Baseball Toaster Bad Altitude
Monthly archives: September 2005


The End of the Season...Exciting, but Also the End!
2005-09-30 20:54
by Mark T.R. Donohue

I did something I rarely do this morning -- I put on my Yankees hat. The last time I did this was after Game 3 of the ALCS last year. It seemed to have the intended effect that time. I only have a Yankees hat for completeness's sake (although the introduction this year of a hideous "alternate" Orioles lid has wrecked my formerly completed set of fitted MLB game caps) and for express jinxing purposes. I would switch now to my White Sox gamer to help Cleveland get in, but I don't want to press my luck here. It's the New York cap all weekend. I may even sleep in it. Forgive me, Mom and Dad. So far, so good at least.

Meanwhile in a game watched by nobody, the Mets beat the Rockies. Matt Holliday needs one more homer for twenty on the year. Florida and Washington each need one more win to keep the whole NL East above .500 (they've already along with New York guaranteed that no one will finish below that mark). I will admit that I did peek in on the Brewers a few times, and they rewarded me by beating Pittsburgh. One more win guarantees them a winning record as well. It would also keep them ahead of the Cubs for third in the NL Central, which is very funny to me. (Chicago for their part narrowly beat Houston tonight to keep Philadelphia in the postseason mix for one more day at least.)

OK, I must turn my attention back to the Cleveland-Chicago game. Go, pennant races!

2005-09-28 20:31
by Mark T.R. Donohue

Rob Neyer says that Derrek Lee and Albert Pujols are going to split the "sophisticated" vote for the NL MVP and hand it to the undeserving Andruw Jones, which makes me unhappy. I doubt very many (if any) BWAA members are going to come here to make up their minds before filling out their awards ballots, but I would feel remiss if I didn't at least try.

NL MVP: Derrek Lee (.339/.422/.668, 45 homers, 104.1 VORP) has been the best hitter in the majors this year by a wide margin. But they have an award for best hitter. Pujols (.330/.428/.606, 39, 96.9) has been nearly Lee's equal while carrying a St. Louis offense that's not nearly as loaded as people think (Scott Rolen and Larry Walker have been hurt, Jim Edmonds is having a slightly down year for him). Pujols would have won multiple MVP's in the past few years were it not for the otherworldliness of Barry Bonds. He deserves to win this year as his Cards have the best record in baseball and Lee's Cubs are an uninspiring 77-80. Why Jones (.264/.347/.579, 51, 61.4) is even in the discussion is a mystery to me. His OBP is good only for 42nd in the NL. And, if you care about "complete players," he only has four steals to Pujols' 16 and Lee's 15. Just say no to Andruw Jones.

AL MVP: Another two-man race, but in this case both players are on teams in contention: Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz. If you leave out the fact that A-Rod plays Gold Glove defense at third and Ortiz is primarily a DH, Rodriguez still gets over on his hitting numbers alone. Rodriguez (.320/.422/.607, 46, 98.0) is second in the majors in VORP (which includes defense) and Ortiz is fifth. (Lee and Pujols are first and third.) Who's #4, you ask? Why, it's Pittsburgh's Jason Bay. Who knew? Travis Hafner missed a little time this season with a concussion but he's had an amazing year, look out for him in 2006.

NL Cy Young: I can't stand Alex Rodriguez, and I can't stand Roger Clemens, but a full-season ERA of 1.89 in the modern era is completely ridiculous. His won-loss record is unimpressive but people who think a starter's win total is his most important stat are likely people who think Andruw Jones is a slam-dunk MVP. Chris Carpenter and Dontrelle Willis have had fine years but Clemens is just on another planet. One day I'm going to have to tell The Next Generation that yes, I saw Roger Clemens and yes, I saw Barry Bonds and they were both huge jerks.

AL Cy Young: What's both good and bad about the major leagues' top awards is that there's really no rules. In the absence of an obvious, slam-dunk best pitcher or position player for a year, you can let all sorts of things color your thinking -- his team's record, his historical importance, whether or not he's won a bunch of times before. The AL doesn't have a starter with perfect credentials. Kevin Millwood is the ERA leader but has a losing record. Johan Santana (and, significantly, his team) was better last year, when he won it. The White Sox duo of Jon Garland and Mark Buehrle has faded badly down the stretch. Bartolo Colon has 20 wins but he's not even in the majors' top 10 in VORP. So where do you turn? Easy: Mariano Rivera. He's the greatest closer who ever lived and at age 35 he's had a career year: 1.41 ERA, 42 saves, 0.88 WHIP, .178 BAA, 9.31 K/9. I have the end of the Baltimore-New York game on as I'm writing this and I know I don't even have to look up, even with the Yankees having but a one-run lead. Rivera is as sure a sure thing as there ever was in the game. Except against the Red Sox. He deserves to win a Cy Young, just as he deserves to one day enter the Hall of Fame.

NL Rookie of the Year: Tight, tight race between Ryan Howard (Philadelphia) and Jeff Francoeur (Atlanta). Francouer has the average (.306 to .284) but eschews the walk (.343 OBP to Howard's .348). Francoeur's got 14 homers to Howard's 20. Jeff has a slight edge in slugging (.565 to .547). The Braves have sewn up yet another division title (ho, hum) and the Phillies will at least be in it into the final days. They're 1-2 in the NL for VORP among rookie position players (Howard at 24.1, Francoeur at 23.5). I'm tempted to call it a tie but I've grown sick of draws watching Liverpool the last few weeks so I will give it to Howard seeing as he has played slightly more. (Also, it will make it all that much more hysterical when Philadelphia has to trade Howard due to the foolish contract they signed Jim Thome to.) If Pittsburgh's Zach Duke had spent the whole year with the big club, this title would be his.

AL Rookie of the Year: Way more candidates over in the Junior Circuit. Two rookies arguably saved the Yankees' season (Robinson Cano and Chien-Ming Wang). Joe Mauer arrived at last for the Twins and was everything they said he would be (.302/.378/.422). Unheralded guys Jonny Gomes and Chris Shelton were revelations for the Tigers and Devil Rays. Tadahito Iguchi quickly became a linchpin for the White Sox after arriving from Japan. Counting on rookies in a pennant drive is becoming more and more common in the current economic climate, but Oakland abused the privilege with Nick Swisher, Dan Johnson, and Joe Blanton. It seems fair that an Athletic should get the award, and I'm throwing my support behind Huston Street, who at age 22 assumed the closer's mantle in Oakland and thrived -- in fact, he was practically Rivera-like. How does a 1.63 ERA, 22 saves, a .193 BAA, 0.98 WHIP, and 8.26 K/9 strike you? Strikes me like a Rookie of the Year winner.

There's games left to be played, of course, so I reserve the right to change my mind. Big Papi might go insane at Fenway Park this weekend, and so might Rivera (for the wrong reasons). Ryan Howard could slug the Phillies past the Astros, maybe. But this is how I see things as of right now. If I impress anything upon you at all, please, let it be that Andruw Jones is a pretender as an NL MVP candidate. .347!

The String
2005-09-28 17:22
by Mark T.R. Donohue

Nights like yesterday's are what they make the MLB Extra Innings package for -- pivotal games being played from coast to coast. The Braves and Angels clinch. The White Sox, Red Sox, Yankees, and Indians all lose. Feel the excitement.

