Well folks, it’s 4 days till we hear those marvelous words: “Pitchers and catchers report!” And the 3rd week of March I’ll be making my way to Scottsdale to take in a Spring Training game at the Rockies’ Salt River Fields complex. I’ve already purchased tickets for me and the girls in order to avoid being turned away like last year and like all baseball fans I’m convinced that the Rocks will go undefeated and win the World Series….at least until they lose a game.
I’ve never denied being a Seamhead (hopeless baseball fan) and often tell friends and co-workers that football, basketball, and hockey are only things to fill the time between the last game of the World Series and the first day of Spring Training. With that in mind, one of my friends stopped by my desk this morning and asked what my thoughts were for the Rockies’ season this year. I gave it some thought and answered him briefly but continued to ruminate on it all day and decided to make my thoughts more public. So with your indulgence I’ve composed an open letter to Walt Weiss, the new Rockies manager.
Congratulations on being named the new skipper. I enjoyed watching you play in Oakland, Atlanta, and Colorado and I believe you will be a good fit for the younger players on the roster this year. As a lifelong Rockies fan I’d like to let you know what I expect from the Rocks this season. I don’t expect perfection but here are a few things that have been missing:
1. Play solid fundamental baseball. In 2007 when the Rockies pulled off the Miracle of Roctober and went to the World Series they committed 58 errors all season. Last year on their way to the worst record in franchise history they committed over twice that many errors. We don’t expect them to be perfect but we do expect fundamental soundness. Catch the ball!
2. Effective running on the basepaths. I suspect all the players in the Rockies organization have been playing baseball since they were in single digits in age and there are certain things that you learn early on. An example from last year was Dexter Fowler going from 1rst to 3rd on a single and between second and third base he was looking back over his shoulder at the ball and got thrown out by a wide margin. He was miked up that day and tv showed Jason Giambi putting an arm around his shoulders in the dugout and saying “Tough luck…I thought you were going to make it.” What should have happened was a conversation between the manager and Dexter more along the lines of “…listen Dex, you know better than that. You know you’re supposed to pick up your coach and not watch the ball. Don’t do that again.” And 3 days later when the same thing happened the manager should snatch him up by the nape of his neck and ask “What the bleep are you thinking? You learned to run bases when you were 10 years old. Do you enjoy the atmosphere in Colorado Springs? ”
3. Situational hitting. With Dante coming on board as the hitting coach I’m hopeful that his 2-strike approach will be pounded into the hitters’ heads. I want to see concerted efforts to move runners over. When Wilin Rosario comes back to the dugout after striking out on 3 straight sliders from Motta, someone should tell him “Wilin, everyone in the free world knows he throws the slider 98% of the time. You have to understand that and lay off the pitch.” And when it happens during his very next at bat someone needs to snatch him up by the nape of the neck and say “What the bleep are you thinking? We talked about this 15 minutes ago. Do you enjoy the atmosphere in the minors?” And when a pitcher can’t lay down a bunt, let him know that this is the National League and he needs to bat 2 or 3 times in a game….take some extra BP. Hopefully Dante will get them to be more productive in their at bats.
4. Situational pitching. All of the pitchers in the starting rotation have shown flashes of brilliance at times. It’s ridiculous to see an 0-2 count turn into 3-2 and then a walk. It’s equally tragic to see a pitcher get ahead 0-2 and groove a fat pitch that gets hammered. Might as well put it on a tee. I’d also like to see pitchers take back the outer half of the plate. “Hard in and soft away” is the axiom that should be repeated every single day. Let’s see a little chin music from time to time. I’d prefer not to see any footprints in the batter’s box much less someone digging in.
5. Finally, have fun. We all played the game initially because it was fun. I’d really like to see some smiles in the dugout.
Willie Mays once said “Baseball is an easy game. When they throw it, I hit it. When they hit it, I catch it.” I hope I’ll see a lot of hitting and catching by the Rockies this summer. See you at the ballpark!