Give the Rockies’ youth one more year

Major League Baseball created a bit of a stir on March 1 when it was announced there would be two wildcard playoff slots available in the American and National Leagues, and they would be available this season.

More than a few fans of the Colorado Rockies, a team that never has won a division title, took notice, thinking doubling the number of playoff spots would be right up the team’s alley; Rocktober 2007, move over.

Our reality check, however, shows the wildcard playoffs would have to be expanded to a dozen before the Rox would be allowed in.

The first clue that things weren’t copacetic in Colorado came late in the spring when it was announced 49-year-old Jamie Moyer had earned the right to be a part of the team’s starting rotation — a pitcher who threw the ball, at his hardest, 10 mph slower than Stephen Baldwin, a member of Grand Junction High School’s pitching staff this spring.

Another clue reared its ugly head when pitcher Jeremy Guthrie fell off his bike on the way to Coors Field.  Guthrie, a trade acquisition from Baltimore, currently is 3-9 with an ERA of 6.13.  He probably won’t finish the season in Colorado.

Guthrie likely will be traded for a broken-down Huffy 10-speed to get rid of some of his salary and give him a chance to regain his sanity elsewhere (his ERA was over 9.00 at Coors Field).

A busload of veterans also will heading elsewhere by the July 31 trade deadline.

Current rumors have catcher Ramon Hernandez heading to the Mets, the Tigers interested in second baseman Marco Scutaro, several well-stocked contenders in both leagues looking to pick up aging slugger Jason Giambi, and any team still in the hunt is interested in relievers Rafael Betancourt and Matt Belisle.

What has transpired has fans demanding the head and job of General Manager Dan O’Dowd.

The following suggestion might seem outlandish, but I’m saying allow O’Dowd one more year. While making mistakes that go with the job, much overlooked is the fact he has managed to assemble a squad of talented youngsters.

Here is next year’s potential batting order, positions and ages:

■ Dexter Fowler, center field, 26.

■ Jeff Rutledge, second base, 23.

■ Carlos Gonzalez, left field, 26.

■ Troy Tulowitzki, shortstop, 27.

■ Tyler Colvin, first base, 26.

■ Michael Cuddyer, right field, 33.

■ Jordan Pacheco, third base, 26.

■ Wilin Rosario, catcher, 23.

If you look at that group, Fowler, Gonzalez, Colvin and Pacheco are or have been hitting at .300 or better. Tulowitzki, injured for the past month (yet another reason for the miserable season), was nearing that mark when he got hurt. Cuddyer is on pace to drive in 100 runs, and Rosario leads all Major League rookies in home runs and should hit 25.

Rutledge is a question mark, but Chris Nelson, also 26, has shown he can play second and third. Another utility man, Jon Herrera, is 27.

Cuddyer cost O’Dowd $30 million for three years and has taken heat for hitting only in the .260 range. If someone would pony up for $21 million over two years, he could be gone. That won’t happen, and Cuddyer will be a plus for the team because of his versatility (corner outfield spots, first base and even second base in a pinch).

Legendary Todd Helton, 39, has run his course and, if he is still active next season, will have to move into Giambi’s pinch hitter/bench position. Sad, but true.

The wildcard to this lineup is 21-year-old third baseman Nolan Arenado, the organization’s best minor league prospect who surely will see Coors Field action in August or September. He is going to have to play full-time soon because, simply put, he can crush.

All of which brings us to pitching. Who stays?

Barring trades or signings, here’s one man’s rotation and ages:

■ Drew Pomerantz, lefty, 23.

■ Christian Freidrich, lefty, 25.

■ Jhoulys Chacin, righty, 25.

■ Juan Nicasio, righty, 25.

■ Jorge De La Rosa, lefty, 31.

Wildcards: Jeff Francis, 31, Alex White, 24, Edwar Cabrera, 21, and any other free agents-to-be who may consider signing (don’t hold your breath).

The bullpen will be dependent on who stays this year, maybe with Rex Brothers, 24, being the closer, maybe still Betancourt.

Yes, it’s been miserable, and the Rox of 2012 are already toast. From here on out, it’s training and tryout time.  O’Dowd and team owner Dick Monfort, catching heat from all directions, should have the chance to reap what they have sown — next season.

Most of this young nucleus will be entering the prime of their careers.

If they come up short of being competitive for at least one of those two extra playoff slots next season, Monfort will have no choice but to heed those loud voices calling for a do-over. Or Coors Field will become a mausoleum, Root Sports Network will be televising local bowling or pool tournaments in prime time, and Happy Hour in LoDo will be but a distant memory.


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