Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Short Term Stops: The All-Rockies Team

I truly believe baseball is a better sport when the Colorado Rockies are playing well.

The 2017 season has wrecked havoc on most of my preseason predictions thus far, but one of the few guesses which has held up to this point has been the emergence of the Rockies. While they've struggled as of late, they're still 58-43 and primed for a postseason run.

This is a rare occurrence in Colorado: the Rockies have only made the playoffs three times in their 25-year history, and have only topped 90 wins twice. Sadly, I've become used to thinking of the Rockies as a second-division club over the years. But while I don't get many chances to see them on live TV here in Chicago, I can tell they're a fun team to watch here in 2017, and I'll most definitely be rooting for them the rest of the way.

And hey, even though they're still a relatively new franchise in the MLB ranks, the Rockies have still managed to put together a solid Short Term Stops roster, so let's get to it.


1996 Pacific #63 Bret Saberhagen

"Short Term Stops" Rockies Accolades:

Bret Saberhagen (1995 Rockies, 9 games, half-year stint)

The Rockies made their first run at the playoffs in 1995, and acquired star pitcher Bret Saberhagen at the trade deadline that year to help bolster their pitching staff.

But baseball fans know what happens to pitchers once they get to Colorado: it usually doesn't end well. Saberhagen went 2-1 with a bloated 6.28 ERA in nine starts with the club and got shelled in his lone NLDS start against the Braves. (Atlanta would take the series in four games.)

The one-time Cy Young winner missed all of 1996 with a shoulder injury before latching on with the Red Sox, where he'd pitch until his retirement in 2001, leaving the Rockies as easily the shortest and most unfamiliar stint in his prolific career.

2012 Topps Update #US-46 Jamie Moyer

Jamie Moyer (2012 Rockies, 10 games, sunset season)

Jamie Moyer pitched his 25th and final season in the bigs with the 2012 Rockies at the age of 49...I repeat: at the age of 49.

The ageless Moyer shocked a lot of people by making the Rockies' roster out of Spring Training that year -- a feat doubly impressive considering he missed all of 2011 due to Tommy John surgery -- and probably shocked a few more by lasting 10 starts with the club, going 2-5 with a 5.70 ERA and becoming the oldest pitcher in baseball history to win a game.

To put it in perspective, 263 guys who played in the big leagues in 2011 hadn't yet been born when Moyer debuted with the Cubs way back in 1986(!).

2013 Topps Update #US-76 Roy Oswalt

Roy Oswalt (2013 Rockies, 9 games, sunset season)

But not everyone's last hurrah can become as much of a feel-good story as Jamie Moyer's was.

Take Roy Oswalt, for example. The once-standout Astros hurler signed with the Rockies in 2013, and would go 0-6 in nine games (six starts) with an awful 8.63 ERA with the club before calling it a career.

Some players fade ceremoniously into the sunset, but Roy Oswalt's is the more common tale.


2002 Topps Chrome Traded #T-68 Sandy Alomar Jr.

Sandy Alomar Jr. (2002 Rockies, 38 games, half-year stint)

Sandy Alomar Jr. seemed to play forever and for every team on the planet, so it's no surprise that he was a Colorado Rockie at one point.

While Alomar mainly saw action as a backup during his post-Cleveland career, Colorado valued his services so much that they picked him up from the White Sox at the trade deadline in 2002. 

He toiled in 38 forgettable games with the Rockies, hitting .267 to end the season before I bet many realized he was even with the team in the first place.

First Base

2009 Topps Heritage High Numbers #593 Jason Giambi

Jason Giambi (2009-12 Rockies, 230 games)

Jason Giambi's tenure in Colorado wasn't exactly short -- he lasted three-and-a-half seasons with the Rockies -- but I'll be darned if it wasn't unfamiliar.

The aging slugger was on his last legs by the time he wound up in Colorado. He never appeared in more than 87 games in any of his four seasons with the Rockies, though he did hit 22 of his 440 career homers with the club.

You can add Giambi to the ageless wonder category, too: following his years with the Rockies, he hooked on with the Indians, where he'd play his final game in 2014 at the age of 43.

Second Base

2004 Fleer Tradition #117 Ron Belliard

Ron Belliard (2003 Rockies, 116 games)

I don't have much to say about Ron Belliard: a relatively forgotten infielder who had a few good years in the mid-2000s, and a guy who I kinda collect for some reason.

This card, however, is notable, in that it's the only one I own of Belliard as a Rockie. He hit .277 in 116 games in Colorado in 2003 before jumping to the Indians (sure are a lot of Cleveland connections in this post) and becoming an All-Star in 2004. Wait...Ron Belliard was an All-Star? 

I sure don't remember that.


2016 Topps Bunt #151 Jose Reyes

Jose Reyes (2015 Rockies, 47 games, half-year stint)

Normally, the sheer passage of time is a key factor in the making of a notable Short Term Stop. 

