Monthly archives: August 2005
Silver Linings R Us
According to a semi-scientific SI.com study, Coors Field and Rockies baseball rank third in the majors in "Fan Value Index." They're behind only Milwaukee and Pittsburgh, so obviously recent playoff history is not something that was taken into account very highly. Unsurprisingly, the Mets and Marlins finished last and 29th. I want to change the channel when I even see Shea or Joe Robbie on TV, let alone attend a game at either yard in person.
The list has an interesting structure. The traditonally great-drawing teams with old stadiums and expensive ticket prices (Cubs, Red Sox, Yankees) are all clustered together. The bottom five is all outdated parks, with the exception of Detroit's Comerica Park -- what happened there? Oh, right, it's in Detroit. Unsurprisingly, Tropicana Field and its hideous pockmarked gray turf is 23rd. Less predictable is the Giants' SBC Park's placing, 24th. It's true that the ticket prices there are borderline extortionate, but SBC is extremely pretty within and without and is within walking distance of downtown San Francisco.
Other surprises: Busch Stadium at number six? The crowds are good, but the stadium is decrepit and that part of St. Louis is a graveyard. Bank One at ninth? The ticket prices aren't that far removed from SBC's and the place has the atmosphere of an airplane hangar. I do think Miller Park is extremely underrated and The Big A in Anaheim is probably the stadium among those I haven't visited that I'd like to see the most. Still, the list seems to reward bad teams with new parks, who would be more than glad to raise ticket prices if only the team was good enough to get people into the seats based on their competitive strength.
I would have liked to see a few additional categories evaluated, particularly the availability of decent tickets for around $15. It's well-known that you can't get tickets cheap for Cubs games, but if you shell out every seat in the house except the obstructed-view ones is pretty good. On the other hand for ten dollars you can sit in the centerfield upper deck in Oakland, which is actually a pretty good view. By contrast if you have any interest in actually seeing a baseball game at Comiskey Park, it's going to be twenty-five bucks at least. The rightfield bleachers at Coors Field might be my favorite seats in all of baseball for around eighteen bucks -- of course, I did catch a home run there.
The thing that really leaps out in SI's breakdown of Coors' good points is an appreciation for the neighborhood (it's cool, but it's no Wrigleyville) and an apparently impressive number of bathrooms. Says here Coors Field has 29 men's rooms. Who knew? Gives me something interesting to do at the next game I go to, anyway.
Giants 4, Rockies 3
Another encouraging start from Aaron Cook, more offense from Todd Helton (first half? what first half?), lots of strikeouts, no walks, one-run loss. So much for reliable setup man Mike DeJean. What's the deal with the continuing Cory Sullivan leadoff experiment? Has Clint Hurdle been taking Dusty Baker chewable vitamins? Cory has more at-bats in the #1 slot than anyone else on the Rockies roster (141) and for that show of support has posted a .278 OBP when hitting first and .305 overall. J.D. Closser is at .312.
Would anyone object at this point if Hurdle did something mildly creative like hit Matt Holliday leadoff? With Garrett Atkins hitting second, Todd Helton might get to bat with runners in scoring position every so often. Then again, if you move Holliday, who do you put in the four spot to protect Todd? Come back, Brad Hawpe, we need you. Although Jorge Piedra or Bizarro Dustan Mohr would not be a bad stopgap solution. Isn't funny how just when the Rockies are coming around to the fact that Aaron Miles isn't a good player, they're rotating in a guy with the same offensive flaws?
The Rockies as a team are .307 in leadoff OBP, 14th in the NL, which is simply not acceptable for a club that plays half its games on the moon. While he has hit for some pop recently, why try and make Holliday into something he's not in a middle-of-the-order hitter? With Sullivan, Omar Quintanilla, and the free agent catcher behind door number three, the '06 Colorado offense is going to be as poor if not worse than the current model, even if Clint Barmes hits .350. Which he won't.
Jeff Francis faces Kevin Correia today as the Rockies wrap up the series and the month. A win today and Colorado finishes August 16-13, which has to be described as progress. The pessimist in me says for every advance the starting pitching is making the offense is right there to meet them with a step back. Prove me wrong, boys! Prove me wrong!
Almost forgot: are we happy or sad that Shawn Chacon finally got blown out of a game for New York? Eight hits, four walks, and eight earned in six innings. He gave up a dinger to Ichiro, even. I can't recall whether we're rooting for Chacon's new venture or not. Simply as a fan of baseball history I will find it amusing if a team that has started 14 different pitchers this year squeezes into postseason play. They have Hideo Nomo stashed away in Columbus, too!
Rockies 2, Giants 1
A good win to get, as a victory in Matt Cain's debut might have given the Giants a lot of momentum for the rest of the series. Cain did well to get out with the numbers he did (two earned runs in five innings pitched) seeing as he walked four. The Rockies' pitching staff, on the other hand, walked no one. Byung-Hyun Kim struck out six and went seven solid in one of his best starts of the year. Mike DeJean pitched a perfect eighth, Brian Fuentes pitched a perfect ninth. They should all be so easy. (Another road homer for Matt Holliday, too. Woo!)
It's around this time of year that people who don't follow the Rockies very closely (many of whom, sadly, live right here in the Denver area) glance towards the bottom climes of the standings tables and declare fustily, "See, I told you they could never win at altitude!" More and more often lately, when I mention to people that I run a Rockies blog, I get a prepared statement in response regarding how their pitching staff always breaks down. Well, we did lose Jason Jennings and Dan Miceli, but I'm unconvinced that that's a bad thing. Jeff Francis has had his ups and downs (like a recent 4-start stretch when he allowed 24 earned runs in 18 innings) but his home ERA is practically two points lower than his road ERA and he did look very strong the other day in San Diego.
Byung-Hyun Kim, on the other hand, has been starting more or less all year (since May anyway) and he's pitching better now than he has all season. August will mark the fourth straight month his ERA will have been lowered from the month preceding. I'm not going to say that BK is a bold new vanguard for Rockies pitching (he is 4-10), but he is a good sign that there are some things that Colorado is doing right with regards to building a winning pitching staff, and there are some others they need to think harder about.
The obvious thing that they are nailing is the bullpen. It's a foregone conclusion that Colorado is going to be around the league lead in innings pitched by the bullpen every year, so it might be worth assembling one with particular care. This year's model bears little resemblance to the Spring Training plan, but with guys like David Cortes and Marcos Carvajal who can pitch multiple effective innings, and a real-no-fooling setup man and closer in DeJean and Fuentes, the Rockies can be pleased with getting five innings out of their starters more often than not. The best part is keeping the bullpen decent should be relatively cheap. Other teams are unlikely to bid high on many of the Rockies' middle relief guys because, well, they're Rockies middle relief guys. Add that to the fact that Colorado has inadvertently lucked into a legitimate star closer in Brian Fuentes and it could be the glory days of 1995 all over again.
Then there's the other hand. Byung-Hyun Kim is a talented guy, and he's well-compensated for what he does. He's a bargain compared to, say, Chan Ho Park or Russ Ortiz, but that's like saying Bronson Arroyo is a better guitar player than Barry Zito. The competition is not fierce. The only reason Colorado has Kim and his high paycheck ($6.6 million) is they exchanged Charles Johnson's even more onerous contract for his in one of those lovable modern-era salary boondoggle trades. Still, as the trades of Shawn Chacon and Joe Kennedy (3-0 in the AL!) evidence, the Rockies are terrified to pay starting pitchers real money. This will not do. Even the A's are willing to pay the going rate for a Mark Redman every now and then if he's the missing piece their rotation needs.
Colorado is understandably spooked about bringing in veteran hurlers after the Hampton and Neagle fiascos. This is stupid. Those guys were mediocre players whom the Rockies opened the checkbook for in the vain hope that somehow being paid like aces would make them so. Colorado has to be willing to pay the price ($4-6 million per) for Steve Trachsel types, guys who will pitch 200 innings from the four spot in the rotation and not embarrass themselves doing so. It's improbable to expect them to cobble together an entire rotation from prospects, projects, and waiver claims. Sure, trying to develop an ace is a smart and economical strategy. Maybe Francis or Aaron Cook will become The Guy. But future dependence on the Zach Days, Jamey Wrights, and Joe Kennedys of the world is not a blueprint for success.
This time of year is pretty dreary for non-contenders. The Rockies can't even play the role of spoilers because the bulk of their remaining games will be played within a division that isn't good enough to spoil. They meet up with the Giants this week, a team like the Rockies already setting their sights on 2006. The first game of the series will be an early indicator for San Francisco, who will pitch 20-year-old Matt Cain. The guides are wild about Cain (BP: "One of the five best best pitching prospects in baseball") but then again they have been wrong about many young Giants arms before (Foppert, Ainsworth, Williams, et cetera). Anyway it could be a highlight in a rather sad Giants season that's been highlighted by pining for Barry, intense debate over a bigoted radio blowhard, and being amused by Jeff Kent's malfeasance elsewhere.
The Rockies will throw good old dependable Byung-Hyun out there tonight, then follow with Aaron Cook and Jeff Francis, who will face fellow youngsters Brad Hennessey and Kevin Correia. Finally Colorado can say "we have our three best starters going" and have it mean something. Mix defense-friendly conditions at lovely SBC Park with the Giants' lame hitting attack (15th in the NL in OPS) and it could be continued success for the Rockies. Why stop at four road series wins? Why not a sweep? Indeed, why not?
Rockies 4, Padres 2 and Padres 4, Rockies 3
I saw none of either game this weekend. USA had a "Monk" marathon on Saturday so I missed Todd Helton providing all the offense in a win that made Rockies history: four consecutive road series wins for the first time ever. This second half is really making up for the dismal first half. If Clint Barmes can come back and play really well in September, and all of our unexpected starting stars -- Kim, Kim, and Cook -- can continue making progress, and Danny Ardoin is mauled by a tiger, well...we'll still probably be the worst team in the National League. But compared to Arizona, Pittsburgh, or the Reds, you have to like our future.
