Sunday, May 27, 2012

RIP 2012

Today is May 27th, so 2012 is not exactly nearing its climax. But for me, it is over.
For those of you who know me well, you know that I love baseball more than any other sport. The reason is simple - it is the greatest sport of all time. Those who know me also know that I have split loyalty between the team from my birth state and the team from my home state for the past 21 years. The numbers above are the current records of my Twins and Rockies, respectively. 
This season could not go much worse for the two organizations that I love. Let's start up north. 

Minnesota Twins
My expectations were extremely low heading into this season. To quote my preseason predictions

My Twins had the worst possible season last year with injuries at an all-time high and production at an all-time low. Their pitching staff scares me a bit, but I can't see them being worse than last year. Still no playoffs for the Twinkies this year.

I predicted the Twins to finish third in the AL Central. As an organization, they seem to find a way to fight through all the injuries, lost free agents, bad breaks, and still find a way to get close at the end of the season. This year, they will be lucky to finish with the third to worst record in MLB. Being in a different market and too cheap to buy MLB Extra Innings, I can't follow the Twins as closely as I would like. This leaves me slightly under-educated on the issues plaguing this edition of Twins baseball. The pitching has been weak, as everyone saw coming in. When 24 of your games have been started by Liriano (6.88 BB/9), Blackburn (8.37 ERA), Hendriks (15.0 H/9), and Marquis (DFA), you cannot possibly expect a winning record. I still was hoping that a healthy Mauer, a less concussed Morneau, and lots of speed in Span and Revere would keep them in contention for a while. Not so much. It doesn't matter how much your offense is clicking, when your pitching staff is giving up the most runs per game in the majors, wins won't happen. 

When it comes down to it, I lived through the Twins seasons between the World Series victory in 1991 (and the winning record the next season) and when they finally returned to relevance in 2001. I know and have experienced bad Twins baseball. This is just another one of those years. The same 'meh' feeling does not apply to me this year with the purple pinstripes.

Colorado Rockies
At the beginning of the season, I had the Rockies finishing in third place in the NL West. This prediction was based on the confusion stemming from the plethora of roster changes, the youth of the pitching staff, and the relative parity of the division. During the end of 2011 and this past offseason, O'Dowd was busy putting his newest mark on the franchise. (I say newest because he's changed his mind over and over during his tenure. Remember Hampton and Neagle and the big money free agent pitchers? How about Todd and the Toddlers and GenR?) The general theme was swapping out what the front office considered to be young busts with veteran players who 'knew how to win'. Gone were Seth Smith, Chris Iannetta, Ian Stewart, Jason Hammel, Greg Reynolds, and Casey Weathers. In were Jamie Moyer, Jeremy Guthrie, Marco Scutero, Casey Blake, Ramon Hernandez, and Michael Cuddyer. I saw this change as a way for the Rockies to contend until the young talent the Rockies had acquired could move up through the minor league system. 

The plan sounded great, but the execution has been horrendous thus far. 

Blake was released in spring training. Cuddyer started hot and has fizzled of late. Hernandez and Scutero have not lived up to their expectations at the plate. Guthrie has not been the workhorse that he was in Baltimore (when he not falling off his bicycle or playing catch with a cancer survivor). And Moyer has pitched like a 29 year old pitcher some days and a 49 year old others. The 2012 season, in essence, was preparing the organization for 2013 while playing well enough to keep fan interest and stay in the close NL West playoff race. The imported veterans, a healthy Helton, two legitimate superstars in Tulowitzki and Gonzalez, and a spattering of quality young players should be enough to win ball games. Instead, we are seeing 3 inning starts, a tired bullpen, an inconsistent offense, the worst Rockies defense in years, ineffective coaches, and, as a result, a losing record. Since I take my baseball fanaticism quite seriously, the results been infuriating. 

As a Rockies fan, I should be excited, right? Dick Monfort has publicly stated that patience is required for this version of his team. He has his front office and coaching staff in place that he thinks can lead the Rockies to successful seasons in the future. His front office has a vision and that vision will come to fruition as their young studs start showing up in Denver from Grand Junction, Modesto, Tulsa, and Colorado Springs. O'Dowd and his staff major league wins coming from the talented group that includes Pomeranz, Arenado, Rutledge, Nicasio, White, Bettis, Freidrich, Wheeler, Rosario, Anderson, Matzek, Story, Cabrera, and others. But you know what? Every other MLB team has a list of studs racking up numbers in the minor leagues. Every other MLB team has a list of players that have failed along their path to the majors as well. Judgement of a general manager and his people is based on how their percentage of success stories compare to the other organizations. And those success stories are created by high quality players leading teams to victories. Right now, O'Dowd does not have a passing grade. But according to Monfort, it is only a matter of time before we see that O'Dowd's report card is really showing an A+. 

The past 13 years of Dan O'Dowd have given us enough information to know about what we should expect from this cache of future All-Stars. Two playoff appearances (including a miraculous World Series trip during that awesome 20 wins in 21 games in 2007) in 13 years under O'Dowd. Numerous high draft picks busting out of baseball while players drafted right after the busts go on to great success (see 2006 draft boards). Hanging onto players well after their trade value is diminished (Hawpe, Atkins). Zero division titles. Zero World Series victories. All this leads me to zero confidence that this group of players coming up will be any different than the past groups.

As a fan, what have I gotten myself into?

Unrelated: as I wrote this post, I watched the movie Drive with Ryan Gosling. Holy crap, that is an awesome movie. Check it out if you have not seen it already. 

Until the next post,

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