesn't appear motivated, cutoff men are being missed, blah, blah, blah... Funny, that's exactly what they were saying when Don was fired in Denver. It should be obvious by now that those things are hallmarks of Baylor teams: Normally dependable pitchers and fielders play like they are brain-dead; baseball fundamentals are completely forgotten; everyone looks confused out there. That's because everyone is confused - nobody knows from one minute to the next what Baylor wants, or what he is going to do. By the end in both cities, fans who knew anything about baseball were booing Baylor's on-field moves (or lack of them). He left pitchers in when it was obvious to everyone in the park that they couldn't throw one by your grandma if she was swinging a whiffle bat. When the boos finally reached ear-splitting volumes, Don would saunter to the mound as if he had just awoken from a long winter's nap.

But all of that is in the past now, and we needn't go over it again. Hopefully, no other team will ever hire the Don as a manager again. We just want to make it perfectly clear: IT WAS DON'S FAULT! HE IS A TERRIBLE MANAGER AND PLAYERS PLAY BADLY FOR HIM! There. We feel much better now.

 

Darryl Kile is Dead

June 23, 2002. Former Rockies pitcher Darryl Kile was found dead in his hotel room in Chicago. Preliminary autopsy results indicate blocked arteries as the cause of death. The game between the Chicago Cubs and Kile's team, the Saint Louis Cardinals on Saturday was cancelled.  

"Humidor" room = worthless gimmick

May 23, 2002. The so-called humidor room in Coors Field keeps the new baseballs at a constant 40% humidity and a temperature of 90 degrees Fahrenheit. One theory behind this practice is that keeping the balls in this environment, resembling that of the Caribbean island where they were made, will somehow make the balls less lively and produce fewer hits and runs in Denver. Another theory is that the humidified balls are easier to grip, so breaking balls will break more. There is no evidence of any kind that we could find to support either of these assumptions.

 

First, you have to wonder what happened to balls stored using the Rockies' old method. Or even what the old method was, for that matter. According to previous press reports, the Rockies used to order the entire year's supply of balls in advance from Rawlings, which would mean that about 650 boxes of a dozen individually wrapped and boxed baseballs would be piled up in one of the storerooms downstairs in Coors field, in close proximity to the dugouts. The temperature and humidity of the room has not been disclosed, if known, but it would probably be around 70 degrees and 10% humidity.

 

Some of the balls, then, would be stored for a few weeks or less, others may have been in their boxes in the basement for up to 5 months.

 

So, the question is, how much was a baseball, consisting of a cork core, covered with 2 layers of rubber, wrapped in 219 yards of wool thread, 150 yards of poly-cotton thread, coated with rubber cement and covered by cowhide, affected by being stored under those conditions? Conversely, does raising the temperature and humidity of the storage place affect these baseballs?

 

The answer, of course, is that you could probably store the baseballs under the two different conditions for a hundred years without significantly effecting the properties of the balls.

 

Then there is the statement by several Rockies' pitchers that the baseballs of prior years were slippery and hard to grip, but that this years' balls are more normal. Eric Karros of the Dodgers went so far as to say that curve balls were breaking more than they had before in Denver. These statements fly in the face of all of the information available. Bear in mind that all baseballs used in a game are rubbed with "Lena Blackburne's Rubbing Mud" under the direction of the umpires shortly before every game. If the balls were still slick after being rubbed with the mud, someone would have made note of it by now. Add to that the fact that no pitcher, Rockies or otherwise, ever mentioned the slick balls until the humidor news was released.

 

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, you may have noticed that the runs scored by both teams in Denver have been climbing precipitously of late. Our guess is that, by the All Star break, the run levels will be the same as last year.

 

So, the entire flap, the whole concept in fact, that has stimulated so much meaningless conjecture by the crazed sports press in Denver and elsewhere, will be recognized for what it is - another desperate attempt by the screwball management of the Colorado Rockies to find some magical cure for 10 years of incompetence.

 

The amusing part of this deal is that Major League Baseball likes the idea so much, that they are thinking about ordering all teams to build similar "humidor" rooms. Now, that's an intelligent expenditure by an industry that claims to be losing billions of dollars every year, isn't it?

 

  

Management Problems?

April 30, 2002. How do you tell when your organization (or Baseball team) has serious management problems? Here are some clues:

  1. One of your most trusted coaches and lifelong baseball man walks out in the middle of a season and swears he will never return, only to resurface on the Team of the Century and lead them to 3 World Championships (Don Zimmer).

