This installment of our Conversations With the Enemy series, in which we spar with writers for other teams in the division, features questions from Lasorda’s Lair editors Stacie Wheeler and Scott Andes. Curtis and I took these questions very seriously, as you’ll see.
Stacie: Jim Tracy was the Dodgers’ manager from 2001-2005. Now that he’s at the helm for the Rockies, what is your assessment of him thus far? 2009 was a good year, but do you think he can get back to those winning ways?
Michelle: Jim Tracy is a man with a plan, which is good or bad depending on the circumstances he finds himself in. When his plan works, as it did in 2009, he’s a genius. When it doesn’t work, as it did not in 2011, he’s a moron. He hasn’t shown an ability to change his plan when it’s not working, and that is why I don’t think he’ll be a success next season. For the most part, he’s dealing with an entirely new lineup and rotation, and I don’t trust his ability to make the right adjustments. And let me be clear: by adjustments I do not mean a new lineup every day. I mean identifying where the team is falling down on the job and addressing it, INSTEAD of being unable to let go of the idea that the lineup is the problem. The Dodgers can have him back if they want.
Curtis: I feel the thing that made Tracy a good manager in 2009 is that he came in, set the lineup and let the players play. This past season he got away from that and seemingly pulled the lineup out of a hat at times. While I am not a fan of Jim Tracy, this year the lineup should be more stable by adding Casey Blake and Marco Scutaro. The less Tracy has to tinker with things the better.
Stacie: Jamey Wright was drafted by the Rockies back in the ’90s. Are you surprised the Dodgers signed him and do you think he has any chance at making the squad?
Michelle: I can’t believe Jamey Wright is still playing baseball. Isn’t he like 54? I can’t say I’m surprised the Dodgers signed him simply because it’s no different from the Rockies signing Jamie Moyer. He certainly has a chance at making the squad as a reliever. I rather hope he doesn’t, though, because then I have to root against him and I kind of like him.
Curtis: I was high on Wright when he came up in 1996 and, despite not living up to his first round grade, he has made a nice career for himself. He is still a solid long relief innings eater that can provide value to an MLB bullpen.
Scott: Explain to me the reasoning behind the Jason Hammel/Jeremy Guthrie trade? Both pitchers have put up similar numbers, and have similar strikeout to walk numbers. Guthrie is older than Hammel, more expensive, and gives up a lot of home runs. He has given up at least 25 home runs every year since 2006. He gave up 23 homers in 2006, and 24 in 2007, and 35 in 2009. His career home run rate is 1.2. I can’t imagine how many home runs he is going to allow at Coors Field. Too make matters even worse, they threw in a solid reliever in Matt Lindstrom. Why did the Rockies make this trade?
Michelle: I gave up on figuring out what Dan O’Dowd is doing a long time ago. This has been the weirdest offseason in Rockies history. That said, I do think Guthrie is a better pitcher than Hammel. On his best days, Hammel is a back end of the rotation kind of guy. Guthrie could still be an ace, though I realize the window for that is closing. He is a flyball pitcher, like so many other guys that have joined our roster, and that certainly worries me. I also hated to lose Lindstrom, who I thought was as good a set-up guy as we could have asked for. The Rockies’ rotation is a puzzle I’m not even sure spring training can solve, so whether this trade turns out well for us remains to be seen.
Curtis: Guthrie was acquired to give the Rockies the 200+ innings eating starter they have been looking for all offseason. I think they were worried about the youth and inexperience in the rotation and adding Guthrie gives a solid every 5th day starter. I am disappointed in giving up Lindstrom, but Hammel was not enough to get Guthrie. You have to give up value to get value.
Scott: It seems to me like the Rockies have a bunch of pitchers to sort through in Spring Training. To me this is a gamble, because it’s hard to evaluate players, especially pitchers by using spring training stats, but since the Rockies are overloaded with starters, that’s what they’re going to do. How do you see the Rockies rotation shaping out for 2012?
Michelle: That’s the million dollar question, and everyone who writes about the Rockies answered it seven or eight different ways as the offseason went on. I would like to think the trading is finally done since all pitchers currently on the roster are in Scottsdale already. The rotation will change as different guys struggle, and as Jorge De La Rosa and Juan Nicasio return from their injuries. But here’s who I think starts Games 1-5 in any case: Jhoulys Chacin, Jeremy Guthrie, Guillermo Moscoso, Drew Pomeranz, Tyler Chatwood. I wouldn’t bet five cents on that, though, because who even knows?
Curtis: I expect the Rockies to give their young pitchers every opportunity to earn a rotation spot this spring, my early prediction would be Guthrie, Jhoulys Chacin, Drew Pomeranz, Juan Nicasio and either Tyler Chatwood or Alex White. Pitchers like Josh Outman and Guillermo Moscoso might be moved to the bullpen to avoid going to Colorado Springs.
Scott: The Rockies signed Michael Cuddyer to a big contract this offseason. He can play a number of positions. It seems to me that the Rockies are thin at third base this year, after trading away Ian Stewart. Will Cuddyer play third base? What position do you see Cuddyer getting the most playing time at in 2012?
Michelle: Cuddyer will be the starting right fielder. He is a utility guy, but Casey Blake was signed as a stopgap at third, and we have the fantastic Nolan Arenado waiting in the wings to take his place, hopefully sooner rather than later. Since Cuddy is fairly versatile defensively, we might also see him giving Blake or Todd Helton a day off from time to time. But he’ll get most of his starts in right.
Curtis: Cuddyer was signed to be an outfielder, the trade of Seth Smith makes this even more evident. Casey Blake should be the everyday third baseman with Nolan Arenado taking over the job by September at the latest.