Baseball Toaster Bad Altitude
2008-10-17 15:52
by Mark T.R. Donohue

I feel really bad, but I was between a rock and a hard place. On one hand you had the chance to watch the Tampa Bay Rays clinch passage to their franchise-first World Series. On the other, my pub quiz team needed their all-star history/pop music/"Simpsons" quotes anchor at nine sharp. What's a right-thinking fellow to do? I elected to make it to the bar on time, and I ended up missing the season's second-most epic comeback (after that Phillies-Mets brainmelter) and the quiz team ended up going down in flames in the rock-paper-scissors tiebreaker round.

So what do we make of Boston's late surge? I think it would mean a lot more had it been James Shields and not Scott Kazmir who'd started the game. St. Pete can't feel completely shaken knowing they have their postseason ace back on the mound, at home, in the next game. They have to feel good also knowing they've tagged every starter the Red Sox have to offer at least once in this season. On the other hand, David Ortiz finally showed up for October last night, and that's got to be at least a little scary for the Manta birostris fans.

As for the waiting Phillies, I'm a little late to the party with this point, but I feel it needs to be made. Headline writers: knock it off with the "ph" puns. Just stop.

On the offseason front, the Padres have made it known that they're dangling Jake Peavy, and I know it's futile to even speculate, but if the Rockies don't at least inquire, they're not trying. San Diego may be reluctant to move their ace within the division (although I don't see why, since they're not going to contend in it for four or five years at least), but if they're ever going to be taken seriously by the baseball community at large, Colorado has to import a living, breathing pitcher (as opposed to the mummified likes of Livan Hernandez) and they're going to have to do it in trade. It's silly that free agent pitchers who aren't completely desperate bottom-feeding sucker fish won't even negotiate with the Rockies, but the fact remains that a somewhat unfair impression of Coors Field has formed in the minds of hurlers around the circuit. I don't think pitching for the Rockies nowadays, particularly with the humidor and (even more so) their beefed-up defense, is any more ruinous to a starter's baseline stats then pitching in places like Philly or Houston where the left-field foul pole is 250 feet from home like a little league park.

But until a pitcher who's perceived to be a big deal arrives at Coors and succeeds, the bias will persist that Denver is where careers go to die. It's a pretty small sample size that current free agents are drawing their impressions from, but the fact remains that a pitcher who operated on a star level elsewhere has never come to the Rockies and thrived. The sample size, of course, is essentially Mike Hampton; and he wasn't really that big of a star to begin with. He piled up stats at the Astrodome and Shea Stadium, two (former) pitchers' parks.

(The only two former Rockies players whose pages I have bookmarked are Hampton's and Vinny Castilla's. Both I keep going back to to make basically the same point about how misunderstanding of park effects kept this team from competing for a decade.)

Long story short, the only way the Rockies are going to bring in the frontline starter that they need to complete their rotation alongside Jeff Francis, Aaron Cook, and Ubaldo Jimenez and keep tomato cans like Jorge de la Rosa out is by trading for him. With Garrett Atkins, an established star-level slugger, and Joe Koshansky, a lefty masher who could easily develop into an everyday first baseman, and any number of AA-level prospect arms, the Rockies have the hard currency to get a deal for a #1-A starter done. Will they? Of course they won't. They're waaay too cheap, and they think they can pass off the likes of Kip Wells and Mark Redman as real rotation-fillers all while Matt Holliday and Scott Boras tick off the days until free agency. Lame.

You know what else is lame? The accusation of collusion as to keeping Barry Bonds on the field in 2008. You know what it seems the MLBPA hasn't considered? That Bonds is a walking soap opera, a guy who has to take two out of every five games off to even play well, a massive festering metastasizing clubhouse cancer, and someone who's 80% likely to be in federal prison by the end of next year. Who wouldn't want to pay the dude $20 million to bring all of that baggage, and his leather recliner, to their city? Obviously the MLBPA is just trying, like most of our society, to get some free money while the getting's good. I'll settle for a winning my team a free round by sweeping the 80's music category.

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