As I was preparing to write my typical Saturday morning links piece, I came across Eric Karabell's 2011 Fantasy Baseball Top 100 on ESPN.com. It's an Insider-only piece, so I won't share too much from it, but there was something in it that made me bang my head on my desk far too many times than a somewhat-sane person should. Here it is:
7. Justin Upton, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks: A future MVP, and it could be this season.
16. Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Colorado Rockies: Don't feel guilty at all that a good portion of his numbers are supplied by a friendly home ballpark.
Let me preface this rant by saying that I like Justin Upton. I enjoy watching him play, and I honestly do believe that he is one of the top players in the game. This rant is not an indictment on him, but rather an indictment on baseball writers everywhere. This is not a new topic, either; it has been brought up a multitude of times, both by people in our community and elsewhere. But, I feel compelled to write about it, so hear me out.
I'm sure by now you know where I'm going with this, but I'll continue anyway: Gonzalez - career .744 OPS away from home = PRODUCT OF COORS FIELD. GET THIS GUY OUT OF HERE. FRAUD. Upton - career .749 OPS away from home = FUTURE MVP. BEST YOUNG CORNER OUTFIELDER IN THE GAME. FUTURE HALL OF FAMER.
Again, I'm not taking away from Upton; there are several reasons why he's more highly regarded. He's just 24 years old, can consistently hit baseballs further than almost anyone else on the planet, and was a former number one pick. Gonzalez, meanwhile, was an amateur free agent from Venezuela who didn't find his footing in the big leagues until he was the same age as Upton was in 2011 when he was an MVP candidate, and was bounced out of two organizations before achieving stardom. Still, that doesn't make the media's perception of guys in Colorado any fairer or more accurate, and the same can be said about guys who have the same problem who call hitter's parks not named Coors Field their home. And, in case I haven't already made this clear enough, it's not Upton being considered the better player that bugs me - it's the fact that NOBODY says ANYTHING about his dramatic splits. Well, and that the Coors Field stigma is always going to be present. We're seeing it now with Larry Walker, who isn't getting much respect among HOF voters (despite posting a career .865 road OPS), and we saw it last season when Todd Helton's HOF candidacy became a topic of national discussion (despite posting a career .869 road OPS). Hell, we still hear about it with Troy Tulowitzki (although mostly from ignorant fans, which are the spawn of bad sportswriters) and his .808 road OPS (which has actually been up in the .870 range over the past two seasons).
As Rockies fans, we're used to it, but can anything be done to change the overstated perception? The agonizing thing to think about is that, in my time as a fan, the only thing I can think of that has gotten people to shut up is the success Matt Holliday has had ever since leaving Denver. That's the cruelty of being a Rockies fan - our favorite players will likely never be appreciated for how good they really are until they leave.
A few more links after the jump...
The Denver Post has a few new stories, including one about the aforementioned CarGo, who apparently bulked up during the offseason and looks like an absolute chiseled beast. Also, Casey Blake is profiled by Patrick Saunders. Blake will be expected to contribute while bouncing back from a neck injury, albeit as a bridge to fill the gap between now and the arrival of the golden child.
MLB.com's Joey Nowak writes that Jim Tracy is trying to instill a more relaxed culture at spring camp this season. Talking is one thing; not benching a guy for an inferior player after an 0-for-4 is another. Hopefully, the skipper is able to learn from past over-evaluations and failures, and maybe the relaxed atmosphere thing helps. I don't know.