That sound you hear is tens of thousands of Denver residents flipping off their TV's, putting their World Series collectibles on eBay, and speed-dialing their friends to see if they can rid of their tickets for this weekend's series against Los Angeles. A season that should have been a bold new beginning for the Colorado franchise has gone completely down the tubes in a mere month. How did I not see this coming?
First and foremost, Troy Tulowitzki, who has been stuck in an again predictable sophomore slump, has torn his quad. He could be back in six weeks, but he won't, because this is Rockies baseball, and except for last year, the baseball gods freaking hate the Rockies. The team's groundball staff is going to get pounded (even worse) with the rangeless, scatter-armed Clint Barmes playing short and the comeback the offense was scheduled to make probably is now delayed further still.
Tulo's injury is the exclamation point, but the Rockies have been playing consistently garbage baseball since Opening Day. A few individuals are having good seasons -- Barmes' return to the starting lineup is a nice story, Matt Holliday and Garrett Atkins continue to rake like the professional hitters they are, and Aaron Cook has been quietly excellent -- but as a team Colorado sucks. The bullpen can't hold leads, the hitters persistently manage to produce box scores where they have 10 or more hits and 3 or fewer runs, and the starting pitching past Cook is walk-happy and deeply susceptible to the big inning. How is this the same team that cruised to the NL pennant last year?
I wasn't planning on writing on the Rockies at all until something that wasn't horrible happened, but the Tulowitzki injury kind of demands it. I need more time to organize my thoughts on how Dan O'Dowd and ownership have failed their team and their fans. This team didn't have to be a playoff qualifier again this season to consolidate last year's gains, they just needed to not completely suck. And lo, they completely suck. The major problems? Not investing more money in real starting pitching talent, leaving Franklin Morales in the major league rotation despite his not demonstrating readiness in the spring, allowing the disorganized mass of infielders on the roster to futz up the continuity and the fluidity of the Rockies' wondrous defense from last year, and continuing to bat powerless OBP sink Willy Taveras leadoff because... uhh, he's fast.
What has happened to the Rockies this season reinforces everything MLB's critics are always saying about competitive imbalance. I refuse to refer to the Rockies as "small-market"; they're not small market, they just have poor, cheap owners. The Nuggets, Avalanche, and Broncos all have huge payrolls. But for teams in genuine small markets, the example is still instructive. Poor teams can get to the playoffs one year if everything breaks right for them, but the cost of maintaining that winning team will prove prohibitive -- and even if you do manage to bring everybody back, as the Rockies mostly did, there's no guarantee that everyone will perform as they did. And there's no question of adding another big free-agent star to your already-contending team. The Clevelands and Tampa Bays can only dream about getting a Johan Santana or Vladimir Guerrero.
And that's kind of lame. But not as lame as this Rockies team is going to be with Barmes playing shortstop in front of The Staff That Never Strikes Anybody Out, Ever (25th in the majors). Somehow I doubt a magical September run is going to save this disaster. By the time football season begins, the Rockies will be as forgotten as the Nuggets' playoff "run." Well, it was nice having a readership for just that little while. I should have known not to get used to it.