RH Jason Jennings
RH Aaron Cook
LH Jeff Francis
RH Byung-Hyun Kim
RH Sun-Woo Kim
spent part of his off-season playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic,
where he found the fans to be warm and welcoming, considerably more fluent in
English than he was in Spanish and, thankfully, largely unaware of the bizarre
turn of events that derailed what was shaping up as a Rookie of the Year
season. Stateside fans are more likely to remind the shortstop of the broken
left collarbone he suffered when he fell while carrying a package of deer meat
up a flight of stairs on June 5. He hit .329 with eight homers in 54 games
before the injury, but after missing 78 games he returned on Sept. 2 and looked
like a different player, hitting .216 with two homers over the last month.
Hoosier from Vincennes, Ind., Barmes, 27, handles the teasing about his freak
injury good-naturedly. He realizes that the incident would have attracted less
attention if he hadn't originally told the team and the media that he had
fallen while carrying groceries, an attempt to cover up the fact that he had
been riding all-terrain vehicles and scouting deer with teammates Todd Helton
and Brad Hawpe. He fudged the facts to try to keep from implicating his
teammates in what could have been construed as a reckless activity. "I
brought some of it on myself by handling it the wrong way," says Barmes,
who tripped while transferring the package of meat from one arm to the other.
"I still get some fans yelling things. I can't say I enjoy having it
brought up, but I can laugh about it a little bit."
Barmes is far
less concerned with the deer jokes than with his struggles after he returned
from the injury. Colorado's chances of improving significantly on last year's
67--95 record and climbing out of the NL West basement hinge on whether the
real Barmes is closer to the one who hit a walk-off home run against San
Diego's Trevor Hoffman on Opening Day and was leading the majors in batting in
mid-May or the one who finished the year looking lost at the plate. "The
development of young players like Clint is key for us," says manager Clint
nosedive was at least partly a result of Barmes's desire to immediately atone
for his long absence. "I was trying so hard to pick up right where I left
off," he says. "My timing was off after missing three months, and
instead of realizing that and being patient, I tried so hard to get it all back
right away that it just made things worse."
thought that a stint in winter ball would help Barmes make up for lost time,
and they were encouraged by how willingly he accepted their suggestion.
"His intangibles, things like work ethic and willingness to sacrifice for
the team, have always been off the chart," says general manager Dan O'Dowd.
Barmes's numbers in winter ball weren't stellar (.233, one homer, eight RBIs in
25 games), but he got valuable at bats against major-league-caliber pitching
and had a chance to work on his defense on infields that aren't as finely
manicured as the ones in the National League. "If you can field down there,
you can field anywhere," he says.
season was essentially the reverse of the team's; the Rockies buried themselves
by losing 35 of their first 50 games but recovered to go 30--28 after Aug. 1,
the second-best stretch run in the division. Barmes is one of several young
players, including starting outfielders Hawpe, Matt Holliday and Cory Sullivan,
who the Colorado brass believes are ready to turn a taste of major league
success into something more permanent. "We played better in the second half
last year, and we should build off that," says Holliday, 26, who had 19
home runs and 87 RBIs in his second full season. "We have a lot of
second-year players. In your first year you go out wondering if you really
belong, but in your second year you come back knowing you can play at this
It's not quite
that simple for Barmes, who knows how easily success can turn to failure.
"It's like having a whole career wrapped into one year," he says.
"I've been up pretty high, and I've gone about as low as you can go. I
think it's made me a better player. All I can do is try to climb back up there
But this time
he'll watch his step.
.337 career batting average would rank 17th alltime, but he is 440 at bats shy
of qualifying for the list (minimum: 5,000). The only hitter in the top 20 who
is not in the Hall of Fame is Tony Gwynn, a lock for 2007.