  2. Another coach leaves and becomes one of the winningest managers in another club's history in only 5 years (Art Howe with the Oakland A's).

  3. It takes them 6 years to discover they have probably the worst manager in baseball history (Don Baylor). Then, after they finally fire him, they tell everyone who will listen that they made a mistake.

  4. It takes them 4 or 5 days to go from "total support" to firing Buddy Bell.

  5. They hire people with no qualifications or experience for important positions (Don Baylor, Keri McGregor, Clint Hurdle....).

  6. They trade good players for bad ones or no one at all (too many to list).

  7. They can't make simple, day-to-day decisions, such as assuring Rich Donnelly (one of the best 3rd base coaches in baseball) that he will have a job for the rest of the year.

  8. They talk out of both sides of their mouths (too many to list).

  9. When they finally do hire somebody qualified and experienced for a position, they interfere with and impede him so much that he quits in utter frustration (future Hall of Fame manager Jim Leyland).

  10. They hire experienced, successful baseball men as consultants (Bob Howsam, etc.), probably at the insistence of the Commissioner, then don't use them in any meaningful way.

  11. They run a business in one industry (baseball) as if it was in a totally unrelated industry (trucking, meat packing).

  12. Even though attendance has been in a free-fall for years, they never run any meaningful promotions or attempt in any way to make attending games a more exciting, pleasurable experience.

  13. After almost 10 years, they have gotten worse instead of improving.

  14. They just keep rolling out losers.

Gee, come to think of it, sounds like a lot of other semi-monopolies out there, doesn't it? (the phone company (Qwest), cable operator (AT&T), gas company (Whatever), etc.) How's their business these days?

 

Rockies fire Buddy Bell

M-Boys Find a Scapegoat!

April 26, 2000. The Rockies' management found the cancer and surgically removed him today. Yes, the team stinks because of Buddy Bell, and as soon as they pushed him out of the building, they began to win. Losing is in remission and may be cured. McMorris and the Monfort clones will be very surprised if the Rockies lose even one more game this year!

Seriously, though, while we disagreed with the Three M's decision to hire yet another manager without a proven track record, Buddy Bell turned out to be the best manager in Rockies' history so far. And he did it with class. He never made a single move during a game that made fans want to break bats over their heads (or his). In that regard, he came and left about a thousand ahead of Baylor. Buddy gave the team a chance to win, Baylor took it away. (We don't count Leland. He quickly discovered that there was no way he could win with Rockies' execrable management and got out before the stench could be attributed to him. He will be in the Hall of Fame in a few years.)

But the "three stooges" as Mr. Kiszla calls them think the fans are all totally stupid and will actually believe that the underlings and players are the culprits and the brain trust of the Rockies has done yeoman's work in the face of incredible odds.

Wrong! The odds have always been in their favor. They have (or had) the greatest and most loyal fans in Baseball History, the greatest home field advantage in history, and some of the finest players ever to don the uniform. What have they done with it? Chased away the fans, destroyed the team, ruined the experience, and became very rich. At least someone is happy. We only wish they would take their $200 profit and disappear forever.

Instead, they picked another manager with no track record of success. Clint Hurdle is the new scapegoat, one who has never managed in the major leagues, last managing in the minors in 1993. He has been with the Rockies for 9 years and by all accounts is a popular guy with the players and an excellent hitting coach. At least the odds of him succeeding are not negative - just a nice, even 0. If he manages to guide the Rockies to a winning record he should automatically be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

 

Kiszla flakes out again

April 25, 2000. In spite of what Mark Kiszla says in today's Denver Post, or possibly because of it, it is not time to "Blow up" this year's version of the Rockies....

Why not?

  1. They have already tried that approach several times with a spectacular lack of success. They did it last year and ended up in last place.

  2. Mr. Kiszla is correct about one thing: the problem lies with the owners. They made some huge mistakes at the beginning (like hiring Don Baylor), but that was excusable. What is inexcusable is that they haven't learned from the past. Nine-plus years later, they are still the worst management team in baseball. They don't use sound hiring practices (the Team president's only prior sports experience was as a college football player, for example), and when they do hire baseball people, they ignore their advice and tie their hands so they can't do their jobs. Given the level of management, getting new players won't help a bit.

  3. Times of adversity like this tend to bring teams together and develops character.

  4. Can you imagine what the effect on attendance would be if the Rockies follow Kiszla's advice and trade Hampton and Walker? Attendance is already at an all-time low, getting rid of the most popular players would reduce fan appeal and revenue, making it impossible to get comparable players, making the team even worse.

