5 Colorado Rockies Bank on more cost cutting if a pair of aces fails to rebound from a poor 2001

March 25, 2002

Although they are both lefthanded pitchers who failed to put
enough zeros on the scoreboard to justify all the zeros in their
paychecks last season, Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle have little
else in common. Hampton is a roaring fire, a bulldog of a
pitcher who looks as if he should be in a helmet and pads
instead of on the mound. Neagle is a cool breeze, a jovial
fellow with an easy delivery and a relaxed manner. But in an
attempt to atone for their lackluster performances of a year
ago, it seems that, without even realizing it, each is trying to
adopt a bit of the other's personality. Hampton has vowed to
tone down his intensity, while Neagle intends to dial his up a
notch.

Rockies manager Buddy Bell doesn't care if Hampton and Neagle
wear each other's uniforms, as long as they start to resemble
the kind of pitchers Colorado thought it was getting when it
signed them to fat free-agent contracts last year. If they
don't, the Rockies are in for their third last-place finish in
the last four years. Colorado gave Hampton an eight-year, $121
million deal, the most lucrative ever for a pitcher, and the
first return on their investment was his 14-13 record and 5.41
ERA. Neagle signed a five-year, $51 million contract and
finished 9-8 with a 5.38 ERA. Coors Field, every hitter's best
friend, can't be singled out as the culprit. Hampton was 6-7
with a 5.10 ERA on the road, and Neagle was more effective at
Coors, where he was 6-2.

After a 9-2 start Hampton's season went south. Despite a
lingering groin injury that would ultimately require surgery
after the season, he insisted on pitching with the pain and
doing his normal running and throwing on days between starts.
"I'm getting paid to be the ace of the staff, and I wanted to do
my job," he says. "This year I'm going to take a day off here
and there when I feel my body needs a rest."

Neagle hopes his body won't need as much rest this year. He
attacked his weightlifting with new determination during the
off-season, intent on building his endurance. "It was a matter
of doing three sets instead of my usual two, or 12 reps instead
of eight or 10," he says. "I want to get back to pitching deep
into games again, to being a 200-inning pitcher." Neagle threw
only 170 2/3 innings last year, an average of 5 2/3 innings in
his 30 starts, and worked as many as seven innings just twice.

Concerned about the budget drain caused by Hampton's and
Neagle's deals as well as the nine-year, $141.5 million contract
extension given to All-Star first baseman Todd Helton before
last season, the formerly free-spending Rockies dumped several
players to trim their payroll from $65 million to $51 million,
including Jeff Cirillo, their solid third baseman, whom they
dealt to the Mariners. Outfielder Larry Walker shook up training
camp when he blasted management's spending cuts and indicated
that he wouldn't mind being traded. Walker, who won his third
batting title in 2001, agreed to defer $18 million of his salary
last year because he was told it would help Colorado sign
Hampton without having to break up the rest of the team. "A lot
of lies," Walker told The Denver Post. He also said that he was
angered to see Helton get his big deal a few days after he
deferred his money.

The Rockies have no plans to explore trade possibilities for
Walker, who submitted a list of teams for whom he would consider
waiving his no-trade clause, including the Diamondbacks and the
Cardinals. Colorado badly needs Hampton and Neagle to regain
their old form, or disgruntled players and fans might be flying
out of Coors Field as frequently as home run balls. --P.T.

COLOR PHOTO: TOM DIPACE Hampton, the highest-paid pitcher in history, could not blame Coors Field for his woes last season, as he had a losing record on the road. COLOR PHOTO: TODD WARSHAW/GETTY IMAGES PIERRE

In FACT
On May 19 the Rockies were defeated 1-0 (by the Marlins) for
only the second time in their nine-year history.

ENEMY LINES
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Rockies

"They got Todd Zeile for nothing, and that's exactly what
they're going to get. His bat is slow, and his defense is below
average.... Juan Uribe will be a star. He has all the
tools--hands, feet, glove, lots of energy. He will hit with
power and can be a Gold Glove defender.... Jose Ortiz is
undisciplined at the plate. He's real rough around the edges,
and some of the people in the organization are disappointed in
his lack of progress offensively. Defensively he's not quick
enough turning the double play.... Juan Pierre has an
outstanding makeup, good speed, .330 ability, and he's an
improving defender.... Having Todd Hollandsworth back for a full
year will help a lot. The team went south when he went out last
year.... Mike Hampton didn't throw well this spring. He's gone a
little cutter-crazy and hasn't gotten outs with it. The velocity
is there, but he's shown no confidence in his sinker or his
two-seamer. He's not close to commanding his fastball, so he's
going cutter, cutter, cutter. It's ass-backward.... Denny
Neagle's fastball is still 82 to 86, but he can pitch and change
speeds. I'd give him the ball every fifth day and figure on
getting at least six innings.... I'm a big John Thomson fan. If
he stays healthy, he could pitch at the top of a rotation. He
throws 90 to 94 with an 87-to-88-mph turbo slider. He's had some
off-the-field problems [in 2000 he spent a month in rehab for
alcohol abuse], but he got married and has matured, so I look
for him to have a big year."

THE LINEUP
projected roster with 2001 statistics

PLAYER B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
BATTING ORDER

CF Juan Pierre L 72 .327 2 55 46
SS Juan Uribe R 110 .300 8 53 3
RF Larry Walker L-R 7 .350 38 123 14
1B Todd Helton L 4 .336 49 146 7
3B Todd Zeile R 135 .266 10 62 1
LF Todd Hollandsworth L 91 .368 6 19 5
2B Jose Ortiz* R 58 .240 13 38 4
C Ben Petrick R 193 .238 11 39 3

BENCH

OF Benny Agbayani R 221 .277 6 27 4
IF Greg Norton S-R 245 .267 13 40 1
IF Terry Shumpert R 275 .289 4 24 14

PITCHER PVR W L IPS WHIP ERA
STARTERS

LH Mike Hampton 114 14 13 6.3 1.58 5.41
LH Denny Neagle 121 9 8 5.7 1.48 5.38
RH Shawn Chacon 193 6 10 5.9 1.53 5.06
RH John Thomson 173 4 5 6.7 1.16 4.04
RH Denny Stark (R)* 198 14 2 6.3 1.09 2.37

PITCHER PVR W L S WHIP ERA
BULLPEN

RH Jose Jimenez 74 6 1 17 1.42 4.09
RH Jose Paniagua 201 4 3 3 1.47 4.36
RH Justin Speier 218 6 3 0 1.19 4.58

[1]New acquisition (R) Rookie B-T: Bats-throws IPS: Innings
pitched per start

WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched PVR: Player
Value Ranking (explanation on page 154)

*Triple A stats [2]Combined AL and NL stats

Manager
Buddy Bell
third season with Colorado

2001 record
73-89
fifth in NL West

IN THE FIELD
with defensive ratings

Golden Glover

Uribe
Helton
Hampton

Good Leather

Hollandsworth
Pierre
Walker
Ortiz
Petrick

Iron Hands

Zeile

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)