Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Rockies "better off" without Dexter Fowler

The Denver Post's Mark Kiszla has a column up today about how the Rockies are better off without the man who was 5th on the team in WAR last season, a column which came out of Evan Drellich's Sunday article on Fowler and his contentious time with the Rockies.

Eight days before the Astros traded Jordan Lyles and Brandon Barnes for Fowler, Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd told a radio station that Fowler has "to get tougher...He's got to show up and play with an edge every day, not just when he thinks he has to."

Fowler responded to Drellich a sentiment familiar to Rockies fans: he doesn't even really know who the Rockies' GM is: Dan O'Dowd or Bill Geivett. He also told Drellich that the Rockies basically forced him to play while injured:

I pressured myself into playing back last year with my finger, then I messed up my wrist, then I strain my (knee). Towards the end of the year they were like, 'Hey, you need to get out there and play.' I mean, my knee doesn't even feel stable. I don't think that's the best decision for my career to be out there. I understand that you want me out there. Don't get me wrong, I want to be out there more than anybody.

So 24 hours after Drellich's piece runs, here comes Kiszla talking about "toughness" and "grit" and "dirt-bag attitude."

Fowler is a good man, with a gentle spirit and an infectious smile. But Fowler was not the kind of player Weiss needs on a team that must grind out victories in the National League West against more free-spending rivals...Colorado was 100 percent correct in dumping Fowler and re-investing the money in new first baseman Justin Morneau. After five seasons with the Rockies, it seemed obvious Fowler could not be a centerpiece in a winning franchise. He simply isn't tough enough.

Notably, Kiszla mentions an August road trip in which the Rockies lost nine of ten games leading into a closed-door meeting in which manager Walt Weiss talked about competing hard, grinding, and ownership of performance, a meeting which Kiszla says marked the beginning of the end of Fowler with the Rockies ("Fowler never earned enough of Weiss' trust for the manager to go to the wall for him.")

Weiss even chimed in:
The ability to compete through difficult circumstances and still believe you can play up here even when you get beat up by the game...the self doubt, even though it does creep in, if you can deal with that and still succeed, it's the X factor.

In other words, typical NL West. Weiss and Kirk Gibson apparently spent the offseason training to pry the caps off beer bottles with their teeth, punching kittens to see what fire was in their bellies, and eating raw eggs.

But I do feel as though Kiszla is out of line. Since I don't care about the Rockies, I didn't pay attention to any of their games and can't comment on the severity of Fowler's injuries. That the Astros could acquire a 2+ WAR leadoff centerfielder for Jordan Lyles and Brandon Barnes - neither of whom (sweet as they are) were locks to make the Opening Day roster - shows just how disillusioned the Rockies were with Fowler.

The best-case scenario is that Fowler comes into the season mad as hell as ready to prove the Rockies wrong. But it's pretty shady of Kiszla, and Weiss, to note that Fowler dealt with hand, wrist, and knee injuries and question his ability to play through it.