It would have been nice to get the road sweep, but with Jamey Wright on the mound? Not happening. The Rockies did strike out significantly less than the Padres did in this game, so there's a positive. Only six hits, though. I didn't see any of this game because I was concentrating on the A's welcome return to first place. That and mounting Kyle Orton drama. I couldn't help myself and took Orton in the 21st round of my fantasy football draft yesterday; I doubt he will play behind Trent Green and Chad Pennington, but it will be nice to have him as a talisman.
Rockies 4, Padres 3
Hooray for the return of the good Jeff Francis. Can you see him bolting for San Diego as soon as his free agency status allows it? Maybe they can bring back the old hitters' background for him and he can be even more dominant. As I will keep mentioning until they stop doing it, the Rockies offense walked less (4 to 5) and struck out more (9 to 5) than their Padres counterparts. Is it not obvious to anyone in the Colorado organization that at Coors and abroad, putting the ball in play and getting runners on base is a sound winning strategy? I don't know why I'm being so down while they're winning...maybe it was Joe Kennedy's easy win for Oakland today. Where was that all year in Denver, Joe?
There have been a lot of articles about the weakness of the NL West lately (here's the latest, from Yahoo! Sports), but very few of them mention the fact that absent their brutal April, the Rockies have actually been as good if not better than their divisional brethren. Lesson here for Colorado: get off the blocks a little stronger in '06.
Rockies 5, Dodgers 4
Two rare but encouraging events converged last night: Matt Holliday hit for some power on the road, and the Rockies got a solid starting performance (from Aaron Cook). Colorado struck out more than the Dodgers, but tied them in walks, so I suppose that is progress. Danny Ardoin had one of his trademark four-strikeout nights. Lord, I can't stand Danny Ardoin. In addition to Holliday's homer, Dustan Mohr connected (as happens more often than not these days) and Aaron Miles hit one as well, only his second of the year. I have heard some hints of sympathy in the press for Miles, who is clearly on his way out. Trust me, Rockies fans: don't cry for Aaron Miles.
The Padres in San Diego tonight, draw your own conclusions. The Padres are a .500 team that's playing like one. They've had a knack for not winning games they should this year so there's no reason the good times can't continue rolling for Clint Hurdle and company. Well, I suppose a Jamey Wright start would constitute a reason. Adam Eaton pitching in the first game for San Diego is another one. Still, Jeff Francis is due for a good game and PetCo is kind to pitchers. How about the Rockies win the first two for an unthinkable four-game road winning streak?
Rockies 2, Dodgers 1
Let's hear it for Byung-Hyun Kim. Although he didn't figure in the decision, his 6 2/3 scoreless innings in Los Angeles last night won the game for the Rockies. Although it looked repeatedly as if his offense was going to let him down, Colorado just managed to produce the required runs (on doubles by Aaron Miles and Matt Holliday) and the bullpen did what it had to do. Isn't it a treat when your starting pitcher does most of the heavy lifting for you? With a road offense as poor as the Rockies', it's something we need to see more often.
Good game for Miles, though (two hits) and it almost goes without saying, Todd Helton. Once again, Colorado struck out more and walked less than its opponent. It's like a team specialty. Let's hope Aaron Cook can match or better Kim tonight and the Rockies can get out of L.A. with another rare road series victory.
Dodgers 8, Rockies 3
This is how it is for the Rockies this season: they face off against a team whose clubhouse is imploding, and they can't even put up a fight. Someone, please, put Jamey Wright out of his misery. Jorge Piedra (another homer) has been good lately. Otherwise, it's the same old story -- bad offense, bad starter, bad game. Yawn.
This late in the season, what's there to say? The Rockies have met the Dodgers ten times so far this season. Besides a sweep in Los Angeles in late April during a ten-game losing streak for Colorado, the Rockies have played the battle-scarred Dodgers pretty tight. As of this writing, here's who's on the Los Angeles disabled list: Eric Gagne, J.D. Drew, Paul Bako, Odalis Perez, Wilson Alvarez, Kelly Wunsch, Jason Grabowski, and Darren Dreifort. Also Brad Penny has been suspended and Milton Bradley is hurt but not on the DL. And yet they're only one good week away from contending in the NL West at five games out.
Jeff Kent is the guy not to let beat you, although relative no-names Olmedo Saenz, Ricky Ledee, and Hee Seop Choi have good numbers as part-timers. Young catcher Dioner Navarro is one of those non-prospects risen somehow to star status by the utter lack of talent that surrounded him in his former organization in New York. Yhency Brazoban has struggled as Gagne's replacement and has lost the closer's title to Duaner Sanchez. The beatable trio of Jeff Weaver, D.J. Houlton, and Penny will face the...also beatable trio of Jamey Wright, Byung-Hyun Kim, and Aaron Cook in this three-game road series. I'm going to go out on a limb and say Colorado takes the last two games here. Why not? The Dodgers like the Cubs before them are just looking for a reason to call it quits on the season and Kim and Cook are both capable of having big games on the road. Only a knack for not being injured has kept Wright his starting job. We'll see how he plays out the string.
Rockies 9, Cubs 7
Kind of an interesting game yesterday, even for those of us who didn't catch home runs. It was one of those old-fashioned Coors slugfests that have been less common this year what with the improved Colorado bullpen and diminished Rockies offense. I have no statistical evidence to indicate any sort of phenomenon at work, but have you ever observed that closers sent in to games with the lead but in non-save situations tend to demonstrate breaks in concentration? For example, giving up back-to-back home runs and a triple as Brian Fuentes did with a four-run lead in the ninth?
Besides the homers by Dustan Mohr, Jorge Piedra, Garrett Atkins, and Matt Holliday, the impressive thing about the Rockies on Sunday was the performance of two unheralded recent arrivals in the middle relief corps, Sunny Kim and Randy Williams. As usual the Rockies struck out more and walked less than their competition, but the numbers were closer than they often are. Although the big crowds at Coors this weekend were there in large part to see the Cubbies, it seems to me that the home team gained some converts with Colorado's solid performance in the three-games series. There are a lot of baseball fans in this region. They're all waiting for the Rockies to give them a reason to go wild for them.
It's not going to be next year, as Dan O'Dowd's repeated proclamations regarding "payroll flexibility" (and meaning quite the opposite) indicate. For better or worse, the Rockies team you see next year is going to be much the same guys as you see right now, give or take a journeyman reliever or two. It seems to me as if the Rockies management should have two models in mind as they attempt to appear more respectable in 2006. The first is the '04 Tigers. After a truly miserable 2003 season, Detroit overpaid for Ivan Rodriguez. He didn't turn them into a contending team, but his star power was enough to give the team a veneer of respectability that won back much local goodwill. The other team the Rockies should cast an eye towards is the noncompeting Pirates of recent vintage. While waiting for their farm system to get rebuilt from the ground up, Pittsburgh has had a tendency to sign moderately appealing veteran players to one-year deals. It hasn't had quite the effect on the field that they've hoped, but it has given them some ammunition to flip at midseason to reinforce gaps in the minor-league development program.
While it's not worth the Rockies wasting money and playing time on the Desi Relafords of the world, had Dustan Mohr decided to have a good FIRST half instead of second and Todd Greene not been injured, those guys could have brought in some swag. Bad luck this year shouldn't dissuade O'Dowd from making a few signings next season, particularly at catcher and in the outfield.
Clint Barmes' injury this year could end up having consequences next season as well. Had Clint played out the whole of 2005, the Rockies would have a better idea of his true performance level. They're going to expect him to be an above-average everyday shortstop all year next season, and that may be asking too much. Colorado should be prepared to test Barmes, Omar Quintanilla, and Luis Gonzalez at both short and second in spring training and figure out what works best rather than assuming Clint's early '05 earns him the full-time job at short. As for the outfield, it's Hawpe, Holliday, and who knows. Cory Sullivan has the glove but lacks both power and on-base skills, making him an unappealing starter. The Rockies never really wanted Larry Bigbie and with his recent injury I don't know what the prospects for his return next year will be. Unbelievably, Dustan Mohr may be a guy that Colorado wants back if the price is right. There isn't really anyone else available who leaps readily to mind who can play a bit of center and hit home runs at a respectable clip.
The starting rotation is going to be ghastly. Deal with it. Jeff Francis will hopefully be more consistent than he's been this year but is still awfully young to be counted on as an ace. Jason Jennings will walk tons and strike out no one on his way to being '06's version of Joe Kennedy -- Opening Day starter, gone by the trade deadline. I am deeply pessimistic about Zach Day. If we bring Byung-Hyun back, we'll at least have a fifth starter whom we can count on to be league average most of time and win us a game all by himself every once in a great while. The linchpin is Aaron Cook. If Cook has a solid, healthy year, the Rockies can at least dream of .500. I honestly have no idea whether that will happen or not, but I'm rooting for the guy.
The bullpen will likely be similarly codged together as this year's model, with Brian Fuentes thankfully giving it a trustworthy anchor. I would presume that young guys such as Scott Dohmann and Ryan Speier will play a greater role next year (also a healthy Chin-Hui Tsao, potentially) although with pitching at altitude, you can never be too sure about anything. Marcos Carvajal, most seem to agree, will head to the minors for an apprenticeship as a starter. That's a good idea, seeing as the Rockies need starters much more than middle-inning men. In all likelihood the bullpen will take a slight aggregate step backwards next year, as whatever versions of Mike DeJean and Jay Witasick O'Dowd dredges up in the offseason won't be as good as the ones he lucked into this year.
If the starting pitching becomes incrementally better due to Kennedy and Jamey Wright's happy absences and the bullpen declines slightly due to the law of averages, the 2006 Colorado Rockies will depend on many young guys in the offense taking quantum steps forward to post a better final won-loss record. I imagine they'll be (even) better at home but still awful on the road. Healthier Dodgers and Giants teams (and maybe a returning sub-.500 division champ in San Diego being shamed into spending some money in the offseason) means the division won't likely be as hideous the next time around. The Rockies shouldn't be thinking about the playoffs in 2006 but if they don't work aggressively to position themselves for '07 what's left of the fanbase will have moved on.
