As Leonard Shelby in Christopher Nolan's Memento might say, "Okay, so ... what's going on?"
Much like in that film I feel like I might be having a hard time telling if I'm moving forward or backward with this team. As many of you have undoubtedly heard, yesterday Troy Renck of the Denver Post reported that the much anticipated return of Carlos Gonzalez to center field was perhaps always a dream with no beginning or end that we were chasing in spite of ourselves. He reports:
After talking with Gonzalez on Saturday, manager Walt Weiss said he will keep Gonzalez in left, where he has played the last two seasons, leaving Drew Stubbs, Charlie Blackmon, Corey Dickerson and Brandon Barnes vying for the center-field job.
This is splintering my psyche. I am absolutely a thousand percent mostly maybe okay with this except sometimes.
This is black and white scenes in chronological order and it is color in reverse. The Rockies could be moving toward a perfect point of harmony where somehow all the craziness comes together and reveals how it all makes sense in the end. Or they may be creating an overly convoluted mess that goes outside-the-box in all the wrong ways.
Let's start with the good.
Leaving Carlos Gonzalez in left field requires him to exert himself less on defense and should aid in his longevity and health throughout the season. He has made it clear that he would prefer to stay in one position (precluding him from taking any time in RF) and he has certainly gained familiarity and comfort with left over the last two seasons.
Additionally, the Rockies added two stellar defensive center fielders in the off season with Drew Stubbs and Brandon Barnes. When one of these two is manning center field, not having Cargo there doesn't hurt the team defensively and the Rockies get all the benefits I mentioned above.
Giving stability to one of your stars is important. Like the top in Inception, Cargo (and Tulo) can ground the team if healthy so any advantage you can give yourself in that department is a noteworthy advantage.
I also like that the Rockies are clearly open to any number of possibilities in terms of how to most effectively play their team. I shared this thought on the Denver Stiffs yesterday in reference to styles of coaching and managing across sports:
I think too often teams/coaches play it safe. It's like that line in Moneyball then Phil Hoffman's Art Howe says "I'm managing my team in a way I can explain in interviews during the off season." Coaches know that if they fail but in a way that should work according to the book, they will be held less responsible. But if they try something outside the box because it fits the personnel they have, they are going out on a limb. The same way coaches and managers win awards because of "post hoc, ergo propter hoc" they often end of getting fired for it as well.
Team X did Y better after you became coach/after you experienced difficulties! Have this award!
Team X did Y worse after you implemented a system we weren't familiar with. Have this pink slip.
I like that the Rockies are not slaves to this mindset.
However, are center field and the lead-off spot in your lineup really the parts of your team you want to throw into disarray? If I haven't been captaining the platoon-a-palooza bandwagon from the beginning, I've been its first mate but I never imagined it would include center field, or by proxy, the lead-off spot.
To begin with, there is no guarantee that any of the candidates will be able to get on base enough to justify leading off already. Throw in the uncertainty of a platoon and you risk turning the spot in the lineup that sees the most at-bats into a black hole. Expert analysis warning: that would be bad.
Both Corey Dickerson and Charlie Blackmon represent downgrades defensively when compared to the other options, so in order to balance out value they will need to hit and hit well if given opportunities to start. Neither is a sure thing in the slightest and trying it means sacrificing defense at one of the most important positions on the diamond, especially in the vastness of Coors Field.
Conversely, Stubbs and Barnes haven't shown an ability to hit over the past few seasons even where Blackmon and Dickerson have and can't platoon with each other. Unfortunately, the two best hitters are lefties and the two best fielders are righties.
Maybe the consistency thing doesn't matter. For all the flack they get for giving too much credence to ideas like "clubhouse guy" or "leader" the Colorado Rockies sure seem to be trying to play it by the numbers this year. The numbers suggest that each of the players involved hits better against opposite handed pitching by quite a bit.
If the Rockies have the flexibility and creativity to change their style of play depending on who's taking the hill for the bad guys on any given day, they may just be able to pull this thing off. They are as healthy and as deep as they have been in a long time. They are as open minded as they have been in a long time. It is not going to be a boring season.
Links to feed your baseball addiction:
The San Francisco Giants are bringing back Barry Bonds as a spring training instructor. If you were looking for more of a reason to root against the Giants, there it is.
Managers will get to try out the new instant replay system in at least five games in spring training.
Dave Cameron ranks the top 10 worst transactions of the off season and, yes, the Dexter Fowler trade is in there. It comes in at eighth.