Sunday, April 1, 2012

The day Ubaldo Jimenez lost my respect

In case you haven't heard, the Rockies squared off against the Cleveland Indians this afternoon at Salt River Fields and Cleveland's starting pitcher just happened to be a former Rockies ace — and argubly the only ace they've ever had — by the name of Ubaldo Jimenez.

Once the Indians confirmed that news a couple days ago, we knew we were going to be in for an interesting ball game, first and foremost, because it's always interesting when a player matches up against his former team. In this case, though, there was even more interest because of the circumstances we've learned that surrounded Ubaldo's departure last season, and because Troy Tulowitzki went public with the following response to Ubaldo's poor attitude and his comments during the winter.

"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."

So obviously tensions were high when Tulowitzki stepped in for his first at-bat in the first inning. The first pitch of said at-bat was a Jimenez fastball... that drilled Tulo right on the left elbow (which eventually sent him for x-rays that were thankfully negative). Mhm, Ubaldo went right after him, and then, according to those in attendance, pounded his chest and invited Tulowitzki to join him in front of the mound after Tulo called him something unpleasant.

At that point the benches cleared, but thankfully the situation did not escalate beyond yelling, finger pointing and chicken wing flapping.

That's what happened. Now let's take a step back and talk about this.

You won't hear me say Tulowitzki is completely innocent of wrong doing. Obviously not commenting on the situation would have been the best possible response, and overall you would hope the guy annointed as your leader would be able to control his emotions better, but I do not understand why people are so set on making him out to be a huge villain in this situation when there's no evidence he did anything beforehand beyond expressing himself honestly and defending the organization he leads.

Yes, it's possible Tulowitzki came across as a jerk to Ubaldo during their time together. I'm sure he's come across as a jerk to several people. He's an elite athlete. He's aware he's an elite athlete and now he's being paid as such. It's easy for guys in his position to rub people the wrong way. But do we really know if that's true, or is it just easier to assume it's true?

We don't know that whole story. People like to think they do, but they really don't know any more than you do or I do.

But even if it were true. Even if Tulowitzki was an annoying, arrogant, pud whack, that doesn't justify a professional athlete submarining his organization's season by going out there hurt and trying to force a trade, and then backing that up by headhunting, taunting, and then lying about his intentions afterward. No, the bottom line to this story is and continues to be that Ubaldo Jimenez acted unprofessionally on several levels last season, and then acted like a toward coward today.

You want a contract? You want to show up Troy Tulowitzki? Earn it. Pitch better in the second half of 2010. Conduct yourself like a professional in 2011. Conduct yourself like a man today by trying to strike Tulowitzki out, not injure him.

Unfortunately, Ubaldo failed to accomplish every last one of those things. That's why he never earned that contract, that's why he's gone, and that's why he's the Cleveland Indians problem.

And it really is sad, because Ubaldo Jimenez was accepted and beloved like few Rockies have been over the years. Even to the point where some are still showing their loyalty to him despite his actions today. I'm sorry I can't be one of those people. Despite how everything played out over the last 12 months, I never thought we'd get to a point where I'd lose every bit of respect I had for Ubaldo, but his actions put the nail in the coffin.

It's a sickening feeling.

It's a heartbreaking feeling.

But life goes on... without him.

As for Tulowitzki, he's not perfect. I've acknowledged that several times in the past and will continue to do so when warranted, but using this situation to attack his leadership abilities is misguided. There's only one bad apple in this bunch, and I'm thankful he no longer represents the Rockies organization.

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