Baseball Toaster Bad Altitude
Monthly archives: July 2007


I Still Don't Know What to Think
2007-07-30 16:02
by Mark T.R. Donohue

Baseball history is full of incidents when a timely rain delay helped change the course of a pennant race. It's not likely that a rare late-July Coors Field postponement will forever live in the annals of the game, but at this moment, it looks like Colorado got a spot of luck. Rather than splitting a series with the Dodgers, they won their eighth straight home series, which is a franchise record (and counting). The Rockies have broken several team marks this year, but I usually allow such landmarks to pass without mention, because I know the history of the club's first decade pretty well by now and with the exception of the first half of 1995, none of the those teams were worth remembering by anyone besides the low-level staffer who's in charge of filling in all of the columns of the "ROCKIES TEAM RECORDS" section in the yearly media guide.

So, a primer, for those of you who haven't spent days of their lives examining Kirt Manwaring's career numbers: sometimes (rather more often than you suspect) the Rockies are a very solid home team and get creamed on the road. Take, let's say, 1997: 47-34 at Coors, 36-45 elsewhere. In 2000, the last season they were over .500: 48-33 at home, 34-47 on the road. In 2006, which some of you may remember as last season, 44-37 against 32-49.

As of right now, the Rockies are 30-21 at home (which projects to 48-33 assuming they are relevant enough to need to make up every lost game) and 23-30 (35-46) on the road. Which leads me to conclude: Nothing has changed. Humidor or not, the team still leaves its confidence behind whenever it ventures outside of the Mountain Time Zone. Hey, I can relate, I feel the same way sometimes, but if I were a ball club I assure you I would have won more than one playoff game in my lifetime. Sometimes you just have to buck up and go with your fears (just like in Batman Begins, which is what I watched for the first time during the rainout Friday night).

Despite the fact that the humidor has had the intended effect of making offensive and pitching statistics from games at Coors slightly more adherent to realities elsewhere (and really, as I've argued many times before, trends in ballpark construction have made Coors-like conditions rather more the rule than the exception, see Houston, Cincinnati, Arizona, Philadelphia, and so on) the Rockies still have a crisis of confidence when it comes to taking care of business on road trips. It seems to me like the obvious solution to this problem is a manager with more authority to lead than Clint "405-487" Hurdle, but look what happened the last time the Rockies hired a manager with genuine gravitas -- Jim Leyland lasted one miserable year. Just long enough to earn our eternal hatred but not quite long enough to impress upon the players that whether or not Coors Field has mystical powers, it's the players' responsibility to go win series in Phoenix and San Diego and Washington too.

So what else can I say other than what I've been repeating all year? Until the Rockies can put together a team capable of going .500 on the road, they're not legit. After the day off today, Colorado will confront clubs in Atlanta and Florida that are not any qualititatively better than their own. Maybe now is their time, but the tremendous weight of past history leaves me skeptical.

Actual Big Series
2007-07-26 17:36
by Mark T.R. Donohue

The first-place Dodgers! The over-.500 Rockies! Pennant race implications abound as Los Angeles returns to Coors Field for the first time since mid-April. The probable pitchers for Colorado kind of undermine the team's profile as an alleged playoff contender: Rodrigo Lopez, Josh Fogg, Jeff Francis (he's OK), and Ubaldo Jimenez. But the numbers say the Rockies are still very much alive, and the Dodgers like all the other teams in the NL West have some power problems on offense and can be beaten.

The Dodgers just lost 2 of 3 in Houston and they still don't have a third baseman. They do have a slightly more intact pitching rotation then the Rockies do and a very good bullpen (although Colorado deserves much praise for operating without fear in the face of the fine Padres bullpen in their last series).

I'm kind of ready for the Rockies to either make a real move or go ahead and make with the swoon already. Just like last season, they've stayed technically in contention longer than they have any right to thanks to watered-down competition. But other than one long-ago winning streak they've never looked the least bit like a playoff team. Take that pathetic showing in Washington last week. Playoff teams don't lose 3 of 4 to the freakin' Nationals at their place, our place, or in San Juan.

