There’s a term in poker (or at least that’s where I learned it during the online poker boom). I think it’s also a term in the “real world,” in that realm so generically called “business.” That term is R.O.I., or return on investment. I think most people know it as a business term, but it still brings me back to poker hands and counting how many cyber chips I had in the cyber pot.
Anyhow, the Colorado Rockies have invested an awful lot in Dexter Fowler, the ridiculously athletic switch-hitting center fielder. A lot of time and a lot of patience with a lack of plate discipline and a lack of a decent left-handed swing. They brought him straight up from AA in 2009, understood that he still had a ways to go, and stuck with him through a lot of rough patches, including multiple demotions to AAA. On most of those occasions, he continued to get regular playing time to figure things out in game action.
The beginning of 2012 brought continued issues for Fowler, and the Rockies continued to try and accommodate his struggles. They kept him out of the leadoff spot and even platooned some of his starts, even though his statistics did not reveal his problems. This led to the more-familiar-by-the-day competition between advanced statistics and the “eye test.” Some thought Fowler was playing poorly and some did not. Nevertheless, this led to increased playing time for Tyler Colvin, who showed flashes of brilliance. In turn, Rockies fan eventually ended up with competing movements: #FreeColvin and #FreeDexter. That’s what we like to call #socialmediaproblems.
The Rockies were freed from this problem by the injury bug, which forced them to play Fowler and Colvin anway. And with regular playing time, Fowler finally broke through. He was a consistent offensive threat, he hit from both sides of the plate, and he ended the season with an .863 OPS, behind only Carlos Gonzalez (and just in front of Colvin). How about the eye test? To my eyes, he was the best position player on the team. He stopped striking out in key situations. He flattened out the Nike swoosh in his left handed swing. He looked like a guy who figured it out, with a couple pimped home runs to boot. In addition to these offensive improvements, he remains one of very few outfielders with the range defensively to cover center field in Coors Field.
Now the Rockies are faced with a situation where they desperately need to add better starting pitching, and Fowler is one of their most valuable trade chips. As the rumor mill starts swirling, other teams have already started salivating at the thought of adding the man they call Dex. The Rockies cannot let that happen, because they are just finally starting to get a decent R.O.I. on all their time and patience in developing him.
Besides, we definitely do not want another Marco Scutaro situation. And in the case of Fowler, it would be far more predictable that he would make the Rockies regret trading him.