Once Again I Am at Coors Field While Boston Clinches a Championship
by Mark T.R. Donohue
I went to see the Rockies and the Indians tonight, two young teams who have greatly disappointed this year. The pitching matchup had a least a little bit of interest to it, with Colorado's quickly-improving rookie Greg Reynolds facing Cleveland's Paul Byrd, who's been getting meals at a discount for a couple of years now with his Serviceable Veteran Starters' Club card. The Rockies lineup looks much more recognizable than those from the past two weeks and if you squint (hard), you can almost see "Quintanilla" morphing into "Tulowitzki."
Whether "Baker" needs to become "Barmes," however, is a more vexing question. Jeff had an inside-the-park homer tonight on a high-arcing bomb and smoked a single. The guy can hit and is hitting. The only times in the prodigal Clint's career when he's played well have been the ones when his back's been up completely against the wall. Is it best to hand him the job or should he be thrown into the mix, as they say? Here Colorado has a conflict between the makeup of their roster and the character of their team. The players on the Rockies, almost to a man, are stern, serious, conservative, slightly square folk. Clint Hurdle is the rare manager who's cooler than most of his players. That's why the Rockies work best when things are routine. I can't help but believe that a massive part of the collective team psychology that allowed the sublime September run came from this trait.
Between injuries, flameouts, trades, and Coors Field pitcher attrition, the Rockies roster has been stable for exactly zero of this practically-but-maybe-not-quite-over season. Given the circumstances, there's a lot to defend the approach Clint Hurdle has taken. Might as well just start shuffling the lineups like a deck when nobody's hitting. Now that the team is mostly healthy I foresee pressure on the manager to pick an "everyday" second baseman, much as he has made so much ceremony of anointing Chris Iannetta as the #1 catcher over Yorvit Torrealba. (I wore my Yorvit t-shirt to a game tonight for the first time and Yorvit, although back from suspension, didn't play. Bummer!) But if what makes the most sense is a three-way car crash of Barmes, Baker, and a glove-ly young third option (Quintanilla, Jonathan Herrera, fresh recruit Doug Bernier... probably not the latter), then the manager should have the discretion to play his hunches. With the Rockies' bullpen looking downright capable these days, Clint will have more free time to develop them.
To the Coors Field fan who interfered with a live ball down the right-field line and cost us all a shot of seeing the hulking Greg Reynolds trying to stretch a double into a triple: You're lucky you don't live in a country where there could cut your hands off for that, pal. I'm almost never a violent person but there are some things that are completely beyond the pale. The minute some dirtbag touches a ball or player deliberately at a live sporting event, the ushers should be authorized to Tase the living bejesus out of him right there on the spot. And the fans in the section should get to kick and throw stuff at his twitching body as he's being dragged out.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Rockies built a three-run rally around three consecutive fly balls that bounced off of outfielders' gloves. I don't remember ever seeing that before. Along with Baker's four-runner, and the less historic but far more spirit-boosting sight of another ace-level Reynolds start, it was a good game to have gone to.
I didn't spend a lot of time thinking about whether I should give the game a miss to stay home and watch the 6th game of the NBA Finals because, frankly, I thought that a regular-season game between Cleveland and Colorado would be more interesting. Los Angeles lost that series when they buckled in Game 4, and while the huge final margin was a little eye-opening, if I was a betting man I would have guaranteed you that the Celtics were going to win Game 6 by 15 at least. 39 pretty much just reinforces what I've said about the Lakers before. No fight in them. A shame to see, because they've got the talent to be a dynasty.
Willy Taveras had two runs batted in in the game today. I keep joking about how he never knocks runs in, and then he does... but only when I'm at Coors. Aren't spooky coincidences fun?