Monday, August 06, 2007

Iannetta Optioned; The Cracker Barrel Rockies

Yes, naturally, I reneged on my dubious promises to bring you my incorrect insight about how the second half might shape up for the NL, but is anyone really surprised? At least I never got around to making predictions for the Senior Circuit in the first place, aside from the Cards and Rockies, so I don't have to retract any of them yet. Well, it seems as if all my Worst Case scenarios for the Cards have played out, and the Rockies are about what I gave them credit for, except they're definitely better than the Giants (hahahaha, couldn't happen to a nicer team). They're still, remarkably, playing meaningful games in August, and sport by far the best record of the teams that I follow, but 5.5 games (division) and 4 games (wild card) is a tough task to make up, and they have a logjam of teams ahead of them that they're going to have to miraculously leapfrog if they plan to remain in contention much longer. Plus, Clint Hurdle. You know.

But the main point of me returning to the blogosphere, if only briefly, is to note that Chris Iannetta got the somewhat-expected boot to Triple-A Colorado Springs today. After opening the season as the starting catcher, he could never clear the Mendoza Line afterwards and had one hit in his last 29 at-bats at the time of the demotion. I did my fair share of pimping him earlier in the season, but have to admit that Yorvit Torrealba now deserves the lion's share of the playing time he now receives. He's the hottest-hitting NL catcher behind the Dodgers' Russell Martin, and his defense is certainly good enough to warrant trotting him out there on a daily basis. The one problem with Torrealba is that he consistently, and sometimes habitually, calls for fastballs, and while this works with starters like Ubaldo Jimenez (who can throw 98) or Jason Hirsh (who needs to use that pitch more often) it runs into a snag with Aaron Cook, who relies predominantly on a sinker/changeup as well. Iannetta actually recognized that Cook could throw other pitches and as such called for them, guiding Aaron through a hot streak of quality starts. He'd become Cookie's personal catcher of sorts, and it does make one wonder how Cook's outings will look if Torrealba returns to catching him.

Yorvit won't be without backup, of course, as the Rockies promoted Edwin Bellorin from the Springs to replace Iannetta in the role of spare catcher. Bellorin looks good on the outside (.326/9/45) but most of that comes in the thin, un-humidored Colorado Springs air, where he hits .358; the number is significantly lower on the road. He's also hit a recent swoon, as he started the season on fire (.480 in April) but has hit only .250 for the month of August. Still, whatever he can provide will probably, and unfortunately, be better than Iannetta. I like Chris and remain convinced that with some extra time to season in AAA, he may prove to be more than he's shown thus far. I also think that Hurdle's mismanaged him, doesn't even seem to really like him (he has a predilection toward crusty and crappy veterans, after all) and a change of scenery and a return to a more familiar level may help out with his swing. Iannetta will probably be back up in September when rosters expand, along with Sean Barker, Jayson Nix, Franklin Morales, Ian Stewart, Joe Koshansky, Seth Smith, Omar Quintanilla, and (groan) Clint Barmes, so we can see if it helped his swing at all. Good luck to him.

As for the second topic of discussion, the Rockies (surprisingly) resisted making any deals at the non-waiver July 31 trade deadline. If you check out the packages they were offered, it's pretty easy to see why (Hurdle, for once saying something that I agree with, termed the offerings "coal for gold nuggets.") To get Jose Contreras, he of the 6.60 ERA, the Rockies were asked to give up Morales (their top pitching prospect, recently promoted to AAA) and Stewart (their hotshot third-base prospect, hitting .302 with 14 homers). To get Kyle Farnsworth from the Yankees (come on, KYLE FARNSWORTH?) the price would be Morales and Ryan Spilborghs. The Twins kicked the tires on Garrett Atkins and offered.... Juan Rincon (5.89 ERA) as the centerpiece of that deal. Come on, Major League Baseball. Show us a little respect. We are not a farm club for you to pick and eviscerate as you like, and you cannot have all our good young talent for the dregs of your system. At least Dealin' Dan O'Dowd, who earned a reputation in the past as being all too ready to wheel and deal and pick up prospects for proven talent, resisted the impulse and kept the nucleus of his young club together.

There really are no gaping holes, and dismantling might prove counterproductive. Sure, we wish our rotation was better... but Francis/Cook/Jimenez/Hirsh/Fogg is average to decent, even if Fogg is like a foot fungus that just won't go away. (Unfortunately, with Rodrigo Lopez having torn a tendon and probably a wash for the season, he may be staying there). Sure, we wish Brian Fuentes would go away and never come back... but Manny Corpas will hopefully continue to impress so that even Hurdle will get the picture. (Hurdle, depressingly, has announced his intent to slot Fuentes into the closer's role upon his return from injury. I keep trying not to imagine what our record would look like if Fuentes hadn't catastrophically blown those four straight saves, but man, it's difficult... 60-50, 1.5 back in the division, probably in the Wild Card lead... OY, that's painful, I'll stop). If our season goes to hell, at least we know who to blame, right?

Either way, I'm still watching, on the rare opportunities that I can. (Money is nice, but I'm starting to be quite sick of work and ready to go back to school). Therefore, I sneak in games when I can, and the thought that I may be attending only two or three more in person made me quite sad. I know I'm going to the game on my birthday, August 24, and that that will probably be the last Rockies game I see for the season. Man, depressing.

On a final note, you may notice that my list of axe-grinding has been cut significantly. Tom Martin is finally gone (hallelujah!) and Iannetta is in the Springs, plus, Spilborghs is now the starting right fielder against lefties as Hawpe still has trouble hitting them. Now just get rid of Hurdle and Fogg, and we'll be good...

Go Rox!

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