11/28/12 2:55 PM ET
Sarah's Take: Rockies need a new plan
By Sarah D. Morris / MLB.com
Playing half their games in Coors Field presents a challenge for the Rockies, yet in their 20 years of existence, they haven't figured out how to conquer this.
The Rockies have only gone to the playoffs three times in their history. Colorado's management is growing impatient with this annual lack of success, so it has come up with radical ideas for how to handle the pitching staff and roster. Although different thinking is needed in Colorado, I don't think management has found the solution.
Since the season ended, Jim Tracy resigned as manager, and he has been replaced by Walt Weiss, who becomes Colorado's sixth manager. Since he played for the Rockies for four years in the 1990s, the team believes he will understand the unique challenges facing his players in the high altitude of Denver. Weiss hasn't managed anywhere professionally, but was a high school baseball head coach in the Denver area.
Weiss believes that when a player is not performing well, he should be benched or demoted to the Minor Leagues. His hard-nosed attitude fits with the Rockies' impatience. I have seen them send down Dexter Fowler for having a minor offensive slump after he had a marvelous offensive performance the previous year. They have traded pitchers who almost won the National League Cy Young Award the prior season because they struggled with their mechanics, which caused their velocity to drop and their control to be poor. Their collective impatience with most players has caused some of their troubles.
Everyone who has watched baseball from Denver knows pitching will always be a concern for the Rockies. The thin, dry air a mile above sea level doesn't provide enough resistance to make the ball curve. It also helps the baseball travel farther in the air. Consequently, home runs are a common occurrence and pitchers frequently hang curveballs. Not many pitchers want to play at Coors Field because it has been a hitters' paradise. Attracting free-agent pitchers has been a real problem for the Rockies. When they succeeded with this, the often-overpaid pitchers didn't perform satisfactorily. They seldom have developed good pitchers in their Minor League system.
For part of this past season, the Rockies went with a four-man rotation and a 75-pitch limit for starters. This year they will go back to a five-man rotation and a looser pitch limit. I agree that pitching in Colorado needs to be viewed differently than pitching at sea level. However, I don't like how the Rockies approach their pitching problems, because I have seen many starters in the first innings at Coors who couldn't escape jams.
Other than their well-publicized pitching problems, the Rockies had a rash of injuries that undermined their efforts. Todd Helton, 39 and dealing with chronic back problems, should be designated as a pinch-hitter. Since James Loney has experienced much success in Denver, the Rockies should consider signing him. Unless Troy Tulowitzki proves he can remain healthy and play 140 games a season, the Rockies need to consider trading him -- if they can find takers for his enormous contract.
Although the Rockies scored the third-most runs in the NL, they had problems on offense, having wasted countless scoring opportunities. A more stable lineup would help their offense.
The Rockies face some of the most unusual challenges in baseball. The organization is correct to think outside the box, but their ideas probably won't work to make them more competitive. They need to develop a new plan for how to run their team.
Sarah D. Morris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.