I was not surprised by the Rockies playing well in their series against San Diego. They're a good home team and when they don't need anyone to motivate them (as was the case in the Yankees series) they can scrap a bit. If they're to make they playoffs they either need to make the leap to great home team or win a bit more consistently on the road. Past history strongly suggests the former is the easier path. So they're playing the first-place team in the division at home. If they can't win this series, they might as well start working the phones for landing places for Brian Fuentes and Todd Helton.

Rare Midgame Update
2007-07-24 20:08
by Mark T.R. Donohue

Are the Rockies Saving Their Season with these stirring late-inning comebacks, yesterday and (knock on wood) tonight at home against the Padres? It's difficult to take them seriously when they did exactly as I told them not to and lost three of four in Washington, but it's not as if San Diego or anyone else is precisely grabbing hold of the NL West. Compared to the competition, the Colorado offense looks suddenly dominant. And it's two good starts in a row from Ubaldo Jimenez.... For every week the Rockies go without obviously falling out of contention... that's another week they've gone doing that. It's progress, right?

Hope of the Franchise Alert
2007-07-19 15:08
by Mark T.R. Donohue

With Jason Hirsh's rehab going... not so good and the ever-shifting Plan for Taylor Buchholz swinging back to bullpen duty, again, the Rockies' top starting prospect Ubaldo Jimenez will get the ball tonight with Colorado beginning a four-game series in Washington. I told you the Rockies had to have a winning road trip before I'd take them seriously as contenders, and with a sweep against the Pirates already in the bank, they'd have to generate a complete disaster against the hapless Nationals in order not to do it. (They started the swing winning 1 of 3 in Milwaukee, so only a sweep or 1-3 series against Washington will ruin the trip.)

The Rockies need another starter, badly, and realistically they can't expect to be players in a trade market that is setting up to be brutally competitive. If Jimenez pitches effectively -- he's been inconsistent for AAA Colorado Springs, but the Rockies believe he's figured things out as of his last couple of starts -- that changes the complexion of the second half for Colorado rather dramatically. So, if you ever were going to watch a Rockies game, this would be a good one to watch.

Visit Miller Park!
2007-07-19 13:55
by Mark T.R. Donohue

From where I grew up on the north side of suburban Chicago, it's a pretty easy drive up to Milwaukee for Brewers games. When Barry Bonds was one homer short of 700 and the Giants were playing in Milwaukee, the research department and I drove up for three games straight. Miller Park has a lot of things the ballparks in Chicago don't offer. The guy who controls the music that goes over the PA there is the hippest in the bigs; I heard Franz Ferdinand's "Take Me Out" for the first time at a Brewers game and the last time I was there they played a Get Up Kids song. There's a roof, obviously. There are wide parking lots that stretch for as far as the eye can see and if you get there early enough every sight and smell is one worth seeing. The residents of Wisconsin did not invent tailgating, they merely perfected it. And there's the sausage race, which is even better now that the chorizo is competing. (We're a little unclear on what kept the chorizo out last year. Was its little moustache and big sombrero really any more or less offensive to Mexicans than the already ridiculous and harmless stereotypes the bratwurst, Italian sausage, and Polish sausage might be to their respective represented ethnicities?)

But the best thing about Miller Park is the hot nuts. Top five hot nuts jokes from Tuesday night in Milwaukee:

  1. Dude, could you hold on to my hot nuts for just a second?
  2. Oh, man, I just can't get enough of your hot nuts.
  3. I thought that blonde might like you but she was totally using you for your hot nuts.
  4. I think I got something stuck in my teeth from your hot nuts.
  5. Ever since I saw your hot nuts all I have been thinking about is getting some hot nuts of my own.
Midseason Thoughts: AL
2007-07-19 05:45
by Mark T.R. Donohue

Part of the reason it's time to do an around-the-league summary: I just finished travelling across three-quarters of the country and visiting places where people are excited about baseball got me considering the fates of clubs besides the Rockies anew. Another reason: While I was on vacation, relatives and friends kept asking me the records of random teams as if I should know them off the top of my head. Maybe I should. Well, here are some teams, with their records.

