I don't read the local sports pages very much. They're not very good. It doesn't go much further beyond that. It is true that I hate the Broncos, which both of the Denver dailies cover with the breathless enthusiasm of a summer intern. Those cut-blocking, 'roid-injecting, Raider-baiting freaks can go straight to hell as far as I'm concerned. But before this becomes one of my patented rants about how much I detest the baffling popularity of American professional football, for which there will be plenty of time in the offseason, let's get back to the main idea of this post, which is a Bernie Lincicome column from today's Rocky Mountain News.
Bernie is mourning the end of the Rockies' season, much like I have done for the last week. But his rhetorical device is so generic that it could be run in any of 50 other papers about any of 20 other baseball teams with a few minor name substitutions. It's clear from Lincicome's piece that he has barely watched the Rockies this season. There's more about things that happened to other teams -- the White Sox, Blue Jays, and Marlins -- than specific details about Colorado's club. It's true that the Rockies wound up disappointing again in 2006. But it's not the same old story. The character of the team is changing, gradually, and the season hasn't been a total wash. The print media in Denver is divided between the beat writers, Renck and Ringolsby, who are shameless organization men, and columnists like Lincicome and Jim Armstrong who haven't watched a Rockies game all the way through in four or five years and get all of their baseball news from watching "Pardon the Interruption." Which would explain why the only observations Bernie seems to have that apply specifically to 2006 as opposed to any other also-ran Rockies season are the two stories that somehow registered on the national sporting consciousness. The Christian thing and the humidor thing. By all means, let's reinforce the idea that there is nothing to Colorado baseball besides group prayer and soggy baseballs.
Lincicome takes a gratuitous shot at Garrett Atkins. Had he been watching the games, he might have noticed that Atkins has surprisingly become the team's most steady run-producer. He halfway praises Matt Holliday, looking up his average (it's good) without noticing the discrepancy between Holliday's overall stats and his situational ones. He doesn't mention Todd Helton's play at all. Do you think it's a bit of a big story that the Rockies' $16 million man has become a fair #2 hitter in what ought to be the late prime of his career? Well, no, you would have had to have been watching the games to notice that. Lincicome mentions Kaz Matsui (who has barely played) and Ray King (who's actually been okay) because they are veterans who have played for more famous teams. He mentions Choo Freeman because he has a funny name. He name-checks Brad Hawpe and Cory Sullivan without making any qualitative assessments of their performances (indeed, besides the swipe at Atkins' defense, he doesn't have any constructive criticism to offer any of the Rockies' players, although he does make fun of Clint Hurdle's nose). This is to prove that he does scan the box scores once or twice a week.
All right, let's look the big issue right in the face. I complain all the time about the Rockies not getting enough press coverage, even in their own fair home city. Am I talking out of both sides of my mouth when I slam a columnist for lowering himself to write a few paragraphs about the local nine even while the local eleven is preparing itself for the all-important final week of the NFL preseason? No, I'm not. There's a difference between simply writing about the Rockies and writing substantively about them. That's the reason this page exists. The MLB's flyover teams do not lack passionate, informed fans. There are people who are intensely involved in Tampa Bay Devil Rays baseball. Not a lot of people, and probably not any people whom I would wish to meet without an armed escort, but they exist. It's the nature of the game. But as sure as water flows downhill writing talent goes to where the money is, and the money goes to where the most interest lies, and let's call a spade a spade: the interest does not lie in Colorado Rockies baseball. If you're a veteran sports columnist and you take a job in Denver, you have to know to which side of the bread you want to allot the majority of your butter. There's a pecking order here and it goes Broncos, Broncos, Broncos, Avs, CU football, the Nuggets, every other college sport in the state, high school football, the Rockies, the rest of high school sports, and then time permitting the Rapids (the MLS: providing ego boosts for unloved franchises in other team sports for over 10 years). But you know what, Mr. Lincicome? We don't want your charity. If you don't care about the Rockies, don't write about them. The vast majority of your readership has already absorbed the tired old CW on the team, shut them utterly out of their lives, and moved on. Those people who really care about the team have found other sources to get frank, critical, but still true-fan optimistic coverage of the Rockies. Hopefully they come here. That may mean we'll never see 1/100,000 of the readership that Dodger Thoughts gets, but we're not in this for the notoriety. Frankly, I don't know what we're in this for anymore. But quitters we ain't.