His name makes you want to cry, or to cringe, or to shake your head in disbelief. There is a reason(s) he is no longer the Rockies pitching coach, right? But as Lee Corso from ESPN likes to say: “Not so fast my friends”.
When you take an honest, objective look at what Apodaca did as Rockies pitching coach for nearly 10 years is nothing short of remarkable. Obviously this year has not been the case, but more on that in a little bit.
First of all, he became pitching coach in late 2002, shortly after the natural disasters that were Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle were on their way out the door at Coors Field. He did have starting talent though to work with. He started with staff ace Jason Jennings, who had just gone 16-8 and won the NL Rookie of the year award. He also had a couple of unmolded pieces to work with, Shawn Chacon and Aaron Cook. In 2003 he helped Chacon become an all-star, a great achievement in his first season. Despite the team only going 74-88, 3 starters won over 11 games.
Secondly, when you look at the pitching history of the Rockies, there are a book’s worth of bad pitching, hence the overall records. But you have to take into account that this was the beginning of Generation R, and the Rockies were a bunch of kids who would get carded at every bar they attended. For example, in 2004 the team only won 68 games, but Shawn Estes went 15-8 with a 5.84 ERA and Jennings won 11 games. In 2005 they tied a club record with 95 losses but Jeff Francis won 14 games. In 2006 Francis won 13 games and Josh Fogg (remember him?) won 11 games.
I could go on and on, but some key Apodaca nuggets:
Jeff Francis won 17 games, and the pitching staff posted a 4.32 ERA in 2007 and the team went to the World Series;
Aaron Cook was an all-star in 2008;
Jorge De La Rosa won 16 games, and the 2009 team had five 10 game winners and went to NLDS;
Ubaldo Jimenez was an all-star, won 19 games and threw the team’s first no hitter against the Braves in 2010;
On the other hand, there have been several notable failures. Franklin Morales, Faulipe Paulino and Esmil Rogers were all traded away deemed as “unfixable”. There were the sharp regressions of Jimenez and Hammel in 2011. The staff quickly got younger and prospects started to get promoted up to the big league club who were in reality not ready for the test. Jimenez got traded to Cleveland in return for 2 prized prospects, Alex White and Drew Pomeranz. Over the off-season he was given Baltimore’s former ace in Jeremy Guthrie. I can’t add anything to this season that hasn’t already been widely said across the social media platforms. The rotation this year has posted a 6.36 ERA, on pace to be the worst ERA in the history of baseball. The 2 prized prospects in White and Pomeranz have been yo-yo’s between the Rockies and the Sky Sox. Neither of them have taken the steps to be consistent, successful major league pitchers. Guthrie has been an unmitigated disaster and has already been demoted to long relief before the all-star break. The #fireApodaca tweets have been flowing freely, and fast (and from myself). The final straw for many people was the 4 man, 75 pitch limit “strategy” which has been widely criticized all over baseball.
However, when you look at the bigger picture and you take Apodaca’s whole coaching stint into account, he has only had 1 1/2 years of complete mediocrity, those being the last two seasons. I don’t know Bob Apodaca at all personally but it is obvious he got burnt out and tired. When you get mentally exhausted it is impossible to come up with new ideas and implement new strategies. These last 18 months have done that to Apodaca. They broke his mind and they most importantly broke his spirit.
I believe he was probably the most relieved man in Denver after he resigned as pitching coach last week. No more blame, no more scrutiny, no more why’s to deal with. No more questions about why the Rockies pitching is imploding and what is wrong with the humidor. Bob Apodaca probably sits at home today on his sofa with a beer in hand. But Bob, you have my thanks and my gratitude. You were not perfect, but overall you did a positive job and for a long time you got the best out of a combination of talented starters, career journeymen and young prospects. I’m sorry you dropped the ball in the last 2 years but after nearly 10 years as pitching coach in a hitter’s park, I think you deserve a pass.
Thank you for your legacy Bob Apodaca.