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"Fundamental" Changes in 2011: So Long Baylor Ball

By Chris Jacobson
Photo By Ferry-Getty Images

The 2011 Colorado Rockies were scheduled to report to Salt River Fields at Talking Stick until February 26, but many of the Rockies players couldn’t wait that long and arrived long before the report date. The 2011 Rockies have a lot to prove and the players know it. In that there are a lot of questions that need answered and Manager Jim Tracy’s ball club seems eager to get to them.

The 2010 version of the Rockies were a team of streaks. They went through stretches where they couldn’t win and couldn’t lose, the most maddening of which was a stretch where they won twelve of fourteen and pulled within one game of the NL lead only to lose thirteen of their final fourteen and finish the season nine back. This was a ballclub that looked completely out of the race early and then, just before the all-star break reeled in the surprising Padres. The team needed stability and Dan O’Dowd seems to have made moves to get it. Since their inception the Rockies ownership group headed by the Monfort brothers have been accused of, at best, winning on the cheap, and at worst siding with low payroll and poor teams as long as it meant a solid profit margin. This year seems different; after the long term extension signed by All World shortstop Troy Tulowitski, the Rockies turned around and made a long term commitment to five tool player Carlos Gonzalez.

They didn’t stop there. The offense has been reworked and revamped. There were some departures that will hurt this season, sure, but there are as many improvements that should be recognizable very early even if their names are not. Out are utility players Melvin Mora and Clint Barmes and clutch hitting catcher Miguel Olivo; in are underappreciated Ty Wigginton and former all-star Jose Lopez (seen above). Wigginton has played all of the infield positions in his career but this year will do fine spelling both Ian Stewart and Todd Helton and at some point may push Stewart for real playing time. Lopez is a whole different animal. His best seasons were 2008 and 2009 where he batted nearly .300 in 08 and swatted 25 home runs and had 97 RBI. Seattle’s offense was so anemic last year it is pretty tough to gain any trajectory for this player but if the 27 year old can return to a semblance of his former self Eric Young Jr. and Jonathan Herrera will be battling for pinch hitting opportunities.

Also gone is hitting coach Don Baylor. He makes room for no-nonsense Carney Lansford. In his career Lansford was seen as a blue collar workhorse who took every game seriously. That kind of mentality could work wonders for a team that was in 58 one run games in 2011. The Rockies hit a franchise low .226 on the road in 2011; Lansford will have to get Chris Ianetta, Seth Smith and Stewart to hit much better than they have of late if the Rockies expect to turn around last years road woes. With the unique combination of speed and power the Rocks have, an infusion of a little discipline and situational hitting could very well be the thing that pushes this team to the next level. With the talent they have it is time for a return to fundamental baseball.

Dexter Fowler, Cargo, Tulo and the rest fill out a squad that can win in a variety of ways. Long gone are the Blake Street Bombers and the 12-9 pitchers duels that they brought with them. While it was fun watching Bichette, The Big Cat, Vinny Castilla and Larry Walker beat the ball out of the park, this team is built with team speed, an aggressive attitude and a top ten pitching staff that doesn’t need eight and a half runs a game to be .500 at seasons end. At the end of the day, anyone who has seen a game at Coors Field in late September would much rather a pitchers duel to a shootout.

1 comment:

  1. The Rocks are definitely positioned for a strong season. After watching a video of their new spring training digs, it's no wonder they all showed up early. This could be very helpful in getting the Rocks off to a good start, something they have struggled with in the past. I am anxious to see how Wigginton and Lopez fit in and am hopeful Lansford can work some magic with the likes of Stewart and Iannetta, players he worked with in the minors. Just excited for the season to start