First of all, let me say that I don't know if the Rockies are going to keep Don Baylor or not during the off season. I don't really care one way or the other, truthfully, and I understand the desire for a sign that the team cares, but I do think that the proponents for firing him are not offering valid enough reasons.
What's not in dispute is that the Rockies took a significant step backwards in offensive production in 2010 from where they were in 2009, and that this step back was almost entirely to blame for the difference in the team's results in the standings. What I will dispute is that Don Baylor bears the brunt of responsibility for this fall. What I generally dislike about the arguments of fans who wish to ax their coaches after a disappointing season is that they are too quick to apply all responsibility for players that were disappointing on the coach, but give them no credit for the players that blossomed.
Baylor has seemingly made good and very good players better. Before he came to a Don Baylor coached team, Carlos Gonzalez was a disappointing five tool prospect that many, if not most, baseball analysts felt would never reach his full potential. Since coming to a Baylor coached team, that assessment has gone out the window and we're back to seeing Gonzalez as a superstar in the making, if he's not already made. Troy Tulowitzki was a solid, above average shortstop, but besides Rockies fans, you weren't going to find many who thought that he'd become a perennial MVP candidate and pass Hanley Ramirez in offensive value at the position.
Fan favorite Jonathan Herrera figured to be a well below average big league bench bat, another Omar Quintanilla, but somehow has transformed into a useful offensive piece with solid OBP and contact skills.
The two biggest reasons for the drop-off from 2009 to 2010 offensively for the Rockies were found at first base and right field, where Todd Helton and Brad Hawpe tanked, and then Seth Smith was unable to step forward after Hawpe was released. How much responsibility should Baylor bear for the failure of the two most veteran starters on the team?
The frustration in Baylor stems from a real lack of progress from Smith, from Ian Stewart and a falsely perceived one in Dexter Fowler. Three players that legitimately were disappointments in 2010, but is that enough to outweigh Baylor's successes? I really don't think it is, especially since as I'll point out in a minute, it really is only two of these players that failed to progress.
I'm late. I have to post something.
Significant points in this article from the Denver Post's Troy Renck include the projected payroll for 2011 remaining flat at $83 million and the reiteration that the Rockies would like to both re-sign Jorge De La Rosa and make a play for Victor Martinez.
Jim Armstrong breaks down the team heading into the hot stove league. Again, we're getting a pretty clear indication that the Rockies are going to go after Martinez, and that Chris Iannetta may be shopped around. As we've long suspected but never heard him admit, Jim Tracy doesn't really like CDI. There are many other points in the Armstrong piece that I would agree with, but his assessment of the outfield situation is more bleak than necessary and ignores that Dexter Fowler actually seems to have taken an offensive step forward.
Fowler is on a six game hit streak and has been smoking line drives at an astonishing 28.2% clip in September and October. If he can learn to regularly turn on the inside pitch as a RHB (or similarly go the opposite way with that pitch location as a LHB) he could be a superstar. Fowler's not nearly the issue that Seth Smith and Brad Hawpe before him have been in right field this season, both offensively and defensively and should be a big contribto