Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Secret to Surviving the Trade Deadline

On a warm summer's evening,

6:35 PM, Saturday, July 30th, 2011. Colorado Rockies at San Diego Padres. Game time temperature, 71 degrees. Partly Cloudy. 13 MPH winds.

on a train bound for nowhere,

Nearly two-thirds of the way through the season, the Rockies found themselves 6 games below .500, and 11 games back of the first place San Francisco Giants.

I met up with the gambler; we were both too tired to sleep...

The Rockies General Manager, Dealin' Dan O'Dowd, had all but finalized a deadline deal that would send the Rockies ace, Ubaldo Jimenez to the Cleveland Indians for 4 minor league prospects, as Ubaldo warmed up in the bullpen and prepared to take the mound in what would be his last game with the Rockies. Ubaldo was aware of the deal and not sure why he was still toeing the rubber for the Rockies, even though the Rockies wouldn't announce the deal until later in the game, a few innings after Ubaldo would be pulled after giving up 4 runs in only 1 inning of work.

He said, "son, I've made a life, out of reading people's faces,
and knowing what their cards were,
by the way they held their eyes...

Ubaldo worked painstakingly through the first inning of Saturday's game, knowing that he was no longer a member of the Colorado Rockies. At times Ubaldo found it difficult to muster a strike. His emotion showed. He was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. He acted almost as though what he was doing out there on the mound was all a sham of some sort. Perhaps it was. Perhaps the Rockies were calling the Indians bluff, or perhaps the Rockies were bluffing, trying to force Cleveland's hand all in.

So if you don't mind me saying,
I can see you're out of aces.
For a taste of your whiskey,
I'll give you some advice.

Truth be told, Ubaldo hadn't pitched like an ace recently. Although Ubaldo pitched like Bob Gibson leading up to the All-Star Game (which he started) last year, he's gone 10-16 with a 4.18 ERA since. Since the Rockies made their first World Series appearance in 2007 with Jeff Francis was the ace of the staff (17-9 that season), their pitching rotation has struggled. They've boasted great potential at the start of each year, but have ultimately wavered throughout the course of each 162 game season, frequently hampered by injuries. Aside from Ubaldo's first half 2010 season, the Rockies haven't had a pitcher pitch like a #1 starter should since Francis' 2007 season.

Now every Gambler knows that the secret to surviving,
is knowing what to throw away and knowing what to keep

O'Dowd was quoted earlier this week as saying this was a "restocking" deal, rather than a rebuilding deal. This isn't the first time the Rockies faithful have seen not only a fan favorite, but also a star player dealt.

In August 2004, the Rockies sent OF Larry Walker to the St. Louis Cardinals for 3 minor leaguers, all of which you wouldn't recognize even if I mentioned them. In a write up by Tracy Ringolsby I found in a blog post from the time, he indicated "The key for the Rockies is that they will save nearly $8.5 million, which will allow them to keep pitchers Shawn Chacon, Jason Jennings and Joe Kennedy, each of whom has off-season leverage of salary arbitration, and also re-sign outfielder Jeromy Burnitz." According to wikipedia, Walker had exercised his no trade clause earlier that season, declining a trade that would have brought then minor leaguer Ian Kinsler to the Rockies. I'd say that hand was a loser.

In 2008, facing losing him to free agency, the Rockies dealt Matt Holliday to the Oakland Athletics for Carlos Gonzalez, Huston Street, and Greg Smith. Though most fans were irate over the deal at the time, they have since fallen for CarGo's ability to rake in the cheap tacos, and Huston Street has been a solid closer.

Somewhere in the darkness the gambler, he broke even,
But in his final words, I found an ace that I can keep

The Ubaldo deal came a little more abruptly than the Holliday or Walker deals, as Ubaldo still had 2 years on a team friendly contract with a team option for a 3rd year. It's not like the Rockies had monetary reason to move the pitcher, who may very well regain his ace-like form at any time. However, O'Dowd and the Rockies are betting that the young prospects acquired from Cleveland will prove to be aces themselves.

This Rockies fan will always be a hopeful BelieveR in Purple Rocktobers each year until such a point as the Rockies get mathematically eliminated from contention. However, the Rockies would need to do far better than break even the rest of this season. By my calculation, they'd have to go 40-11. So if they can just go 20-10 (two out of three) and put together another September like we had in 2007, we'll be golden.

More realistically, I'm hoping Rockies fans will get a glimpse of our newly acquired talent in the big leagues this season, and hopefully we'll find them to be big league aces as early as next season.

You never count your money when you're sitting at the table,
There'll be time enough for counting, when the dealin's done.

1 comment:

  1. I say Dealing Dan should be shown the door. There's many an owner in this league who could do as good or even better than O'Dowd. The Rockies season was over before May this year.