A day after I saw Greg Maddux pitch in Denver, my parents were paired in a golf foursome with Brewers pitching coach Mike Maddux (and Milwaukee pitcher Rick Helling) in Wisconsin. Small world. While flipping channels to try and see my highlight from yesterday I noticed that the Sunday evening sports shows in Chicago lead with 10 minutes of White Sox news and 5 minutes on the Cubs. The Denver shows are 18 minutes of Broncos training camp news followed by a single clip from the Rockies game. I haven't been so homesick in a great long while. The Rockies, Nuggets, Avalanche, and Rapids I can learn to embrace. The cut-blocking, Raider-baiting, Clarett-drafting Men of Shanahan, I will sooner die than support.
You Go to Enough Ballgames...
Life is truly a strange and remarkable thing, my friends. You go to an Expos-Marlins game at Comiskey Park, have an entire left-field section to yourself. You sit in the bleachers at Wrigley after a three-hour rain delay. You go to literally dozens of abandoned weekday games at the Oakland mausoleum. You go to spring training games at Maryvale, where you can sit anywhere in the stadium and hear Bob Uecker's voice without a radio. Then you sit among a dense crowd of friendly drunken Cubs fans at one of the better-attended Rockies games of the season, and that's the game you catch a home run.
I wish I could say I made an impressive leaping grab or something, but the fact was, I didn't even see the ball being hit. After devouring one of those great Coors Field ultimate nacho platters (seven bucks and worth every penny, extra sour cream, please) I was more concerned with a cheese stain on my Ron Santo jersey than Jeromy Burnitz at the plate. I did bring a glove to the game, which I never do, but on account of the nachos, I wasn't wearing it. My friend Matt (who just so happens to also throw left-handed) was borrowing it for the inning, put it on hurriedly when Burnitz made contact, and then saw the ball bounce straight up in the air off the glove.
For a moment, everything was in slow motion. I saw an army of hands all around. I don't remember whether I even stood up or not. I don't remember which hand I caught the ball in. But indeed, I caught it. I kept sneaking peeks at it for the remainder of the game to be sure it really happened. My uncle called from Chicago to say he saw me on TV. (Apparently Bob Brenly made fun of me.) Perhaps I made a bit of a fool of myself, but so what? I caught a home run! If ever there was a good reason for a straight man to hug another straight man in public, it's catching a home run at a major league game.
Lost in the natural high was a pretty good ballgame. The Rockies won two of three and shut the huge Cubs contingent at Coors right up. Many people besides me caught home runs, as both teams brought their hitting shoes. I suppose I will write a proper recap later. If you'll excuse me, right now I have to call everyone I know.
Cubs 5, Rockies 3 and Rockies 4, Cubs 2
Friday's game I think needs no recap. More or less the entire Rockies blog community was of the opinion that Mark Prior would make Colorado look bad and win easily, and lo, it was so. Six hits for the Rockies vs. 15 strikeouts. Jorge Piedra hit a homer, though. Yesterday's game was a great deal more compelling as Aaron Cook gave Rockies fans a lot to be excited about for next season. Brian Fuentes facing Derrek Lee with a guy on and two outs in the ninth? Yes, please! Fuentes won the battle, and Colorado secured one of its better-played victories of the year. Dustan Mohr ripped one off of extremely well-compensated middle reliever Kerry Wood.
Today my loyalties will be tested as I return again to the right-field bleachers for Maddux vs. Francis. I guess I'm going to wear my Cubs gear as I'm attending with a fellow Chicago area expatriate, but I wouldn't be terribly disappointed if Jeff Francis gives the Rockies back-to-back gems. A final note: With Nomar Garciaparra hitting .239, don't you think it's time for umpires to tell him to cut it OUT with the stupid glove-adjusting polka after every pitch?
I'm Running Out of Clever Ideas for Headers
The Cubs are in town, so ticket prices are higher and crowds will be slightly denser. This current Cubs team brings with it a theoretically impressive, if seldom intact, starting rotation, and two of the best corner infielders in the majors. As for the bullpen, the outfield, the manager, the middle infield, and the fans, well, not so much. Mark Prior and Byung-Hyun Kim (Friday) and especially Greg Maddux and Jeff Francis (Sunday) have the potential to be real barnburners. Saturday brings us Glendon Rusch and Aaron Cook. Again, not so much.
A brutal eight-game losing streak earlier this month pretty much scuttled Chicago's playoff chances, and the failure of the franchise's first $100 million team combined with the surprising success of the White Sox has Cubs fans much crankier than usual. Besides first baseman Derrek Lee (who I invariably accidentally refer to as "Carlos" whenever he comes up in conversation), the two Cubs having the best year are Matt Clement, now ace of the defending champs, and Ryne Sandberg, now a Hall of Famer. That's what being a Cub fan is all about -- a peculiar sort of nostalgia for old times that were really not that great. Even I'm not immune. I can't hear the names Jody Davis or Damon Berryhill without getting a little misty.
While this most closely-observed of also-rans has a lot of minor flaws Chicago columnists will gladly point out to you (bizarre lineup changes, frequent mental lapses on defense, chronically poor situational hitting) the reasons the Cubs won't win the World Series this year are simple: they're too hurt, and they don't get on base enough. Nomar Garciaparra arguably hurt the team less when he was out injured. Neifi Perez started hot, which really hurt the Cubs -- Dusty Baker has seen his way to giving Perez, rivaled only by Cristian Guzman as the worst offensive player of the modern era, the fourth-most at-bats on the team. Corey Patterson, once the team's great young hitting hope, played so badly he was returned to the minors for a spell.
Patterson's development hasn't been helped along any by a manager in Baker who seems deeply skeptical of young players and young hitters in particular. While Baker's preference for "his" guys (Matt Murton has been miles better than either Jeromy Burnitz or Todd Hollandsworth, but good luck with the playing time, kid) is one of those quirks fans in the Bay Area learned to live with, his boneheaded game managing is another matter entirely. It took "Bake" a ridiculously long time to figure out that neither Patterson nor Perez was a leadoff hitter. Derrek Lee, who's having a historically great season, ranks 75th in the majors in at-bats with runners on, tied with Kansas City's Angel Berroa among others. That is bad!
So on offense you have Lee, Aramis Ramirez, Todd Walker when Baker isn't benching him for defense, and (very quietly) catcher Michael Barrett. Burnitz has been useful for the occasional homer but overall the Cubs' outfield has been terrible. Combine that with a bullpen that ranks 21st in the majors in ERA, injuries to pretty much the entire starting staff (besides, oddly, Maddux), and a 9-19 mark against the fierce NL East, and you've got the recipe for another .500 season. With the Red Sox winning it all last year and the White Sox heading to the postseason this year, that shouldn't sit well with Cubs fans. With Maddux pondering retirement, Kerry Wood's career as a starter (and possibly as a Cub) realistically over, and Garciaparra unlikely to return after a snakebitten year and a half in Chicago, a window that seemed wide open in '03 seems to be slamming shut scary-fast.
That said, they'll probably still whip up on the sad-sack Rockies, who don't tend to fare well against starting pitchers of Maddux and Prior's ilk. As for the Cook-Rusch game, flip a coin. I will probably be watching soccer.
Brewers 6, Rockies 4 and Brewers 2, Rockies 0
The Rockies continue their season-long trends of not getting on base and leaving runners in place on the rare occasions they do. Yesterday Chris Capuano was the story with eight strikeouts in seven shutout innings. Tuesday Jeff Francis had a mediocre start and Colorado had another double-digit number of runners left on base. I mean, what's there to say, really? The offense is awful and the pitching is sporadic to say the least. At least Matt Holliday and Todd Helton are hitting like we expect them to.
Clint Barmes is set to begin a minor-legue rehab assignment. There's really no reason to rush him but as the article mentions no one else in the NL has really distinguished themselves as a Rookie of the Year candidate in his absence. Todd Greene is back in the fold and the Rockies will apparently carry three catchers, at least momentarily. The September roster expansions aren't that far away anyhow and if Colorado's only catching options were J.D. Closser and Wiki Gonzalez, you know Clint Hurdle would find a way to bungle Closser's development. Whatever.
OK, I may be a tad cranky because Cheaty McMustache and his Gang of Orange swept the A's at home. With the abominable Royals coming into town next, this series will be a severe test of the reverse lock theory. Could Oakland possibly lose two of three to the Royals? Boy, I hope not. Elsewhere the White Sox are experiencing their crisis of confidence, right on schedule, and the Phillies moved into a tie for the NL wild card lead. Am I a Phillies believer? Well, at this point, having faith in Philadelphia (and conversely, doubt in Atlanta) has proven to be a sucker's bet. I still think the Astros have the goods, although if anyone gives a scare to the Cardinals in the NL playoffs Tony La Russa is doing something wrong.
The Angels moved two ahead in the AL West as the A's got swept, but they're not feeling terribly confident. The Red Sox, who are starting to regain a bit of their swagger, go into Anaheim tonight. The numbers are looking better for Boston and worse for New York every day. The Cubs looked better than they have in a month in winning a series in Houston. Great, just in time for their trip to Denver. I should have mentioned this earlier, but our old buddy Shawn Chacon got his first win for the Yankees earlier this week. Chacon, who's been throwing well for New York, will start again against the White Sox on Saturday.
Rockies Disaster Report has changed addresses, make the required adjustments.
Root, Root for the Road Team
As mentioned earlier, I'm cheering on the Milwaukee Brewers in this three-game series at Coors Field. I have my Scott Podsednik jersey, my vintage interlocking "MB" cap (from the very early National League days, with the hideous dark blue/dark green cap/bill color scheme), and my sausage race collectible cups (I root for the Polish). The Brewers are doing a sweet job of competing and bringing up young talent this year. Corey Hart is only the latest exciting young guy to make his debut this year. J.J. Hardy and Rickie Weeks are becoming regulars; Prince Fielder put in a cameo during interleague play. They have more than their fair share of older guys who maybe haven't gotten a fair shake in the majors to this point. This is an excellent way to add players the likes of Lyle Overbay and Brady Clark without breaking your budget.
