“Adversity doesn’t build character, it reveals it.”
The source of the quote is unknown, but as far as Ubaldo Jimenez is concerned, its creator was all too wise. Over the last year, we have watched not only Ubaldo’s overpowering fastball disappear, but also the artificial happy-go-lucky, soft spoken, humble personality that came with it - And it’s been every bit as disappointing as it’s been shocking to watch.
As recently as one year ago, Ubaldo was part of a holy trinity and at the very least, looked forever locked in Rockies royalty, regardless of where his career took him. Now, he’s viewed as a villain in the eyes of most Coloradoans while playing for another team in another league.
“How has it come to this?” I keep asking myself.
It’s hard pinpoint an exact moment where everything went so horribly wrong; and that’s probably because there was no exact moment. Instead, we have a chain of events that when pieced together, effectively destroyed the relationship between a franchise, and the greatest pitcher it’s ever known.
1) The 2010/2011 Offseason: Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez both receive enormous contract extensions from the Rockies.
We can now reasonably conclude that these contracts caused at least two ugly emotions to engulf the mind of Ubaldo Jimenez.
Envy - (noun ) - a feeling of discontent or covetousness with regard to another's advantages, success, possessions, etc.
Envy is a dreadful emotion. It sneaks up on you. Sometimes you don’t even know you’re capable of having it towards a person until it’s consumed you. I’m guessing this is what happened to Ubaldo. He viewed himself as part of the Rockies big three – And to be fair, why wouldn’t he? That’s the way he was marketed. As far as Ubaldo was concerned, if he was going to be marketed like the one of the big three, then he should be paid like one of the big three. If Jimenez did feel this envy, then it undoubtedly would have also stemmed…
2. Anger - (noun) - a strong feeling of displeasure and belligerence aroused by a wrong
While anger comes in many forms, I’ve found anger born out of envy to be particularly nasty. It tends to fester and eat away at you like acid eats at metal, unlike other forms of anger that just tend to boil over and pass. This is what I believe Ubaldo felt.
It is said that reasonable people are seldom angry, and the angry people are seldom reasonable. Perhaps this too could apply to Ubaldo. It didn’t matter that fans still adored him, it didn’t matter that his teammates still needed him, and it apparently didn’t matter that Dan O’Dowd planned on giving Ubaldo a large extension the following offseason if he continued to pitch well. All that mattered was that Tulo and Ubaldo got huge contract extensions and he didn’t.
This alone didn’t destroy the relationship between player and team. It would take the 2011 to do that. However, the emotions Ubaldo felt following the Tulo and Cargo extensions are a good place to start when searching for the beginning of the end of Ubaldo’s tenure with the Rockies.
2) The Curious Case of Ubaldo’s Disappearing Fastball
In 2010, Ubaldo was a god on the mound hurling lightning bolts at overmatched hitters; in 2011, he was a mere mortal lofting beach balls towards home plate. What happened? The suddenness in which Ubaldo lost the ability to consistently get hitters out is still one of the most shocking things I’ve seen in all of baseball over the last few seasons. It’s truly baffling; not only because of how it happened, but also the mystery surrounding what caused it to happen.
When I try to figure it out, I see three obvious possibilities that could have lead to Ubaldo’s disastrous 2011 season.
A. He became a part of the problem instead of part of the solution in the clubhouse
There are two primary ways Ubaldo could have reacted to the anger he felt after the Rockies handed Tulo and Cargo their extensions
I) Ubaldo could have sharpened his resolve, pitched as well as ever, and proved to the Rockies that he deserved an enormous contract. (He would have gotten it)II) He could have sulked in his own self pity and neglected to do everything in his power to ensure he repeated the success of his 2010 season.
B.Ubaldo could have been injured last season.
First the cuticle in spring training, then there was the loss of velocity (perhaps he didn’t get his arm strength up), then there was the groin issue that was mildly reported. Maybe Ubaldo was just never really healthy in 2011?
C. Ubaldo’s clock struck midnight.
Pitchers are volatile creatures. Every one of them has a clock. When the clock runs out, the velocity disappears. There’s almost no way to tell when the clock is going to run out. Some clocks have an extensive amount of time of them (Mariano Rivera), some clocks tick slow and allow for the loss of velocity to be gradual (Josh Beckett), and sometimes, the clock does neither. The pitcher’s star just burns brightly for a few seasons, and then disappears from the baseball sky as swiftly as it appeared on the scene. It’s very possible Ubaldo had one of these clocks.