But there are exceptions, like Jose Reyes, who looks pretty darn strange in a Rockies uniform despite the fact that it hasn't even been two years since he last played for them. Traded to cellar-dwelling Colorado in the blockbuster deal that sent Troy Tulowitzki to the Blue Jays in 2015, Reyes never registered on my radar as a Rockie, hitting just .259 in 47 games to close out the season.

Two seasons and one domestic violence suspension later, the once-great shortstop (and one of my favorite players in the game at one point) is currently toiling with the Mets in the uniform most baseball fans probably associate with him.

Third Base

2003 Fleer Platinum #5 Todd Zeile 

Todd Zeile (2002 Rockies, 144 games)

Todd Zeile always struck me as something like that B-level actor you see in ten thousand different movies: never a star, but good enough to hang around.

Zeile played for a whopping eleven different clubs during his 16-year career, and the Rockies were the ninth of those eleven teams. The third baseman hit .273 with 18 homers in 144 games during his lone season in Colorado. 

Zeile would stick in the bigs for a couple more years before retiring in 2004, ending the career of one of the more prolific members of my Short Term Stops collection.


1993 Ultra #353 Dale Murphy

Dale Murphy (1993 Rockies, 26 games, sunset season)

For my money, Dale Murphy as a Rockie is one of the Ultimate Short Term Stops in baseball history. 

Hoping to score a big name to put butts in the seats, the expansion Rockies signed an aging Murphy as a free agent prior to their inaugural 1993 season. It didn't take long to realize that the move was a giant mistake: the 37-year-old Murph hit a paltry .143 with zero homers and exactly one run scored in 26 games before being unceremoniously released.

It was, however, long enough of a stint to allow a few cards of him as a Rockie to sneak out onto the market, and the few that do exist are amongst the most treasured pieces of my collection.

2003 Topps Traded #T-4 Greg Vaughn

Greg Vaughn (2003 Rockies, 22 games, sunset season)

Greg Vaughn's sunset stint in Colorado was shorter than Dale Murphy's and every bit as unspectacular.

Just five years removed from his 50-homer campaign in 1998, Vaughn signed with the Rockies for the 2003 season, yet another aging veteran who sought to take advantage of the thin air in Colorado. Needless to say, it didn't work: Vaughn batted a miserable .189 in 22 games with the Rockies -- hitting the final three of his 355 career homers -- before being granted his release. 

Greg Vaughn's time as a Rockie was so quick and forgettable that I probably wouldn't believe it ever happened had the cards not existed for proof.

2007 Upper Deck #674 Steve Finley

Steve Finley (2007 Rockies, 43 games, sunset season)

And Steve Finley closes out the Rockies' outfield sunset trio.

Finley is one of those fun expansion-era cases who ended his career with a team that didn't even exist when he first broke into the bigs. The Rockies were four years away from becoming a franchise when Finley debuted with the Orioles in 1989. Eighteen years and six teams later -- including stints with all five clubs in the NL West -- Finley closed things out in Colorado, hitting a slim .181 in 43 games in what would be his final big league season.

Though the 2007 Rockies would go on to reach the World Series for what remains the only time in their history, Finley had long been a footnote at that point: he'd been released way back in June of that year.

That just about does it for this edition of Short Term Stops.

Thanks for tuning in.


Adam said...

Excellent installment Nick! I don't remember any of these except for Reyes and Giambi.

Brett Alan said...

Nice. Hey, four guys who spent time with the Mets!

Kind of funny that you compare Todd Zeile to an actor; his wife did some tv acting in the 80s (notably Paula the cheerleader on Charles In Charge), and their daughter now plays teenage Kate on This Is Us.

Adam Kaningher said...

Even as a lifelong Rockies fan, I just knew that you'd dig up some guy to surprise even me.

Greg Vaughn. No memory of that at all.

Also in the same vein as Dale Murphy was Bryn Smith, part of the inaugural rotation, who went 2-4 with an 8.49 ERA in 11 appearances. Not a great showing, but he did win the first-ever home opener at Mile High Stadium.

And poor Todd Zeile. Not sure if he's been passed by now, but at one point, he had the record for most games played without an All-Star appearance.

Great post Nick! Love this series.

Mark Kaz said...

One of the best features in all of sports card blogging. Had no idea Murphy, Vaughn or Finley ever donned Rox uniforms. Great job, and great cards!

Fuji said...

It's funny... I totally remember Moyer (10 games), but have no recollection of Giambi (230 games). The things our little brains remember. Always enjoy these STS posts. I learn something new every time.

Brian said...

Thanks again for this series , always a treat to read them!

Anonymous said...

There's something about cards of an expansion team in its first year... and when you combine that with a short-term stop that makes any Dale Murphy cards with the Rockies a must have... especially that 1993 Ultra!

I'd put Sabes and Murphy as the "Oddest Rockies".

Thanks once again! So much fun to read these!

Unknown said...

My hometown team YAY. Thank you for using my two players I suggested. Giambi and Oswalt. Even a lifelong fan such as myself was surprised by some names. Steve Finley and Greg Vaughn. The rest of the players I knew about. We do not talk about Reyes in Colorado. I remember Finley as a Diamondback. I will say this to my dying day but I still believe the Sox cheated in the 07 series.