With the Braves safely in the postseason, tonight might have been a good night for Clint Hurdle to pull his cavalcade-of-rookies stunt, but Helton, Holliday, and Ardoin are in the lineup. The final series of the year against the Mets will be sort of interesting for those of us who take baseball far too seriously, as the Rockies are trying to beat their franchise-low win total (67) and New York is trying to assure that every team in the NL East will finish above .500 (Florida and Washington also have to win two games apiece for this to work).

A sign that I'm one of those nutty baseball people mentioned above: on "Pardon the Interruption" this afternoon, neither Mike Wilbon nor Tony Kornheiser was able to name 4 current Anaheim Angels. Off the top of my head, I was able to list 21, and I forgot Orlando Cabrera and Chone Figgins whom I'm sure I would have remembered eventually if I'd taken more than two minutes. I'm pretty sure I can name at least ten people on every current major league team. I might cut it kind of close with Tampa Bay and Toronto, but I feel confident. I suppose this is not normal.

Rookie Fever
2005-09-26 17:42
by Mark T.R. Donohue

Something I forgot to mention earlier: Clint Hurdle is toying with the idea of starting nine rookies in one of the remaining games this year, logically one started by Mike Esposito or Jeff Francis. It won't be tonight. This hasn't happened in the major leagues since 1963. Kind of a cheap bid for some national press, but then again, many of the rookies the Rockies have are better than their "veteran" alternatives -- Omar Quintanilla is better than Aaron Miles, J.D. Closser is better than Danny Ardoin, and Choo Freeman is at least equivalent to Dustan Mohr. (Ryan Shealy isn't better than Todd Helton, but he is vastly more cost-effective -- if the Rockies have a poor start next season, this could become an issue.) I don't know why exactly Colorado would want to draw attention to the fact that they're racing to the bottom in payroll but it's not my team to run.

I like the Chiefs tonight, although my interest in the game is somewhat diminished due to the fact that thanks to Shaun Alexander my fantasy victory for the week is already secure. Trent Green hasn't done anything for me so far this year but seeing as his backups are Chad Pennington and Gus Frerotte, he's not getting benched any time soon. Show me something, Trent! After watching the Broncos get called for too many men on the field last week when a bunch of idiots ran out to celebrate a punt return touchdown before the returner got into the end zone, I will be surprised each and every time Denver wins a football game the rest of this season. You're a bum, Shanahan. What is it about this state and horrible coaching? Thank goodness for Fisher DeBerry.

Last Week
2005-09-26 14:56
by Mark T.R. Donohue

The Rockies lose 2 of 3 to the Giants and finish 40-41 at home on the year. Not bad considering their talent level. They'll play out the string in Atlanta and New York this week needing a bit of a run -- four of seven -- to avoid matching the franchise-worst 67-95 mark of '93. Thirteen years of Denver baseball and we're barely a win better than we were as an expansion team. Meanwhile, the Marlins bought a World Series, completely disassembled, and came back and won another World Series. The D-Backs have three division titles and one world championship. At least Tampa Bay is still awful. And if you want to go back a few expansions, the Padres and Astros haven't done too much in their existence thus far. Of course both of those teams will probably be in the playoffs this year, and had all of those Hall of Famers, but do they have solid purple alternate jerseys? No.

The A's couldn't take care of business against Minnesota and Texas so the series they begin with Anaheim tonight is practically meaningless. Instead, the big story of the final week will (again) be Boston and New York. Boy, I'm sick of these pricey, flawed teams. Since the White Sox are going to get whaled on in the first round of the playoffs by whomever, I am rooting for a Cleveland-St. Louis World Series -- two balanced, well-managed teams with a variety of unexpected potential heroes. Travis Hafner and Albert Pujols might be the two most fun guys to watch hit in the majors. And can you imagine Bob Wickman closing one-run games in the playoffs? He sure has the numbers this year but...Bob Wickman? It sure beats another championship appearance by either of the East Coast Glimmer Twins, a surprise run by the punchless Astros, or an encore by the Braves, whose hometown fans are even now studiously not buying playoff tickets.

I don't see the Angels winning it all, but I have to give them their proper 'spect -- they stared the A's down down the stretch and won eight in a row. Good for them. I still have zero faith in Bartolo Colon and to whomever faces off against them in the wild card round, here's a tip: just keep walking #27 and you'll be fine. Unless you're the White Sox, in which case, tread mark city.

I doubt I'll be very much (if any) attention to the hometown club this week. Mike Esposito will get a road start against Horacio Ramirez tonight, then it'll be Aaron Cook and Tim Hudson (nice matchup) on Tuesday, and Jeff Francis and John Smoltz on Wednesday. If I slack off with the Rockies news, I will be back in time for an in-depth playoff preview when the matchups are set. Here's a free sneak preview: the White Sox are toast.

The Benevolent Crue
2005-09-23 16:11
by Mark T.R. Donohue

The Brewers -- a third-place team who quietly have a better record this year than the Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, or D-Backs -- are giving away all the tickets to their season finale. This is the team who resigned their young ace, Ben Sheets, to a long-term deal earlier this year. The team who traded two cheap role players for Carlos Lee in the offseason. A team unquestionably on the rise (who have drawn 2.2 million paying fans this year).

The Rockies would never do something like this. In the midst of a campaign that will go right down to the wire with regards to breaking the franchise's all-time mark for futility, it'll be full price to see Barry Bonds and the Giants this weekend. Wouldn't it be great, even if it is a total gimmick, to see Coors Field full in September? I don't even know why I'm talking about this. This is the team that traded Shawn Chacon for chattel because they were terrified of the arbitration reward a 1-7 starter might command. This is a team that held up a Preston Wilson deal for weeks not because they wanted to make sure they got the best prospects possible in return (ha!) but because they wanted to pay as little of his remaining salary as possible. But give the long-suffering fans a bargain comparable with the ones they themselves seek in players? Yeah, right.

But back to the positives: Aaron Cook is awesome. 6-1, 3.23 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, only three homers allowed in 69 2/3 IP. And people are talking about Jason Giambi for Comeback Player of the Year. Ha! Cook's life-threatening situation wasn't self-inflicted. To the best of my knowledge.

So this is it: last home series of the year. Having safely fended off 100 losses Colorado will next try to finish better than the 67-95 mark of the 1993 team. They need five wins in ten games to do it. Against San Francisco the pitching matchups will be Francis-Matt Kinney, Sunny Kim-Lowry, and Wright-Cain. If you are planning to go out and see the home team one more time, you might want to go Saturday instead of Sunday because Bonds will (probably) not play in the day game after a night game. Also, do you really want your last Rockies game of the season to be a Jamey Wright start? No, you don't. Go, team.

Padres 5, Rockies 2
2005-09-21 23:11
by Mark T.R. Donohue

Well, so much for the momentum theory. I would love to see what the Rockies' record is historically the day after they score more than 10 and win by more than 5. It seems to me as if they tend to lose more often than not, but I have absolutely no evidence to back that up. This season they're 4-4 but the sample size is pretty small. If you drop the "scoring 10" requirement they are 8-9 after wins of five or more. I have no idea whether this is significant or not, I just felt a sudden urge to give myself a migraine peering at the season results pages.

Mike Esposito certainly didn't embarrass himself in his major league debut but his numbers don't bode particularly well for the future: 10 baserunners (seven hits, three walks) in five innings, only one strikeout (of Ramon Hernandez). There's a reason why John Sickels faint-praised this guy as a "utility pitcher." In any case J.D. Closser's wasted season reached perhaps its nadir when Clint Hurdle elected to use him as a pinch runner. Despite the fact that Danny Ardoin hit his fifth homer for the Rockies, the fact that he continues to get the bulk of the starts at catcher baffles me. Ardoin will still be a .240 hitter next year. Closser could be much more, but the Rockies have basically punted a year of his service time away because as a last-place team they're worried about basestealers. At Coors Field.