Ben Sheets and Chris Capuano, Milwaukee's two best starters, go along with the very unlucky Victor Santos, who's 3-11 despite better peripherals than any Rockies you'd care to name. Aaron Cook and Jamey Wright are sacrificial lambs in the first and third games. Jeff Francis, who's been as lucky with run support as Santos has been unfortunate, is the best bet to break the Rockies' losing streak. But, you know, they can beat up on the crummy NL West teams in due time. Let the Brewers have their road sweep, they need it.
Nationals 9, Rockies 2
The ESPN recap is here. I don't really feel like saying anything about this one. The Rockies got swept -- obliterated, actually -- by the Expos at home. There's no excuse for that. This whole thing with the Bears is throwing my outlook on the Rockies into sharp relief. The Bears are going to be horrible, again, in 2005, for the exact same reason they were bad last year. (In their case, management that's too cheap and/or dense to provide for a capable second option at quarterback despite a first-string guy who's unproven and fragile). The Rockies are going to uncompetitive again in 2006 for the same reasons as this year, a complete lack of anything resembling a major league starting rotation (with apologies to Jeff Francis and "Jeremy" Jennings) and a power vacuum on offense.
Maybe since I was out of town when Jason Jennings and Joe Kennedy did their best work for the Rockies, I have always looked upon them as a guy who hasn't progressed since a freaky rookie year and a guy the Devil Rays had no use for. I had a slightly better impression of Shawn Chacon going into this year, but, well, he's gone now, and there's no use crying about it. So our rotation next year:
You could say they've got some work to do there. Aaron Cook hasn't shown much yet, and I guess it's not fair to expect him to be great right away. But the Rockies counting on him to be a difference-maker is dumber than the Bears assuming that Grossman would stay healthy all season. Zach Day is going to get whaled on next year. Jose Acevedo is miscast as a Coors starter. Ditto Sunny Kim, assuming they even keep him around. Jamey Wright should have been put out of his misery ages ago, yet for lack of better options he's the one guy besides Francis who's been a constant in the rotation all year. The Marcos Carvajal starter experiment seems intriguing, but he's at least a year away. I'm not a Mike Esposito believer, but his minor league record has earned him a place in the discussion come spring training.
The Rockies can help their starter situation for next year by managing the bullpen as smartly as they have this season. They'd be wise to again load up on as many bargain-bin veteran "names" as they have 40-man space for, as one or two is bound to have a decent year and bring something cool in trade a la Jay Witasick. Indeed, the Rockies have the budget and the playing conditions to do something the Pirates have been doing for a while now. Grab a few unwanted veteran hitters on one-year deals, then flip 'em as soon as their Coors-inflated stats draw interest. I'm sure that was the intention with Dustan Mohr and Desi Relaford this season, but it somewhat backfired due to neither of those guys being any good. As teams like Detroit and Milwaukee have demonstrated, you can take a few steps towards being better next year without compromising your real future three or four seasons down the line.
What the Rockies don't want to do is hand out any huge multiyear contract offers. They have so many needs right now that getting involved in a dramatically poor talent market this offseason could be crippling sooner rather than later. Wait until they have one identifiable huge hole (and players like Brad Hawpe, Garrett Atkins, Cory Sullivan, and J.D. Closser have had more of a chance to show their true performance level) before making that deal. Obviously if there was someone like a Pedro Martinez available who could change the general impression of the franchise quite above and beyond his effect on their win-loss record, that would be a situation in which overspending would be justified. But, there isn't.
I think that it would be helpful to have a more regular starting lineup and defensive alignment, although I will grant Clint Hurdle that he has been presented with precious few players who deserve to play every day. More creative thinking (like hitting Larry Bigbie leadoff, perhaps not a bad idea) would be welcome. The Rockies' goal next year, when it comes to not repeating the mistakes of this one, should be to avoid committing huge numbers of innings and at-bats to players with no trade value and no future role with this (or any major league) franchise. Danny Ardoin, this means you. You too, Jamey Wright.
Nationals 4, Rockies 2 and Nationals 8, Rockies 0
I guess I must be less of a fan than some of the other Rockies bloggers. Truth is, I only follow the team because of geography, and so not for me the rose-colored glasses during the Rockies' recent, now seemingly over, stretch of improved play. Fact the first: the Nationals and Pirates are not good baseball teams. Fact the second: the Rockies are worse than either. Also, Rex Grossman is toast and Liverpool only managed to tie Middlesbrough in their season opener. On the plus side, I seem to be oddly good at the new Madden passing cone thing, the new Death Cab For Cutie record is pretty solid, and Serenity comes out in a month.
Friday: The Rockies put on a pathetic offensive display against journeyman Esteban Loaiza, Jamey Wright pitches marginally better than usual but loses. Only Todd Helton gets more than one hit, although Jorge Piedra hits a homer against Washington middle relief. Saturday: The Rockies leave 15 men on base and somehow get shut out despite good days from everybody 1-4 (Larry Bigbie, Aaron Miles, Helton, and Matt Holliday). Byung-Hyun Kim, who was due to get lit up, got lit up.
It does augur well for next year that both Scott Dohmann and Ryan Speier have looked a lot more prepared in their second go-round in the majors. It's less positive that Omar Quintanilla isn't hitting and a recent lucky run has gotten Clint Hurdle all hot in the pants for Danny Ardoin again. We were winning with Miles and Ardoin on the bench. But more importantly, neither should be with the team next year or they're doing something wrong.
The Brewers are next up and I am rooting for a Milwaukee sweep. Under much more difficult (and much more genuine) financial constraints than Colorado faces, Milwaukee has a real shot at finishing .500 this year. I don't begrudge them the wins.
Well, another reason to be excited about the other football: the Chicago Bears' season is over, before it even began. Again. Expletive deleted.
At No Extra Charge, Your 2005-06 EPL Preview
Do you know what tomorrow is? OK, you don't. But I will tell you. Like literally dozens of other Americans, I will be waking up at 5:30 tomorrow morning to watch the kickoff between Everton and Manchester United beginning another season of Barclays English Premier League Football. I love soccer, it's easily my second favorite sport after baseball. The Premier League is the best soccer in the world, even if it does have its own unique problems -- huge financial disparity between the big teams and the little teams, domination in the standings by a handful of dynastic clubs, regular displays of immense stupidity on the part of its fans. Well, OK, not such unique problems. Also, steroids are not an issue in English football. (Knock on wood.)
While it is true that one of the same three teams wins the league almost every year, the Premiership is structured very differently than American sports, in such a way that there are meaningful storylines for all of the twenty competing teams. There are no playoffs. The team with the best regular season record wins the title. However, a team's finish has tremendous financial bearing on its future. The top four teams in the league qualify for the European Champions' League, which is not only prestigious but guarantees several home dates with Europe's biggest-drawing teams. The fifth through seventh finishers get into the second-tier UEFA Cup tourney. Then there's the real kicker, relegation. If you finish eighteenth, nineteenth, or last, you're out of the league. The first- and second-place finishers plus the winner of a two-round playoff between the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth teams from England's second league, the Coca-Cola Championship, come up to take the places of the last season's relegated teams.
Last year Crystal Palace, Norwich City, and Southampton failed to make the cut. Sunderland, West Ham, and Wigan Athletic take their places for 2005-06. It's usually a real challenge for a team just promoted to avoid going right back down. Players don't want to sign with a team not long for the big leagues. Survive a year, though, and you've got some money to start working your way up the table.
Last year Chelsea, one of six London-based Premiership sides, won their first English title in fifty years with a league record 95 points (wins are worth three points and ties one). It's hard to imagine them waiting fifty years before winning again. More than likely, they'll be repeat champs, with Frank Lampard and Claude Makelele returning and Shaun Wright-Phillips coming on board from Manchester City. They hope Hernan Crespo will score them more goals from the striker position this year, but with Lampard at midfield, who needs goals from strikers?
Arsenal will miss Patrick Vieira but still have goal machine Thierry Henry and a great manager in Arsene Wenger. They're not as loaded as their London rivals Chelsea but will probably win one of the in-season cup tournaments as they often do, raising the FA Cup last season. They need a good year from Jose Reyes, Henry's partner at striker.
Liverpool was buried by injuries in the Premiership last year but rallied to win the Champions' League with a three-goal comeback against AC Milan. It's hard to imagine manager Rafa Benitez not building on that win, already being called one of the greatest games in the history of club football. Full seasons from midfielder Xabi Alonso and striker Djibril Cisse alone would seem to suggest a better finish than last year's fifth, but the Reds have also brought Peter Crouch on board from Southampton and have signed Jose Reina to clear up an uncertain situation in goal. Milan Baros is on his way out but with a better keeper behind an already-stout defense, Liverpool should be able to qualify for another year of the Champions' League in less dramatic fashion.
Manchester United get more like the Yankees every year. They have an aged and pricey core, a fanbase that expects nothing less than a title and a clutch of cups every year, and now even an eccentric American owner. Roy Keane is getting up there in years, Ruud van Nistelrooy isn't as explosive as he once was, and signing 34-year-old goalie Edwin van der Sar isn't quite as desperate an acquisition as the Randy Johnson trade, but it's close. The Red Devils won't fall as hard as the Yankees, though, because in Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo they have A-Rod times two. The uproar over Malcolm Glazer's takeover of the team will get very ugly if they get off to a slow start.
Middlesbrough had a good finish (7th) last season despite weathering some injuries and should keep rising this season. Pairing Yukubu with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink gives them the best front two this side of Arsenal, and some magnificently silly names to boot. Bolton should be joining them in Europe with Sam Allardyce's keen eye for far-flung talent and Jay-Jay Okocha's leadership. The battle for the final UEFA Cup spot will be fierce but I think Tottenham Hotspur, who overcame some ridiculous off-field distractions last year to finish eighth, has the goods. In Edgar Davids they've added the biggest star among the mid-table teams and Jermain Defoe returns. Manchester City seem a good bet to finish just a place out of Europe again. They do have a good shot at beating United in one of their derby games this year, however. Goals scored/goals allowed isn't as perfect a predictor of won-loss record as baseball's RS/RA, but Everton seems awfully lucky to have finished fourth last year despite giving up one more than they themselves scored. Back to the middle climes for the Toffees, I think.
