Colorado Rockies manager Jim Tracy has forgotten more baseball than most of us have seen. He's a baseball lifer whose job is to impart baseball knowledge on men who get paid truck loads of money to play the game.
So when Tracy gives his opinion on something in the game, it would be smart to listen. And it's tough to disagree with anything the 56-year-old baseball man said Sunday.
Tracy pulled no punches Sunday afternoon when he called the actions of former Rockies and now Indians pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez "gutless," after the right-hander drilled Colorado shortstop Troy Tulowitzki in a spring training game.
The beaning — and ensuing demonstrative actions — prompted Tracy to call the display "the most gutless act I've seen in 35 years in the game."
While not everyone can look back at 35 years of experience in professional baseball, it doesn't take a baseball life to realize that Jimenez was indeed gutless in his actions.
As there often is, there's a back story to this showdown, and it certainly doesn't paint Jimenez in a very flattering light. Jimenez's time with the Rockies didn't end pretty. He was reportedly upset with his contract, and even more upset that Tulowitzki and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez were rewarded with contract extensions. The Rockies, understandably, were irked by the righty's actions, helping in the decision to deal him to Cleveland last summer.
Eventually, a jaded Jimenez called Cleveland "heaven" when comparing it to Colorado.
"While I've been here, everybody's been treated fairly," Tulowitzki shot back when speaking to CBSSports.com. "There's a certain point in this game where you go play and you shut your mouth. And you don't worry about what other people are doing."
Jimenez upped the ante on Sunday afternoon in an apparent attempt to get the last word, so to speak. By drilling the Colorado shortstop, Jimenez made it clear that he hasn't forgotten. It was undoubtedly a calculated (not to mention bush league) move by Jimenez, his way of settling the score.
Understandably, Tulowitzki was none too pleased about being hit with a thrown baseball (he left the game as well after being hit), and he volleyed unpleasantries toward Jimenez. This set Jimenez off, and that's when things really got ugly.
Jimenez and Tulowitzki were separated, but not by Jimenez's choice. He had the look of a man who wanted to go at it right at home plate. Even so, he denied any intent to hit Tulowitzki with a pitch after the game.
"I tried to get inside on him and that's what I tried to do," Jimenez tried to explain. "It was one pitch that got away, that happens in a thousand games … The thing that got started was the things that he was calling me. I mean, I'm a man. If somebody calls me I have to go. He was calling me names. He was calling me "chicken," but not chicken, another really aggressive word I can't say right now."
It's probably safe to assume that "chicken" was the adjective in that exchange, not the noun. And if that is the case, then Tulowitzki's assessment of the situation is just as spot-on as Tracy's breakdown.
"Are you kidding me?" Tracy added. "Five days before Opening Day and you are going to take a potshot like that? I have lost all respect for him."
Baseball code aside, Jimenez's actions seem to back up a disturbing trend that's starting to define him. It's starting to sound like Jimenez never thinks it's his fault. Inconsistent performance at the tail end of his Rockies career? That's because the Rockies were mistreating him and disrespecting him. Making himself look like a fool with a temper tantrum in a spring training game? Tulowitzki started it with a bad word.
All of this back and forth and controversy does help Jimenez in one way, though. It continues to cover up the fact that he really hasn't been that good over the last year and a half. He finished third in Cy Young voting in 2010, but that was aided primarily by a historic first half. He was 15-1 on July 8. From there, he was pedestrian at best with a 4-7 record to go along with a 4.10 ERA.
He was then just 10-13 last season with a 4.68 ERA in time with both Colorado and Cleveland, and he actually had worse numbers with the Tribe.
There's still plenty of time for Jimenez to rebound, though. If Cleveland really is "heaven," then it's not totally fair to count him out just yet. That being said, he does need to prove that he's ready to change, and if Sunday is any indication, he's not ready to do that yet.
If he's ever going to put his world of talent to its full use — and prove that he deserves the big contract he so desperately coveted in Colorado — he's going to have prove that he's got the guts to be better.
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