You'd think Closser would at least get a start when Jamey Wright, one of the best righthanders when it comes to holding runners on in the majors, goes for Colorado, but no, Ardoin started yesterday. You'd think the one good thing to come of the Monferts' inexplicable confidence in Clint Hurdle would be the guy managing with the team's long-term growth in mind, but no. Hurdle's driving motivation as a leader seems to be not making himself look bad. This is not the attitude for the field general of a young team to have.

Look at guys like Ozzie Guillen or Ken Macha. Ozzie challenges people to tell him he's wrong. He's named Bobby Jenks the closer and has stuck with Joe Crede at third even though the "safe" thing to do would be to go with vets Dustin Hermanson and Geoff Blum. Macha benched Scott Hatteberg in favor of Dan Johnson and bravely threw rookie Huston Street right on the fire. (On the other hand, Macha has fallen victim to the worst sort of "proven veteran syndrome" when it comes to Jason Kendall, who is playing nearly every day and having a career-worst season while the capable switch-hitting Adam Melhuse has seen less action than Yankees backup John Flaherty. Nobody's perfect.)

Today's big news, outside of the pennant races, was that Lou Piniella is jumping his contract in St. Petersburg. This should come as a surprise to no one. There are some managers out there who are just constitutionally unsuited to helm rebuilding projects. (Dusty Baker springs immediately to mind, although I would be very interested to see what Joe Torre could do with a team like Kansas City, not that that would ever happen.) If you're going to fly into an uncontrollable rage every time a rookie misses a sign, airmails a cutoff man, or slides headfirst into first base (this last one maybe not so much, it personally drives me nuts), maybe you would be better off working for ESPN. Think of your blood pressure.

Rockies 20, Padres 1
2005-09-21 18:26
by Mark T.R. Donohue

This is amazing: with the Angels and A's locked in a death struggle for the AL West and the Indians and White Sox in extra innings, my eyes were locked on one bad team beating another bad team 17-1. Why? Because a position player was pitching. I love when position players pitch. Does anybody else remember Mark Grace on the mound doing a Mike Fetters impression? One of my favorite regular-season baseball memories ever. Sean Burroughs showed slightly better stuff than Grace, but allowed Matt Holliday's sixth, seventh, and eighth RBIs in the form of a big fly off the leftfield foul pole. What a game!

Seriously, you have to read the box score to this game. It's a work of art. The Padres used 21 players! Every position player on the Rockies except J.D. Closser scored at least one run! The Rockies (in addition to the club record-tying eight from Holliday) got 4 RBIs from Luis Gonzalez and 3 from pitchers! Colorado scored 15 runs in the first three innings! Jamey Wright allowed only one run in six innings pitched! Insanity!

It's games like this that make me shake my head (further) at those who think the Rockies "can't win at altitude." Indeed, in addition to the simple statistical record, Colorado ought to have a huge psychological advantage at home. They don't need to overpay for "sluggers" to blow people out. The Rockies had 23 hits, but "only" four home runs. They won in both of my beloved categories, but not by much (three walks to the Padres' two, six strikeouts to San Diego's seven). But mostly, they put the ball in play and let the field do the work. Meanwhile Jamey Wright didn't hurt himself needlessly (two walks and no home runs allowed) and by pitching effectively for the first three innings, he received the reward of a cartoonishly huge lead which let him cruise for the rest of the start.

Colorado only had to use three pitchers in a 21-run Coors game. While winning games 15-14 may ultimately be more trouble than it's worth, watching both sides of the equation work the way they're supposed to ought to carry over for longer than one victory. Or maybe they'll get hammered tonight, who knows. In any case, last night was solid theater. Who needs the humidor?

Thanks for nothing, Joe Kennedy.

I Told My Dad, "The White Sox Need Shingo Back," and He Hung Up On Me
2005-09-20 17:37
by Mark T.R. Donohue

Two quick things: First of all there's a story on the Post site regarding the Rockies' master plan for next season. Depending on how you are inclined you could choose to read it as an early excuse for another noncompetitive team or a reasonable read on the state of the market. I for one don't see any particular reason for the Rockies to raise their payroll dramatically, but seeing the number of bad veteran contracts that come off the books after this year, it would be pretty disingenuous of them to let it flat-out plummet. If they spend their discretionary money on longer deals for the likes of Brian Fuentes, Mike DeJean, and Byung-Hyun Kim, that would be acceptable. It's not likely that the NL West will be this poor again in 2006, but Colorado should spend at least a little money on pitching just in case.

Also: although I'm not a fan of his music Billy Corgan's guest column on the Cubs over at the Chicago Tribune site is very readable and interesting. Corgan has a lot more insight than some of the regular Chicago press does on the subject of the Northsiders, who have had another exhausting season. I don't see how it would kill Billy to use capital letters, though.

2005-09-20 12:20
by Mark T.R. Donohue

Rockies lose, 8-7, on the strength of two homers from the unlikely source of Khalil Greene. The Rockies had 15 hits, 14 singles. That's not very good. They did outwalk the Padres and tied them in strikeouts, so there's that. Two more wins needed still to guarantee a loss total in double digits.

I just wanted to post real quickly at this late hour to register my displeasure over ESPN Radio's firing of overnight host Todd Wright. I've listened to Wright since I was in high school and found him to be one of the few distinctive personalities in the bland world of national sports radio. Some of Wright's bits were tiresome (his interviews with various starlets, Maxim models, and beauty pageant winners were excruciating) but he had a good sense for finding athletes to bring on as regulars, from Joe Randa to Barry Zito to the Colts' Larry Tripplett, who were bright guys and good speakers with interests outside of their chosen games besides huntin' and fishin'.

Wright's real talent was for finding a way to incorporate listeners into the show while not fielding cold calls, always death for sports radio. He read e-mails, ran contests, and let a few trusted callers whom he knew wouldn't embarrass him or his audience on the air. He also forced ESPN personalities out of their comfort zones and enticed them to show a little, well, personality. His signature segments were usually a little oddball, but always entertaining -- my favorite being "Know Your Major Leaguers," where he'd comb through the box scores looking for obscure injury replacement callups and and intersperse their names with another random sampling (often arena football rosters), usually befuddling callers and listeners alike.

I guess one fringe benefit of Wright's being ousted for the utterly inoffensive Jason Smith is I'll be getting a lot more sleep. Still, I imagine that I will be referring to Tennessee's NFL franchise with the accent on the second syllable (ti-TANS) until my dying day. Thanks for that, Todd.

Various Loose Strands
2005-09-19 13:05
by Mark T.R. Donohue

Attention bettors: I played New Orleans vs. the Giants in Madden this morning and won 27-0. For what it's worth. Also, Deuce McAllister is on my fantasy team, and my fantasy team is having a crazy good week -- go, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, go! Not to mention Mike Brown and the Bears' defense. (Peter King says, "If Mike Brown stays healthy and the Bears win a few games, he'll give Ed Reed a run for his money as the best safety in football." Who am I to argue with Peter King?)

