Roster at ESPN
The 2001 Rockies - World Champs or Biggest
By The Denver Baseball Observer
March 28, 2001. The Denver Papers are ready to hand the World
Series rings out to the Rockies' players today. But let's not be hasty, this
team has some problems that will not be easy to overcome. By the same token, it
is without a doubt the best Rockies team ever - on paper. You'll have to forgive
the Observer if he has doubts about the ability of this organization to
win where it counts - on the field. But, there are a lot of positives on
this year's team, so let's look at them first:
- Todd "the
wad" (referring to the cash he got in his contract extension)
Helton. Simply one of the best players in the game today. Fun to
watch, can carry the team on his shoulders.
- Larry Walker. Also one
of the best in the game today, and a pleasure to observe. Larry can
also single-handedly win ballgames in bunches.
- The outfield. Gant is a
much better fielder than most people realize, Hollingsworth and
Pierre at top-notch, and Walker is in a class by himself. If they
stay together the whole year, they will make a lot of pitchers and
- Most of the infield.
Cirillo, and "The Todds" (Walker and Helton) are solid
fielders that take away hits and cut runners down. Perez,
unfortunately, is almost bad enough to negate the other three.
- Pitching. If the
rotation avoids injury and prolonged slumps the Rockies will be hard
to beat every day, at home and on the road.
- Field management. Buddy
Bell and his staff have proven themselves to be professional, knowledgeable,
hard-working and creative managers. It is truly a pleasure to watch
these guys direct a team, especially after "Baylor Ball".
- Fans. The fans are
still coming, though in smaller numbers and bringing a lot less
enthusiasm. Gone are the spontaneous "Go Rockies" cheers
that shook the stadium like thunder. But, the fans can still rock
the joint when they have something to cheer about, and that has to
demoralize the opponents and invigorate the home team.
Here are some of the
little problems that will have to be overcome for the Rockies to be
- Ownership - The Rockies
are being run by Jerry McMorris and the Monfort brothers. The former
made his money in the Trucking business and the latter through the
meat packing business. They are not baseball men, and have not shown
themselves to be great managers. What they have shown is a
willingness to blame everyone else in the organization for their
problems and to step in and make ill-conceived moves at the
slightest provocation. Forbes says the Rockies are worth $343
million, maybe it's time the three of them took the money and
- Depth - Even though the
team appears to be solid almost everywhere, there are generally no
alternatives if any regular goes down for a protracted period, with
the exception of the outfield.
- The middle of the
infield makes champions, and the Rockies have a big problem at
shortstop. Neifi Perez is simply a terrible shortstop, but
unfortunately he is "sneaky bad". He won the Gold Glove
for fielding last year and he always hits around .300. If you look
at the statistics, he seems great. What you don't see is that he is
out of position at the beginning of every play - he plays too deep
and toward second and never adjusts to hitter's tendencies, thus
allowing more hits than most other shortstops. Also, he is
frequently caught daydreaming, being out of position on a play that
usually results in errors given to other fielders, and allows base runners
to take extra bases. At the plate, he is prone to strangeness -
faking bunts at inappropriate times, missing signs, swinging at bad
pitches. He does not have a good enough on-base percentage, and most
of his hits are at "garbage time", rather than when they
are needed. On the other hand, Todd Walker at second is a great
fundamental player, both on the field and at bat.
- Leadoff hitting -
Pierre is a big question mark, if he doesn't set the table for the
"boppers", it is going to be hard to win games anywhere.
- Competition - The
Dodgers, Diamondbacks, and Giants all improved themselves in the off
season. The Rockies had a six year window in which to win the
championship in the West while all of the other teams were mediocre.
The window may be closed now.
- The Rockies will finish
third in the West by a hair. If they get a few breaks, they will
beat the Dodgers for 2nd and contest for the Wild Card. The
Diamondbacks will win the West. If LA and Arizona collapse, the
Rockies will win the West. Their record will probably be 90-72.
- Helton will probably
have an off year, dropping to .350 with 35 homeruns and 120 RBI.
- Walker will return to
form, winning the batting title and MVP.
- The "Blake Street
Bombers" will be back with Gant, Hollingsworth, both Walkers,
and Helton hitting at least 20 home runs. This may be the first team
with 3 Todds hitting 20 or more dingers.
- Hampton will have a
monster year, winning 20+ games, and having a great year with the
glove and bat. He may win the Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, and Cy
Young awards. Or, he could get injured in April and spend the year
on the DL.
- The editorial quality
of the two Denver paper's sports departments will continue to
plummet now that they are a government-sponsored monopoly. Don't
believe anything they say.
- Neither Mayne or
Petrick are great defensive catchers, but Mayne seldom makes mistakes
and Petrick will be the same kind of backstop in the near future,
possibly by the end of this year. Both are good hitters, with Petrick
having a chance to become exceptional, with the bonus of speed and
instincts on the base paths.
First Base - Helton is one
of the best in the field and at bat. Unfortunately, there isn't much
behind him so he will have to start at least 150 games for the Rockies
Second Base - Todd Walker
is solid all around. His backup will be Shumpert or Butler, which leads
to some drop-off, but not much. If Walker hits 20-30 homers, it will be
a huge boost for the Rockies title chances.
Shortstop - The Rockies
need to replace Perez. It probably won't be this year but luckily Perez
and his agent will not sign a multi-year contract so he doesn't fit in
the team's long-term plans. If they trade him and get even a mediocre
shortstop in return, the pennant is guaranteed.
Third Base - Jeff Cirillo
is solid with the glove and bat. He is also proof that moving to Coors
field doesn't make doubles hitters into home run champs. Jeff averaged
14 home runs in the four years before he came to Colorado and hit just
11 last year (did you see that Ron Gant?).
Left Field - Ron Gant and
Todd Hollingsworth will platoon in left. Gant still has tremendous power
and shows flashes of the superstar he could have been. Hollingsworth has
been inconsistent, but could be reaching his prime. He is an excellent
fielder with good speed and an average arm, hits well with power and hit
even better on the road than at Coors.
Center Field - Juan Pierre
was spectacular last year, both in the field and at bat. He has been criticized
for being just another Hunter/Goodwin type, but there's nothing wrong
with that in the Rockies scheme. If he can maintain a high on-base
percentage and field his position, that's all they need to win.
Right Field - Walker
fields the position as well as anyone in baseball history. If he regains
his old form at the plate, it will be a fun year for everyone except
Bench - Roberto Kelley has
the tools to be a great role player, Shumpert fills in everywhere and
hits. Norton is no Cirillo, but may be an able fill-in and pinch
hitter. Brent Butler looked good in spring training and may be a good
Starting Pitching -
Hampton will lock down the number one slot and become a fan favorite.
After that, who knows? Neagle has been mediocre for years, Astacio is
inconsistent, Bohannon seems to be getting better and may be #2 by year
end. Villone is an unknown, and there will probably be several #5's as
the season progresses. After Hampton, it's basically pray for lots of
Relief Pitching - A big
bright spot last year, should and must continue for the Rockies to win
90 games. It looks like they have enough arms to maintain it no matter
who has good and bad years.