Pitching puts Rockies on road to ruin

The Colorado Rockies — the baseball team, not the mountain range — open their season Monday in Milwaukee against the Brewers.

The mountain range will fare much better over the next seven months.

Winning Monday is not an impossible task. Just unlikely.

Here’s why ... and get used to this:

Milwaukee will send Yovani Gallardo to the hill. Gallardo, according to three statistical services and analysts, ranks between the 15th- and 25th-best starter in the bigs. He has averaged 198 innings pitched and 16 wins over the past three seasons with a 3.67 ERA in that span.

In his last spring training game Wednesday, he allowed one run on two hits over 6 1/3 innings in a 9-1 win over Kansas City.

Not too shabby.

Colorado, on the other hand, will send its “ace” to the mound: Jhoulys Chacin.

According to those same three statistical services and analysts, Chacin is rated as the 119th-best starter in one of the services, not ranked among the top 150 in the other two.

Last season, Chacin threw only 69 innings because of a pectoral nerve injury, went 3-5 and had an ERA of 4.43.

His final spring tune-up: Chacin allowed six runs and 10 hits over five innings.

He and the Rockies’ first-year manager, Walt Weiss, agreed Chacin had trouble “locating” his fastball.

No duh.

Care to bet even-up on which team wins this game?

Care to bet even-up on the Rockies and their foes the rest of the 161 games? You take the Rockies, and I’ll take the opposition.

My wallet is ready and willing.

I realize I might sound a bit pessimistic about Colorado’s version of a major league team, especially with Grand Junction going into its second season with one of the organization’s farm teams.

Shouldn’t we all happily go about the business of supporting our boys?

Hey, I’ve tried. And tried. I’m tired of it.

We are now going into the third decade of Major League Baseball in Colorado, and the team has won one National League title and appeared in the playoffs three times.

Things were looking up for a brief period in 2007 and 2009.

Now, however, the Rox are making virtually every other organization in baseball look like the 1927 Yankees.

Dan O’Dowd appeared on the scene as general manager in 1999. Since then, there have been a number of grand experiments:

■ The humidor to keep baseballs in the park.

■ A 75-pitch-count allowances for starters.

■ Piggy-back relievers.

■ The repeated drafting of tall, left-handed, collegiate pitchers (Jeff Francis the only one of consequence).

■ Huge contracts for free-agent pitchers and, vice-versa,  no contracts to free-agent pitchers.

Recently, there was the revising of the management plan from the top down that basically has O’Dowd specializing in player development in the minor leagues, while Bill Geivett is in charge of the big-league team.

Geivett even moved into an office in the clubhouse next to then-manager Jim Tracy.

Tracy rightfully decided to bolt pitch counts and move-in bosses after last season’s 98-loss disaster.

On and on this mess flows, downhill toward the sewer.

Which brings us back to opening day and the Rockies in Milwaukee.

The Rockies have brought in Dante Bichette to make sure the hitters at least become familiar with the Blake Street Bombers. And as long as they are healthy, the team will hit.

But they are going to have to hit better than even Bichette and his buddies mashed it back in the late ‘90s. 

The Rockies starters, the J Boys, are the primary reason for all this pessimism on my part:

Chacin (missed most of last season), followed by Jorge De La Rosa (missed most of 2011 and 2012 seasons), Juan Nicasio (missed most of last season), John Garland (just signed after being released by Seattle; missed all of last season) and Jeff Francis (actually pitched more than half of last season with the Rockies).

Yes, you are right, any or all of these pitchers could jump up and surprise. After all, they have all had bright spots in their careers.

But I’m here to tell you the odds are against most of that happening.

That’s where we sit right now. A new season and the same old attitude with the Rockies.

Ugly and Uglier. It’s getting harder and harder to enjoy it.

Rick Jussel is a former Daily Sentinel sports editor and Grand Junction High School journalism teacher who belongs in the Armchair Quarterback Hall of Fame, if only there was one.


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