Hanging around just out of the money you have Aston Villa, who already have Juan Pablo Angel and are looking to add Milan Baros. That'll give them some great scoring but what they really need to worry about is keeping some balls out of their own net. Newcastle United would dearly love to give grand old man Alan Shearer a proper sendoff, but haven't assembled much around him to carry it off. Blackburn Rovers took Newcastle's problem child Craig Bellamy off of their hands but otherwise return the same team that finished 15th last year. You have to like a club that takes its defense seriously, though (7th in goals allowed last year, behind only Tottenham, Man City, and the four big boys). Charlton Athletic finished just a point away from the top half last year despite an ugly -16 goal differential; they're a good bet to underperform this year. They've been very busy on the transfer market (Alexei Smertin, Darren Bent, Darren Ambrose) but haven't done much to bolster their defense.
Birmingham City seems around to stay in the Premiership, but they're a bit thin to be thinking about Europe quite yet. Portsmouth has played just well enough to attract the attention of richer teams to their best players, as Boro poached Yakubu this offseason. Collins Mbesuma could be a bold choice to replace him. Fulham looked average indeed during a trip to the United States this offseason, losing handily to an MLS all-star team. Collins John seems poised for a breakout year. American Brian McBride has yet to make a big impact in Europe but will get his chances. West Ham barely managed promotion last season by finishing sixth in the Championship and winning the playoff, but they seem best-suited among the the three new teams to hang on for more than a year, thanks to one very old star (Teddy Sheringham) and one very young one (Mark Noble).
As for Sunderland and Wigan Athletic -- well, as the term "yo-yo" implies, they may well be right back for another crack at it year after next. West Bromwich Albion finished 17th only after a remarkable set of circumstances on the final day last season; the Baggies won't be so lucky again.
The Washington Nationals visit Coors Field for the first time by that name, although they're looking more and more like the Expos with each passing week. After a silly run of victories in one-run games in the first half, the Nationals have brutal in the close ones as of late. They're still above .500 (59-55) and in the thick of the wild card race, but BP has their shot at the playoffs down to a scant 4.74%. How did they fall so quickly? Well, they weren't that good to begin with.
.252/.323/.387. That's the team's combined offensive line, for an OPS of .710. They're last in the NL in average and slugging and not surprisingly last as well in runs scored. They're just a hair above Pittsburgh for last in OBP, too. It's true that the reconfigured RFK is a barn, but this is ridiculous. Vinny Castilla has been awful. Jamey Carroll has been unbelievably bad. Cristian Guzman is fourth on the team in at-bats with a .188/.233/.270 line. Just think about that for a second. A .233 on-base percentage. Wow. Preston Wilson predictably has done nothing but strike out since his arrival. Other midseason acquisitions like Marlon Byrd and Junior Spivey have been equally bad. Jose Guillen is a good hitter, and young guys Ryan Church and Nick Johnson will be the building blocks of a good Nationals team one day. This is a bad Nationals team. Don't let the record fool you.
Livan Hernandez isn't really out for the season like he threatened after he pitched against the Rockies earlier in the year, but he won't throw in this series. Esteban Loaiza, Tony Armas, and John Patterson will. The first two guys are unremarkable (although Loaiza very nearly won a freak Cy Young in '03) contact pitchers with goofy home/away splits. Patterson, on the other hand, is having an unnoticed remarkable year. (His home/road splits are kind of dramatic, too, but instead of being good/bad they're great/average.) With composite numbers of 8.71 K/9, 1.12 WHIP, and a 2.52 ERA, Patterson really ought to have a better record than 6-3 in 21(!) starts. Well, he can talk to Roger Clemens about it.
Jamey Wright, Byung-Hyun Kim, and Jose Acevedo go for the Rockies. Normally looking at that threesome against anybody I would predict a losing series for Colorado, but the Nationals' offense is bad and two of their pitchers are no great shakes either. The Rockies have playing well lately, so call it two out of three for Colorado.
Rockies 6, Pirates 5 (10 innings) and Pirates 11, Rockies 3
Another stirring extra-inning win was the result of Todd Helton's triumphant return (2 for 5, two doubles). Today the Rockies took another step backward as Jeff Francis just didn't have it. Helton did hit his first home run since coming off the disabled list. Ryan Shealy returns to AAA with no clearer idea of his future except he will play in the majors somewhere, someday. I think desperate Rockies fans would do well to remember that this team's recent hot streak was just that, a hot streak. It's nice that J.D. Closser is playing more and Aaron Miles is playing less but the team still isn't very good. Having Shawn Chacon or a healthy Jason Jennings wouldn't change that fact. If Helton and the young guys feel like getting in sync for the first time all year, that might help a bit.
Meanwhile in the far-off climes of the pennant races the White Sox took two of three from the Yankees and Oakland won two from Anaheim. Sometimes people make too much of these second-half "showdown" series -- after all, there is a lot of season left to play -- but for a national audience (and in the A's case a local audience, too) just showing up to see what's going on now the two winning teams provided a pretty good showcase. Chicago continues to win close games with dazzling pitching and an offense that scores just barely enough runs to win. Oakland, after getting blown out on a great Vlad Guerrero performance in the first game, came back to win a pair against the vaunted Angel bullpen. Jason Kendall scored a walk-off winner today when Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez bumbled an exchange from the catcher.
Also, the Cubs finally broke their 8-game losing streak. I was just being honest a week ago when I said they were done; I didn't meant to jinx them or anything. It's becoming increasingly clear to me that after the A's win a World Series sometime in the next couple of years (which they will) the Cubs need to drive a Tribune truck full of a non-sequential hundred-dollar bills into Billy Beane's driveway and beg for his services. For Ron Santo's sake if no one else's.
Pirates 12, Rockies 4
Well, neither of my teams fared particularly well last night. Hopefully Aaron Cook and Barry Zito will have better luck tonight than Jose Acevedo and Rich Harden had yesterday. Notable performers from Tuesday: Luis Gonzalez had three hits from the leadoff spot, Dustan Mohr hit another homer, Matt Holliday was 3 for 5 with a double. Ryan Speier, back again, did exceptionally well at shutting the barn door after Acevedo let all of the cows (nine of 'em, all earned -- earned cows) out. He pitched 2 2/3 scoreless. Jamey Wright pitched in the ninth, so I suppose his demotion to mopup duty is official. USA! USA!
Here, if you want a real series preview, go read what I wrote the last time the Rockies met the Pirates. I'm sure it all still holds true. The starters for Pittsburgh will be Dave Williams and the surprisingly untraded Mark Redman, who we've seen before, and Josh Fogg, who we haven't (not that we were missing anything). Jose Acevedo (who's been good when not rushed), Aaron Cook (hopefully the same), and Jeff Francis pitch for Colorado. If Zach Duke was throwing in this series there's a chance that I might look in on a game, but he's not.
Y'all know what it's about: A's-Angels at the Coliseum, starting tonight. IT'S ON!
Let's Play Two
The Rockies Disaster Report guys are going to the games today, and so am I, so I guess that makes it the first annual Rockies blogger outing. I don't know where I'll be sitting but I doubt there will be too many other people in authentic Bobby Crosby jerseys, so if you see one, that's me. It's too bad the Rockies are saving Byung-Hyun Kim for the second game tonight, because a BK-Josh Beckett matchup could end up being a Coors pitching duel for the ages. Instead new acquisition Sunny Kim will try his luck with Beckett and Byung-Hyun will oppose Ismael Valdez, most famous for changing his surname (from "Valdes") and his chronic blister problems.
The Rockies will be hard-pressed to beat Beckett (1.13 WHIP, 8.51 K/9) but seeing as something like 70% of doubleheaders result in splits, they ought to get at least one. See you at the ballpark.
The Newsly Times
The Arizona Republic is pretty disappointed in the performance of the Diamondbacks the past two games. "You know that series that looked like it had golden opportunity written all over it? After a 14-7 shellacking by the last-place Rockies in front of 31,186 at Bank One Ballpark, it will go down in the books for the Diamondbacks as a lost cause." Serves you right for seeing us as a golden opportunity. We're Gen R! Winners of five of our last six! Scourge of the unwary!
"The thing I most like about this team is that it takes losses hard," says Clint Hurdle. Well, finally, they're not just getting mad, they're getting even. Irv Moss says the failed bid for Kelly Shoppach may end up working in the Rockies' favor as Chris Iannetta could be ready sooner than we think. Our very own Troy E. has many nice things to say about Billy Beane, general manager of the first-place A's. Oh, man, I am so not even close to being tired of saying that.
Speaking of Oakland, neither of the ex-Rockies we are keeping an eye on got into the game yesterday, as the A's built a ridiculous 15-run lead and Ken Macha gave 12th man Keiichi Yabu and lefty specialist Ricardo Rincon some much-needed work. Both Jay and Joe pitched on Friday, though. Kennedy picked up his second AL win with 2 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of Kirk Saarloos. Witasick struck out two in pitching a scorless eighth. Both guys have identical 2.08 ERA's since joining the Athletics.
With all the fuss surrounding the trade deadline, I completely forgot about TGTBATB's three-month anniversary last week. Three solid months without missing a day is pretty impressive stuff for me. In five years of college, I don't think a week passed without me ditching at least one class. One year one of my bands went on tour for a month and I just didn't go at all. And I graduated! Let's hear it for the University of California, kids. Of course I don't have to put on pants to post on my Rockies blog, which wasn't true of college classes. As for the band, well, some nights yes and others no.
