Baseball Toaster Bad Altitude
Interleague Hangover
2008-06-24 20:08
by Mark T.R. Donohue

Interleague play has gotten to the point where it's no longer novel. I imagine that the attendance for NL-AL games will continue to be a little better than that of regular games. If you're a Twins fan living in Denver and the team only comes to town once every six years, you're going to make a point of being there. But as an everyday fan of the hometown team, interleague has become an accepted part of the landscape. It's been going on too long for cool things like "the last time these two teams met was the 1945 World Series" to be still true. Now it's "the last time these two teams met was three years ago, in interleague play." Which is less exciting.

For the Rockies in the past few seasons, interleague has been a welcome oddity. For whatever reason, Colorado was quite good against the AL in 2006 and then again in 2007. Last season, the difference between the Rockies' record and the other contenders for the wild card in the National League was their extra wins against the DH league.

Interleague isn't going to save Colorado in 2008. Nothing is. Despite a favorable matchup with the teams of the dysfunctional AL Central, the Rockies have followed up a sweep of Cleveland with two unpleasant losses to the Kansas City Royals. Colorado's yearly matchup with Kansas City has always felt pointless and arbitrary but usually it matches up two very bad clubs. This year it's the Royals who look like they're experiencing a new era of hope while the Rockies are wallowing in the mud again.

Today Rockies hitters piled up 14 strikeouts while managing only three runs off of ten hits. Kansas City got seven runs from eight hits. Only one Colorado hitter walked, and that's your problem right there -- this year, next year, every year. The Rockies need their own version of Kosuke Fukodome, a patient hitter who leads by example and gets everyone up and down the lineup excited about working counts. Todd Helton -- who struck out three times tonight -- has good plate discipline and so does Brad Hawpe, but the rest of the Rockies' lineup is very poor. Matt Holliday doesn't walk anywhere near as often as a potential MVP ought to, and an RBI threat like Garrett Atkins should have better numbers in that area as well. You never hear about Rockies hitting coaches, but maybe it's about time that we started to do so.

It's an odd time for the Rockies with all of the injured players returning. A bad league, and a weak division, mean it's not ridiculous to think about staggering back into contention this season. The way that the Rockies have played almost every game argues strongly that it's not too early to begin planning for 2009. The midseason trade rumor mill won't really start to percolate for another few weeks. How the Rockies approach that hurdle depends in large part how they play in these next few series. A sloppy, strikeout and error-filled first two games against the Royals is a very bad sign. The only major thing distinguishing the Rockies from Kansas City or any number of other payroll-poor youth-rich MLB clubs is desire.

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