If that’s the case, then it may end Ubaldo’s career sooner rather than later. Once a pitcher loses his velocity, the only thing he can do is learn to pitch with pinpoint accuracy. In other words, he has to become more of a pitcher than a thrower. This would be a huge problem for Jimenez because he’s always been more of a flame hurler than a pitcher – Even during the peak of his career. Ubaldo has yet to show he can be an effective major league pitcher when he doesn’t have the ability to jam a 100mph fastball down hitter’s throats. It would be an amazing coincidence that Ubaldo’s clock ran out just as he became angry about his contract situation, but it’s certainly possible.
D.All of the Above
Actually, there are really four reasons. You see, I’m a firm believe that disasters, for the most part, just don’t happen. Usually it’s a chain of events that work together. That’s why when it comes to the rapid disintegration of Ubaldo Jimenez’s production; I’m inclined to believe that it was a combination of all three of these things. The exact percentage of how much each played a role is unlikely to ever be known, but to witness a drop in production of that magnitude makes it hard to believe that it could have been just one factor.
3) The Wager
Eight months ago, Dan O’Dowd made a bet. The bet in time, for better or for worse, will be one of the most important decisions the man will ever make in his career. On July 30, 2011 the Rockies GM bet that the greatest pitcher in franchise history had peaked at the age of 26. He gambled that Colorado would never again see ace like production out of #38 if they held onto him. So Dan O’Dowd, the man so many had criticized as someone who held on to his spoiling assets too long, pulled the trigger on an Ubaldo deal while his value was still high, and long before fan support of the most popular pitcher ever to wear purple had waned.
While the story is still playing out and time remains for unexpected plot twists, it already appears as though Dan O’Dowd was right. Not just when you look at the results on the field, but also when you examine Ubaldo’s behavior off it.
4) The Fading Star
Just one year ago, Ubaldo Jimenez was seen as a beast in this game. I know I keep coming back to this point but I’ve found it necessary to keep reminding myself how far and how fast Ubaldo’s stock has fallen. He’s on the fast track to insignificantville and he doesn’t know how to stop it; and naturally, he’s angry at the world because of it. He’s still angry that he didn’t get his big contract, he’s still angry about is 2011 season and O’Dowd betting against him, and he’s angry at Tulo for saying what he did in the papers.
But as I said above, anger comes in many forms; and this anger seems to be spurred on by something else – FEAR! It makes sense doesn’t it? Ubaldo has plenty of reasons to be afraid right now. Ubaldo’s probably afraid his buzz saw will never return – I know I would be – Ubaldo’s probably afraid that he’ll never get a big contract now (things sure don’t look good on that front), Ubaldo’s probably afraid that that Tulo’s words in the papers were made of iron clad truth, but most of all, I think Ubaldo’s afraid that Dan O’Dowd was right. The Rockies GM, and by association the Rockies organization bet against Ubaldo Jimenez last summer and so far he’s done nothing to prove them wrong. He knows he’s in trouble, he can’t get back at Colorado with results on the field, and the only thing left to do is take a few last desperate shots at the club that dealt him.
Ubaldo can say that being in Cleveland is like "being in heaven" or that "it was kind of hard being with the Rockies" but it only comes off as sour grapes. Anyone who’s followed the career of Ubaldo Jimenez knows that he’s not in heaven right now. Heaven was throwing the first no hitter in the history of a franchise, heaven was posting a 0.78 ERA during the first 11 starts of 2010, and heaven was accumulating a 15-1 record before the ALL Star Break that season. It also wasn’t hard being with the Rockies; no, it was hard pitching poorly for the Rockies, and the change address isn’t going to make baseball anymore fun for Ubaldo unless he can start pitching better.
So fast-forward to yesterday, Ubaldo was faced with a choice. He could have either attempted to take the first step in showing the Rockies they made a mistake by trading him by pitching great, or he could bring his little "revenge kick" to a crescendo and claim Tulo (the new face of the franchise) as the grand prize. Apparently he doesn’t have enough confidence in his game anymore to try the first option, so instead he chose the second.
It was an unbelievably stupid decision! (THANK WHATEVER GOD YOU PRAY TO THAT HE DIDN"T BREAK TULO!) It shows perhaps better than any example we’ve seen so far, Ubaldo’s willingness to place his own needs in front of his teams, which I find pretty revolting. The Indians are going to have to have an effective Jimenez if they have any shot of contending this season; but sadly for them, lashing out at his old team seems to be Ubaldo’s biggest priority at the moment.
Yes, adversity does tend to reveal character, and with Ubaldo Jimenez, it has unveiled some very unfortunate qualities. I don’t hate the man. A part of me actually pities him as its understandable how he got to this point emotionally - Not all of what’s happened has been his fault. This however does not excuse the poor choices he’s made recently. Now there's nothing left to do but move on and live with them.