Tigers (56-36) Here is as strong an argument against signing free agent relievers to multi-year deals as there is. A team can have a great bullpen one year and a problematic one the next with almost the same roster. Look at the Tigers this year and last. Or look at the 2005, 2006, and 2007 Indians -- pretty good, horrible, and then pretty good again in turn, without any major names either departing or arriving. Obviously it would be foolish for Detroit to deal away any prospects for relief help, especially given the way that using top-flight minor league starters as relievers their first year or so in the bigs has come back into fashion. Andrew Miller could be the key to the Tigers' season. Did anybody watch the Wednesday night game yesterday between Minnesota and Detroit? Watching Jim Leyland argue balls and strikes in HD is both terrifying and impossible to avert your eyes from.

Red Sox (56-38) Here's a random connection for you. I took my cat to the vet the other day in Illinois and the doctor examining him was Kevin Youkilis's dad's college roommate. We were both surprised by how well Youkilis has taken to playing first after years at the other infield corner. Not only can he field the position, but he's putting up numbers that aren't bad at all for a power spot on the diamond. He's also letting Boston play Mike Lowell at third, and Lowell is having his second terrific season in a row after we all thought his career was over in Florida. Merely saying his name still makes citizens of the Nation twitch uncontrollably, but Julio Lugo is heating up in the second half. He has multiple hits in four of his last seven games. If Lugo shakes off his lost first half and behaves like a reasonable approximation of a leadoff hitter for the rest of the year, I for one certainly would not fault Theo Epstein if he wanted to dance around telling us all he told us so. In or out of the gorilla costume. If Lugo does hit, though, the Red Sox might have another problem. So far the squeakier wheels of Lugo, Curt Schilling, and Coco Crisp have distracted Sox fans from the fact that Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz are not slugging. Boston ought to be a better team in the second half, but the recent historical record certainly suggests that that won't be the case. Nevertheless, I think they're safe -- the Yankees comparatively have way, way more problems.

Angels (55-38) Have you read all of these articles about how the Angels are on the cusp of establishing a dynasty? I'll believe it when I see it. It's true that Anaheim has huge financial advantages over the other clubs in its division, an owner who really wants to win, and a muscular, miles-deep farm system. But that has been the case for the last couple of years and yet this is the first season the Angels genuinely seem to have achieved some separation from the A's. Perhaps Billy Beane's lucky streak is over, perhaps not. In any event I don't believe dynasties are possible in the current economic environment. The wild card has made it a lot harder to pry good players away from so-so teams for nothing at the trade deadline. A lot more general managers are hip to the idea that if you make the playoffs, you can win the World Series. Unlike the NBA or the NFL, there isn't an additional tier of franchise construction between simply making the postseason and becoming a championship contender. If you're in, you can win. The Angels are also victims of their own success. Bill Stoneman has been criticized a lot for not pulling the trigger on trades that could put them over the top last few years, but I can appreciate his position. It's public knowledge that the Anaheim minor league system is loaded, so everybody asks for one young guy already established in the majors, one blue-chipper, and another player who would be the star of a lot of lesser systems. Rather than pay a buck fifty on the dollar for every trade they make, the Angels are smart to continue developing through free agency and the draft. I think they're as good a pick as anybody to win a championship in the next five years, but I don't think they or anybody else will win 4 of the next 6 or any other stretch of dominance comparable to the Spurs' in the NBA.

Indians (55-39) I drove past Jacobs Field for the first time this summer. It looks pretty from the outside, at least, but it's still in Cleveland. It's going to be a nice stretch run for fans in Cleveland and Detroit, but I can't stop daydreaming about what might have happened if the Twins and White Sox had decided to show up for the first two months of the season. Might have been epic. Like last year, the AL Central race will be decided by how the teams in contention play against their weaker divisional siblings. The Indians have nine games left against the Royals, against whom they're only 5-4 thus far. They have nine to play against Chicago and the same record against the Sox to this point. For what it's worth, the Tigers were a dominant 14-4 in interleague while Cleveland only went 9-9. Detroit might be the mythical Better Team, but we'll see if they can maintain focus while playing the also-rans in the way they so conspicuously couldn't down the stretch run last season. They have nine more games against Kansas City too, but they've played them 7-2. And the Tigers will play the White Sox fourteen times in the second half, including one makeup game; it shouldn't be too hard for them to improve upon the .500 mark they have in four games against Chicago to this point. So what about the Twins? The Yankees and A's, among others, have to be hoping that Minnesota dials up their play in the second half the way they did in 2006. Only if the AL Central teams beat each other up a little bit is a wild card team from another division going to sneak past.

