Here it is fans, the beginning of another year of baseball with the mighty Colorado Rockies and the Denver Baseball Observer. The 2009 baseball fiscal year, the 17th for the Rockies, started after the last game of 2008 (September 28), and ends with the last game of 2009, probably October 4th in Los Angeles.
It didn’t take long for the Rockies brass, “Meatboys” Frank and Dudley Monfort, General Manager “Squeelin’” Danny O’Dowd, President/figurehead Leslie McVie, and empty hat manager Clint “Gomer” Hurdle to start off a series of boneheaded moves.
On October 7th, they fired, or in their words declined to renew the contracts of Hitting Coach Alan Cockrell, Third Base Coach Mike Gallego, and Bench Coach Jamie Quirk. They also reassigned Bullpen Coach Rick Matthews within the organization (probably cleaning bathrooms in Bend). This was management’s way of saying, “It wasn’t us, it was them, and now they’re gone”. Only these were pretty good baseball men, who contributed mightily to creating the esprit de corps that catapulted Colorado to the World Series in 2007. They cost themselves at least 10 wins by flushing these guys. They kept pitching coach Bob Apodaca and First Base Coach Glenallen Hill.
They also declined the option of a pretty good reliever, Matt Herges.
On October 14th, the Rockies found out that their number one pick in the 2007 draft, strong-armed reliever Casey Weathers is facing ligament replacement surgery and will be out for the entire 2009 season. He probably would have pitched at triple A Colorado Springs.
October 15th the Denver Business Journal reported that the Rockies’ television ratings for the 2008 season were down, with 4% fewer households tuning in, resulting in a 5.5% ratings drop. Ratings are expected to continue to decline in 2009.
Reliever Luis Vizcaino was arrested for suspected drunk driving on October 27th in Tampa, Florida. The Rockies were not happy.
Less than two weeks later, on November 2nd, 3 time All Star and all time Rockies saves leader Brian Fuentes filed for free agency. The Rockies announced they would not try to resign Fuentes, but they will pursue left-handed pitcher Glendon Rusch, who filed for free agency the next day.
November 11th, 2008 will be remembered by many disheartened Rox fans as the day the music died, when the Rockies shipped superstar left fielder Matt Holliday to Oakland for 3 guys nobody has ever heard of. In real life, it was an OK move because the cheapskate management would never have signed Holliday anyway, and they may have gotten nothing at all for him. Instead of next-to-nothing. Actually, the guys they got for Matt may someday prove to be competent ballplayers. By the way, the guys they got for Holliday are closer Huston “Blake” Street, left handed starter Greg “Egg” Smith, and outfielder Carlos “Double Z” Gonzalez.
But the scariest situation of all occurred the next day, when the Rockies announced they would interview DON BAYLOR on Thursday, November 13th, for one of the vacant coaches jobs. This brought terror to the hearts of all true Rockies fans. Baylor is the symbol of the curse that kept the Rockies from being successful for the first 6 years of their existance. In fact, the Denver Baseball Observer’s first web site was the “Fire Don Baylor” page in 1994, when it was already obvious that he was the worst manager on the face of the earth. Don is also a terrible hitting coach, but it would still be infinitely preferable for him to take Alan Cockrell’s place rather than Jamie Quirk’s. With Jamie Quirk gone, the Rockies needed someone to tell Hurdle what to do during baseball games, and especially to keep him awake. Baylor would be sleeping right next to Hurdle and nobody would be running the team, which is actually fortunate because both of them are far more productive when they are asleep.
On the same day the Rockies interviewed Baylor, they changed their mind about Fuentes, and offered him arbitration. Was this the first bit of advice from Baylor? If so, it was stupid, as usual.
On November 24th, former Dodgers and Pirates skipper Jim Tracy (562-572 wins-losses) accepted the bench coach position with the Rockies, allowing the team to dodge the surely fatal bullet that Don Baylor would represent in that spot. Now the only position left for Donny is the hitting coach position, something he has done dependably poorly for decades. It is understandable that hitters don’t want to take Don’s instructions, because as the most often beaned player in baseball history, Don’s philosophy at the plate is simply to bend over and let those fastballs hit you in a fleshy part of the body. Lucky for Don, all parts of his body were fleshy, including his head.
This is kind of a role-reversal for Clint and Don, as Hurdle was Baylor’s hitting coach when Teflon Don managed the Rockies (poorly). (Very, very poorly).
On the same day, Colorado announced the hirings of third-base coach Rich Dauer and bullpen coach Jim Wright. Both men were elevated from similar positions in the Rockies’ minor league.
Next, on December 6th, Brian Fuentes officially refused the Rockies’ offer of arbitration, making him a free agent and insuring that he would be wearing another uniform in the near future.
On the 10th of December, the Rockies announced a one-year deal with left-handed relief pitcher Alan Embree for $2.225 million dollars with so-called “mutual options”.
The next day, the Padres took Rox minor league shortstop and future star Everth Cabrera with the third pick in the Rule 5 draft. Following with the seventh pick, the Reds stole Rockies righty David Patton, who is projected to be a star middle reliever with Maddux-like sneaky stuff.
December 12, 2008 will be remembered as the day the Rockies unceremoniously dumped Willy Taveras, a slick fielding outfielder, speedster and fan favorite. The Baseball Observer would like to know why the Rockies gave up on Taveras after hyping him as a guy who would revolutionize the offense with his speed and ability to get on and raise havoc on the base paths. More than that it is very disappointing that the Rockies front office couldn’t manage to put together a deal to get something for someone who obviously has a decade or more of productive years ahead of him.
Also on that same cold day in December, the Rockies ended the dreams of long time farmhand Jonathan Herrera, a 24 year-old infielder who had been in the organization since he was signed out of Venezuela at 17. Herrera played 28 games with the Rockies in 2008, after hitting .310 at Colorado Springs. The Rockies apparently decided Jonathan was not good enough.
But, wait! The next day, December 13th, the Rockies re-signed Herrera to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training. What was that about?
On Thursday, the 18th of December, Glendon Rusch, left-handed pitching mediocrity, signed a minor league contract with the Rockies for $750,000 for the year. There was no mention of magic beans.