What happened last Saturday night in San Diego, and what pitcher Ubaldo Jiménez had to go through in his final moments with the Colorado Rockies, wound up being senselessly cruel.
After weeks of rumors, with speculation smothering Jiménez and the Rockies, and with fellow pitcher Esmil Rogers actually warming up as the game began, it was crazy — not to mention wrong — to send Jiménez out to the mound to start the game. He had no focus, no energy, no fire. And he couldn't find the plate, walking four batters while giving up four first-inning runs.
Four runs, two outs and 45 pitches later, Jiménez walked off the field, learned from manager Jim Tracy that the deal with Cleveland was done, and the farewell hugs began.
Before leaving for his new chance at stardom, Jiménez had to admit that "I didn't have my mind on the game." Yet he said all the right things about his teammates, the franchise and its fans. Total class, to the end.
"It's baseball," he said with a shrug and a clearly wistful smile, thanking the fans and then actually waving into the camera as he added, "Goodbye."
It was all so unnecessary. All so inexplicable.
It would've been one thing if, as was bandied about in the media for more than a week, the Rockies could have pulled off a mega-deal for several players who could help now. That might have made it palatable, giving up on the kid who started the All-Star Game last year, the ace who was projected just a few months ago to carry Colorado to the National League West title this year.
Yes, the Rockies did get four players in the deal, but none will help soon, if ever. Drew Pomeranz, at 22, is a promising lefthanded pitcher, but he's had only three starts in Double-A and he's not close to being ready for the majors. Alex White, also 22 and a first-round draft pick, has missed much of this season with a sprained finger on his throwing hand and also needs more seasoning. Then there's Joe Gardner, another young Double-A pitcher, whose high earned-run average suggests he's not on a fast track.
In fact, all three of those pitchers probably will be happy if they will wind up in Colorado Springs — next year.
Finally, there's Matt McBride, a 26-year-old playing first base in Double-A for Cleveland, two levels down from the show. His numbers have been decent this year ... in Akron. In other words, he's not the next Todd Helton.
So why, four months into a season that began with so much optimism, are the Rockies suddenly acting like their next chance will come in 2014?
That's the question without an answer. Especially when the Rockies could have tried a much simpler, cheaper, faster maneuver to give themselves a chance. They should have either fired or demoted pitching coach Bob Apodaca.
Think about it: How many Rockies pitchers in Apodaca's tenure have put together two or more successful seasons in a row? Instead, think about how many have faltered — Jiménez is only the latest — with the pitching coach unable to pull them out of the tailspin.
Obviously, Jiménez began the season with issues, and Apodaca couldn't fix them. The situation has improved some, but not enough, as the season has gone along. So perhaps, purely for Jiménez's sake, the trade will revive his path toward being one of the major leagues' best pitchers. Cleveland's pitching coach, Tim Belcher, spent 14 years in the majors himself, and he'll probably have some immediate pointers for his new pupil.
Meanwhile, this trade changes the entire outlook for Colorado in 2012. The front office no longer seems to care about giving Helton one last chance at a World Series. As for pitching, Jhoulys Chacin might progress enough to deserve being the No. 1 starter, but don't expect Jorge De La Rosa to return quickly from major elbow surgery. Nobody else looks capable of being a No. 2 or 3 starter on a contending team.
So, did Colorado just give up on next year as well? Unless there's a new pitching coach and some free-agent help, that's how it looks now.
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