The Following is written by CBS4 sports photojournalist Brian Madden
DENVER (CBS4) – Flashback to December of 2000. Dan O’Dowd had been general manager of the Colorado Rockies for nearly 15 months. This was the offseason of O’Dowd’s tenure that the Rockies were going to spend money in MLB’s free agency.
The owners had loosen their purse strings and seemed committed to bringing high-priced talent to Denver. Word was out that Colorado was ready to spend. Heck, even a spry, 25-year old Alex Rodriquez showed up in LoDo to talk to the Rockies.
Pitchers were a priority coming into the 2001 season. The Rockies signed Denny Neagle on Dec. 4 and the highly coveted southpaw Mike Hampton on Dec. 12. Those deals, at the time, arguably, were good investments for the Rockies. Their fates, to a degree, were intertwined with the success of the ball club. Neither of which were realized.
Hampton and Neagle failed. Buyer’s remorse set in and the Colorado Rockies have not acquired another true, bona-fide free agent player ever since. A pitcher or position player, for that matter, has rarely sniffed the rarified Mile High air. It was a downward spiral that has contributed to the decline of the team that plays home games at 20th and Blake.
Since 2001, consistency has avoided the Rockies as much as Charlie Brown’s toe has to a football. An ever-changing lineup is rarely the hallmark of a winning team, and the Colorado Rockies took that to extremes in 2001. Look no further than the revolving door that was left field that season.
Colorado Rockies left fielders in the 2001 season:
1. Kimera Bartee
Aside from the Rockies in 2001, Bartee split the year between three minor league teams. His only season, and final career MLB season, was spent with the Rockies. “Kim” started two games in left field. During his brief stay he collected zero hits in 19 plate appearances. Bartee’s last game with the Rockies was on Aug. 3.
2. Cliff Brumbaugh
Brumbaugh played in 21 MLB games for his career, 14 for the Rockies and seven for the Texas Rangers. His only appearance in the big leagues was in 2001. With the Rockies he patrolled left field four times. Two of those were starts. As a left fielder, Brumbaugh committed zero errors on two chances.
3. Jacob Cruz
Of the nine years Cruz played in MLB, 2001 was spent between the Cleveland Indians and the Rockies. Colorado traded Josh Bard and Jody Gerut for him on June 2. In his 18 games, 14 of those as a starter, Jacob had one assist from left field. The Rockies would later release him on Nov. 30, 2001.
4. Mario Encarnacion
The Dominican Republic native made his MLB debut on Aug. 26 against the Milwaukee Brewers. Encarnacion had 11 starts in Left Field. As a left fielder for Colorado, Mario batted .167. No errors in his 107 innings as the left fielder.
5. Ron Gant
If Ron Gant had not been injured in a motorbike accident in 1994, oh what his MLB career could have been. The Rockies signed the two-time All-Star as a free agent before the 2001 season. Gant started 48 games in Left Field. He had 18 extra base hits and 22 RBIs before he was traded to the Oakland A’s on July 3 for Robin Jennings. More on Jennings coming up.
6. Todd Hollandsworth
One of the best batting practice home run hitters I ever saw was Todd Hollandsworth. That guy would crush BP pitches into the upper decks of Coors Field. He was the Opening Day starter on April 2 against the St. Louis Cardinals. Hollandsworth produced three Home Runs with Rockies left fielder in 2001. He had 17 starts in his 25 left field appearances. A freak play ended his 2001 campaign. The former Rookie of the Year fouled a ball off his right shin. The injury was diagnosed as a crushed nerve and fracture in his right shin.
7. Robin Jennings
Robin Jennings, no relation to former Rockies’ starting pitcher Jason Jennings, was the trade counterpart for Ron Gant. That his name is mentioned with Ron Gant, it is his lone highlight for 2001. Jennings played one game for the Rockies. That solo game on July 18 was as a starting left fielder in San Francisco. He batted seventh, went 0-3 and committed an error. The next day he was traded to Cincinnati with Todd Walker for Alex Ochoa.
8. Brooks Kieschnick
The 10th overall draft pick from 1993 showed up in left field on eight different occasions. He only compiled three starts in the corner outfield position. Kieschnick was primarily a pinch hitter for the Rockies in 2001. Kieschnick’s MLB career ended as a pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers.
9. Mark Little
Little contributed to the left field campaign 14 times in 2001 — two of those as a starter. Injuries curtailed his season. Little accumulated 92 games on the disabled list.
10. Greg Norton
Norton showed up on the left field ledger 22 times, 13 as a starter. The proverbial utility man played both corner outfield positions as well as both corner infield positions in 2001. Norton also belted 17 pinch hits, third most amongst MLB leaders.
11. Alex Ochoa
Ochoa was part of the second Robin Jennings trade in 2001. After the acquisition he became an outfield regular in the Mile High City. The Miami native started 30 games in left field. Ochoa also had three outfield assists from left. The Rockies traded Ochoa later in the offseason to the New York Mets as part of a three-team trade with the Milwaukee Brewers.
12. Terry Shumpert
Of his 24 left field graces, Shumpert made 21 starts. July 7 was his initial appearance in 2001. Shumpert batted .394 with three doubles, a triple and four RBIs in the month of July as the left fielder. His son, Nick, was drafted by the Detroit Tigers this year in the seventh Round.
Source: baseball-reference.com and Colorado Rockies