HERE’S THE THING… By Aaron Pfeffer

     July 27, 2005

Remember when baseball came to Colorado in April of 1993?; Remember the filthy offensive juggernaut expansion team that made their first and only playoff appearance two years later in 1995?; Allow me to refresh your memory: Vinny Castilla, Andres Galaragga, Dante Bichette, Larry Walker, Eric Young, Ellis Burks (even on a down year), and John Vander Wal (Batted .347 in 101 at bats).; Not to mention Joe Giardi, Walt Weiss, and Mike Kingery swinging solid wood.; Now I’m the first guy to argue that 90% of baseball is defense, and pitchers have and always will dominate a team’s potential.; But;much like nature,;baseball;has;one anomaly.; And the sooner the Colorado Rockies understand their place as MLB’s red-assed baboon, the better off they are going to be.

Here’s The Thing…

Unfortunately for fans, their owner and more than a few GM’s & coaches have not realized how to compete.; After pointless millions have been wasted on big name pitchers like Darryl Kile, Mike Hampton, Pedro Astacio, Jamey Wright, and Denny Neagle, it’s time they embraced the thin air instead of trying to fight it.; With all that extra lung capacity, players obviously have a major advantage over visiting ball clubs.; Just ask the Denver Broncos who have always owned one of the best home records in the NFL.; We also know the ball flies further a mile high, which basically means you want your lumber to be bigger than their lumber.; Unless you are the Yankees, Red Sox, Cardinals, or Billy Beane, you may only have enough money to spend your wad on either O or D.; And if you happen to wear purple and are not the Arizona Diamondbacks, spend it on the sluggers.


Like no other sport I know, baseball is entirely a numbers game.; Every minute detail is traced by percentage.; From OPS to BA, and even IBB to BFP, numbers tell the tale. So let’s break it down. If the Rockies spend 75% of their (24th in the league) $48 million dollar salary on big bats, that still leaves them about $12 million for pitching.; This year, they’re giving Byung-Hyun Kim $6.5 million alone!; Why the hell pay a guy half that amount if he can’t produce?; Quick side note: Kim is 2-8 with a 5.24 ERA, and his fantasy ownership is at a whopping 0.4%.; In fact, three of the Rockies top five highest paid players are pitchers.; They might want to consider one or two good $3 million dollar starters, $3 million total in set up men & closers, and a final $3-5 million to fill out the rest of the rotation.


All you math studs out there know that would leave them $36 million to make the engine churn.; Todd Helton is their franchise, and probably one of the few guys in MLB who deserves the $12.6 million he makes annually, even though this year his numbers are sub par.; Preston Wilson was draining the club for another $12.5 million before they moved his contract to Washington (getting a pitcher;for him of course)!; The rest of the Rockies consist of guys like Dustan Mohr and Todd Greene.; Uh…who?; Did I mention their one diamond in the rough, Clint Barmes, is on the DL? ;13 of a total 25 players cost them less than $4.5 million in combined salary as is, so why not find three extra bats at an average of $4 million a piece?; 12.5 for Helton, 12 for some power, and 4.5 for the kids table. ;36 million minus 29 million leaves another $7 million to supplement the gaps.; Now you’re probably wondering if there are guys in the National League who even fit that $4 million tab.; Let’s see, Ramon Hernandez on San Diego makes $4.3 million and he’s batting .273 in the worst hitter’s park in baseball.; Imagine what he could in the best, and he’s a veteran catcher! Let him work with the young hurlers.; Brad Wilkerson costs Washington $3 million, and is among top ten in the NL in walks.; Not to mention his OBP and SLG percentages are way up this year.; If ever a guy needed a change of scenery with Preston moving in on his center field territory, it’s Wilkerson.; Why didn’t the Rockies demand him during the trade?; Jeromy Burnitz has 292 career home runs, and is making the most of his plate appearances this year in Chicago.; He’s $4.5 million the Rockies could afford.


It will take approximately 90 wins to make the playoffs.; If the Rockies can go .400 on the road, they could possibly out-breathe their opponents to 59 wins in Coors Field, especially with a revised line-up.; That is not impossible since they are 157-125 at home over the past three and a half years under manager Clint Hurdle.; For the Rockies, the idea is not to keep their opponents run scoring to a minimum; it’s just to make sure they outscore the other team.; That’s how they did it in 1995, and that’s how they should be doing it in 2006.


Lastly, 2004 was the first year in the Rockies existence that their fan attendance was lower than MLB’s average attendance.; Six out of the last seven seasons have been losing seasons and it took the fans this long to abandon the team.; The Rockies might have a ton of young players to build on right now, but it does not mean they are all young talent.; And I have to doubt their ability to manage their youth the way the Oakland A’s did a few short years back.; Plus, Oakland’s best adolescents turned out to be pitchers, and that simply won’t happen a mile high.; If the Rockies ever want to recapture the attendance record and produce a 90 win squad, they might want to start at the plate.; By today’s standards that would make them an anomaly, but with more payrolls over $50 million than below, the Rockies should be used to being in the minority by now.


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