I'm pretty pleased with the way things have turned out. Back at the beginning of this baseball season, I was an unemployed guy living on toaster waffles without a friend in the state of Colorado. Now...well, I'm still unemployed, but I do occasionally get recognized at the ballpark. (I guess I'm a pretty recognizable guy. I look a lot like myself.) Also, I ran out of syrup. But I digress. Anyway, the MLBlogs community hasn't developed exactly as I would have expected. Rather than being a voice of the fan kind of thing, they've brought in a bunch of ringers, from broadcasters to rock musicians, to try and raise the profile up and lure more paying customers in. It's their business. Still, it seems the only "real" bloggers that have been consistently around since the beginning are me and the guy who does DA BRONX BOMBERS. (That guy rules, by the way. He's giving Yankee fans a good name.) If I were more petty I would point out that some things promised by the initial MLBlogs pitch have not come to pass (what happened to the "Blogcasting" thing?) but if I were in this for notoriety I sure wouldn't be blogging the Colorado Rockies.
That's what it really comes down to. Although I've despaired more than a few times, I can't imagine not seeing this thing through to the end, because I've really bonded with this terrible baseball team somehow. Now that they're finally starting to play the guys I've been agitating for all year (and probably not coincidentally winning a tad) I feel totally vindicated. Certainly with the resources available to me I could blog any team in the league, but I think baseball still remains a regional game in a way the NFL and NBA are not. I like flipping on the radio in my car and hearing people talking (mostly complaining) about the Rockies. I like making it out to the ballpark every now and then and seeing the kids in person.
What strikes me most about this moment in time in Colorado Rockies baseball is that an opportunity is slipping away. Denver is a huge sports market and there's no other major league baseball team within practically a time zone of this one. But people are getting tired of losing. Dan O'Dowd and the Monforts can explain all they like about this losing is different than the last several years of losing, but the casual sports fan doesn't make these distinctions. The last game I went to, I attended in my Mets jersey and cap. I was standing in line with six Mets fans to either side of me. When I got to my seat in the left field bleachers (right behind my main man Cliff Floyd), there was a group of New York fans sitting right next to me and several more a few rows ahead. There were more people wearing Red Sox, Cubs, and even Nationals hats than Rockies-wear. I had a lengthy discussion with the guy sitting next to me about whether David Wright will go down as the greatest Mets third baseman of all time. (Yes.) Even the folks wearing Colorado caps in attendance were unable to indicate a single home player on the field, as Todd Helton was out with an injury. A kid with a Helton shirt and his dad tried fruitlessly for two innings to locate him. I would have felt worse about informing them that Helton was on the DL had they known what position he played.
So what is to be done? I hardly want to encourage the Rockies to try and make a big splash on the free agent market this winter because the free agent class of '05/'06 is shaping up to be perhaps the worst ever. (The big names, courtesy of ESPN's Peter Gammons: SP's A.J. Burnett, Matt Morris, Kevin Millwood, Jarrod Washburn, Jeff Weaver, Kenny Rogers, and Roger Clemens; RP's Billy Wagner and B.J. Ryan; C's Ramon Hernandez, Mike Piazza, Bengie Molina, and Brad Ausmus; 1B's Paul Konerko, Kevin Millar, and Erubiel Durazo; IF's Rafael Furcal, Alex "FLA" Gonzalez, Nomar Garciaparra, Bill Mueller, and Joe Randa; and OF's Hideki Matsui, Johnny Damon, Brian Giles, Milton Bradley, Preston Wilson, Juan Encarnacion, Jacque Jones, and Reggie Sanders.) Who among those guys would really help Colorado turn the corner? The few decent starting pitchers are either unproven (Burnett, Weaver) or injury risks (Morris, Weaver) and will likely be commanding ridiculous salaries given their scarcity. The infield names are unexciting, plus the Rockies' system seems to be well-stocked when it comes to infield prospects. The few outfielders worth taking a look at will all most likely resign with their big-market teams. Brian Giles would be kinda interesting but...nah, it's not gonna happen. Why torture myself?
The thing is, spending money freely hasn't helped, and going full-on youth movement hasn't worked either. The franchise has to start using some lateral thinking if it wants to seize the moment in a division that's become a national joke. Maybe we can move a bunch of our prospects to a team trying to clear salary in the offseason. Maybe we need to take a flier on an injured guy like the Yankees did with Jon Lieber, the Cardinals did with Chris Carpenter, or the Indians did with Aaron Boone. (Maybe not so much Boone.) Maybe it's time we were considering doing the unthinkable and dealing Todd Helton, especially considering how ML-primed Ryan Shealy seems. The thing is, O'Dowd and the Monforts are acting like they have all the time in the world. They don't. Very, very few baseball fans are as bizarrely dedicated as me.
Rockies 6, Diamondbacks 4 and Rockies 14, Diamondbacks 7
The A's are tied for first place! That makes me feel good. Inside.
Meanwhile in Phoenix the Diamondbacks spent two miserably played games piling up the evidence that they have no business in a pennant race. The infield defense was bad, the middle relief pitching was terrible, and the spray-hitting ilk of Dustan Mohr and Danny Ardoin was suddenly sending balls out of the park. The Rockies looked all set to concede Friday's game after striking out ten times against starter Brandon Webb, mostly swinging at balls that bounced before they reached the plate. A Matt Holliday road homer (seriously) and a boneheaded throwing error by reliever Lance Cormier gifted Colorado with the game. I should also mention that the A's are tied for first place.
Today the Diamondbacks threw away another big lead almost immediately as Mike Gosling got lit up and committed, you guessed it, a boneheaded throwing error. Throughout the game even usually dependable gloves like Troy Glaus and Alex Cintron seemed unsure how to field their positions, letting nubbed ground balls stay fair for infield singles and looking for plays at the wrong bases. Colorado's budget offense made Arizona's pricey one look inept as the Rockies smoked seven extra-base hits. The guy who did hit for the D-Backs was rookie Conor Jackson, who hit his first and second major league home runs. Jeff Francis was shaky but the offense (and Gosling) picked him up for the win. Scott Dohmann made his best appearance as a big leaguer, striking out the side in the sixth. Randy Williams looked sort of good, even! And the A's are tied for first place.
The Rockies picked up six walks in today's game to the D-Backs two. That's really encouraging. Granted, Arizona seemed to be losing to themselves more so than Colorado, but the best road trip all season is nothing to scoff at. Tomorrow Jamey Wright pitches us to a sweep! Or not. Also, the A's will still be tied for first place (until they and the Angels play, after which they could conceivably be alone in first place).
For fans of this sort of thing: Tomorrow Victor Zambrano (of the Mets) will pitch against Carlos Zambrano (of the Cubs). Then on Monday, the Rockies will accomplish the assuredly unique feat of starting both games of a doubleheader with someone named Kim (Sunny and Byung-Hyun). And the A's are tied for first place!
Are there going to be pennant races this year? Maybe not. Former contenders like the Nationals, Orioles, and Twins have collapsed in the past few weeks, and not enough teams are playing well to come up and take their places. The A's are seriously challenging the Angels' defense of their AL West title, but it may not matter as whomever loses out for the division will very probably win the wild card. Oakland presently leads in that race by three games over the Yankees and four and a half over the Indians.
The AL Central has been settled for quite some time now, but I don't think anybody expected the Twins to fold quite like they have. The White Sox are going to have a lot of time to think about their first-round playoff matchup. For their sake, I hope it ends up being the Angels or Yankees and not the A's, who have beaten Chicago like a drum this year. The Indians have quietly put themselves in decent position for a surprise playoff run. I think they may still be one year away, though, and Oakland, New York, and Anaheim have a lot more talent.
The Red Sox' recent winning streak has granted them some breathing room in the AL East. The Blue Jays aren't out of it by any means at seven games back. In between are the Yankees, at 3 1/2 back. It's looking bleaker for the Bombers than it has in years. They're depending on Al Leiter, Shawn Chacon, and Aaron Small to somehow carry them to the postseason, and that's completely insane. I almost feel sorry for Yankees fans. Okay, no, I don't.
The Nationals aren't statistically out of it in the NL East, but they sure haven't looked like a playoff team for a while now. It sure seems as if Florida hasn't played its best baseball yet, but do you really want to bet against the Braves at this point? No, you don't. Meanwhile, the safety net for the NL East second place finisher is disappearing as the hot Astros are working on wrapping up the wild card race.
The Cardinals are going to win the NL Central. The Astros, in a repeat of last year, are riding a second-half surge to the wild card, although this time it's entirely fueled by pitching. The Cubs are done. The most interesting team to watch in the division down the stretch may well be the Brewers, who are making a bid to finish .500 for the first time since before the Rockies existed.
The NL West title may well be a booby prize, but at least the Padres look serious about finishing over .500 in winning it. The current home series against Colorado may go a long way in revealing the Diamondbacks as pretenders. The way things are going for the Dodgers, a win streak on their part to get back into things could well result in a massive earthquake separating Southern California from the rest of the continent and disabling what's left of their roster.
I wish I could make less obvious picks, but it looks to me as if Oakland, Anaheim, Chicago, and Boston are the AL playoff teams, and St. Louis, Atlanta, Houston, and San Diego will be the NL reps. The Cardinals seem significantly better than any of their in-league competition, but the AL playoffs could be quite wide open and very interesting indeed. It could all come down to positioning, as Oakland doesn't want to play Boston in a short series and the White Sox don't want anything to do with the A's. There are no guarantees with this much season left.
I talked about the D-Backs quite a bit a few days ago, so I won't get in too deep here. Luis Gonzalez, Chad Tracy, and Troy Glaus are professional hitters. Shawn Green is having a good year, though not his best. Tony Clark is having a goofy season (nearly 200 points of slugging above his career average) as a part-timer. Arizona just signed him to an extension, in fact. After those guys the offense drops off in quality quite a bit. Today the Diamondbacks have Craig Counsell (.758 OPS) and Royce Clayton (.664) hitting 1-2 and Alex Cintron (.695) and Koyie Hill (.590) hitting 7-8. If Clark is starting, they don't have a single scary bat off the bench. Kelly Stinnett has been good but is hurt. Rookie Conor Jackson is expected to play a role after his callup to replace the traded Jose Cruz, Jr.