  5. This time they should leave O'Dowd and Bell alone for the rest of the year and see what happens - it couldn't be worse than previous years. Other contenders are off to poor starts this year (Atlanta, St. Louis, Chicago, Philadelphia, etc.) and you won't see them cleaning house. O'Dowd has publicly stated that he would keep this team together for the entire year. Let him try it. 

  6. This is potentially a very good team. Give them a chance to prove it.

  7. Kiszla is recommending this course of action and he has been wrong nearly 100% of the time in the past. The Post should blow up Kiszla.

Rancor bubbles to the surface....

Trouble in Rockieville

March 14, 2002. The fans, news media, and even the players, it seems, are fed up with the Rockies' management. In today's Denver Post, Mark Kiszla, one of the Rockies' biggest homers in the past, says:

"For too long, we have all been duped into believing the team was trying to win a championship. The Rockies, however, have become the biggest sports joke in town."

(We know Kiszla will say or do anything to get people to read his column, so you have be skeptical about anything he writes. But, in this case, he seems to be in the majority.)

Larry Walker has expressed his dissatisfaction with management, has suggested they should trade him to a contender, and even says he was lied to (see the related article at the Denver Post link above).

In addition, ticket sales are apparently not up to normal levels as the Rockies are now giving away free tickets to grocery shoppers, something they have never done before (to our knowledge).

Stay tuned, its starting to get interesting. However, our greatest fear is that Denver will be "contracted" instead of Montreal or Minnesota, and it looks like the Rockies management is trying to make it so.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Who's playing third?

More Ex-Rockies Added To The Fold

December 19, 2001. "Crazy" Dan O'Dowd is jettisoning Rockies' players at a record pace.

aFirst, it was Jacob Cruz, who was given his unconditional release (that means they got absolutely nothing for him, folks). Earlier, "Crazy" traded promising catcher Josh Bard and outfielder Jody Gerut, for Cruz, who only showed two problems during his stint with Colorado: he couldn't hit and he couldn't catch.

aNext, Jay Powell became a free agent and signed with the Texas Rangers (you guessed it, got nothing for him either).

aThen, catcher Sal Fasano and outfielder Clifford Brumbaugh were "designated for assignment (baseballese for "dumped").

aNext, Jeff Cirillo was traded to Seattle for three unknown minor league pitchers: LHP Brian Fuentes and RHPs Jose Paniagua and Denny Stark (read "salary dump").

aNext, "Dealin' Dan" traded pitchers Luke Hudson (who?) and Gabe White to Cincinnatti for relief pitcher Dennis Reyes and second baseman Pokey Reese (who O'Dowd says he doesn't want).

aJust to prove he wasn't kidding, Mr. O'Dowd traded Pokey to Boston for catcher Scott Hatteberg, whom they were unable to sign and lost to Oakland. So they got nothing for Reese at all. Nice deal.

We heard his next move was to trade Larry Walker and Todd Helton for the Minnesota Twins (don't tell them they're being disbanded, he was too busy trading at the meetings and didn't get the news).

 Make management look foolish...

Rockies' Defy Logic, Tradition

March 16, 2002. You know how Baseball Management justifies paying those huge salaries to big-name players by insisting that they "put fannies in the seats"? In other words, hiring pitchers like Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle will insure that more fans will pay their way into the ballpark on the days that they pitch. Indirectly, more revenue will also be earned because there will be more consumption at the park vendors and more TV and radio advertising revenue due to higher ratings. So, according to the people who hire and represent these players, it is a win-win proposition because they more than pay for themselves.

Well, it's not happening in Colorado.

According to official attendance figures as published by ESPN on their web site, attendance figures at Coors field are as follows for all Rockies starting pitchers in 2001:

Starter

Games

Avg. Attend.

Villone 3 41,477
Astacio 10 41,279
Elarton 2 40,486
Bohanon 13 39,847
Neagle 15 39,499
Hampton 15 39,063
Chacon 13 39,039
Thomson 8 35,084
Jennings 2 31,994

Obviously, great numbers of fans were not coming to the park just to see Hampton, or any other pitcher for that matter.

At least they may be fun to watch...

Rockies May Not Be So Bad, After All

March 27, 2002. They are not going to win the World Series in 2002. Maybe you didn't hear it here first, but it's probably true nonetheless. Watching them in Spring Training, however, you get the feeling that this may be an exciting club to watch. They sure won't overwhelm you with their raw talent, but this team is loaded with experience, character, and a nice sprinkling of youth and enthusiasm. Here's a look at the players by position:

Starting Pitchers

#1 - Mike Hampton is the $200 million plus pitcher that had a horrific mid-season slump last year that may have been caused by injury. He is easily the best hitting pitcher in baseball and is a tremendous competitor which makes him a lot of fun to watch. He was 3-0 in the Spring, but had an elevated 9.45 ERA. This shouldn't be a concern, but he was 2-0/5.63 last Spring, so if his ERA is going to nearly double over last year, it'll be hard to win games.