On the subject of the special Monday Night Football doubleheader tonight, I'd like to take a second to shake you all down for money. I give you all of this premium Rockies content and ask you nothing for it, now it's time to give back. You see, I'm poor. Real poor. I "work" as a freelance writer and live quite literally story to story. There has been less than a dollar in my bank account since whenever Fox cashed my three-dollar check for shipping on my replacement "Simpsons" Season Six box. So I'd like to pursuade those with better jobs than I to toss a few dollars towards the hurricane relief effort. My uncle, aunt, and their two daughters lived in the Virgin Islands several years ago and when the hurricane hit it was like somebody hit "reset" on their lives. Not everyone in New Orleans is fortunate enough to have a huge concerned Irish Catholic extended family, so please considering giving if you can spare it. If you've already given in your name, now's your chance to do so in mine!

Moving to the relatively trivial matter of the baseball pennant races, I'd like to remind you anew to check Baseball Prospectus's daily Playoff Odds Report. On second thought, if you are a fan of one of the teams trailing in the various races, maybe you shouldn't. The rigorous methodology of BP's system takes into account the offensive and defensive abilities of every team in baseball, but by its very nature it treats games played by Tampa Bay in April just the same as games played by Cleveland this week. Obviously if two teams are in a close race that means they have very similar winning percentages, and probability dictates that they are likely to continue playing at more or less the same pace. This gives a huge advantage -- theoretically -- to frontrunners like the Red Sox, Astros, and Angels. But you know and I know that there are times in baseball when you simply throw the numbers out. It's like one of the fundamental precepts of baseball fandom. We have to believe that teams can "come together," that players can "take the team on their backs," that a single game or play can "make all the difference." As an A's fan I look at that 34.9% chance of playoff games and shrug it off. We still play the Angels! At home!

In any case the only team guaranteed postseason play as of this writing is St. Louis, which clinched a few days ago. The Cardinals have to be pulling for Houston to win the wild card, giving them San Diego in the first round. If the Marlins or Phillies (or heck, the Nationals, they still have a 1.3% shot) win the fourth spot, that means the Braves will play awful San Diego in the first round and the Cardinals will have to deal with the wild card team. Baseball's rules about first-round seeding, by the way, are incredibly stupid. Not as stupid as having the All-Star winner's league have home field in the World Series, but on that level. The teams should be slotted 1 vs. 4 and 2 vs. 3 by record, throwing out the foolish prohibition on intradivisional first round series. The NFL wild card round always seems to have at least one intradivisional game, and more often than not it's the best one of the weekend. Of course I know MLB is loathe to do anything that will cost us nationally televised Yankees-Red Sox games, but having the best record in your league -- or for that fact, the majors -- is worth basically nothing except home field in the second round if you get there. I'm not against the wild card, because having only 4 playoff teams out of 30 seems wrong somehow, but they could definitely manage it in a better fashion.

I haven't been paying terribly close attention to day-to-day Rockies affairs, and hence I didn't notice due to injury that Mike Esposito and Jamey Wright will start instead of Zach Day and Byung-Hyun this week. I know there are some people out there who are very fond of Esposito, but I've seen him pitch in person and he just strikes me as a minor league lifer. Love his control, love his makeup, hate his stuff. Day's season is over with a broken thumb, assuring that he will finish the season with more DL trips for the Rockies than wins. Oh, but I've got tons of faith in him for next season.

On another topic entirely, tonight is a big evening for TV nerds like me, as current Best Show On the Planet "Arrested Development" premieres for its third season and immediately afterwards "How I Met Your Mother", featuring thinking America's sweetheart Alyson Hannigan (Aly, if you're somehow reading this, I love you, and will you please autograph my Vampire Willow action figure?), debuts on CBS. Well, it has Neil Patrick Harris, it can't be entirely bad. Carry on.

Best News All Year
2005-09-19 10:18
by Mark T.R. Donohue

Well, Jeff Francis's extremely solid, series-winning performance in Phoenix is good news. Also: Colorado K/BB: 5 and 8, Arizona: 6 and 4. You know how happy that makes me. But I was referring to this breaking story off of the AP wires that lovable Expos mascot Youppi! has been hired on by the NHL's Canadiens. He looks adorable in a Habs uniform, too. If Youppi! wasn't a lock for the Mascot Hall of Fame already, this should clinch it: according to Montreal's marketing manager, this is the first time a mascot has ever switched over in pro sports. I live for stories like this.

Four games at home against San Diego starting tonight. It'll be S. Kim-Lawrence, B. Kim-Williams, Day-Peavy, and Cook-Eaton. Realistically the Rockies will get shelled in Zach Day's start but wouldn't it be fabulous to sweep the division champs apparent? That'll give the national media something to take notice of -- although of course it will only be more wailing about how awful the NL West is and how the league needs to change the playoff rules.

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday
2005-09-18 11:37
by Mark T.R. Donohue

The Rockies lose a close one thanks to Tony Clark, who is very quietly having a remarkable season for Arizona. He has significantly fewer at-bats than Chad Tracy, Shawn Green, or Luis (The Elder) Gonzalez, yet he's outhomered everyone on the team save Troy Glaus. Jeff Francis will try to get a series win for Colorado today. Three more victories will guarantee the Rockies avoid the indignity of a 100-loss season. When you look at the schedules, they have a good chance of finishing ahead of several teams in total wins -- not only Kansas City and Pittsburgh but also Tampa Bay, Seattle, and perhaps even Arizona and Detroit. Given the disparity in payroll between the Rockies and those last three teams, it would be something of an accomplishment to draft after the Mariners, D-Backs, and Tigers next year.

I have been trying not to mention it because, well, spilt milk and so on, and also it makes me miserable, but Shawn Chacon has pitched extraordinarily well for the Yankees. He shut out Toronto for eight innings yesterday. I still believe that the Rockies will be better than they have been this year in 2006 for several reasons -- Todd Helton will probably play better, Brian Fuentes will be the closer from Day One, a bunch of guys (well, everybody, actually) will be a year older, Aaron Cook and Sunny Kim will pitch the whole year -- but they made three critical mistakes this year that will hurt their chances to contend next season (finally, some positive national attention; link courtesy the invaluable ESPNLocal service).

First, the Shoppach thing. Yes, maybe it was the Red Sox' fault, but if the Rockies hadn't pulled out of negotiations in a fit of pique, they might still have been able to get the trade done in some shape or form. Colorado has little or no use for Larry Bigbie. Then again, they didn't have much use for Eric Byrnes, either. Managing to somehow turn Byrnes into Shoppach would have turned the Kennedy/Witasick trade from a push into a big win.

Second, jumping the gun on Preston Wilson. The market for veteran hitters was lousy this year, and Colorado moved Wilson way before they needed to seemingly just to save a few bucks off of his salary. A better prize than Zach Day (and J.J. Davis, whom I suspect will never play a day for the organization's big league affiliate) could easily have been pried from some franchise whose farm system hadn't been utterly devastated by Omar Minaya's shortsighted moves in Montreal.

Third: Chacon. The Rockies traded him to save money (don't believe the vague reports of his being a bad clubhouse guy, because Zach Day was far worse in Washington and Chacon was one of the very few pitchers of recent Colorado vintage who actually seemed to enjoy being with the Rockies) and his response to a playoff race in New York has been nothing short of galvanizing. Amazingly, he's been the Yankees' best starter down the stretch. The Yankees'. Best starter. Ow, my brain. Forget about Colorado having five trustworthy starters next year -- few teams in history have completed entire seasons with five effective guys. Having four, though, is a coup.

