A Towel’s First Words: One fan weighs in on his teams’ big moves | The Golden Sombrero Baseball Blog | MLB, Fantasy, College & High School Baseball News

A Towel’s First Words: One fan weighs in on his teams’ big moves

It has been altogether too long since I have written for the Sombrero, and with the news of pitchers and catchers reporting on Monday morning, I knew that this amateur writer needed to report very soon as well.  It has been a terribly long offseason, and with a potential trip to Phoenix for Spring Training only a few weeks away, the thrill of a coming baseball season has gripped me once again.

I certainly hope that I’ll be chronicling another triumphant Pioneer run to the finals of the Midwest Conference tournament, adding to my “Four Ballparks” series, and once again extolling Ubaldo Jimenez’s virtues after ten wins and a 0.78 ERA in the season’s first two months. But for now, I’ll settle for a commentary on some of the offseason’s biggest headlines.  They may be old news, but I will begin by evaluating big offseason moves from the two franchises nearest and dearest to my heart.

Jayson Werth signs seven-year, $126-million contract with Nationals: Some might call it a head-scratcher.  After all, the Nationals are not going to compete in 2011, with or without Werth (Livan Hernandez is slated to start Opening Day), and by the end of this contract, Werth will be 39.  Werth also has benefited from hitting in a potent Phillies lineup, and his new lineup won’t have much pop from anybody not named Ryan Zimmerman.

But this is still great news for my hometown Nats.  GM Mike Rizzo knows he’s not “one player away” from contention, but his signing of Werth demonstrates to the rest of the league both that the Nationals are prepared to be a serious player in free-agent negotiations, and that they are willing to commit significant dollars to build a winning ballclub.  While I don’t think Werth’s production alone over the next seven years will be worth $126M to the club, I believe this is still a strong first step for the struggling franchise in its quest to become a contender in a division that includes the Phillies and Braves.

Naysayers, I encourage you to revisit this in two or three years, when Werth, Bryce Harper and Zimmerman make up the heart of an order that is consistently driving in a more developed Ian Desmond and perhaps another key outfield or second base free-agent acquisition, and Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann are taking the mound every fifth day.  You may find that the NL East cellar has relocated to a place far, far away from the Navy Yard Metro stop on South Capitol Street.

Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki sign monster extensions with the Rockies: As a Rockies fan, I guess I should be ecstatic.  Some would have me throwing my Todd Helton jersey t-shirt to the back of the closet and having CarGo and Tulo apparel, equipment and photographs overnighted to me for proud display in my home for years to come, though I will admit that framed, signed photos of CarGo, Tulo, Todd and The U–throwing the last pitch of his no-hitter–already do adorn my modest sixteenth-floor Arlington apartment (thanks mom and dad).

But these extensions do concern me more than a little.  As a Rockies fan, I have a long memory.  I remember eight years ago, when the team was comprised of Todd, Larry Walker, and (with little exaggeration) 23 other guys who could easily have been in triple-A in many other organizations.  It was a running joke that my dad and I would watch the game to watch Helton and Walker hit, but after their at-bats would just switch over to Seinfeld or Jeopardy until it came time for them to hit again.  Attendance was decent, but the team would win 70-75 games a year and be out of it by early August.

CarGo and Tulo are two great franchise players to build a team around, and there aren’t many 3-4 combinations in the 30 major league lineups that I’d like to face less than those two.  But I’m a little concerned that the Rockies and GM Dan O’Dowd have invested such resources into these two players not for the purpose of building a team around them, but because fans will still fill the stadium to see them play, even on a middling team.  The Monfort brothers are not particularly deep-pocketed owners, and I would hate to see their spending on these two players hamstring O’Dowd’s ability to bring in essential pieces to complement them.

For anyone who asks, I’m pretty sure neither Ty Wigginton nor Jose Lopez was the key piece separating last year’s Rockies from October baseball.  Aside from these two signings (and the re-signing of free agent Jorge de la Rosa), the Rockies have done little to improve the team that won 83 games last year, including just one of its last fifteen.  Nonetheless, I remain ever-hopeful that my team can make a return to postseason baseball. Because there is no time more appropriate than Spring Training for a die-hard fan to hope.

1 Comment

  1. You’re right. In a few short years the Nats will be the cream of the baseball crop. I can’t wait until Harper is in the big leagues. Must see TV.