#2 - Denny Neagle is a solid number 2 starter and had a decent Spring. Brian Fuentes looks like a pretty decent middle relief lefty; a second year man who pitched for Seattle last year. He only gave up one run this Spring.

#3 - John Thomson has been a promising young starter for as far back as we can remember. This is his year to prove he can be a top major league starter, and he probably will.

#4 - Shawn Chacon was a nice story as a rookie last year, brought up from the minors at the end of April, and sliding right into the starting rotation. He showed flashes of brilliance along with rookie growing pains and finished at 6-10 with a 5.06 ERA. This Spring, Shawn was 2-1 with a 5.94 ERA and is locked in as the 4th starter.

#5 - Jason Jennings had a meteoric rise last year as a rookie, pitching a shutout and hitting a homerun in his first game out. He had some flashes of brilliance in the Spring but didn't put up great numbers. He is almost as much fun to watch on the mound and at bat, like Hampton, but if he starts slowly, he will probably find himself starting in Colorado Springs instead of as the Rockies 5th starter.

Scott Elarton would have been a good story, having been born in Lamar, Colorado and attending local high schools, but he's on the injured reserve and probably out for the season.

Pete Harnisch, hasn't recovered from off-season surgery, but is expected to be ready in May. Pete was a star for years with double-digit wins and sub-4.00 ERAs, but he hasn't had a good year since 1999. It will be interesting to see if he can still cut it.

Relief Pitchers

Closers - Jose Jimenez pitched a no-hitter for the Cardinals a couple of years ago to beat Randy Johnson, but hasn't done much since. His control hasn't been good enough to close, but he's the closer anyway. If he doesn't get better soon,  Todd Jones will probably be the closer, a role in which he has been successful before, notching 42 saves in 1999 with Detroit. Jimenez had a great spring, though, with a 1.93 ERA and only walking 2 in over 9 innings.

Middle Relief - Dennys Reyes is a 246 pound former Cincinnati Reds starter, projected as a relief pitcher with the Rockies. He had a good Spring with a 2.70 ERA, but has been injury-plagued in recent years. Justin Speier, (unfortunately, Speir was placed on the DL with a knee injury on 3/30/2002) is a 28 year old right-handed relief pitcher who pitched extremely well for the Rockies at the end of last year. He will probably get a lot of work in middle relief. Rick White is a slightly older version of Justin Speier; both men are 6 feet 4 inches tall, are middle relievers, and throw fastballs in the low 90's. Rick may be starting out with a slight advantage, due to his edge in experience and his better Spring performance.

Catchers

The Phillies and the Mets both dumped Gary Bennett in the last two years. They both made a big mistake, because he is a quality catcher that makes pitchers pitch better. He hasn't been great with the bat in the past, but it may have been because he never knew when he would play next. He hit .394 in Spring training and handled himself so well behind the plate that he has been named Colorado's number one catcher. When he has the monster year he is capable of, Rockie's brass are going to look smart for a change. Ben Petrick is a rare combination - a catcher with speed. He didn't live up to the promise last year when he was made the regular catcher in midseason. This year the pressure is off with Bennett the top catcher, so watch Ben have a big year as well. The Rockies may have the best one-two punch in the League behind the plate.

First Base

Todd Helton is the best first baseman in baseball today, and one of the best ever. The only question is what he can do to top the last two seasons in which he won a Gold Glove, a batting title, and hit homers and drove in runs on a pace to top Lou Gehrig himself.

Third Base

Greg Norton (since we wrote this, Norton has been having knee problems and will probably go on the DL early in April) didn't impress us much when he came here. He had some pop in his bat, evidenced by the 10 homeruns he hit last year in a limited role. He must have taken up Yoga or something in the off season, because he came to Spring Training this year looking trimmer, faster, and sharper than anyone had ever seen him before. He must have sensed that he could take the third base job away from Todd Zeile, and he just might do it. Anyway, Norton looked great in the field in the Spring. and even better with the bat, hitting .512 with 5 HR and 14 RBI! Zeile, on the other displayed wooden hands at third and a soft bat at the plate, hitting .219 with 3 homeruns, though he did manage to drive in an amazing 16 runs. Trouble is, he may cost a run for every one he drives in. Don't get us wrong, we've liked Zeile since the first time we saw him, playing catcher for the Louisville Cardinals in a game against the Denver Zephyrs at Mile High Stadium. In those days, he was a hot prospect, being a catcher with both speed and power - sound familiar? But life plays out, as did Zeile's knees and he moved to third, then to first, and now back to first. If he hits, he may stay around, but with Terry Shumpert, Norton, and Mike Bell waiting in the wings, the Rockies aren't likely to be too patient with him. One thing is for sure, he is probably the third best Todd on the team.

