“You’re on the wrong side of the street”

By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com

On Twitter: @Castrovince

ImageSo to recap: In exchange for their top two pitching prospects last summer, the Indians received a No. 2 starter who has delivery issues and can’t control his emotions.

Yikes.

Ubaldo Jimenez is the bad guy here. There’s no getting around that, and nobody’s buying his claim that he wasn’t “looking for trouble.” Rockies manager Jim Tracy called Jimenez’s obviously intentional plunking of Troy Tulowitzki on Sunday “gutless.” It was also senseless and selfish. Jimenez deserves a suspension for his actions, and a suspension would force the Indians to juggle their already thin rotation at the start of the season.

All because Jimenez is still feuding with a team whose decision to trade him looks wiser by the day.

The Rockies didn’t rework Jimenez’s contract after his outstanding 2010 season. Jimenez pouted. Then he struggled. Then he got dealt.

In the aftermath, there has been a bit of back-and-forth between Jimenez and the Rockies. Ubaldo called the Indians organization “heaven” and said he felt unwanted in Colorado when they offered more lucrative contracts to Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez.

All this served to make Jimenez look petty at best and delusional at worst.

When you sign a contract, as Jimenez did before the 2009 season, you are bound to that contract. Just because you have an excellent season in the midst of said contract doesn’t mean the team should tear it up and agree to give you more money. By the same token, one wouldn’t expect a player who has a poor season in the midst of a long-term deal to agree to tear it up and take less money.

By commenting on it all, long after the fact, Jimenez opened old wounds and prompted a response from his old mates.

“If someone doesn’t want to be here,” Tulowitzki told the Denver Post, “we always say, ‘Please, go up to the manager and tell him you want to leave or that you don’t think this is the best place for you.’ That was kind of the case with him.”

Rather than sticking it to his old team with a prime performance on the Spring Training stage (his only opportunity, given that the two clubs don’t face each other in Interleague this year), Jimenez took the cheap and classless way out. Tracy was right to call him out on it, and the Commissioner’s Office (Bud Selig was reportedly in attendance) would be right to suspend him.

I’ll say this for Jimenez: His rift with the Rox has managed to take some of the attention away from his disconcerting spring performance. He posted a 7.43 ERA with 30 hits allowed and 15 walks in 23 innings, his velocity has been slow to come and his ability to efficiently put big-league batters away is still very much in question.

Jimenez can explain away his 2011 decline by citing his thumb and groin injuries and the fact that he didn’t build up arm strength by pitching winter ball. Fine, whatever. But he simply didn’t deliver for the Indians in the home stretch of the season, and he’ll be effectively out of excuses once the 2012 season proper starts.

Fact is, between his on-the-mound issues and now this incident Sunday, Jimenez has done little to endear himself to his new surroundings. Trades of this magnitude are best judged with the benefit of time, of course, but one important element of this acquisition (the late-season race with the Tigers last year) can be chalked up as a loss, and all the Indians have learned about Jimenez in the last eight months is that he’s an unpolished, unfinished project, not an ace. And now his maturity is being called into question, as well.

Jimenez — and only Jimenez — can alter that reality. He can make the Indians look wise for acquiring him and make the Rockies rue the day they dealt him. But the only way to do that is to refine that complicated delivery, harness those raw emotions and recapture that 2010 form.

Unfortunately, that guy who took the mound Sunday did not appear ready to do any of those things. Here’s hoping it’s a different guy on the mound in-season.

~AC

UPDATE: Jimenez has received a five-game suspension and been fined an undisclosed amount for intentionally hitting Tulowitzki with a pitch. Manny Acta told Jordan Bastian that Jimenez will appeal the suspension.

3 Comments

I don’t know, AC. I agree about Ubaldo’s performance, but I don’t think it’s as certain as you think that he was trying to hit Tulo.

The fact that he’s been so awful this spring is more evidence towards it being an accident than anything else. It’s not like he’s been painting the corners with pinpoint accuracy all month. In fact, it honestly wouldn’t surprise me to find out he was trying to throw the perfect pitch and just flat out couldn’t.

I also don’t think any comments he’s made about the Rockies are really that bad. This is the organization that made him pitch the night he was traded, after all, something that’s considered to be dirty pool by pretty much all GMs.

I’m concerned about this performance, but I don’t think Ubaldo is the villain you’re making him out to be.

(Also, Jim Tracy is the only manager I’ve ever see who had his guys shake hands with the opposing team after being eliminated from the playoffs, like they were a little league team that didn’t care that they’d just been booted from the post-season because they were all going to get ice cream afterwards)

Pingback: While We’re Waiting… talking with Mark Price, Ubaldo’s problem and Tristan the comedian | WaitingForNextYear

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