I can’t really treat this like an ordinary spring training recap, because this was nothing like an ordinary spring training game. And I’d just like to throw my two cents about the whole situation into the mix because, why not? The more opinions we put out into the internet, the better a place it will be, right?
So here’s the thing. I’m a believer in leaving everything on the field in sports. That’s why I don’t like performance-enhancing drugs, and it’s why I don’t like trash talk. Come to the game, take whatever grievances you have against whomever, and put all that energy into playing as hard and as well as you can. That’s what will make you look better in the end. If you have to fall back on cheating or publicly slandering someone else, then you’re not as good as you say you are. Period.
And that’s why I was so disappointed in Troy Tulowitzki when he initially commented on Ubaldo Jimenez‘s departure last July. Tulo said something to the effect of, when somebody doesn’t perform, he shouldn’t expect to stick around very long. I thought that was pretty heartless given the situation; Ubaldo had struggled all season and no one really seemed to know why. Even if Tulo thought he did, a kiss-off like that is uncalled for. Say something nice about the guy you played with and wish him well. Keep anything that went on in the clubhouse private like it should be. And if you think you’re better, go out on the field and prove it.
I understood more of where Tulo was coming from after the news broke that Ubaldo had expressed a desire to be traded as early as spring training 2011. He was upset that Tulo and Carlos Gonzalez had received contract extensions and he had not. Whether or not Ubaldo should have been upset about this is really beside the point. Certainly every athlete is entitled to get the best deal he can at a given time, and it’s understandable that Ubaldo felt his contribution wasn’t being adequately compensated. But I strongly dislike it when players are unhappy in their situation and take it out on their teams by playing badly. I’m not suggesting that Ubaldo didn’t put in any effort in the first half last year. I’m saying that he clearly didn’t feel the need to give 100% because he was trying to get traded.
The way that he was traded reflected pretty poorly on the organization, and it’s a day I’d like to forget. But after it came out that he’d wanted to be, I didn’t feel as badly for him. However, that doesn’t mean I wanted to hear more of Tulo’s thoughts on the matter, particularly that he felt Ubaldo should “shut up and play,” so to speak. Well, they both should have. Neither of them should have said what they were thinking under the circumstances, because all it did was make both of them look bad and create a lot of bad blood.
That bad blood spilled all over the field today after Ubaldo hit Tulo on the elbow in the 1st inning. According to an interview conducted by Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post, Ubaldo claims that he didn’t have his fastball command, as evidenced by the fact that he walked the first batter he faced on four pitches. He also says that he was trying to come inside to Tulo since that’s his weak spot. Well, all right, obviously that is just not true. I really wish we could all just own up to what’s happening here. The tiny sliver of me that wants to give Ubaldo the benefit of the doubt is thinking, why on earth would you come inside to a hitter that clearly has some beef with you on day when you don’t have command? Especially a guy like Tulo, who everybody knows gets fired up. Come on.
In any case, Tulo started yelling at Ubaldo, Ubaldo threw his glove down and advanced toward the batter’s box, the benches cleared, blah blah blah. The game was ugly, both Jeremy Guthrie and Alex White gave up grand slams, and the Rockies lost.
Then, in a post-game press conference, Jim Tracy demanded that Ubaldo be suspended and called the Tulo plunking the most “gutless” thing he’d ever seen. Those are some strong words coming from the generally placid Tracy. And I really think it just adds fuel to the fire. Whether or not Bud Selig, who was in attendance at today’s game, decides to override the umpires and suspend Ubaldo, there’s now a wound between the Rockies and Ubaldo Jimenez that will never heal. Everybody is to blame for it. Ubaldo did himself no favors by saying the things he said, but the Rockies have mistreated him too. I hate seeing these kinds of things happen in the game I love and to the team I love. It’s a potent reminder that you don’t have to be a Red Sox fan to suffer the consequences of human nature from your team.
And I’d just like to add this. The silent partner in all these proceedings has been Todd Helton. He’s just behind Tulo as the face of the franchise, and he’s managed not to say anything damaging about Ubaldo or the Rockies throughout everything. And today, when Ubaldo left the game with a man on and 1 out in the 5th, Helton drove that runner in with a double and tacked another earned run onto Ubaldo’s total for the day. That’s what we call leaving it all on the field.