Sunny Kim/Aaron Cook/Jeff Francis/Shawn Chacon would have been a big deal. Maybe a big enough deal to seal a division title, or at least a .500 finish. Having those four guys might have even shamed ownership into paying Byung-Hyun Kim the going rate to complete the set. As it is, we'll have to suffer through Jason Jennings and Day walking seven or eight batters a start and Clint Hurdle mumbling truisms about "intensity level." Ah, the saddest of words -- what could have been.

How Long Can This Go On?
2005-09-17 13:01
by Mark T.R. Donohue

OK, here's what I'm mad about today: this week's ESPN MLB Power Rankings. I quote: "Left-hander Jeff Francis seems to have the mentality and stuff to be successful in the thin air of Colorado, but besides him, the pitching cupboard is bare." OK, uncredited ESPN "expert," have you watched a Rockies game since the All-Star Break? Cook has been good, both Kims have been good, Zach Day has flashed a sign here or there, but Francis has been terrible. And what about Brian Fuentes? Does any ML bottom-feeder have a better closer?

What annoys me most is at this time of year, the weekly power ranking columns are practically the only national mention Colorado gets. Would it kill any of these guys to glance over the box scores or just look at their own Rockies stat page so they could manage more "insight" than something I could have told you in spring training? And the next mention I read on a national page about how the Rockies' undoing has in fact been their offense will be the first. Also check out the game recap from yesterday, which states "Ardoin's homer lifts D-Backs." Guys, Danny Ardoin only plays for Arizona in my fever dreams. (They will probably correct this mistake eventually so go look at it now so you'll know I didn't make it up.)

Can the White Sox really blow a 15-game lead in their division? As if this writing they're only 4 1/2 in front of the rampaging Indians and being shut out in the ninth by Minnesota (not that there's any shame in being shut out by Johan Santana). It seems hard to imagine any team being 15 up on August 1st and not making the playoffs, but don't look now, Chicago is only five ahead of the Yankees (who would lead the wild card were Cleveland to take over the division lead). The White Sox aren't as bad as they're playing now nor as good as they played in the first half, but it is true that the "smart ball" strategy endorsed by Ozzie Guillen and Kenny Williams in the offseason is a complete hoax. The White Sox live and die on the home run, just as they have for years. They're fourth in the majors in homers compared to 14th in average and 23rd in OBP. Were I a White Sox fan I'd almost be hoping they miss the playoffs -- at least it'd be a new story, unlike yet another forgettable first-round exit.

Today's heading brought to you by the great Alex Chilton and "Mod Lang."

Phillips Head
2005-09-16 01:54
by Mark T.R. Donohue

The Rockies had the night off, but they did just take the last two in the series with Los Angeles. After three games in Phoenix they return to Coors for the last home series of the year, which will include Barry Bonds' cameo appearance for the season. As the A's moved back into a tie for first in the AL West, I began manuevering to attend a potential first-round playoff game or two in Chicago. Mark my words: If Oakland meets the White Sox in the first round, Ozzie and his guys are going down hard. The same is probably true of a Boston-Chicago matchup. I imagine Pale Hose fans are probably hoping for either Cleveland to win the wild card and Anaheim to win the AL West, or the Angels to win the wild card. The Angels' lack of big-game starting pitching and one-note offense makes them the most vulnerable playoff contender after the White Sox. Of course, that one note is a resounding Vlad! and if any offensive player can completely take a team onto his back it's Guerrero.

I've really grown to hate the Angels in the last few years. There's the whole "Los Angeles Angels" thing, which is just stupid and greedy. They won the World Series shortly after changing the name from California to Anaheim, why mess with a good thing? There's also this: Although the Yankees have a number of hugely paid players whom you love to hate, it's hard to say (erroneous to say) that Derek Jeter or A-Rod or Randy Johnson or Jorge Posada or Hideki Matsui are bad. But Anaheim has the massively useless Darin Erstad, the punchless flying Molina brothers, Garret Anderson (who is described as "underrated" so often that he has become, paradoxically, overrated), Orlando Cabrera (whose miserable offense is supposedly compensated by his plus glove, only he doesn't have a plus glove), and Steve Finley, who seemingly lost it the moment he signed with the organization.

Then there's Jarrod Washburn, the sabermetric engima. His old M.O. was racking up high win totals with average peripherals as he consistently got top-of-the-table run support. Now he's moved on to the even more befuddling talent of somehow allowing far fewer runners to score than his numbers suggest he should, just as the offense around him folded up. This is befuddling. But we're on to you, Jarrod. Finally, Bartolo Colon is having a great season, I begrudgingly admit, but my long memory recalls how un-clutch he was in Montreal and Chicago in past seasons. I suppose it's not very scientifically rigid of me to look at Washburn's stats so closely and throw out Colon's, but you know, I really hate the Angels. It's a huge credit to the great Guerrero and their bullpen that they've been in contention all year.

Anway, to the real point of this writing, a new article on by Steve Phillips regarding next season's chances for each of the teams out of the race this season. This is another one of those ESPN Insider pieces, but I will summarize as necessary so those of you who can't read it can follow along with my retort.

Long story short, Phillips names the Rockies as 16th among the 17 teams in expected 2006 performance, ahead of only Kansas City. I think both the placing and Phillips' rationale are flawed. Steve writes: "The Rockies appear to have a few good, young position players...[but] hitters are not the problem -- pitching is." Um, that's just wrong. The Rockies' pitching (especially the bullpen) is better than it has been practically ever. The Rockies' offense, meanwhile, bereft of home run power and sorely lacking in on-base skills, currently ranks 30th of 30 teams in Baseball Prospectus's Equivalent Average stat, which adjusts for Coors inflation. Phillips pulls out the tired "thin air" excuse instead of actually looking at the Colorado roster and top prospects. Ignoring the possible impact that a healthy Aaron Cook could have on the front of the rotation is lazy journalism. I think for most of us intense Rockies fans, no single thing has given us more hope this year than Cook's performance in the second half.

But national writers being completely ignorant of what makes the Rockies tick or not tick is no new phenomenon. Guys have been completely overlooking the team save for Todd Helton and whichever three or four no-names have high batting averages thanks to Coors for years now. I could harp at length on Phillips' failure to mention Brian Fuentes or Marcos Carvajal or Dohmann/Speier/Tsao or gee, even Zach Day, but I would rather pick apart some of the stupid stuff he says elsewhere in the article.

In Arizona's entry (he ranks the Diamondbacks 14th): "Bullpens can be quickly improved from one year to the next. But they have to face the fact that they need to go outside the organization to fix the problem. The Diamondbacks keep trying to run young, inexperienced arms in the pen instead of experienced pitchers. They also definitely need a proven closer." Phillips, having transformed the Mets' bullpen into a eight-figure bleeding sore during his tenure as general manager there, hardly has the qualifications to comment. But also, look at Oakland or Anaheim. The A's setup guy is All-Star Justin Duchscherer (age 27) and their closer is rookie Huston Street (age 22). They traded for Duke when he was a prospect and drafted Street. The Angels counter with Scot ("One T") Shields (who's 30 but has spent his entire career with Anaheim) and Francisco Rodriguez, who's 23 and was signed out of Venezuela by Orange County. But hey, if the D-Backs want to pay through their nose for Jose Mesa, that's their problem. Arizona profoundly needs to curb their habit of overpaying for players who serve roles that are easy to fill cheaply -- corner outfielders, back-of-the-rotation starters, and so on. I think the Rockies' future is brighter than the Diamondbacks for the simple reason that like Tampa Bay, Kansas City, and only a handful of other teams, Arizona's management team is actually more incompetent than Colorado's. Russ Ortiz!

