Rocky Start for Rockies Evokes The Past
PLUS: SHOOTING THE BANTER WITH BASEBALL CELBRITIES AT SEA
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Did you know…
Starlin Castro, a 33-year-old infielder with a .280 lifetime batting average, has been out of the majors since the Nationals released him in the summer of 2021 after a 30-game suspension under MLB’s joint domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse policy. He had a 28-game stint in the Mexican League last year, batting .240/.312/.323 in 109 plate appearances for los Leones de Yucatan but didn’t do much better in the Dominican Winter League (.219/.250/.250 in 168 plate appearances). For a veteran of 1,573 games and 6,600 plate appearances with four teams, that was not a good way to win friends and influence people . . .
Despite dangerously high walk totals during his career in Japan, 6’6” righthander Shintaro Fijunami won a one-year, $3 million contract from the Oakland A’s and pitched so poorly that he was reassigned to relief work following four starts (0-4 record, 24 runs, 19 hits, 12 walks in 24 innings) . . .
Seattle southpaw Robbie Ray, a former AL Cy Young Award winner, is out for the season because of upcoming flexor tendon repair surgery . . .
The Minnesota Twins have won the season series against the New York Yankees for the first time since 2001 . . .
One-time Yankee prospect Clint Frazier, an outfielder, has been released from his minor-league contract by the Texas Rangers . . .
Colorado reject Sam Hilliard had a two-homer game for Atlanta Monday night.
The Rockies Can Salvage 2023 If They Learn From The Past
By Skyler Timmins
It’s no secret that the Colorado Rockies have endured one of the worst starts in franchise history this season.
During the doldrums of April, many fans and media members have already regarded the Rockies as a team destined for 100 losses this year — a fate they haven’t suffered in their entire 30-year history. The Rockies are a bad baseball team right now, there’s no getting around that, but there is still plenty of time to turn things around and avoid the type of season result they seem destined to have.
2002: Offensive Confidence Will Lead the Way
April 2002 was one of the worst starts in franchise history. After posting a record of 6-16, then general manager Dan O’Dowd decided change was necessary and fired manager Buddy Bell.
“Quite honestly, we need to start playing the game with more joy and more confidence than we've played already this year," O'Dowd said at the time. "We really need to start building some positive momentum. This is about a new step forward."
At the time ESPN wrote the following, “Many forces conspired to shove these Rockies off to a 6-16 start. But the more they stumbled, the more they didn’t hit -- even at Coors (where they were averaging under five runs a game). And the more GM Dan O’Dowd kept saying he liked his team, the more the Rockies almost seemed to be a squad waiting around for its manager to get fired.”
In his place, the Rockies turned to Clint Hurdle to try and turn the team around for the better. While they didn’t make the playoffs, they ended up with a 73-89 record and some positives to take away.
The offense did more than enough throughout the season. Todd Helton and Larry Walker played to the star-level productions expected of them, while the supporting- cast veterans and rookies alike did their part in the lineup to give their big boppers chances to drive in runs.
Even though pitching struggled, there were highlights thanks to National League Rookie of the Year Jason Jennings and the potential of young arms like Shawn Chacon and Aaron Cook. Pitching tried its best, but the team was ultimately carried by a mighty offense featuring key superstars leading the way.
2005: Todd and the Toddlers
Three years later, the Rockies again struggled in the first month of the season, going 6-15. Entering that season, the Rockies pivoted further to a new batch of homegrown Rockies commonly referred to as “Generation R” and “Todd and the Toddlers.”
Helton continued to produce despite lower power numbers. He still batted .320/.445/.534 with 20 home runs and 79 RBI and drew and incredible 108 walks to just 80 strikeouts in 144 games. Matt Holliday grew into his own in his second second batting over .300 with 19 home runs and 87 home runs, as did Garrett Atkins with a .287 AVG, 13 home runs and 89 RBI in his first full season as a starter.
The Rockies ended with a 67-95 record, largely in part to struggles with the starting rotation, but the roster was younger and homegrown. It was essentially a soft reboot of the roster, with an emphasis on young exciting talent which paid dividends as the team improved to 76-86 in 2006 and eventually went to the World Series in 2007. Young talent can make a huge difference.
2009: Putting It All Together
Finally, we look to 2009 as a season that showcases what can happen when everything blends together for success.
By the end of May in 2009, the Rockies were 18-28 and 14 games back in the division. They had become complacent and weren’t playing good baseball. Dan O’Dowd again felt the need to shock the system and fired Hurdle. In his place, Jim Tracy took over and the mood changed.
Tracy led the team to an eventual Wild Card finish with a 92-70 record. The core of young talent the team had committed to began to play confidently along with the veterans that filled in the gaps. The pitching staff was one of the best the organization had seen, conquering Coors Field and staying competitive on the road. It was a beautiful sight to behold and remains the best record in franchise history.
2023: What Can They Learn
So, how can the Rockies learn and apply lessons from the past?
