Thursday, November 13, 2008

Holliday Interest

We try to refrain from open civil war here at the House of Georges. While we often vehemently disagree with one another over a given topic, every effort is made to keep our debate polite and mature. Because as everyone knows, we are nothing but polite and mature.

And so, in the interest of respectful, erudite sports discussion, I must take mild exception to the piece penned by Cecil earlier in the week covering the trade of Matt Holliday. It's not that I disagree with his assertions that the Rockies are incompetently run (they certainly are) or that Colorado received less than full value for Holliday (they did) or that Scott Boras is a slimebag who ruins baseball teams (he certainly is). It's just that, well, there's more to this trade than that.

Join with us, dear reader, for some of what Sarah Palin calls that "inside baseball stuff."

First off, although Oakland GM Billy Beane came out the clear winner in this deal, there are some positive things for Rockies fans to focus on going forward. Greg Smith is a legitimate big-league lefty starter who should evolve into a No. 3 type, a poor man's Jeff Francis. Huston Street, while injury-prone and not as overpowering as you might like a closer to be, is a name-brand reliever with value. His pitching style is not the best fit for Coors Field, so he'll most likely be dealt, but that eventual swap could net a top prospect.

The key to the deal, in my eyes, is Carlos Gonzalez, who was the centerpiece of the package Oakland received from Arizona for Dan Haren a year ago. He's a legitimate five-tool guy and a significant upgrade from Holliday--who's not a graceful outfielder--in the field. It's possible that he could eventually put up comparable plate numbers to Holliday with the deep power alleys and flat sliders that Coors Field provides.

It's also possible, of course, that he could suck balls, and that Greg Smith could be horrible and Huston Street could blow out his elbow in Spring Training. All while Matt Holliday wins AL MVP in Oakland and leads the A's to a division title. There's certainly risk involved, and the Rox could have definitely squeezed more out of the Holliday situation than they did.

My personal preference would have been to let Holliday and Boras go to free agency and make them a respectable but not bank-breaking offer. The left-fielder and his agent would have refused, allowing Colorado to come off as righteous while painting Holliday and Boras as greedy. More importantly, the team would pick up two first-round picks once Holliday inked a long-term contract elsewhere, and even Dan O'Dowd can turn a haul like that into big-time help down the road.

But that would have meant paying Holliday his one-year, eight-figure tender this season, an option that became more loathsome to the Rockies every day. You may have noticed that we're adrift in some pretty fucked economic waters. Folks are looking for ways to trim spending, ways like not buying sports tickets and catching the game on the tube instead. Hell, the Yankees can't even sell out all the suites in their new stadium, and the Red Sox have frozen ticket prices. If those teams are feeling the pinch, how do the Rockies--arguably dead last in fan demand among Denver's four big pro teams--feel about revenue expectations?

Gonzalez, Smith and the chips acquired via Street all share one quality--they're cheap. We all hate teams that act first and foremost out of financial self-interest, but ask yourself: How many Rockies games did you attend last year? For me, it was one. That makes 2008 yet another year in which I attended more games at Invesco than I did at Coors, even though the latter are cheaper and ten times more prevalent than the former. Until a legitimate baseball tradition is established in Denver, these money decisions will tend to go this way.

Rockies fans, watch what Billy Beane does now with Holliday. He'll hold him as long as he needs to, then either trade him or let him walk, either way netting future stars. As inevitable as this week's trade was, it's a source of legitimate frustration to see a superstar slugger vacate and see so little frontline pitching come back. The Rockies always hit, and even if they trade Garrett Atkins before March they'll hit in '09. What they can't do is either develop ace starting pitching or convince an established ace to sign here. Until this is fixed all the Matt Hollidays in the world won't make this franchise a consistent winner.


Cecil said...

Yes, but.

The Rockies *always* act out of financial self-interest. And yet their numbers simply don't bear out the notion that they're constantly struggling to locate two nickels to rub together--they were 8th in the league in profit margin last year, or something along those lines (too lazy to look it up right now).

It should also be mentioned that they spent the better part of a decade moving more bodies through the turnstiles at Coors than any other franchise in the bigs, including those with "legitimate baseball traditions," such as the ones you and I root for (even if, in my case, that tradition is rooted in eternal loserdom). And their ownership group has the lovely town of Greeley as its personal fiefdom. Their $100 bills smell like fresh filet mignon.

Yet the Monforts pretend to be poor, and have for much longer than this current economic meltdown has existed. They simply aren't the Twins or the A's. Denver has proved--and continues to prove--that it supports baseball. (Admittedly, the few games I saw last year were often thanks to free tickets. Do as I say, kids, not as I do.)

So my complaint, in essence, is I suppose really less about Holliday than it is about the notion that, no matter what, they ain't gonna pay the stars they grow themselves--because hoo boy, they made a few mistakes years ago and golly, just don't have the money.

I believe that it's precisely at times of economic struggle like this that the Monfort/O'Dowd/Ex-CSU Tight End axis *needs* to give their fans a reason to keep up that support. They had one right in front of them and bungled it.

While pitching is most certainly their biggest issue, you simply can't discount that people here flippin' loved Matt Holliday.

We'll see how they feel about Gonzalez, who will most likely start the season at Triple A. If he turns into the next Vinny Castilla (but in the outfield), all will be forgiven, and hey, at least Greg Smith can hit a little. That'll help.

If, say, they had grown a C.C. Sabathia instead of a Matt Holliday, I'd bet dollars to donuts the exact same thing would have occurred. Penury trumps scouting in the Rockies organization.