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This Week in Purple: On pitching and cracked trees

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What was good for you this week?

We’re one week closer to the start of the regular season, and we’re one week closer to Purple Row’s third annual Opening Day breakfast (and we still have tickets available!). As long as nobody gets injured, things will be getting better by the day on the baseball front. On the bad side of things, two certain relievers have caused Spring Training watchers to really lean on the “spring training stats don’t matter” adage. It’s This Week in Purple, and here’s what else was good and bad.

What was bad

Those two relievers are Jake McGee and Bryan Shaw. The Rockies signed both of them as free agents before the 2018 season to be part of a supposed “super bullpen.” It was a curious strategy. If the Rockies free agent spending spree resulted in a great bullpen, it might have been the first time that happened. Seriously: Name another example of a team signing more than one reliever in the same offseason to a big contract and having it pay off?

Well, Shaw and McGee both had terrible seasons in 2018. That’s why their showings this spring seem to be more than Arizona noise. They’ve combined to pitch 7 23 innings and have given up 12 hits and eight runs. If Shaw and McGee are both bad, it won’t sink the Rockies. After all, Shaw and McGee were bad in 2018, and the Rockies were not. But it feels like expectations for both guys should be very low for 2109.

This one is only bad for me, my checkbook, and some of the smaller and more delicate trees in my backyard. I recently got a quote for some light tree pruning in my backyard. Unfortunately (and also fortunately), the tree trimmer noticed a pretty long crack in one of the larger trees. Later diagnosis recommended a short term solution of holding it together with bolts before eventually having to remove the whole tree at some later date. It’s not a danger to fall on a house, but it could really damage said small and delicate trees. The removal will have to wait because being a new homeowner is an exercise in watching your funds disappear due to problems you didn’t know you had.

What was good

The good side of that last bad thing was the weird pleasure of watching four arborists in your backyard marveling at the complexity of your tree problem. Rubber booted and wearing protective eyeglasses even though there wasn’t any tree cutting taking place, they assessed the issue up close and at a distance. At any given point, one was leaning back at a near 45 degree angle whilst pointing skyward and discussing the contingencies of removing branch A as opposed to branch B. Several times one seemed to just take court and lecture a receptive audience. “Every tree is its own case study,” they told me, “and you have a good one with your Norway Maple.”

Now, back to baseball. While Shaw and McGee are setting Rockies fans up to hope for mediocrity, Jon Gray is rekindling past hopes of greatness. Kyle Freeland and German Márquez had such good seasons in 2018 — and Gray had a weird one that can’t really be called “good” — that we sometimes forget that Gray was the putative ace of the staff a year ago. Gray has pitched an even nine innings so far this spring, and he’s given up just one run on two hits while striking out 10 and walking just one batter.

Not only that, but his slider looks goooooood. I’ve been asked a couple of times recently if the Rockies can challenge the Dodgers for the NL West crown. While it wouldn’t surprise me if the Rockies win the division, the smart money is still on the Dodgers. But if Gray takes a step forward while Márquez and Freeland are more or less as productive as they were in 2018, that could change.

So, what was good with you this week?