Baseball Toaster Bad Altitude
There's Some Serious Doings A-Transpirin'
2006-04-23 12:34
by Mark T.R. Donohue

Forget the game last night -- well yes, Barry Bonds hit a home run, that's somewhat significant, but ultimately indecisive, as it was a solo shot and the Rockies lost by two, anyway. There is a lot of news surrounding Colorado all of a sudden and it's going to take a rare midgame post to cover it all.

First and foremost is Todd Helton's mystery illness. At the tail end of the week for which he was fan-voted "player of the homestand," Helton complained of a headache after Wednesday's game, was hospitalized Thursday with a fever and stomach cramps, sat out the game Friday, and finally hit the DL today. Helton has yet to receive a definitive diagnosis. Quite few Rockies, including Scott Dohmann (who also spent time on the DL), Eli Marrero, Garrett Atkins, and Sun-Woo Kim, have battled viral infections in the early going this year. (Is this the altitude's fault, too?) The clubhouse reaction is equal parts confusion and fear. Todd Helton never gets sick. He never complains. Colorado can survive a few weeks without Todd's numbers, but will they be able to maintain focus while concerned about the long-term well-being of their obvious leader and unofficial captain? More news as soon as we have any.

Ryan Spilborghs returns from Colorado Springs to serve as Helton's temporary replacement, his recall necessitating the release of Eduardo Sierra ("When it's said that a player was traded for 'a warm body,' Sierra is what they mean" -- Baseball Prospectus 2006), the other pitcher along with Ramon Ramirez acquired in the Shawn Chacon deal. Chacon hasn't been very good for the Yankees thus far this year, and Ramirez has been the biggest among any number of pleasant surprises in the Rockies bullpen, so maybe we won that trade after all. Not that Dan O'Dowd's goal was net talent improvement in that deal -- the Rockies just really wanted Shawn Chacon, his attitude, and his salary somewhere else.

Speaking of pitchers we can't wait to see pack their suitcases, Zach Day is contesting his release, claiming that he belongs on the disabled list with a shoulder issue. Day has barely been healthy for a moment of his Colorado tenure, but he's simply never been an effective pitcher during that time, so however this ends up being resolved (and it's possible the Rockies could respond to Day's grievance with their own), let's just hope he doesn't further damage the franchise by ever pitching for it again.

There's old school, and then there's stupid. Matt Morris threw at two Rockies in the first inning of the game today, apparently in retaliation for a Jose Mesa beaning of Omar Vizquel Saturday, and consequently the umpires ejected Morris, Felipe Alou, and even pitching coach Dave Righetti. This may well end up costing San Francisco the game, the series, and an uncontested share of first place. Though Colorado has yet to capitalize, Morris's sub Kevin Correia has walked four in two and a third.

Jeff Francis looks excellent today, showing fine command of his curve and pounding the lower half of the zone for strikes. I think most Rockies fans felt like it was only a matter of time before Jeff got back on track, but now is as good a time as any. Of course, now that I've gone and written this while he's still on the mound, he'll probably get chased with a patented six-run Coors inning. But that will be my fault and not Francis's.

2006-04-23 14:50:16
1.   Schteeve
What was the issue with Chacon's attitude in CO? He seems like a decent enough dude, in the bronx.
2006-04-23 16:17:11
2.   Mark T.R. Donohue
Chac was a little feisty when he was younger, and I think some in the organization felt that he didn't have the work ethic to push himself to get better -- the big challenge being his season as closer, about which the less said, the better. Also, I get the impression that Shawn's status as a Colorado (Greeley) native made management feel as if he was never going to thrive in this environment. How they figured he would work out as a Yankee I don't know, but as planned, it's no longer their problem.

All of these things are merely what went around immediately after the trade. The real rationalization, I believe, is that Chacon was neither a good enough player nor a good enough leader to be one of the highest-paid players on the team, which arbitration was sure to make him. With the Yankees he faces neither issue. I can't say we miss him terribly -- he might have been better than Zach Day to begin the season with in the rotation, but I don't feel he's better than any of the front five (Cook, Jennings, Francis, Byung-Hyun Kim, Josh Fogg) when they're all healthy. On the other hand, Chacon was the only starting pitcher Colorado had who could really pull off the purple jersey/purple cap combo.

2006-04-23 16:28:21
3.   Schteeve
Good perspective, thanks. And I think that even though his peripherals are mediocre to bad, his BABIP, is more than just good fortune. He's a serviceable starter for the Yanks on a team that doesn't really need much more than a servicable starter. At least, until the playoffs start.
2006-04-23 18:56:12
4.   Bob Timmermann
I will dutifully note that the headline comes from "The Simpsons" and is from an episode that touches on the famous rivalry between Springfield and Shelbyville.
2006-04-23 20:06:51
5.   Kels
Random Question: Have the Rockies worn the Purple uni's yet?
2006-04-24 16:47:08
6.   Kels
Couple more questions regarding the sickness of Helton I was hoping you might have some insight on...Is Shealy still hurt? And didn't Hawpe come up as a First baseman, any chance that he could play first and Choo or someone else played right? Thanks.
2006-04-24 19:12:35
7.   Mark T.R. Donohue
Shealy is in extended spring training rehabbing his shoulder. Hawpe indeed played first base through double-A but has never played the position in the majors. At this point, the way Eli Marrero and Jason Smith have been hitting, it makes more sense to platoon the two of them at first (actually, if Smith gets a start, he will probably push Luis Gonzalez to first since he's a better defender at second) then take Brad out of position to play Choo ".258/.286/.300" Freeman.

Comment status: comments have been closed. Baseball Toaster is now out of business.