A change in leadership mentality is a must. Often that means dismissal, but the Rockies love Bud Black and he doesn’t necessarily need to be fired. However, both he and the front office need to change how they approach using the roster and find a way to shock the system and boost the team’s confidence and performance.
That could mean cutting loose underperforming veterans to make way for exciting young talent on the verge. Ezequiel Tovar, Brenton Doyle, Ryan Feltner, and Noah Davis are just a few showing what can happen when you let the young guys play — and there are plenty more waiting.
Additionally, the Rockies offense has to find a way to put itself into a position so that they big stars in the lineup can be in a position to succeed.
Along with that, those stars have to begin to produce with runners on base and show why they were worth the big contracts awarded to them. Once the stars start performing, it can help inspire the rest of the roster to pick it up and produce as well.
Once an offense has confidence in itself to score runs, it can take pressure off a pitching staff that then doesn’t have to feel pressure to be perfect. It creates a symbiotic balance and helps the team as a unit. Pitching is of the utmost importance in Colorado and they can’t afford the lackluster results to continue in 2023.
Change is possible for the Rockies, but only if they are willing to learn.
Skyler Timmins is a lifelong Colorado Rockies fan and current contributor at PurpleRow.com. He also creates podcast content for the Rocky Mountain Rooftop network where he can lament about the organization and promote the memes he makes on Twitter under his @SideLine_Crowd handle.
Talking Baseball Is So Much Better On a Cruise
By Dan Schlossberg
One of the best things about a book-signing tour is the chance to talk baseball with the crowd. A few days ago, one of the faces in my crowd at the Elmwood Park (NJ) Public Library was Bruce Campbell, whom I have known for at least 40 years.
Although I first met him when was running the Insty-Prints shop in Little Falls, Bruce and I became close friends — so close that I invited him to be my co-host on several of my baseball cruises.
Having him there brought up some old stories involving the baseball celebrities we had aboard.
Stan Musial, who was one of them, not only loved to talk baseball but to play “The Wabash Cannonball” on his harmonica and to do nightclub tricks worthy of a magician with his dinner napkin. He also asked for help for the kite-flying contest and I was only too happy to oblige.
Carl Erskine played the harmonica too — a classical version so refined that he could play with the ship’s orchestra without rehearsing.
Bob Feller told what it was like be a tail-gunner on the USS Alabama during World War 2, when he won eight battle stars.
Pepper Paire Davis revealed what the real League Of Their Own was all about. She also cried when the end-credits rolled in the movie, which we showed on board. All her friends were gone, she explained.
Red Schoendienst, Musial’s long-time teammate with the Cardinals, talked about hitting the game-winning home run in an All-Star Game.
Larry Jansen remembered Bobby Thomson’s “shot heard ‘round the world,” which won the 1951 pennant for the New York Giants and gave him the National League lead in wins that year.
Jay Johnstone talked about locking Tommy Lasorda in his Florida hotel room, forcing him to miss breakfast before a long bus trip.
Johnny VanderMeer talked about throwing consecutive no-hitters — a feat no one has ever duplicated.
Erskine, Clem Labine, and Roger Craig talked about The Good Old Days of the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Ernie Harwell talked about the time the Dodgers traded catcher Cliff Dapper, from their Montreal farm club, to the Atlanta Crackers for his broadcasting contract.
Art Shamsky and Ron Blomberg, who managed opposing teams in the Israel Baseball League playoffs, told why that circuit failed after one season.
Al Clark, the only American League umpire with his name on his hat, even told why he threw Frank Robinson out of a game during the National Anthem.
Need we say more?
Baseball is fun at the ballpark but even better on a boat, where players are so relaxed that they often let their guard down and tell intimate behind-the-scenes stories.
I was honored to be creator, coodinator, and host of more than two-dozen baseball theme cruises from 1981-2015. I’m hoping there will be more to come.
Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ is the author or co-author of 42 baseball books, including this year’s Baseball’s Memorable Misses: An Unabashed Look at the Game’s Craziest Zeroes. To book him as a speaker, email email@example.com
Todd Helton missed election to Cooperstown in January by 11 votes, which could have come from the 16 ballots writers failed to return . . .
Good news for Carlos Beltran, who polled 46.5% in his first try for the Hall of Fame: every candidate with at least 42% of the vote in his first year was eventually elected . . .
Although Scott Rolen was only the ninth third baseman elected, that number could grow by two next year if both Adrian Beltre and David Wright are selected . . .
Rolen’s five-vote margin of victory was the closest since Pudge Rodriguez squeezed in by four votes more than the required 75 per cent in 2017 . . .
Of the 342 elected members, various veterans committees have picked 180; the defunct Committee on Negro Baseball Leagues named nine; and the Special Committee on Negro Leagues selected 17 in 2006 . . .
No Hall of Famer has ever lived to 100, with Bobby Doerr the closest at 99 years and 220 days old when he died in 2017. The oldest living member is Willie Mays, who turns 92 on May 6.
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