There are two things that are very obvious any time you read some of the tweets from Colorado Rockies fans. First, there is a huge chasm between those who like the wave and those who don’t. Second, there is a huge chunk of Rockies Twitter who loves Raimel Tapia and what he can bring to the team.
Tapia was sent down by the Colorado Rockies on Friday, marking the second time this season the Rockies have optioned the 24-year-old outfielder back to Triple-A. Tapia has just 18 at-bats with the Rockies this season and only 106 in three years in the big leagues.
He is a player who always has potential (witness his pinch-hit grand slam in Arizona shortly after the All-Star break). He is also a player who is maddening at times to Rockies coaches and executives because of his mental mistakes.
Yes, he’s young. He’s also short-circuiting some of his chances in the big leagues because of some of his decision-making.
So many of you have asked why Tapia was sent back down. Let’s take a look at part of the reason.
Think back to Wednesday night against the defending World Champion Houston Astros. Tapia was put in as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning with the Rockies trailing 2-1. Tom Murphy opened the inning with a single against Houston reliever Joe Smith. Tapia was called upon to pinch hit for starting pitcher Jon Gray.
On the first pitch he sees, Tapia squares to lay down a bunt and connects. Houston’s J.D. Davis is on the grass of the infield, fields Tapia’s bunt and throws Murphy out at second.
Check out the positioning by Davis. Both of these images are before Tapia squared to show bunt. Why bunt here with this alignment?
And no, it was not a decision from the Colorado bench. Rockies manager Bud Black was clear about that in his postgame press conference.
"“With Tapia, he did that on his own. He tried to bunt for a base hit,” an obviously irritated Black said when asked about it."
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The next batter, Charlie Blackmon, drew a walk, moving Tapia to second. After a Houston visit to the mound, Ian Desmond floated a single over the head of Astros second baseman Marwin Gonzalez. Tapia did not immediately break for third on the hit, keeping him from scoring on the play.
It was another not-so-great moment for Tapia in Black’s eyes.
"“In those shoes, you’re in a Major League ballpark, you’re a younger player, that’s an instinctual-type baseball reaction. In that particular moment, it looked as though he did not read that ball off the bat well,” Black said postgame."
In one half-inning, Tapia had committed two mental mistakes.
Yes, he would eventually score in the inning on a very weird play at the plate (showing some his speed and explosiveness that Rockies Twitter loves) and his quickness allowed that play to happen. But the Rockies might not have been in that position if Tapia had not hesitated at second base.
And, by the way, in Tapia’s pinch-hitting performance the night before, he struck out trying to bunt in an ugly sequence of events. He was told to bunt in that situation, hoping to move Chris Iannetta over to second after the Rockies catcher had been hit by a pitch to open the eighth inning. He couldn’t do it.
I have written about the extremes of Tapia in this article. It’s evident he has skills and swagger (again, what so many love about him), but there is still a lot of work left to do before he seemingly earns the trust of the Rockies in an important situation.
Many of you adore him and his potential, but there is a lot of work left to do. Unlike a Garrett Hampson this season or a Trevor Story in 2016, Tapia needs more refinement at a young age before stepping into an important role with the Rockies any time in the near future at the Major League level.
Make no mistake, Tapia will be back. Personally, I am pulling for him to be a better player every time he returns because the Rockies will be a better team when he finally harnesses his potential.