Ubaldo Jimenez

Every year at their time the rumors roll in about deals that will be done, players who are available, and other nonsense. Usually I ignore them, because they’re unreliable and in a month will be forgotten. However, as I’ve recently become something of a Rockies fan, at least when they’re not playing the Cardinals, I have a few thoughts about the man whose name headlines this post.

Ubaldo is one of my favorite Rockies.  He’s also an incredibly talented pitcher. In addition, he is twenty seven years old. That is the key point for today. Any discussion of the Rockies as sellers in the baseball trade market, or at least of sellers where Ubaldo is concerned, depends on age.

Mid-market teams, like the Rockies, are usually understood to be on a build and sell cycle, where they build a core of prospects, try to add veterans around them as the youth movement reaches the Majors, and then trade or allow players to leave as they become too expensive, keeping, if they are lucky, the very best.  Thus, trading Ubaldo would make sense only if he was either about to be too expensive to keep or if the players surrounding him were not yet ready to win at the Major League level.  Neither is true. Ubaldo is only twenty seven, he is signed at a very reasonable salary until 2014, and he is part of the Rockies core group of internally developed prospects, all of whom are of similar age and many of whom, specifically Troy Tulowitski and Carlos Gonzalez, are likewise signed for the next several years.

Consider the following list of current Rockies players developed by the organization, by age and position, beginning with Ubaldo.

Starters:

  • Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP 27
  • Joulys Chacin, RHP 23
  • Jason Hammel, RHP 28
  • Juan Nicasio, RHP 24
  • Jorge De La Rosa, LHP 30 *DL Tommy John*
  • Esmil Rogers, RHP 25 *DL oblique strain*

Position players:

  • Troy Tulowitski, SS 26
  • Carlos Gonzalez, CF/LF 25 *DL wrist strain*
  • Dexter Fowler, CF 24
  • Seth Smith, RF 28
  • Charlie Blackmon, CF/LF/RF 25 *DL broken foot*
  • Chris Iannetta, C 28
  • Jonathan Herrera, 2B 26
  • Ian Stewart, 3B 26
  • Eric Young Jr, 2B/OF 26

Suddenly it becomes clear that, far from being sellers, the Rockies are at the peak of their rebuilding cycle. They should be attempting to win for the next four years with the players they have traded for and cultivated. In fact, adding Ty Wigginton (3B 33) and Mark Ellis (2B 34) were exactly the kind of small acquisitions a mid-market team should be making in a season where most of their home grown talent is between 25 and 28.

The Rockies got horribly unlucky this year when De La Rosa was lost for the season.  Starting pitching, especially at Coors, is a huge challenge for any team. His loss probably means the Rockies do not have enough starters to contend this year, even in the eminently winnable NL West division.  De La Rosa’s injury, however, simply underscores how valuable Ubaldo is to the Rockies, and what a good job they have done with Nicasio, Chacin, Rogers and Jimenez, of building a young rotation from within. Trading any of them would be madness, drastically reducing the remaining members ability to compete given their home field and the state of pitching around the league, where offense is down and many teams have multiple front line starters.

Ubaldo is, along with CarGo and Tulo and Helton (1B 37), the face of the new Rockies. 2011 has turned out far worse than they hoped, but that doesn’t mean the team should give up on winning. They have a young core most teams envy, and a bevy of talented starters on the rise. I’ve really enjoyed watching the Rockies the past few years, and Ubaldo is a big part of why. His smile, his joy in baseball, and his incredible abilities are a pleasure to see, and he most certainly should remain a Rockie through the length of his contract, given the state of the team.

Bud Selig & the TSA

There are two things that make me very angry today.  They may seem to have nothing to do with each other.  Yet Bud Selig is exactly like the TSA.  They are both higher powers in the American landscape that are forcing their awful ideas on society.  Let me explain.

Bud Selig wants to put ten teams in the MLB playoffs, rather than the current eight, which is already an increase from the six that got in when he became Commissioner.  Six, eight, ten, why the big deal?  Mediocrity.  Baseball is the American pasttime.  It isn’t “the current American sport of the moment”, nor is it “something cool we made for TV”.  Baseball is tough.  The season is long.  The games are played in the sun of long summer afternoons.  Pitchers take forever.  Batters grab their crotches.  Baseball is awesome.  It’s also hard. And most teams don’t make the playoffs.  I don’t mean *half* the teams don’t make the playoffs.  I mean most.  As in, pre-Bud, less than one out of three. One per division.  That was awesome.

Bud Selig implemented the Wild Card, which is pretty solid, as things go, though it does occasionally lead to crazy math.  The idea behind the Wild Card was that teams who happened to have another very good team in their division could still make the playoffs.  This was called the “Yankee rule” or the “AL East rule”, because it gave Baltimore, Toronto, Tampa Bay and even Boston some hope that, in an era when the Yankees went to the post-season almost every year, they didn’t have to beat the Yankees to get in, they just had to be better than everyone else.

I love the Wild Card rule.  I think it’s very rewarding to say “hey, we didn’t win the division but we would have won most divisions, so we should keep playing.”  I like this sense of achievement.  Plus, the Cardinals won the WS as Wild Card entrants in 2006.  And the Marlins in 2003.  And 2007.  Wild Cards are good for baseball.  And eight out of thirty teams is still less than one third.  It’s still tough to get in to the playoffs in MLB.

Why is it good to have the playoffs be tough to get into? Because nothing is more disheartening than hearing a NFL fan say the following: “Our team is 4-6. Maybe if Buffalo loses to Tampa and Green Bay beats Seattle and we beat Chicago, we can make the playoffs!”

That is pathetic.  It’s demeaning to the fans, and to the game. Why? Because their team is simply not any good.  Good teams make the playoffs, bad teams don’t. That’s the whole idea!  If mediocre teams make the playoffs it’s called THE REGULAR SEASON.

But Bud thinks good teams aren’t making the playoffs.  Hence the whole ten teams instead of eight thing.  Wait. What? Did any good teams miss the playoffs in 2010?  The Padres?  Not a good team.  How do I know?  They didn’t make the playoffs.  Also, their run differential was +84.  This means they scored 84 more runs than they allowed, over the course of the 2010 season. Was this good?  Well, in a word, no. The eight teams that made the playoffs were between +163 (NYY) and +100 (Texas). No team had a +100 run differential and did not make the playoffs.  The Cardinals were the only ones even close, at +95 and no playoffs.  And we all know the Cardinals weren’t very good down the stretch.

In case that last paragraph contained too many ideas and failed attempts at humor, let me clarify:

In 2010, the best eight teams made the playoffs, and those eight teams were quite noticeably better than any of the other 22 teams.

Bud Selig is not helping the sport.  He may be helping someone.  That I won’t argue.

And how is Bud like the TSA?  Well the TSA may be helping someone, but they’re not helping passengers. They’re not helping airports.  They’re not improving security. They aren’t saving money. They’re not speeding up transit. They’re not making people’s days better.

What are they doing? Keeping everyone scared.  Remember, the threat is real, they say. The threat level is orange.

The threat level has *always been* orange.

Airplanes got blown up before 9/11. The TSA didn’t exist. Neither did naked scanners, shoe removal, pat downs, nail clipper confiscation, belt removal, or 2 hour security lines.

Are we safer? I guess that depends on us. All I know is that Bud isn’t making the sport I love better and the TSA isn’t making the experience I love (air travel) better.  They may be helping someone, but it’s not me. I love to fly and I love baseball.  Please, Bud Selig and faceless TSA boss, stop trying to change that.