Baseball Notes: The Start of Spring
In the middle of this week I was able to make a trip out to Arizona and went to a Rockies/ Diamondbacks game at Salt River Fields. I came back with a black hat for my black cat.
This was the sixth year in a row I was able to go to a spring training game close to my birthday, even as it was snowing in Minnesota on February 28th and March 4th. It was so warm in Phoenix, 90 degrees in March 3rd, that I needed to get a hat to shield me from the sun so I stopped in the team store. I was hoping there would be a lighter colored hat but I couldn't resist the spring training version of the Rockies' hat.
It's an odd year for the Rockies this year. They traded away Troy Tulowitzki last year and it's a little odd to see the Rockies and not see him, and they still have Carlos Gonzalez dispite all of the trade rumors surrounding him. It would be a shame to see him leave the Rockies and it was a treat to see him a low lining home run against a DBacks reliever. I belive it was off the newly acquired Tyler Clippard. Trevor Story also hit a homer early in the game, an impressive shot to center off of Robbie Ray. Story was the starting SS and he could be in an odd situation of being a regular season starter for the Rockies at short while Jose Reyes is suspended until his domestic violence case is resolved. The Rockies face two perenially stacked teams in the Dodgers and Giants in their division and the two teams that "won" the offseason last year and this year in the Padres and DBacks. The Padres had to dissolve many of the movies they made last year as they did not result in positive changes in the standings and the DBacks hope to avoid that fate, but the Rockies are the one team that hasn't seemed to try to contend in the NL West.
The Rockies could have a nice line up this year, as they always seem to have an entertaining offense, but their rotation is a patchwork quilt of faded and worn fabrics. They seem to try to draft well for their pitchers with players like Gray and Chatwood, but they do not have a good track record of home grown pitchers. Ubaldo Jimenez is the only home grown Rockies pitcher that comes to mind as one that panned out and his term as Rockies ace did not last particularly long and he seems to be a pitcher whose best years are behind him. His first five years in the league where very impressive, throwing a no-hitter in 2010 and finishing 3rd in Cy Young voting that same year, but his ERA has swelled the last 5 years where he had two years that were impressive but not consistent.
This year, like last year, there are a lot of exciting teams, but there are a couple that seem bound to lose a lot of games. This year, all of the strictly rebuilding teams seem to be coming out of the NL with the Rockies, Phillies, Brewers, Padres, and Braves fielding a lot of players that could have found themselves in the minor leagues on other teams. Oddly, there isn't a single stand out team in the AL that seems destined to fail. It seems as though any team that does badly in the AL will be a result of not living up to expectations rather than an expected down year. With this in mind, I wouldn't be surprised if one or two of the five teams doomed to fail in the NL played beyond themselves and threatens .500 at least through May.
Even though there are going to be teams doomed to fail, I think any or all of the worst teams in the league will be interesting to watch this year. Last year there were two or three teams including the Phillies and Braves that were unwatchable throughout the season. This year even those teams will have exciting prospects or tallented castoffs from other teams playing every day that will be worth a watch like Maikel Franco, Charlie Morton and Odubel Hernandez of the Phillies and Ender Inciarte, Freddie Freeman and Julio Tehran of the Braves. The Rockies will always have their offense as pretty much everyone in their lineup is worth a look even in their away games. But, it will be especially interesting to see any baserunners try to challenge the arms of their corner outfielders Carlos Gonzalez and the super-human Gerardo Parra who has both the strongest and most accurate arm I have seen that is only rivaled by Ichiro in his prime and might even surpass Ichiro.