Baseball Toaster Bad Altitude
Next Year
2006-08-31 16:23
by Mark T.R. Donohue

All season, the Rockies had one stated goal, repeated as if a mantra by players, coaches, and management alike: to be playing meaningful games in September. It's August 31st. They have failed. They're ten games under .500 and in last place in the NL West. They're no longer even a courtesy mention in the wild card race. They have the fourth-worst record in the National League, in fact. Of course most of the league is clustered between 61 and 65 wins and the Rockies resemble the teams immediately ahead of them -- Milwaukee, Houston, Arizona -- much more closely than the teams below them in the cellar, Washington, Chicago, and Pittsburgh. But being slightly better than the worst teams in the league wasn't the goal. The goal was to play meaningful games in September. Fail. Remember, it's their stated goal, not mine. I just wanted them to win 75 games, which they could still do. They will have to pick up the pace a little bit to accomplish my goal, but their goal is out the window. Which set of standards you hold them to is your choice.

2006 being over, planning for 2007 has begun in earnest. All year we've been writing about the lack of offense at catcher and shortstop and saying, well, at least we have Chris Iannetta and Troy Tulowitzki in the minors. Now we have Iannetta and Tulowitzki in the majors. While officially these callups have been made to improve the young players' chances at breaking camp next spring with the major league team, unofficially, what other options do we have? The Clint Barmes era is over. Yorvit Torrealba is not a long-term solution at catcher. The pitching staff has solidified more rapidly than the organization probably expected. Now if management is too pokey getting the best hitting talent in the system up with the big club to support those pitchers, it'll be back to square one. I don't know about you, but I am sick of square one. Square one sucks. Let's visit some new squares already.

The Post's Tulowitzki article reveals a lot of interesting possibilities for the composition of next year's team. Everybody knows where the Rockies need to get better. Hopefully, Tulowitzki and Iannetta address shortstop and catcher. Right now, the plan for right field is an interesting name: Ian Stewart. Colorado recognizes that Garrett Atkins has emerged as a key building block and won't move him for the world. Stewart despite a tough, injury-plagued year in AA is still on the fast track for the majors. It looks like many outfield innings in the Arizona Fall League are in his immediate future. The Rockies' attempt to turn Ryan Shealy into a corner outfielder were less than a roaring success, but Stewart (6'3", 205) is a bit more outfielderlike than the 6'5", 250-pound Shealy. The biggest unsettled question is in center field. That's where they'll go outside the system, according to the Post. The names dropped by Troy Renck are Eric Byrnes and Coco Crisp. The Rockies already had Byrnes, who is having a Fluke Rule kind of year for Arizona. Crisp is a little more interesting. He's highly likely to become a scapegoat for a letdown year in Boston, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see a semi-repeat of the Edgar Renteria situation develop. The Red Sox couldn't wait to get rid of Renteria after being fabulously excited to sign him before the '04 season. He's had a solid year for the Braves for a discount rate thanks to Boston's still shouldering much of his salary burden. Crisp isn't as highly paid but he could be had at a low price in terms of talent since the Red Sox will be eager to rid themselves of him. That is assuming the Rockies front office and Boston's are speaking to each other again after the Kelly Shoppach unpleasantness of last year's trade deadline.

The less said about this Mets series, the better. While the Rockies paradoxically thrived against the superior American League in interleague play, they've cratered against the one team in the NL that could actually compete over in the DH circuit. What a world.

2006-08-31 17:39:25
1.   skybluestoday
Good writeup. Thanks for the info.
2006-08-31 18:06:44
2.   Kels
Do you see Stewart and Hawpe platooning next year? or is Hawpe trade bait in your opinion?

Maybe the Mets would trade us Beltran for Hawpe straight up....that would be nice of them....

2006-08-31 18:39:22
3.   Mark T.R. Donohue
I don't think Brad Hawpe has a tremendous amount of trade value right now. If Stewart can figure out how to play right, I suspect he will be given the opportunity to play there every day. I can tell you right now absolutely for certain that Stewart will not platoon with Hawpe, because both hit left-handed.

Although miscast as a regular, Hawpe has plenty of value to the Rockies as a bench player. He hits righties well, he plays excellent defense in right, and he's a good baserunner for a big guy. The Colorado bench has been awful beyond measure the last two years (mostly because the guys we sign to be bench players always seem to end up starting) and it wouldn't hurt to have a few professional hitters there for 2007.

As a third-year player in 2007 Hawpe will not yet be eligible for arbitration, so he will be as near to minimum-salaried as makes no odds. Unless some other team decides they really have to him and blows Dan O'Dowd away with a trade offer, I imagine he will be back next year for 250-300 ABs.

2006-08-31 19:22:11
4.   Kels
I forgot Stewart was a lefty, good point.

If you see Hawpe as a semi-regular and a bench guy, could you see him being the back-up first baseman as well since he use to play there? I guess he wouldn't be to useful there since him and todd are both lefties....Let me re-phase the question, Could Hawpe play first in the big leagues if needed?

2006-09-03 13:56:18
5.   ScoobyGoo
What do you think was the deal with Helton this year? I haven't seen many Rockie games so I'm not quite sure if its the beginning of downward regression due to age or just an outlier..I guess no one will really know..
2006-09-03 23:01:37
6.   Mark T.R. Donohue
Last offseason Helton admitted he had been having trouble with his back the whole season and refused to take any time off because of it or complain about it because he's, you know, Old School. Hopefully this season his lack of power has been at least in part due to injury. It's true he ought to be in decline by now but not THIS MUCH decline.

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