Mariners (53-39) Here is an interesting one. I can hardly be the only person who has started behaving as if Seattle's second-half swoon has already taken place and they do not need to be taken seriously as playoff contenders. Behind them in the standings, Minnesota, New York, and Oakland look much more like genuine bubble teams. The M's have just had some fluky, fluky luck. Look at their roster! More to the point, look at the fact that the Twins have scored one more run than Seattle and allowed 31 fewer. Somehow Minnesota is five games behind the Mariners in the wild card standings. That (probably) won't hold. Look at the starters Seattle has listed as probable for their next five games: Miguel Batista, Jeff Weaver, Horacio Ramirez, and then Jarrod Washburn and Felix Hernandez. Hernandez is going to be good, but his development was nowhere near as instantaneous as we all were led to believe. The rest of those guys? I honestly like the group the Rockies have better. I wonder if Dodgers fans would want Adrian Beltre back at his current salary, given their woes at third base. My feeling is that not many would, but you tell me. Boy, Ichiro is having another great season. I know a few people outside of Seattle criticized his recent contract extension, but I think he's fairly obviously the sort of player who ages well. What he will lose in speed will be made up by the baserunning and on-base advantages granted by his immense baseball IQ, and I for one feel if he decided he wanted to start hitting more home runs, he probably could do so. As he bunts less, his average will go down a bit but I imagine his OBP and slugging will trend a little bit up. He could play for my team any day, I guess is what I'm saying, and obviously he has value to the Seattle franchise above and beyond what he provides on the field. A good extension, in my estimation. Even and maybe especially if the Mariners aren't contenders for the next few years.

Yankees (48-44) Well, at least they're over .500 and should remain so with series coming up against the Rays, Royals, and Orioles. Where would New York be without Chien-Ming Wang? Well, the same place where they're going, really, out of the money in the American League for the first time since 1993. The only way I can see the Yankees getting into the playoffs is as if the Red Sox completely roll over and give the division to them. (I can hear you sucking in your breath, Boston fans. Exhale. It'll be OK, really, it will.) Honestly every other owner in the big leagues and everybody at the league offices ought to be hoping that the Yankees do miss the dance this year. In a sense, such an event would validate the status quo. If there really are structural problems holding back the team with infinite monetary resources, then perhaps more widespread cash redistribution schemes aren't necessary. Then again: Wait until the Yankees and Mets open up their new money-printing factories/multi-purpose stadiums in the next couple of years. If you think the collapse of this Yankee dynasty has been protracted, wait until the fall of the next one. But then again, consider that if anyone asks me what the Yankees' record is, any time during the season, I know almost precisely. MLB would be way less fun without Darth Vader. But it might be more fun if the Devil Rays and Royals of the world had light sabers to fight him with rather than having to run out as they do now with slingshots and bamboo poles.

Twins (49-45) Matt Garza is in the rotation! Finally! And only half the season gone! I have no idea what the Twins are doing, but they need to get on it soon if they are going to make my preseason prediction of a Minnesota-New York world series come true. They seem to be pinning their hopes on Rondell White coming back from injury and having a huge second half, which is frankly insane. They might as well trade one of the eight or so major league-ready starters they have in the minors if they're dead set against promoting any of them for a guy like Dmitri Young. If you're pinch-hitting Mike Redmond in the late innings of a game against the Tigers, you need more sticks. Nothing more to it than that. It seems to me that this could either be one of the most interesting or the least interesting trade deadlines in recent memory, and I have no idea whatsoever in which way things will go. The play of bubble teams like the Twins will have the largest bearing on that.

