Hard decisions are not the Rockies forte. The team has been accused of making its personnel decisions on the character of the individual and not the performance on the field. Jim Tracy was given a strange, open ended extension not based on his spotty record since he took over the team, but probably because he’s such a good guy. That aspect can’t be argued as Tracy does seem like one of the brighter lights in an otherwise creep-filled sports world. But to base decisions on how nice a guy is, seems ridiculous when the team is pretty far away from competing for a championship.
The drum beat for Dexter Fowler, a fan favorite, to perform has grown louder over the past week as he is rapidly approaching a cross roads in his career with the Rockies. This will be the season we see Fowler take off or spin off into obscurity. My guess, based on what we’ve seen of him so far, is he takes the obscurity route. Nice guy or not, if Fowler doesn’t perform, look for him to be moved as soon as the Rockies figure out what we already know.
Fowler is very popular and probably one of the better character guys in any sport, not just Major League Baseball. But if doesn’t get his act together, he’ll be traded by the time the fireworks fly at Coors Field this summer. Fowler is young and talented and since we’ve been told this countless times, it’s high time he delivered. It’s becoming apparent that he’s not living up to his supposed talent while Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez have risen to the expectations their contracts have demanded. Fowler had been spinning his wheels, never quite matching the level his teammates have achieved.
Rockies management has been accused of keeping people around because of their character. If character counted, Fowler should get a contract like Todd Helton has enjoyed over the last decade. But since Fowler is only starting his fifth season as a pro and is genuinely talented when he wants to be, he’ll be the perfect trade bait should he falter in the first few months of this season. And faltering he is. From the spring training updates I’ve read from the likes of the fine Denver Post writer Troy Renck, Fowler hasn’t quite got his groove back. People are starting to ask the writer these questions about Fowler’s performance via Twitter, while Renck himself has said multiple times this spring that Fowler needs to get it going. And when the chatter has finally turned to his play or whether he’ll be sent down, that awkward spotlight has now been clearly fixed on the young Rockie.
The Rockies shouldn’t hesitate to trade Fowler should he not perform early this season. We’ve seen it already in his short time with the Rockies: He’s a great outfielder, but is a liability at the plate and for someone with his speed, hasn’t figured out how to steal effectively yet. But he can command some good return in the trade market and the Rockies shouldn’t hesitate to move him once the writing is on the wall. There will be the usual outcry by the fans that seem to prize players over performance, but take a look at who the Rockies have shipped out recently and you’ll see a pattern of cutting dead weight while getting something in return before their value falls through the floor.
The Rockies have always had a great defense – they’ve needed it – but offensive slumps have doomed the team. Fowler isn’t the only one guilty of that, but he’s a major contributor. So how long do the Rockies stick with him this year when it happens? My guess is he’s got the first two or three months of the season before we see the Rockies cut bait with him and go with someone else in the outfield. If he falters and they don’t move him, the Rockies have truly committed to character over performance and you can’t expect the team to go anywhere for the foreseeable future. Hard decisions may not be the Rockies forte, but if they can’t make this one, winning a World Series won’t be either.