Is baseball a game? Absolutely. Is baseball a business as well? You better believe it. The Colorado Rockies proved that on Tuesday afternoon.
Ben Paulsen and Rafael Ynoa were designated for assignment on Tuesday, making way for Pat Valaika and Jordan Patterson to join the team. A new wave of Rockies proved their worth. An older duo was sent packing. It’s a harsh reality … but Major League Baseball is a business.
I know many of you out there shrugged at the news of Paulsen and Ynoa leaving the Rockies. Some of you may have even celebrated or thought the team immediately got better. Statistically, it’s very possible. However, I must admit I hated to hear the news of Paulsen being DFA’d.
Before moving to Denver, I worked in Tulsa, covering the Tulsa Drillers for The Tulsa World. I spent many nights at ONEOK Field in downtown Tulsa and watched Paulsen extensively during the 2011 and 2012 seasons. I interviewed him several times. He was a guy who was gracious with his time and thoughtful with his answers.
When he was called up to the Rockies in 2014, I admit I was happy with the news. It was one of those cases of a guy who I thought deserved a shot in the big leagues. Colorado gave him that chance.
In 2015, whether he was playing first or in the outfield, Paulsen made an impact. I was in the press box the day he made a phenomenal catch in left field. He batted .277 with 11 homers and 49 RBI with 325 at-bats. Those were good, but not spectacular numbers.
That’s one of the reasons why Mark Reynolds was brought in during the offseason. The Rockies thought they could upgrade the first base position. Paulsen and Reynolds platooned … and it seemed to work for a while. When I traveled to San Diego for a Rockies series against the Padres in early May, I caught up with Paulsen again. At the time, he was one of five Colorado players with 10 or more RBI 25 games into the season. He had hit safely in 10 of his 12 starts. Things were working.
But then we were reminded that baseball is a business.
On May 13, not long after that Padres series, Paulsen was optioned to Triple-A to make room for Daniel Descalso. He was sent to Albuquerque with a .100 average in May. His swing that had been so reliable suddenly wasn’t to be trusted. He wouldn’t return to Colorado until August 12.
He didn’t fare much better in his August return, batting just .115 as Mark Reynolds underwent surgery for a broken hamate bone. Walt Weiss said he thought his swing would come back. It didn’t.
And that’s the main reason why Paulsen was designated for assignment on Thursday. Baseball is a business. If you can’t hit a baseball, you can’t help your team win. It’s that simple. It’s cold, but true.
I asked Weiss about the decision on Tuesday afternoon.
“It’s tough. It’s a tough racket,” Weiss said. “I’ve always respected Benny because he’s overcome some things. He forced his way into the picture. He was one of those guys and you always give those guys credit because you know how difficult that is. Every time he showed up here, he played extremely well for us. The last time he was here, he looked out of sorts a little bit. The timing was a little off and he didn’t look like himself.
“You got here and it’s great but then you have to work twice as hard to stay here and put together a career. It’s very difficult to. Benny will land on his feet because he’s good at persevering. He’s already shown that. He’ll get an opportunity to do that again.”