Middle Infield

 Juan Uribe at shortstop and  Jose Ortiz at second are two great prospects, both in their second (sophomore jinx) years. They are both likely to have letdowns from the expectations they built last year, but they will make so many exciting, acrobatic plays in field that all true baseball fans will be glad they're around. If the Rockies and Dealing Danny O'Dowd have any sense, these two guys will be the modern day Aparicio and Fox, or Maury Wills and Jim Gilliam, or something like that. There is one sign of trouble on the horizon, however: Uribe signed with world's worst agent, which may make it impossible for the Rockies to sign him to a long term contract. (Brent Butler has been added on March 31, 2002 to take the roster spot vacated by moving Speier to the DL. Brent hit .381 in Spring training and plays 2nd, 3rd and Short.)

Outfield

Benny Agbayani Todd Hollandsworth, and Mark Little will be taking turns playing left field and backing up the other outfield positions. Agbayani, nicknamed "Hawaiian Punch" is a fun guy to watch, because he goes all-out, all of the time. He also has a penchant for hitting dramatic, game-winning homeruns. That's always fun. Todd "Dutch" Hollandsworth was as hot as any hitter we had ever seen last year before he hurt his shin. He has had a spotty career since his Rookie of The Year season with the Dodgers. Here's hoping he is nothing but consistently good from now on. Mark "Stewart" Little is your classic overachiever, hitting and playing the outfield like you wouldn't think possible He doesn't look like much of a player, but in his case, looks are deceiving.

Juan Pierre just gets better and better. In his first year he tied for the league lead in stolen bases, hit .327 and stunned all the local sports reporters who said he couldn't play center in Coors field. But then, those guys are stunned regularly anyway (that means you Kiszla, Klis, Anderson, et al). At the risk of being redundant again, I have to state unequivocally that Pierre is another one of those guys who is a lot of fun to watch. Go stand behind him on the walkway behind the bullpens someday and watch the way he glides under those tall fly balls. It's a real pleasure.

What can you say about Larry Walker? He hits 40+ homeruns every year, wins the batting title, steals bases, and makes spectacular catches and throws from right field. Besides that, he speaks his mind, treats the fans like he actually likes them, and has an alluring goofy, Canadian personality. He's worth the price of admission all by himself. Coincidentally, according to our Game Player statistics, he wins more games than any other player on the team.

The Rockies have had a (dare I say it?) rocky existence, to say the least. Ten years and nothing to show for it, because we don't count the one year they backed into the playoffs (1995) and then were totally humiliated by the worst managerial job in the history of baseball. Six years with a terrible manager and ten with terrible owners. The Rockies probably won't win anything because the only talent on the team belongs to the players, and that is never enough. Until Truck man and the Meat Boys sell the team (or back off and hire real baseball people), they will never win anything. The only salvation for diehard fans is that this year they are going to be fun to watch. Think about it, when Shumpert is at third, Petrick is catching, and Hampton or Chacon is pitching, the Rockies might be the fastest team in Baseball! Even McMorris can't drain all the fun out of that!

ESPN or Post - Who is plagiarizing who?

May 14, 2002. Did you see this quote and comment from yesterday's Post on our Other Writers page?:

-- Troy E. Renck in The Denver Post: "Colorado's hitters, those who figure to benefit the least from the change, seem indifferent. As if it's much a humidor about nothing."  (Huh? ed.) --

We thought it was so lame and meaningless, that it was surely a typo. Then, today, the exact same passage appeared on ESPN in an article entitled "Baseball gives Rockies OK to store balls". The only mention of the Post is: "The Rockies' reaction to the fuss has been mixed, ranging from shrugged shoulders to disappointment about being kept out of the loop, according to the Post's story." Otherwise, the article is credited to "ESPN.com News Services". There is no mention of Mr. Renck in the article. If Renck copied it from ESPN, he should have credited them and vice versa. We don't like to read badly written articles once, let alone twice. It's even worse when they don't even bother to identify the source.