I was 9 Years old in 1993, when the Rockies first came to town. At the time I didn't know much about baseball, but the first time I went to a sold out mile high stadium, with 80,000+ fans screaming GO...... Rockies..... I was instantly hooked. I would wake up in the morning, run grab the paper, and look at the box scores for the previous night, and read the latest news on the team. As a kid I had my favorites like Dante Bichette, Vinny Castilla, Elis Burks, Larry Walker, etc. I would watch teams that could score score 15+ Runs on any given night, and I would listen to my dad who would tell me that once this team got some pitching, they would be really good.
For 14 years, this had always been the mantra for the Rockies. We could hit the ball, and score a lot of runs, but we never really had pitchers. This wasn't always for the lack of trying. David Nied was just a foreshadow in to something that would haunt this team for the next decade. He quickly flamed out, as did guys like Marvin Freeman, Jamey Wright, John Thomson, John Burke, and the list goes on. We traded for Brett Saberhagan, Pedro Astacio, and others, each with varying levels of success. We signed names like Kevin Ritz, Darryl Kile, and of course Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle, and for the most part, these big signings turned out to be disasters that set the franchise back more then it leapfrogged them forward.
Finally the organizational philosophy was changed. Instead of trading for other top pitchers, or signing big name free agents, we would develop our own pitchers, and put heavy emphasis on scouting in Latin America. While the first few seasons after this philosophy changed was implemented were difficult to bear, soon we saw the fruits of the golden tree of player development. Jason Jennings had a few good years for us, as did Jeff Francis, and Aaron Cook. All three were useful pitchers, however I wouldn't call any of them a true ace, good number 2/3 starters in their prime however. Then came a guy named Ubaldo. The he through in the mid to upper 90's and did things with the baseball, that the law of physics shouldn't even allow. He wasn't scared to pitch at coors field, and was even quoted as saying he wanted to spend his career as a Rockie.... imagine that, a pitcher not scared of Coors Field, but instead embracing it. If not for the work of him, and another pitcher who crashed and burned later on, 2007 wouldn't have happened. He followed that up with a strong 2008 and 2009 campaign, and in 2010, Colorado finally found their first ace, after 14+ years of failed prospects, trades and signings. Even better, this ace was cost controlled until 2014, and with players like Tulo, Cargo, and even young guys like Chacin, Nicasio, and Brothers we looked like a team that was set up to contend for quite some time, and for the first time in their existence, we were picked by some in the national media as being the team to beat in the NL West.
For a lot of reasons, which would require another fanpost, things didn't work out in 2011. However the strong core was still very much in tact. We had a strong young rotation with Ubaldo heading things up, followed by Chacin, Nicasio, and De La Rosa when he returned from injury, we had two star position players, and an old guy who found the fountain of youth. As bad as 2011 was, there was still plenty to hope for in 2012. Now I'm not so sure.
Other trades have stung, but not as bad as this one. We all knew that Jennings and Holiday were gone after the season, so it made perfect since at the time to get something for them. This one made no since to me, we had an excellent young core, lead by a pitcher who I would take over almost anyone to throw a game 7. He was signed until 2014 at a huge discount, and he was on record as stating he didn't want to leave. After 14 years of waiting this was our guy, and now he's gone.
I understand the arguments for trading him. Yes he did lose velocity, and yes he has a lot of innings on his right arm. All of these are concerns, and if O'Dowd did trade him while his value was still at its peak, then I commend him for learning his lessons I was screaming at him to learn with the Atkins and Hawpe debacle. But this doesn't seem like that type of move. This has all the looks of a panic type trade, due to the failings of 2011. O'Dowd confirmed what I and others have thought about this farm system by trading his top pitcher to "restock", and instead of looking at his current core and doing the necessary tweaks needed for 2012, he changed out an engine when he only needed new tires.
The prospects we got back, do nothing to address the biggest need this team had, which is another middle of the order bat. I'm not going to say they are bad players, as I look forward to seeing what they can become, and I understand that they have the potential to be very good pitchers. However, Franklyn Morales, David Nied, John Thomson, and other top pitching prospects had the potential to be very good pitchers as well. As the old saying goes, a bird in hand is worth more then two in the bush. We had that said bird, in our hands, ready to be caged up for his career. Forgive me for being a bit skeptical of pitching prospects. And forgive me for being just a little bit pissed off that after waiting 14 years to find our ace, and to be competitive year in and year out, we go and trade the best starer to ever take the mound in a Rockies uniform, when there was absolutely no reason to do so.
I was a Rockies fan before Ubaldo, and I will continue to be one afterwards. However as a fan, I feel betrayed, and I feel like we have been taken, and punched in the gut. This one hurt, and it is going to take a while to get over that hurt. I only have to wonder what Tulo and Cargo are thinking now that they have signed life long contracts, with the idea that this team will be competitive over the next few years. I wonder what Todd Helton is thinking, as he sees his ticket to the playoffs, and possibly his last chance at a world series ring, get traded away to Cleveland. Us fans are not the only ones that the Management of the Rockies have betrayed this weekend, and I would think that any player from now on will think twice before signing a long term deal with this team again.