For Seattle (11th): "If you have a No. 1 starter (Hernandez) and a 40-homer, 120-RBI guy (Sexson), you have the makings of a team." Well, would you rather have Felix, Richie, and the rest of the guys the Mariners have, or Cook, Jeff Francis, Todd Helton and the Rockies' guys? Hernandez is going to be better than any of the current young Colorado starters, but Helton is a lot better than Sexson (and way more durable), and have you seen any of these other young guys the Mariners are running out? Jeremy Reed is the best of a bad lot that also includes such luminaries as Yuniesky Betancourt, Yorvit Torrealba, Ramon Santiago, and Willie Bloomquist. Thanks, but I'll take Barmes/Hawpe/Holliday/Gonzalez/Atkins over that group. Seattle is also saddled with the bad karma of Adrian Beltre's bloated contract and sub-Vinny Castilla numbers. Ichiro, Jamie Moyer, and Eddie Guardado aren't getting younger. It's also worth mentioning that the M's play in a division with two teams loaded with young talent (Oakland, Texas) and one team with a hundred million bucks to spend every year (OC). A lot of the Rockies' potential to contend soon is rooted in the dysfunction of the Dodgers, Giants, and D-Backs.

For Tampa Bay (9th): "The real hope is at the minor-league level for the Devil Rays: B.J. Upton and Delmon Young are top prospects who are going to be great." Well, yeah, that's what all the books say, but where are they going to play? Clown Shoes Chuck LaMar, demanding three top prospects and a Hawaiian island for any of the Rays' questionable veteran talents before the trade deadline, played St. Pete right out of the market. Now the D-Rays have roughly 9 outfield/DH candidates and only 4 spots in which to cram them. Compounding this problem is that Upton simply can't play short (53 errors at AAA Durham this year). The penny-pinching Rays have played rather well down the stretch this year -- but so have the Rockies. Tampa plays in garish Tropicana Field while Colorado has Coors. The Rockies once drew fans, the D-Rays still contend with a local market where the Yankees get more coverage than they do. Oh, and the Devil Rays play in an AL East where the three big-market teams will spend a combined $500 million on payroll next year. It's going to get worse before it gets better. If it ever gets better.

Phillips' list
  1. Toronto
  2. New York Mets
  3. San Francisco
  4. Chicago Cubs
  5. Minnesota
  6. Milwaukee
  7. Texas
  8. Baltimore
  9. Tampa Bay
  10. Cincinnati
  11. Seattle
  12. Detroit
  13. Los Angeles Dodgers
  14. Arizona
  15. Pittsburgh
  16. Rockies
  17. Kansas City
My list
  1. Toronto
  2. Milwaukee
  3. Texas
  4. L.A. Dodgers
  5. N.Y. Mets
  6. Minnesota
  7. Chicago Cubs
  8. Baltimore
  9. Detroit
  10. Rockies
  11. San Francisco
  12. Seattle
  13. Cincinnati
  14. Arizona
  15. Tampa Bay
  16. Pittsburgh
  17. Kansas City

Probables for the weekend series in Phoenix: Day-Nippert (Friday), Cook-Vargas (Saturday), Francis-Ortiz (Sunday). The Rockies' magic number is 4 -- four more wins to assure they won't lose 100.

2005-09-14 15:56
by Mark T.R. Donohue

I spent a few hours this morning messing around with the archives on, and now so I can justify it as "research" I'm going to write a few words about my favorite sportswriters.

  • Bill Simmons. ESPN's Sports Guy makes me laugh out loud while I'm reading him more often than any time since I first read Dave Barry Slept Here when I was probably 11. The web format really suits Simmons as he's able to ramble about his non-sports obsessions -- trash TV, '80s cinema, TiVo -- and be completely partial when it comes to his teams (all Boston squads and, endearingly, the L.A. Clippers). It's great that we live in an era when a sportswriter can be most strongly influenced by a TV show. Simmons wears his "Seinfeld" fixation proudly and shares its overly detailed, almost scientific obsession with everyday minutiae. He's also a pretty canny analyst and extremely stat-friendly for a humorist.
  • Jay Mariotti. He comes off as sort of a mook when he appears on "Around the Horn" or guest-hosts "Pardon the Interruption" but Mariotti's paranoia is perfectly suited for the city he works in. Unlike, say, Philadelphians, Chicagoans secretly want their teams to fail. We're not sure what to do, really, when they win. Remember all the people tipping over taxis after the first Bulls championship? Or the '85 Bears "dynasty" folding like a tent after one Super Bowl more memorable for its spinoff music video than any of the action on the field? If you get all your Chicago sports news from Jay, you won't necessarily believe that the Bears will finish 1-15, the White Sox will take their best-in-the-AL record and end up out of the playoffs, and Kerry Wood, Eddy Curry, and Rex Grossman will never play healthy again, but you won't be surprised if they do. Mariotti also leads the campaign to keep Chicago's numerous crooked owners (Wirtz, Reinsdorf, the nefarious Tribune Company) honest, although the Cubs still scalp their own tickets and the Blackhawks' home games still aren't on TV, so who knows what good it's doing.
  • Peter King and Paul Zimmerman. is inferior in nearly every other respect to the mighty, but their football coverage lords it over the competitors because of this dynamic duo. They're opposites in lots of ways -- King is agreeable, Dr. Z acerbic. Peter loves coffee and Paul loves wine. King fills column inches with his daughters' field hockey exploits, Z writes often about his formidable wife (The Flaming Redhead). They each view football in a completely different way, and you couldn't get a full picture of how the NFL works from reading only one or the other. King is a total insider, with every coach and coordinator on speed dial. Dr. Z is a clinician who watches tape of every single game and has a Baseball Prospectus-like knack for identifying and ridiculing the overrated, the inefficient, and the just plain stupid. King's Monday Morning QB column and Z's weekly picks in the print magazine are must-reads. I particularly anticipate Zimmerman's end-of-the-year ratings of all the TV announcers. It's nice to know I'm not the only viewer out there who despairs when the analysts completely ignore substitutions, fail to credit tacklers, and waste hours of airtime with "storylines" they worked out before the game and have little to do with the events on-field.
  • Rob Neyer. Sadly, you need a subscription to ESPN's Insider service to read most of his stuff, but Neyer is one of the few guys (actually, the only guy) good enough to convince me to pay money for Internet content. This flannel-wearing Pacific Northwest denizen isn't the most brilliant statistic manipulator on the Web (that distinction could belong to any one of a number of BP employees), but he has a way of making sabermetrics accessible that few share, and he can write a straight-up "color" column when his editors demand it. Neyer doesn't suffer fools gladly, and some of his best work comes from his bristling responses to fools who insist Derek Jeter is a great defensive shortstop or Andruw Jones is a slam-dunk NL MVP candidate. No other writer provides me with more things to be self-righteously angry about. Well, I guess that's not entirely true, as Joe Morgan has on more than one occasion driven me into an incoherent rage. But in Neyer's case we're usually on the same side.

There's probably people I'm forgetting but that seems like enough for now. I will note that my omission of all Denver's local writers is not an accident. Come back, Woody Paige.

Of Note
2005-09-12 23:33
by Mark T.R. Donohue

According to Troy E. Renck, the statistics support the notion that efforts to decrease offensive numbers at Coors Field this season have been successful. Scoring is down 16 percent and home runs down 33 percent. Of course, this might also have something to do with the fact that the Rockies' offense is the weakest it's ever been, and the pitching has been (slightly) improved. In any case, I don't buy the argument that "taming" Coors is the first step towards a competitive future for Colorado. The first, second, and third steps are acquiring and retaining talented players.

