Jeff Francis started game 1 of the 2007 World Series against the Boston Red Sox. Aaron Cook, to some fanfare, returned from injury to start game 4. Cook was the team’s opening day starter that season and had enjoyed some of the most success of any pitcher in the franchise’s history. Down 3-0, his return to the mound provided hope for Rocktober fans (which was promptly crushed by the evil-steroided-up Red Sox, but hey, it was hope nonetheless).
Take, for example, this quote from pitching coach Bob Apodaca at the time:
From our perspective, on Sunday, we want somebody who’s going to be tenacious, tough and the type of guy to get us back into the World Series. I can’t think of anyone else better than Aaron.
At that moment in time when the Rockies dared think they were a successful franchise, Thomas Harding wrote the following about Cook:
Cook, a second-round Rockies pick in 1997, has been an important figure in the Rockies’ building program.
That building program has since collapsed in on itself, exposed as smoke and mirrors rather than anything substantial. After successful seasons in 2008 and 2009, Cook labored through the next two seasons with the Rockies before finally moving on to the Boston Red Sox. Part of the problem, as with Francis in the final years of his first Rockies tenure, was unrealistic expectations. Finding a successful pitcher for the Rockies is so rare that we cling to the ones who actually get it done. We want, so badly, for those guys to stay good. It is that much harder to admit that Francis and Cook and Ubaldo Jimenez are not the studs that we thought they were.
Francis has now carved out a new role with the Rockies in the back of the rotation. We know now that he is a solid #4 or #5 guy, nothing more. But it took him leaving for us to adapt our expectations. We needed some distance and some time. We needed him to leave and come back. Could the same be true with Cook?
#Rockies expected to discuss internally today whether to pursue Aaron Cook on minor-league deal. Released by Phillies today.
— Patrick Saunders (@psaundersdp) March 26, 2013
If Cook were to return, the bar would be even lower than it was for Francis in his return to the Rockies. He would purely serve as depth, a spot/emergency starter that would give the Rockies even more of a buffer so that Drew Pomeranz can remain in AAA for a while. He does not need to dazzle; he needs to be serviceable. And now that he has left and would be coming back, that wouldn’t be so painful to watch.