Recently I wondered about adding an aging but bitter Derek Lowe to the mix for the Colorado Rockies rotation entering the 2013 season. I continue to believe that this entire organization, from the excuse-making front office to the resigned-and-reassigned-former pitching coach to the young and presumably nervous pitchers, needs to snap out of this collective funk where everybody feels the need to either apologize for pitching at altitude or throw their hands up in the air in despair, sigh “woe is me” to themselves and expect sympathy from the rest of the league because their task is an impossible one. Got all of that? Here’s the point.
Zambrano struggled on the Marlins in 2012. Image: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
The Rockies need to get mad. They need to show some edge. They need guys who pitch angry…pump their fists after inning ending strike outs…bark at the umpires about close pitches at the end of their outings…spike their glove off the back of the dugout bench in disgust…
break bats over their knees or heads
spear the opposing pitcher, Goldberg style, at the start of a bench clearing brawl
…yell at opposing hitters for posing after a home run…
I understand perfectly well the risks associated with these types of players. You do not want to poison the clubhouse with a pitcher who will antagonize coaches or teammates. You do not want a head case. You do not want a fragile pitcher who cannot handle adversity. That certainly is a fine line. But think about this…
…what outward expressions of emotion can you think of from Rockies pitchers last season? Shouldn’t those guys have been furious, whether it was at themselves, their opponents, the front office, the coaches, or just the general stink of failure? Yet all we got was some passive aggressive fertilizer from Jeremy Guthrie when he sarcastically tipped his cap to the crowd and a general sense of helpless disgust from everybody else.
So yes, there are risks that come with fiery players, and especially when they are starting pitchers. But the Rockies need to be willing to take those kinds of risks to break out of this depressing daze. Put aside the excuses and the deferrals and put guys on the mound who want to kick some rear end and do it with anger as their sidekick.
And who would be the absolute extreme when it comes to riskiness and anger? None other than Carlos Zambrano. In Zambrano you have a guy who pitched decently well for like a month before melting down in the circus that was Miami last season. With a nod to MLBTradeRumors, you also have a rare free agent pitcher with an above average groundball rate (that list also includes Derek Lowe). So there’s that.
There is a good chance that the Rockies want nothing to do with Zambrano; there are plenty of good reasons for that. In a hypothetical scenario where the Rockies add Zambrano and he somehow cracks the rotation, it is not hard to see him pitching terribly, blowing up in the first month of the season, ripping his jersey off on the mound, flipping off Walt Weiss, punching Dinger, and ending up on the waiver wire soon thereafter. But there is also a chance, however slight, that he will bring some “good” anger to the mound that the Rockies can feed off of and benefit from.
It would also be a risk because Zambrano did indeed have such a terrible season, all things considered. Walks were his biggest problem and eventually doomed him to the bullpen on a bad team. But what if the Rockies set the bar low (really low), hope he can turn that part of his game around and sustain the groundball rate, and give him yet another chance to turn his career around?
It would be a risk, but the Rockies can afford to take it. I’m being serious when I ask this: what do they have to lose?