Brandon Webb is the Friday starter. He's an interesting test case for Colorado fans, an extreme groundball pitcher plying his trade in a wacky hitters' ballpark. I believe that strikeout rate is vastly more important than G/FB, and Webb's stats the last few years have borne it out. As his strikeout rate has gone down the last three years -- 8.57 K/9 in 2003, 7.10 in '04, 6.33 this year so far -- his ERA (2.84, 3.59, 4.04) and opponents' OPS have risen (.601, .713, .745). For a guy who's supposed to keep the ball in the park, his home runs allowed total of 15 is the second-highest on the team. He is 3-0 in three starts vs. the Rockies, for what it's worth. He has 9 wins total. I suspect that as National League hitters have figured out when his sinker is going to be a strike and when it isn't, he has become a lot more hittable.
Saturday: Mike Gosling. This is his fifth start after being promoted out of the bullpen. His K rate (3.68) matches his ERA, which is kind of unusual. It won't last, his WHIP is 1.74. Neither the tools hounds nor the numbers hacks are particularly keen on him. Sunday: Claudio Vargas. They got him midyear from the Nationals off waivers. His career stats are not dissimilar to Shawn Estes', but he's quite a bit cheaper. He doesn't do anything particularly well, like Estes, he's just another guy.
The Rockies have Aaron Cook, Jeff Francis, and Jamey Wright going. Francis has pitched his best baseball lately and was very good his first time out at Bank One. Jamey Wright is who he is. The BOB doesn't seem like the proper environment for one of his good performances. As for Aaron Cook, we haven't seen enough to know how he's going to be yet. You have to be rooting for him, though.
Rockies 3, Giants 2 and Giants 6, Rockies 4
J.D. Closser's pinch hit and Omar Quintanilla's glove helped the Rockies to a victory (and their second road series win) Wednesday; today, a sweep was well in hand until a Matt Anderson-like 8th inning from Dan Miceli let it all get away. Both teams got good starting pitching in each game, with Byung-Hyun Kim and Jose Acevedo excelling for Colorado and Brad Hennessey and Kevin Correia tossing well for San Francisco. (Kirk Rueter, Thursday's scheduled starter, was not injured but rather demoted to the bullpen as the Giants turn an eye towards 2006.) Quintanilla had a terrific series overall, and so did Closser and Larry Bigbie. Maybe all J.D. needed was to start regularly. I'm sick of ragging on Danny Ardoin anyway. It's not his fault Clint Hurdle is incompetent. It is his fault that he hits like Einar Diaz, but that's neither here or there. Anyway Hurdle seems to have gotten the message that excessive use of Dustan Mohr, Aaron Miles, or Ardoin will lead to violent reprisal from here on out. Better late than never.
In other news, the Orioles let Lee Mazzilli go. Here's why this is a smokescreen: The Orioles' front office is completely dysfunctional, with two general managers and an owner who likes to playact as a third. Apparently they weren't all in agreement on Mazzilli's hiring in the first place. In any case, their team got off to a hot start, the Red Sox and Yankees stumbled out of the gate, and they were in a unique position to be the baseball story of the year. It's completely on Peter Angelos's head that they utterly botched this opportunity. The Orioles never manage to sign the best free agent talent because their three-headed monster takes too long to agree on anything, and they talked their way right out of the A.J. Burnett deal because Angelos had a sudden attack of the cheaps. With the money they've extorted from the Nationals and Angelos's vast tobacco-lawsuit fortune, they have no excuse. All this and they still wanted to throw a victory parade for Incredible Shrinking Raffy. Anyway this all tangentially benefited the A's as the Orioles got the traditional new manager boost in dispatching the Angels today in their first game under Interim Sam Perlozzo.
All yesterday, whenever I got my proper sprawl on, on the couch or whatever, I kept hearing this tearing sound coming from the seat of my pants. Numerous thorough self-examinations were unable to identify the cause of the ripping fabric noises. Only when I turned in last night did I realize it was my underwear. So much for those Halloween-themed black and orange boxers with the spiderwebs my mom got me a couple years ago. I don't know why I'm sharing this. It's been a long season; I guess we're all starting to get too familiar with each other.
Tony Reali always says that self-promotion is the mating call of the mute button, but I just can't help myself. If you find my writing amusing and enjoy watching TV (besides baseball), you may find my TV.com blog of interest. It's pretty much what it sounds like, I watch TV shows and write about them. I don't get paid a thin dime for either of my websites; I just do 'em because I love baseball, and I love watching TV, and I'm completely loopy for writing. Well, take a look if you feel like it.
I want to take a moment to speak from the heart about the Rafael Palmeiro situation. Not about what is going to happen, or who's deluding whom, or what the just thing to do is. If it were up to me, and it's not, I would ban the guy for life. No more of this nonsense. He tested positive for a steroid -- not a supplement, not something you get at GNC, but a real live needle-in-the-vein steroid -- back in May sometime before he got his 3,000th hit. Strip him of every single one of those hits that occurred after the positive test, and ban him for life.
Does this mean I think Barry, Sammy, Jason, and all the other alleged dopers should get the axe too? No, because what's important isn't the past. You can't change the past. Baseball looked the other way on the steroid situation for years, and it's a terrible shame, but this isn't "Quantum Leap" here. Do you imagine that it's possible players conspired to throw games before the White Sox did in the 1919 World Series? In all likelihood, they did. Maybe a couple of them are even in the Hall of Fame. What's important is, how many guys tried it after the Black Sox?
Raffy should be made an example of. If he's stupid enough to shoot himself up after baseball belatedly passed a somewhat serious testing policy, after going in front of Congress and vehemently denying this and that and calling Jose Canseco a liar, he deserves it. I mean, he should be banned from baseball just for retroactively making Canseco look like a paragon of virtue. This is the house arrest guy. Moreover, this is the guy who once let a ball bounce off of his head for a home run.
Yeah, I realize that everything is collectively bargained such that Bud Selig doesn't have the powers of a Peter Ueberroth, let alone a Kenesaw Mountain Landis. But everyone is so sick of this steroid mess that an extreme reaction is necessary. This story is going to raise its ugly head over and over again...next spring, when Bonds tries to mount a comeback...again next year when Bonds strokes his 715th homer...in five years when Palmeiro is first eligible for the Hall. Making a sacrificial lamb out of Raffy would (hopefully) guarantee that no one would be stupid enough to try and get away with using steroids again. It possibly could lead to Bonds taking the cue and retiring, or at least having him break the records with fans knowing that at least the last few dozen were clean. And besides, is Rafael Palmeiro anybody's favorite player? We're not talking Cal Ripken here. In many ways he's the perfect guy to make an example of -- famous enough that fans and players alike will get the message, but not so beloved that it'll cause permanent scarring.
Look, all the steroid use that went on before this year, that's MLB's fault. The players can hardly be faulted for seeing guys all around them shooting up and getting rich and famous and wanting to ride the 'roid train themselves, knowing there was little chance of getting caught and less chance of facing meaningful consequences. But druggin' it up with the rules in place, making a mockery of what's supposed to be baseball's most revered milestone, lying about it persistently, soliciting MLB's cooperation in burying the news of the positive drug test for months...we don't need this. Any of it. Axe Raffy. I'd rather see a million guys like Phil Rizzuto and Dave Concepcion in the Hall of Fame than guys like Palmeiro and Pete Rose, who put themselves first, second, and third, and baseball a distant fourth. It's not the juicing so much that bugs me. It's the lying. One day I want to take my son to Cooperstown and show him Ryne Sandberg's plaque, and Ripken's, and Sandy Koufax's, and Ernie Banks', and Catfish Hunter's, and RON SANTO's (ahem), and say: "See these men? All of these guys were different. They were black and white, city and country, English-speaking and Spanish-speaking. Fergie Jenkins was even Canadian. But all of them had one thing in common. They loved baseball more than anything, and they made it their lives." I don't want to have to stop in front of Palmeiro's ugly mug and say, "Except this guy. He lied to Congress."
Rockies 4, Giants 3
The Giants' offense let Jamey Wright repeatedly off the hook (six walks, three earned runs) and Matt Holliday (.627 slugging at home vs. .330 on the road) had a rare big homer away from Coors. Ryan Shealy had a pair of singles. Omar Quintanilla was 2 for 5 with a triple. J.D. Closser was 2 for 4 with a double and a triple. SBC Park is an awfully good ballpark for triples. Especially with Randy Winn playing center field.
Mike DeJean pitched two perfect innings and Brian Fuentes manuevered through the ninth for his 17th save. Well, we have two chances to win a game and our second road series of the year. Let's not blow 'em.
It's worth mentioning that the Giants' lineup after Moises Alou left with a hamstring concern was Omar Vizquel, Winn, J.T. Snow (hitting third with a .347 slugging percentage overall), Edgardo Alfonzo, Ray Durham, Pedro Feliz, Michael Tucker, a catcher named Yamid Haad, and losing pitcher Brett Tomko. Except for Durham, none of those guys are any better than the current model of the Rockies' youth movement, and for considerably more money.
The Old and the Hopeless
Thirty-seven of the Rockies' final fifty-eight games will be against fellow members of the National League West. Except for a makeup doubleheader against the Marlins, a mid-August series against the Cubs, and an end-of-September return to Turner Field to play the Braves, it's safe to say Colorado doesn't play a decent team again this year.
So what happened to the NL West? There was a pretty good race last year between San Francisco (91 wins) and Los Angeles (93). In 2003, the Giants won 100 games. In 2002, the division had three 90-game winners, sent two teams to the playoffs, and won the National League pennant. In '01, of course, the D-Backs won it all. Now Arizona, San Diego, San Francisco, Colorado, and L.A. are popular sports talk radio fodder -- the "NL Worst." The division winner could very probably waltz into the postseason with a sub-.500 record.
