Baseball Toaster Bad Altitude
Making Them Up One Game at a Time
2008-06-16 21:52
by Mark T.R. Donohue

The Rockies lost 7-1 to the Braves today in a makeup game from one of Colorado's usual April snowouts. It's too early to say that the team's recent upturn in fortunes has officially reversed, but with this team a good streak seldom lasts past the end of the homestand. Hope is on the way, we're told. Some breathless reports announce that Clint Barmes and Troy Tulowitzki will be back with the big club within the week. Putting automatic everyday starters at the chaotic second base and shortstop positions might go a long way in keeping the team out of any more extended tailspins. But there wouldn't be a lot of point in rushing either back; I think it's safe to say that this is not the Rockies' year. The risk of getting hurt rushing back is the obvious reason to play it safe with Tulo (and Clint). There's also the possibility of a slump starting because the player isn't 100% and then continuing because they get psychologically frustrated.

With the Rockies no longer the worst team in the majors, and briefly there not the worst team in the NL either, it's kind of like old times. We're existing unnoticed in our own little cocoon of misery while hysterical stories are being written about the problems of bigger teams who are, ultimately, in far better position going forward in the current baseball economy. There were top story links about Chien-Ming Wang's unfortunate injury on every sports site on the web today, and many of the general interest news portals as well. It's a shame the Yankees have lost their ace, and Wang is the few guys in a Yankees uniform I don't hate intensely and a unique and fun player to watch pitch. But where were the headlines when the defending NL champs went through a brief run without their starting second baseman, shortstop, third baseman, left fielder, and right fielder? Not so much. Although I guess when Tulowitzki went down it's not as if it went entirely unreported.

The Mariners finally realized that their incompetent legacy GM had transformed them from a 100 game-winning transoceanic moneymaking machine into MLB's answer to the Knicks and sacked Bill Bavasi. Good for them, although they still have some other folks in the organization who are unclear on the concept that a team must score runs to win games. That's a conceit they share with all of the fools who saw the M's giving the Angels a fight in their division this season.

All of the unpleasantness surrounding the Mariners, where the manager is losing his mind and the since-fired Bavasi tried to lock everyone in a room so they'd just all talk it out, and that following the Mets and Willie Randolph, makes you clutch for a silver lining with the Rockies' season. Colorado may have a terrible record and they may have lost more guys to injuries than they've lost active fans in Denver, but for the most part no one has melted down. There have been no tirades, no rumors about anybody's jobs (other than the ones I've tried to start), no internal sniping, no nothing. Everyone just seems disappointed and kind of bravely chipper, as if they'll face this atrocity with a smile and a thank-you. When you see a Rockies player loaf, it's still a rare occasion.

Given what happened last year, they don't really need anyone to convince them that persevering in the face of impossible odds pays out every now and then.

Speaking of impossible odds, I don't think that the Lakers have much chance to come back against Boston. They looked pretty so-so in a winning performance in Game 5, and even the TV announcers were spending most of the last few seconds of the game beating up on them. I thought that was a little weird, but it was a game Boston nearly won without much of a frontcourt to speak of and Sam Cassell handling the ball for significant minutes in the fourth quarter. It was great for L.A. that Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom got the points the Lakers needed from them, but that was with no Kendrick Perkins and with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce playing a lot of crunch time with five fouls apiece.

The NBA isn't wrestling-level fake, like a distressingly high number of people believe, but that's not to say it isn't a little crooked. The fifth foul Pierce picked up was highly suspect. I don't think the fix was in or anything, but it had to be playing on the officials' minds as it was on my own that a powerful corporation stands to profit very nicely indeed from one or even two more games in Boston. This is inevitable in any sport -- the games were compromised the minute a television cameras were pointed at them -- but it does happen a lot in basketball. The game is fast, it's really hard to officiate correctly even when you aren't worried about the Disney corporation enslaving your children to serve as "Hannah Montana" backup dancers, and guys who do research on the Internet are screaming unpleasant personal stuff at you if you don't give the calls the home squad's way.

I don't think there's anything that can be done to completely eliminate off-court bias from the way basketball games, and especially games at the NBA level, are called. There are a few checks and balances in place. The team with the better record getting homecourt is one. Still as someone who is passionate about the historical record it seems like a 4-1 series win for Boston would be a more accurate representation of how the two teams performed in the series than 4-2.

In baseball, things are more symmetrical that way. When another Boston team beat the Rockies 4-0 in the World Series last season, they were probably about 5-0 better than us.

And I thought we were going to win! Man, I must be dumber than Bill Bavasi and John McLaren.

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