The Rockies lost to the Dodgers tonight, 7-0, dropping Jeff Francis to .500. Jeff Weaver pitched extremely well for L.A., but the Kims face Edwin Jackson and D.J. Houlton in the next two games so the Rockies still have a good chance to get the final word in this series. Go team.

Diamondbacks 8, Rockies 5 and Rockies 7, Diamondbacks 2
2005-09-11 21:51
by Mark T.R. Donohue

Another disheartening loss Saturday (Zach Day: not good), the much better news Sunday of an Aaron Cook complete game. What's the difference between these two groundball pitchers? Well, Day is the one with the semi-decent strikeout rate (5.73 per nine), but Cook's WHIP stands at 1.39 to Day's 2.45. Day has walked 32 guys in 47 IP (including his time in Washington), Cook 8 in 46.2. That's a pretty big difference.

Annoyingly, Danny Ardoin was 3 for 3 on Saturday. Ardoin hitting .240 in nearly a full season as a starter for Colorado is a complete embarrassment. 31-year-old catchers do not spontaneously generate extra base ability. Nor do they suddenly morph from career minor leaguers to legitimate major league starters. The choice between 25-year-old J.D. Closser and Ardoin should have been no choice at all. Closser's defense can get better. Ardoin isn't suddenly going to grow offensive value. Ever. Shame on you, Clint Hurdle. Now that Ardoin is a Proven Veteran, there's nothing to stop him from doing it again next season, either. Argh.

Other good signs from the weekend: Clint Barmes had multi-hit games Saturday and today. Matt Holliday continues to hit doubles where last year he would have singled. Cook only walked one guy in nine innings, bless him. The Rockies' hitters only struck out three times to Arizona's five. That's the stuff, guys. That's the stuff. Brad Hawpe, Garrett Atkins, and Luis Gonzalez are a better 4-6 combo than the Rockies have had all year. Cory Sullivan continues to hit better, but by no means should he be guaranteed the starting spot in center for next year.

Colorado is 57-85 with 20 games remaining. That means they're (probably) not going to lose 100, which is sort of an accomplishment considering their tiny payroll, litany of injuries, and serially inept field managing. If the current group was healthy and intact for the whole season, could the Rockies have pushed for .500 (and incidentally a division title)? Probably not. It's only due to injuries that many guys have gotten the chances to succeed that they have (Brian Fuentes, Byung-Hyun Kim, Gonzalez). Had injuries not given him a reason not to, Hurdle probably would have kept lobbing Jason Jennings and Jamey Wright out there to lose games all year. Ditto Aaron Miles. I don't think much of Clint Hurdle. Or Danny Ardoin.

Padres 3, Rockies 2 and Diamondbacks 7, Rockies 1
2005-09-10 15:55
by Mark T.R. Donohue

Win four in a row, lose three in a row. It's that kind of season. Except for the winning four in a row part, that hasn't happened very often. What's distressing about the last two losses to San Diego and Arizona is that the offense that's supposed to be back with Barmes and Hawpe, isn't. Granted, Clint didn't play on Friday and Brad didn't play yesterday, but neither did much when they did play (0 for 5 for Barmes, 0 for 4 for Hawpe). With Todd Greene available, why is Danny Ardoin even still wearing a uniform? I hate Danny Ardoin.

It's at this time of the year when it's easy to let one's attention sway from Colorado baseball. The Premiership is heating up, and somewhere in between three solid hours of commercials I believe they snuck an NFL game on TV Thursday night. But we're following this thing to the bitter end, and after the Rockies are mathematically eliminated will we have a few things to say on the subject of the playoffs.

Meanwhile, if you'll excuse me, I have a wedding to attend. I haven't worn a tie in over a year and I must say it doesn't suit me. I hereby give the Rockies permission to win in my absence.

2005-09-08 19:23
by Mark T.R. Donohue

ESPN's Gary Gillette, in a recent chat (ESPN Insider required): "Colorado's chances of contending in two years, never mind next year, are barely visible on the horizon with current management. On many days, they don't even have 3 players in their lineup that are true-ML caliber regulars."

See what we have to contend with? The Rockies' reputation is so poor that even pros aren't bothering to check in on their development. What does Gillette have against Garrett Atkins, Brad Hawpe, Clint Barmes, and Matt Holliday anyway? What about Aaron Cook and Jeff Francis? What about Brian Fuentes? What about their record compared to the rest of the NL West since the All-Star Break?

Listen, I don't mind people ragging on the Rockies. I rag on them all the time. It's true that their ownership is cheap and their field management often suspect. But it's not true that they don't have at least the vestiges of a young core. Just because their organization doesn't have the reputation of an Atlanta, Anaheim, or Oakland shouldn't cause people to ignore the things they have done right. The point isn't that Colorado is terribly underrated -- they're still one of the worst teams in the majors. The point is that years of futility are reducing them to a level of a team like Pittsburgh, a franchise so reflexively bad that no one short of Peter Gammons actually bothers to look at who's on their roster. If you're a national baseball writer and you want to pick on my local team, say something like "they strike out too much," or "their situational hitting is poor," or "counting on an entire rotation of longshot reclamation projects and prospects isn't a good plan for success." Don't just give a knee-jerk response that could apply to any one of a half-dozen ML teams. People still care about the Rockies, and people like Mr. Gillette are not doing their jobs if they think no one does.

Our winning streak was snapped yesterday; let's get back on the horse tonight.

Rockies 6, Padres 5
2005-09-07 17:55
by Mark T.R. Donohue

How about this? The Rockies are on fire! After yesterday's victory in San Diego, Colorado has won four in a row and 11 of their last 15. Beware, Arizona! Fourth place is not safe.

What has cued the Rockies' recent success? Well, having several guys who can hit behind Todd Helton in the lineup (Holliday, Hawpe, Atkins) doesn't hurt. Collecting tons of walks (ten yesterday) is another good sign. Aaron Cook after a shaky start is really proving worth the wait as he collected another win. Brian Fuentes continues to be as good as money in the bank.

Of course, beating $15 million man Chan Ho Park is not terribly difficult these days. And Padres catcher Miguel Olivo did his best to hand the game over with a pair of errors. Still, it's at times like this when you think maybe with a real catcher and one more starter, the Rockies could contend next year instead of in '07 or '08. If at all. One side benefit of the lopsided September schedule is that we'll leave this season with a good memory having played mostly awful fellow NL West teams down the stretch.

How about those A's storming back from a 7-3 deficit with five runs in the bottom of the ninth earlier today? And did you see David Ortiz's homer last night? Wow, there's a guy who understands the meaning of The Big Stage. With two (maybe three?) interesting division races, the American League has it all over the National right now. The Braves and the Cardinals are good but boring, the NL West is a horror show, and no one seems to want to win the wild card race. It could all change in the blink of an eye, though. That's what September's all about.

In case you're keeping track, we're rooting for the A's, Red Sox, and White Sox. All of our National League teams have been eliminated (unless Barry Bonds does something magical), but we are keeping an eye on the Brewers' quest for .500. If I had to pick a team in the wild card race, I'd put the good word in for Florida, since Dontrelle Willis is so much fun to watch. I reserve the right to change my mind whenever I feel like it, though.

