Cleveland Indian’s pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez will serve his five game suspension for hitting former teammate Troy Tulowitzki with a pitch and then chargin off the mound towards him. The incident, which happened against the Colorado Rockies in an exhibition game on Sunday, will negate one start from Jimenez’s season. His intent, despite his own claim that he lost control of the pitch, was easy to see because of the now bad history between Jimenez and the Rockies. However, the Rockies and Tulowitzki should have seen it coming. They broke baseball’s code and publically questioned the heart of their former pitcher.
Ubaldo Jimenez’s last five months with the team were by no means pleasant. Jimenez damaged his cuticle in spring training 2011, which limited his ability to control the ball. It was pretty apparent that he was dealing with injuries when the 2011 regular season began as he started the season with four losses before recording his first win.
As reported by Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post, Jimenez wanted a contract extension from the Rockies after Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez signed massive deals before the 2011 season. The ace had a 19-8 record with a 2.88 ERA in 2010. He had one of the best first half’s in the history of baseball that year, including throwing a no-hitter. He probably should have been extended an offer of a new contract by the Rockies , although they promised to work something out with him the next winter. However, no one in their right mind would believe that Jimenez was purposefully throwing games in 2011 to get a better contract.
Finally, there was the divorce. In an awkward game on July 31st, 2011, it was announced that Jimenez had been traded to Cleveland. Everyone, including the pitcher, knew this but Tracy still sent Jimenez out to pitch the first inning. He was just terrible and exited the game to start a new life in Cleveland. Not to steal a line from Jim Tracy, but the Rockies treatment of Jimenez on July 31st was the most gutless act I’ve ever seen in my (21) years of baseball.
The final piece in the Jimenez debacle was Tulowitzki’s comments in that same Kiszla article. Tulowitzki said that Jimenez had no desire to be with the Rockies and that he told him to tell this to management last season. Tulo’s comments imply that Jimenez had done nothing to deserve a new contract and seemed to doubt his commitment to baseball. It’s a move played by the Rockies organization in the past. Matt Holliday and Seth Smith’s motivations have been questioned by the Rockies. Of course, Holiday won a championship in St. Louis this past season and is now the star of the city.
As for Tulowitzki, he should have seen the fastball coming his way. Tulowitzki wants to be the leader of this team. He is willing to call out players that he believes are letting the organization down, but this comes at a price. He broke the code in baseball. He threw a former teammate under the bus. The league wants their players to police themselves and that’s what Jimenez did.
I do not expect former Rockie Ian Stewart to throw at Tulowitzki the next time he plays third base against the club, but it could happen because Tulo publically questioned Stewart’s commitment to the game. Tulowitzki has to accept the risk of speaking out in this sport because there are no enforcers. In the end, all that remains from this story is a broken pitcher who is sitting out a game and a brief distraction for the Rockies from their regular season problems, which will be exposed starting Friday.