The Diamondbacks were awful last year (51-111) and invested their offseason money in terrible, terrible players. It seems almost unfair to pile on Russ Ortiz and Shawn Estes, but...it's so much fun! Estes is actually having a good year (for Shawn Estes), but Ortiz has been crummy. Both are now hurt. Arizona also continues to let a stupid obsession with defense guide them into giving tremendous amounts of at-bats to horrible offensive players like Royce Clayton (.655 OPS), Chris Snyder (.637), and Alex Cintron (.698). Troy Glaus has been good, but Chad Tracy has been better, and he used to play Glaus's position. If the Diamondbacks hadn't bailed out on Erubiel Durazo and Lyle Overbay in turn, they'd have a lot more money to spend. Of course, seeing their predilection for stiffs like Ortiz and Estes, plus their tendency to give large, foolish extensions to guys like Shawn Green and Luis Gonzalez, perhaps it's for the best. In any case their record is significantly better than their perf ormance would indicate (five games according to BP's reckoning) and their first-place status is kind of a default thing.
The Padres have overperformed a tad too (BP says they should lead the division, but with 47 wins) but I suppose they have the most healthy talent in the division at the moment. An injury to Mark Loretta earlier in the year didn't help matters any, but San Diego's main problem is that the young offensive talent they've tried to build their team around has stubbornly refused to blossom. Sean Burroughs has been a complete disaster with eight extra-base hits in 255 at-bats. Phil Nevin, until they finally managed to trade him, was equally punchless (21 in 281). Casting Boston playoff hero Dave Roberts as an everyday leadoff hitter might have been a stretch (.339 OBP). Khalil Greene hasn't progressed as a hitter (.299 OBP). Brian Giles and Ryan Klesko are getting the job done, but there's not much supporting them. Moving Geoff Blum and Nevin should mean more starts for Xavier Nady (I like Nady, because he went to Cal) and Mark Sweeney, which should help. Burroughs they just flat-out demoted. The pitching staff has been solid overall, particularly the bullpen, but they were foolish to expect much out of Woody Williams and Brian Lawrence and the fifth starter spot has been an open sore. And oh yeah, free agent-catcher-to-be Ramon Hernandez is hitting .273/.301/.409. And he's hurt.
The Dodgers have just been mauled by injuries. Eric Gagne, J.D. Drew, Jose Valentin, Milton Bradley, Cesar Izturis...basically, if he's any good and not Jeff Kent, he's been on the DL. Even so they're only 4 games out. Kent is solidifying his Hall of Fame credentials with a .306/.384/.530 line but their second-best healthy guy is Olmedo Saenz. The catcher position has been brutal offensively, something they're hoping the callup of Dioner Navarro will rectify. Hee Seop Choi will get his jacks but he's never going to be a high-average hitter. Derek Lowe and Brad Penny, two much-critiqued Paul DePodesta acquisitions, have been fine. Jeff Weaver hasn't been so good, but in taking him on the Dodgers managed to rid themselves of Kevin Brown, which is definitely worth each and every one of the 22 homers Weaver has allowed. As for the bullpen...well, they miss Gagne, let's just say that. A healthy Drew alone would probably be enough for them to pass San Diego and Arizona. This is just not their year.
The Giants, with whom the Rockies tonight commence a three-game series in lovely SBC Park, made their bed and are sleeping in it. With the fishes. San Francisco's policy for years has been to sign hitters and develop pitchers. Trouble is, with the partial exception of Noah Lowry, none of these pitchers has amounted to much. It's hard to justify going full-bore youth movement when you have the rights to the greatest hitter what ever was on your 40-man, but Brian Sabean may have taken the concept of retooling on the fly beyond logical extremes. The marvel of it is, Moises Alou is actually having a great year, and Mike Matheny is having what for him amounts to a career offensive season. It's slightly less old guys like Pedro Feliz, Edgardo Alfonzo, and J.T. Snow that are killing the Giants. Mix their bad lines with the sudden disappearance of Jason Schmidt's fastball and the continued mediocrity of Kirk Rueter and Brett Tomko and you've got a foolproof recipe for fourth place. Let's not kid ourselves though -- if there's one guy in all of baseball history who can singlehandedly turn a below-average team into a playoff contender, it's Barry Bonds. If the Giants had managed to get him back at the beginning of this month like they were counting on, they're only 5 1/2 back with plenty of winnable games on the schedule. Forgot to mention that they signed Armando Benitez to a multi-year deal and the closer almost immediately suffered a potential career-ender.
Then there's the Rockies. You know all about them. They had to punt this year because the bad contracts of Preston Wilson, Denny Neagle, Charles Johnson, and Mike Hampton were weighing them down. Next year...they've already decided on a budget of $40 million, something like half of which will go to Todd Helton and Jason Jennings. In other words they've decided that the worst division in baseball isn't worth trying to win.
Your series starters are Jamey Wright (vs. Brett Tomko tonight...ooh, battle of the titans), Byung-Hyun Kim (vs. Brad "I Had a Lucky Couple of Starts in Fresno Last Year and Now I Start For the Giants" Hennessey on Wednesday), and Jose Acevedo (vs. Rueter on Thursday). It's a road series, so you know the Rockies aren't going to win more than one...I pick the game against Rueter, because his ears stick out all funny.
Sunflower Seeds and Black Coffee
Believe it or not, not the weirdest thing I've had for breakfast this week.
OK, give some credit to the Boston media: they're reporting the busted Bigbie brokering story. SI had it in their Truth & Rumors column as well. In light of the Palmeiro situation, I'm giving Buster Olney (subscription required) the benefit of the doubt, but if I don't see it in his blog today or tomorrow, I'm going to be peeved. As far as Raffy is concerned, hardly a sports outlet out there hasn't covered it to death. Here's the articles I read rather than skimmed: Olney, SI's John Donovan, and the Chicago Sun-Times' Jay Mariotti. What do I think about Palmeiro? Well, my impression of Raffy is dominated by my youthful memories of him as a Cub, when he was a skinny, light-hitting outfielder. In 1988 (the year of the lights) he had 8 home runs in 580 at-bats. So how'd he suddenly start hitting 40 a year? I think he's a liar, and I don't much tolerate liars. This means you, Boston Assistant GM Josh Byrnes.
The A's beat Johan Santana and the sinking Twins to move a scant 1 game behind Anaheim. When Vlad Guerrero isn't right, as he isn't now (.208 BA in July), the Angels are just another team. The A's are beginning to gain national attention but are still victimized by the national sports media's big-market mentality: His name is Bobby, SI. Bubba Crosby plays for the Yankees, as you should know. But check out Baseball Prospectus's daily must-read Playoff Odds Report. The Athletics have in fact passed the Angels as the team most likely to win the AL West and in overall postseason percentage (56.7%). Amazingly, thanks to the NL West's remarkable obsolescence, the Rockies still have a (0.02%) shot at the playoffs. The average win total of the NL West winner stands at a scant 81.8. Bring on radical realignment!
Also in the news, although amazingly eclipsed by the Palmeiro situation: No Barry in '05. Another guy with a suspicious late-career power spike, Bret Boone, was released by the Twins. Minnesota's season seems to be headed down the tubes as they've lost five in a row and potentially Torii Hunter for the season. It's hard to see a team with as much young pitching talent as the Twins staying down for too long, but it is a cautionary tale of the tiny margin for error for midmarket teams hoping to contend with homegrown guys. Last year's injury to Eric Chavez basically sunk the A's, and the Twins, Indians, and Blue Jays aren't likely to overcome time lost from Hunter, Travis Hafner, and Roy Halladay.
Since the Rockies are unlikely to make any more trades or to matter in any fashion for the rest of this season (unless Brad Hawpe gets healthy in time to face Mark Prior when the Cubs come to town later this month), there will likely be more national news in this space for the rest of the year. In fact, as of this moment I'm naming TGTBATB as the official internet home of the Shawn Chacon/Joe Kennedy & Jay Witasick runs to the playoffs. While this does put me in the awkward position of rooting for the Yankees, whom I have been taught since I was a small child to hate with a passion usually reserved for Communist Russia, it will be easier to manage what with the duplicitous nature of certain people in the front offices of a certain formerly lovable Olde Towne Team.
Update: SI.com fixed the Bubba/Bobby Crosby error. At least this time I was able to direct a few of you to it; they beat me on the David Boreanaz typo at the All-Star Break. However it's much more their business to know the name of the guy who won the AL Rookie of the Year last year than the star of "Angel" and the upcoming "Bones." Shame on you, SI.com.
Good luck trying to get the national media to acknowledge it (especially in the wake of the disappointing but entirely unsurprising Juicin' Raffy story), but as things shake out from the Rockies' trade deadline disaster, it's becoming increasingly clear that the Boston Red Sox pulled a fast one on Colorado. The Post says the Monforts will discuss the Larry Bigbie bait-and-switch with Bud Selig. (Wonder what Commissioner Bud will say? "You're Colorado. Seeing as you have already extorted a new stadium from taxpayers and hosted an All-Star Game in the past decade, nobody cares. Don't call again unless you want me to fudge the money rules so you can trade Todd Helton to the Dodgers.")
The cell phone cowboy, Tracy Ringolsby, is even more blunt in his assessment of the situation: "Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd thought the Red Sox' word had value. It doesn't." Apparently a Boston assistant GM negotiating the deal without having the authority to do so. That's code for: we screwed you, because we're Boston and you're the Rockies and we knew we could get away with it.
In a strange way, this is good news for the Rockies, because it gives fans some kind of connection to a franchise that has spent the past few weeks clearing the decks of anyone with more than six figures attached to their name. Better we see the franchise as spurned lover than slightly-used ballplayer reseller. I sure feel like more of a Rockies fan than I have since Clint Barmes got hurt.
Rockies people: I know you are out there. People are still going to the games. There's all these blogs. People care about this team despite the multitude of reasons O'Dowd and the Monforts have given us not to do so. Don't let this story die! Get on the message boards and the ESPN chats. Call national sports radio shows. Send nasty mail to the Red Sox' front office (4 Yawkey Way, Boston, MA, 02215-3496). I'm refusing calls from my nine Boston uncles and my sister who goes to B.C. (We're Irish-Catholic.) They think we can be trifled with. Trifle this, you beaneating welshers! You think that old curse was bad? You ain't seen nothing yet! And while we're at it, hot dogs go in buns.
Not trying to win, but at least ticket prices won't rise (again)
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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westernhomes (at) yahoo (dot) com