Rockies 11, Dodgers 1 and Rockies 7, Dodgers 6 (10 innings)
2005-09-06 16:20
by Mark T.R. Donohue

Lloyd McClendon was fired as manager of the Pirates. That makes Clint Hurdle the last manager of a last place, non-contending team who hasn't either been fired (McClendon, Tony Peña, Dave Miley) or is trying actively to leave (Lou Piniella). While I have often despaired this year of Hurdle's insistence on managing the team as if their won-loss record mattered, and his botching that goal besides, the Rockies are realistically too far away from bringing on the manager with which they'll next win. Why hire the right guy only to have to fire him in two years because Dan O'Dowd doesn't bring in the players he needs?

On the field, meanwhile, things are looking up. Having Clint Barmes and Brad Hawpe back means the Rockies have a major league player at nearly every position, except catcher and center. Barmes had two hits in the extra-inning win Sunday; Hawpe along with Garrett Atkins homered in the blowout on Saturday. The Rockies drew nine walks on Saturday against an erratic D.J. Houlton and the soft(er) underbelly of the L.A. pen. That warms my heart. They also left 11 guys on base, but if they had 22 guys on altogether, that's acceptable. Although he only needed to go five innings, another win for Byung-Hyun Kim.

On Sunday Zach Day was solid and the Rockies tagged Edwin Jackson for six earned, led by a Matt Holliday home run. But Jamey Wright, removed from the rotation as he is, still lurks in the bullpen, and sure enough he, Randy Williams, and David Cortes could not secure a four-run lead. Cory Sullivan doubled to lead off the tenth. (He's been playing great ever since I started dumping on him. I should have started dumping on him earlier.) Todd Helton was predictably given four balls. Holliday struck out, but Hawpe was there to get the man home and secure the win. That's a sweep. Wow, and I was feeling pessimistic about this series. You live and you learn.

San Diego, in San Diego (again) tonight. I don't think there's much to be expanded on what I've already said about the Padres and the NL West in the last few weeks so write your own preview. It'll be Aaron Cook and Chan Ho Park, then Jeff Francis and Adam Eaton, and Sunny Kim and Brian Lawrence. Park and Lawrence are crummy, so the Rockies should be able to take at least two, and Jeff Francis has been known to do his best pitching at PetCo. Two sweeps in a row? You know, if not for April, the Rockies wouldn't just be winning the division, they'd be running away with it.

Rockies 11, Dodgers 3
2005-09-03 17:48
by Mark T.R. Donohue

It's always a good day in baseball when your two favorite teams win by a combined 23-3. Man, watching Al Leiter pitch in Oakland last night was hysterical. I mean, it's sad to watch a former great at the end of the line, unless he plays for the Yankees. Then he deserves whatever he gets. Watching A-Rod trying to fake sympathy during a mound conference for Leiter, who didn't make it out of the first inning, was pretty funny too. Sometimes I think Alex Rodriguez is a robot programmed only to hit meaningless home runs in blowouts and swat impotently at cornrowed Red Sox pitchers. That wouldn't explain the ugly error made on a ball hit directly at him last night, though.

But enough about my fantasy life where I'm still living in Berkeley and in the thick of another A's pennant race. The Rockies somewhat surprisingly took the pipe to Jeff Weaver as Clint Barmes and Brad Hawpe eased back into duty. Hawpe had two hits. Todd Helton (pretty good, this Helton guy) homered twice and Matt Holliday had another good game. I'm not sure were I Clint Hurdle I would have hit Barmes leadoff in his first game back (0 for 5), but Cory Sullivan reacted extremely well to the two spot (a hit, two walks, and three runs). J.D. Closser and Aaron Miles had good games as well. Please, don't allow Aaron Miles' batting average to impress you. A guy with 16 extra-base hits in 296 at-bats is simply not good in any imaginable scenario. Miles' isolated power (slugging minus average) is .074.

Well, no luck for the A's today (I knew they should have pulled Danny Haren after the huge first inning and tried to start him again today). The Rockies try again this evening.

The Colorado-Colorado State game ended up being very compelling, even if I wasn't happy with the ending. Who decides which early national games go on ESPN and ESPN2 out here? Illinois and Rutgers? I ended up watching a World Cup qualifier between Sweden and Romania all morning.

2005-09-02 16:24
by Mark T.R. Donohue

Hey, we're playing the Dodgers again. Didn't we just play the Dodgers? Why yes, we did. This is where the unbalanced schedule really stinks. I don't know if I'm alone in this, but I'm always looking for an excuse to go to a Rockies game. Another series against a mediocre L.A. team missing its two best players is not a good excuse. I think I'm going to go buy Mario Superstar Baseball instead.

The other thing that's stupid about a schedule heavy on divisional matchups late in the year is in the National League at least, all of the division races are more or less wrapped up. Now three worthy NL East teams will lock in a death struggle while the Astros get to play the less challenging likes of Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, and Chicago. I'm not one of those people who's inherently against change in baseball -- hey, without the wild card, we wouldn't get the Red Sox and the Yankees in the playoffs every year -- but it is annoying when the sport simultaneously unleashes two "innovations"  that blatantly contradict each other like the unbalanced schedule and the wild card. Plus there's so many good teams I haven't gotten a chance to see this year...the Phillies, the Braves, the Astros, the's annoying. Even the thrill of heckling Jeff Kent loses its luster the third or fourth time around.

So here we go, it'll be S. Kim-Weaver, B. Kim-Houlton, and Day-Penny. I think the Rockies will probably lose the Zach Day and Lesser Kim games but I have a good feeling about Byung-Hyun tomorrow. But in a weekend that I approximate has eight more interesting MLB series going on, plus college football, I will not blame any of you for shutting off whichever small part of your brain pays attention to the Rockies altogether at this point.

I haven't lived in Colorado long enough to have a rooting interest in the CU-Colorado State clash tomorrow, but the local radio stations are sure making a big deal out of it. I live in Boulder, but I also was in Chicago when Gary Barnett was the coach at Northwestern, and Gary Barnett is a horrible human being. Go, Rams. My alma mater Cal also begins play, and they're ranked (#19) in the preseason for the first time since before I went there. I don't think they should have much trouble against Sacramento State, but there you go, I just jinxed them. Honestly I don't follow college sports very closely (probably because when I went to college, my school was hopelessly bad at both football and basketball). Liverpool has the week off because of World Cup qualifiers. I guess it'll be Mario Superstar Baseball this weekend, then.

Giants 5, Rockies 3
2005-09-01 23:07
by Mark T.R. Donohue

If you follow a bad baseball team long enough, you can start filling in the box scores just from hearing the finals...when Colorado loses a medium-scoring game to Jeff Fassero, you know there were lots of runners left on base (12), lots of strikeouts (nine), and the starter was probably decent but not quite good enough (Jeff Francis gave up six hits in six innings, but four of them were solo home runs). As I have been paying close attention to lately, the Rockies' offense did outwalk the Giants' 4-2, but I have it on good authority that the Giants' lineup is all brain-dead Caribbean hitters hacking at slop every night.

Good game for J.D. Closser anyway (a single, a walk, and a double). Hurdle hit Todd Helton second, which is sort of novel. Cory Sullivan is still hitting leadoff and did have two hits yesterday. Matt Holliday had another multi-hit game. I suppose the big news is that Clint Hurdle and his staff will be back next year. Well, if you're not willing to pay top dollar for playing talent, I suppose there's no point in shelling out the big bucks for decent coaching. Also, retaining Hurdle give the Rockies a readymade excuse for not competing next season. Then when they're in fifth place at the halfway mark in 2007, they can fire Dan O'Dowd. I am getting how this works.