Home Run Derby contestant Carlos Gonzalez. Image: Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

Carlos Gonzalez, Jeremy Guthrie, And The Coors Field Stigma


It is a familiar situation by now. Hitters’ statistics are discounted, both for the away team and the home team Colorado Rockies. Pitchers are given a pass for their struggles (but never extra credit for their success). Writers, fans, and commentators scoff at the notion that there can ever be such a thing as serious baseball played at sea level.

It is the Coors Field stigma.

With the humidor and a string of seasons with competitive pitching staffs, the Rockies were able to temporarily bury the notion that pitching in Denver is impossible. That work has been undone in a matter of months this season. Any highlight of a game in Colorado seems to start with a description that stokes memories of 1995:

“And here we go again in Colorado, another shootout as the ball is FLYING through that thin air!”

This is, in a word, obnoxious. I am not saying that Coors Field is not an offensive friendly park, because it certainly is. But it is no worse than that. It is not gimmicky and it is not illegitimate, and I tire of hearing people say that it is those things.

There is good news, however. Two men who currently play for the Colorado Rockies can do work to undo this ill-informed stigma: Carlos Gonzalez and Jeremy Guthrie.

As part of his first ever All Star appearance, Gonzalez will participate in the home run derby. He is considered an underdog, a long shot to win at 13-2 odds. When asked about this fact, CarGo simply stated: “I love being the underdog. I can’t wait.” But that does not address the basic question of why Gonzalez, with his 17 home runs, would be a long shot?

Why, because 12 of his 17 home runs were hit at Coors Field, of course! Never mind the fact that he is hitting the ball just fine on the road this season. He is obviously a product of Coors Field! He will obviously flail and flounder away from that mile high air!

While the home run derby is an exhibition and nothing more, Gonzalez could still put a small dent in the misinformation about Coors Field by winning the event in Kauffman Stadium this Monday.

As for the Colorado Rockies pitching this season, Coors Field is not to blame. Why?…

…because the (starting) pitching is terrible everywhere. The bullpen is just fine if anybody outside of Colorado would bother to notice.

That brings me to Guthrie. As Troy Renck notes, Guthrie can improve his trade value by pitching well in a pair of starts this week. He took an important step in that direction by delivering 6 solid innings in St. Louis tonight. The Rockies are very motivated to move Guthrie and pretend his career in Colorado never happened, just as Guthrie is presumably ready to move on and get a fresh start.

What does this have to do with the Coors Field stigma?

Well, if Guthrie goes somewhere else and stinks, he can prove that he stinks everywhere. He will be flimsy proof at best that Coors Field sabotages all pitchers. The best case scenario: Guthrie pitches well enough again on Sunday to trick some poor, unsuspecting team into acquiring him. Then he turns back into the Guthrie who was roughed up for the first three months of the season, sarcastically tipped his cap to the home crowd, and was eventually demoted to the bullpen in favor of something called a “paired pitching” system.

Guthrie is nothing but class, so it is difficult to wish failure on him. But he might need to take the bullet on this one; helping us resist this perception can be his lone positive contribution to the Rockies organization.

One by success and one by failure, Gonzalez and Guthrie can help disprove the dogmatism of the Coors Field stigma. Go get ‘em fellas.

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