April 27, 2010
There has been a great debate going on in Rockies Nation for almost a year.
Check out the Rockies blogs out there and it will be easy to find. Many passionate Rockies fans believe that Chris Iannetta needs to be the everyday starting catcher for the Rockies.
These fans have done their research—they have the numbers to back up why Iannetta is the right man for the job. Even when Yorvit Torrealba was seemingly winning every game down the stretch in 2009, these fans held onto the fact that Iannetta should have been taking the swings.
When the club signed Iannetta in the offseason to a three year $8 million deal, they breathed a breath of fresh air. Then, the team was willing to let Torrealba walk away after he rejected their lucrative offer. Iannetta fans felt vindication.
They see the potential that Iannetta possesses. He is rock solid, he has a good arm and good receiving skills. When he connects, there are few who can hit the baseball further. The talent is undeniable.
The passion that these fans have is admirable. The only problem is, they are dead wrong.
Iannetta is one of those guys who at one point was labeled a "can't miss" prospect. The only problem is "can't miss" prospects are a dime a dozen in Triple-A.
Ask Clint Hurdle about being a "can't miss" prospect after he was supposed to be the next Johnny Bench when he was drafted by the Royals in the 70's. Hurdle underwhelmed almost everyone in his Major League career that spanned parts of 10 seasons. He hit .259 and had an on base percentage of just .341 for his career.
The Iannetta crowd argues that his 2008 season proves that he is good enough to be an everyday starter.
To their credit, Iannetta had a phenomenal '08 campaign. He had a batting average of .268 and had an OPS of .895 after hitting 18 home runs. His fans point to those numbers and suggest the down '09 season was an aberration.
At this point, however, it might be time to turn the tables and realize that the '08 numbers may have been the aberration. So far in 2010, albeit a small sample size, Iannetta is hitting just .133. He has struck out 11 times to only four walks. He has been severely outplayed by Miguel Olivo.
Iannetta fans always point to the fact that while Iannetta may in fact be being outplayed by the current catcher (Torrealba or more recently Olivo), that those players are simply playing at levels above their heads and eventually they will come back to earth and the more talented player (Iannetta) will do better..
Iannetta fans think that the Rockies haven't showed their catcher enough patience. They think that if he were moved somewhere else that he might get a fair shake. The problem with that argument is that it would be tough to find a Major League city that would have more patience than the Rockies have shown with Iannetta.
Iannetta was essentially handed the starting catcher job in '07, '08, '09 and 2010, and in three of those four years he has played himself out of the starting job.
Now, its not like the Rockies had someone behind Iannetta who they were dying to take a look at. They didn't even have a guy waiting on the bench who had been an everyday starter, but was on the back end of his career. The guys brought in to backup Iannetta were exactly that...backups. Iannetta did not lose his job to an up-and-coming stud. He lost his job to career journeymen.
The problem for Iannetta is not his talent, but it is his passion.
The catcher is emotionless. Most of the time the average person couldn't tell whether Iannetta hit a home run or if his dog got hit by a car. While it is not necessary, or even healthy, to have a team full of guys with Troy Tulowitzki's fire, it is important for a teammate to show that he is upset with himself when he struck out for the third time in a game.
Iannetta doesn't need to break his bat over his knee, or beat up a water cooler, but something, anything to show fans and teammates that he actually cares about what happened in his last at bat would go a long way. Instead he is simply deadpan.
Fans of the catcher point to Todd Helton, a Rockie who is notably stoic. They say that extreme passion is not everyone's style.
That reason is a poor excuse, and frankly, a slap in the face of Helton. The greatest player to don a Rockies uniform may not express his passion the way Tulowitzki does, but take one look at the man and it is extremely obvious that passion oozes out of his pours. He loves baseball, he loves winning, and he works harder than anyone else in that clubhouse to improve his game.
It also doesn't hurt that he has something that Iannetta doesn't have...the numbers to prove it.
At some point, most likely soon, the Rockies are going to have to make a decision with Iannetta. They cannot afford to let him sit on the bench, but they also cannot afford to let him steal at-bats from a player who has a chance at the plate.
The fact is, Chris Iannetta may simply fall in line with the thousands of other "can't miss" prospects who missed.
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