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.


maroonedTexan said...

I love reading articles about grit and toughness. It's always a sign to me that a team doesn't have a very firm grasp of talent evaluation. Scott Pioli, when he was GM for the Chiefs, used to go on and on about finding players that have the will to win and will grind it out, and the Chiefs were pretty terrible.

Fowler is a productive player, who everybody seems to say is nice and easygoing. It looks like the Rockies confused personality with ability and are now pulling everything out of their hat to excuse the move.

Ted said...

Give me Fowler, a good player, over awful-but-"gritty" Barnes any day of the week. This is the big leagues, you aren't awarded runs based on how dirty your uniform is at the end of the game.

Anonymous said...

I've read the comments from the locals following Kiszla's piece ... they absolutely torched the fool, accusing him of every thing from writing PR pieces for management to selling out for a ten-pack of tix to the refreshment box. Perhaps he just likes the cut of Weiss's jib, him and the D-Back's rock, Kirk 'Lurch' Gibson.

Anonymous said...

You people pay attention during Spring Training ? The guy is lazy...

And in the big leagues you are awarded for how dirty your uniform is..it's called effort..hustle.. Biggio never made it to the 7th inning stretch with a clean jersey..

maroonedTexan said...

You are rewarded in the big leagues for talent. Yes Biggio did hustle and always had a dirty jersey but we loved him because he was one of the best ball players of his generation. Babe Ruth by all accounts was a pretty laid back fellow (you could call him lazy if you want) but he was also an unbelievable gifted player, one of the top 5 of all time. You can say the same thing about Berkman and Lee, both these guys were very successful players who were more relaxed.

On the other end of the spectrum you have a guy like Robinson Cancel, the career minor league catcher who got 7 ABs with the Astros in 2011. Nobody out there is going to question that he lives and breathes baseball. But the talent just isn't there.

The point is guys have different personalities but that is not how you should judge a ballplayer. Stats don't lie, and they show that Dexter Fowler is a solid baseball player. One who is superior to both Jordan Lyles and Brandon Barnes (despite their supposed grittiness).

Brian Stevenson said...

Seems similar to the Dwight Howard situation, for any Rockets fans out there. He was playing hurt with the Lakers off and on, and taking some flak from people, but now that he's healthy and in an environment where he can be himself, and he's back to being one of the most dominant players in the game.

Meanwhile the Lakers, who were herp derping over his hustle and everything else, have been eliminated from playoff contention (and you have to be really bad in the NBA to not make the playoffs).