Blue Jays (45-49) This is another team that no one is really expending much mental energy on, because to all outward appearances, the most predictable storyline imaginable has played out as expected. Of course you can't hope to win in the AL East by spending a whole lot of money, but less of a whole lot than the Red Sox and Yankees. We don't really know how you can win, since no one has done it yet, but whatever it is that Toronto is doing, it's not the answer. On the other hand, I kind of raked them over the coals for letting Carlos Delgado go a few seasons ago, but it looks like Delgado is in steep decline. So, good move there. One of my favorite underexposed categories of player is the middle reliever who pitches huge numbers of innings fairly effectively (as opposed to the late-inning guy who pitches less but dominates). In that field there are fewer players less heralded than the Blue Jays' Scott Downs. Tip of the cap.

A's (45-50) I'm ready for that second-half surge whenever you are, guys. At the very least Oakland ought to edge ahead of the Mariners. The AL West standings just look wrong with Seattle in second. The A's didn't save a ton of money on the Jason Kendall deal, with the Cubs only absorbing $700,000 of the portion of his salary already not being met by Pittsburgh. That was hardly the point of the trade, however. Now A's fans don't have to try and watch Kendall try and hit. His first game with the Cubs was such a fiasco (0 for 3 and two bad defensive plays) that Lou Piniella had to turn around and give him a day off to psychologically recover.

White Sox (42-51) Like the Cardinals in the National League, the White Sox actually have a rather better record than I thought they did. The season got off to such a miserable start for each of the recent World Series winners that a cloud hangs over them making all of their minor advancements since seem meaningless. Even so, I can't believe how quickly the Chicago media has turned on Ozzie Guillen and Kenny Williams. They won the World Series! In Chicago! Do you have any idea how rare that is? The Sox deserve a five-year grace period at least. Championship flags fly forever, and even if the 2005 World Series was over so fast it hardly had a chance to register, it was the first one in Chicago for two of my lifetimes. I'm impressed by that, even if Jay Mariotti isn't.

Orioles (42-52) I'm tired. Make up your own incredibly distasteful Peter Angelos joke and pretend I wrote it here.

Rangers (41-53) Whenever I assess the Rangers in the preseason, I think I subtly adjust upwards because I erroneously assume that their pitching can't get any worse. And yet it does. That is the miracle of Rangers pitching. If ever there was a team set up to make a ruinous free-agent pitching signing that will bury them competitively for at least a decade, it's the '08 Rangers. Er, besides the '00 Rockies, I mean.

Royals (41-53) When Sir Paul McCartney wrote "Getting Better," he obviously did not have Kansas City in mind. This year was supposed to be the year that the Royals fielded at least an offense that was big league-quality, but here they are with the 12th-ranked OBP in the American League. I think at the end of this season the Royals and Devil Rays should play a seven-game Series of Futility and whichever team wins gets to switch places with the team with the worst record in the National League. The Royals and Rays would still be dreadful in the NL, but they'd have a great shot of finishing .500.

Devil Rays (37-56) See above. Although, to be fair, the D-Rays are a better baseball team than Kansas City. They have two legitimate starting pitchers and a promising if incoherent lineup. And yet their straits are far more dire because they play in that division with the Old Boss (Yankees) and the New Boss, Same As the Old Boss (Red Sox). I am glad that major league baseball exists in St. Pete, though, because where else do you get to see a guy like Casey Fossum last multiple seasons as a big league starter? I can throw harder than Casey Fossum.

Notes from the Right Coast
2007-07-17 11:04
by Mark T.R. Donohue

I vacationed with my family in Rockport, Massachusetts all last week and it was very pleasant. I even managed to drive all the way back to Chicago in close quarters with my mother and one of my sisters with everyone staying friends, so it qualifies as one of my best family vacations in recent memory. For this reason also: When you go out to some sort of wholesome family activity in Colorado, all the little boys you see are wearing Broncos gear. On the beach in New England, all the kids wear Red Sox stuff, and somehow it seemed to me as if the proper order had been restored. Baseball is better than football.

Like many people of fine Boston Irish stock, I have about 45 first cousins, each one pale, freckled, and paranoid. Every single one of them does not feel as if the lead the Red Sox have in the AL East over the Yankees is safe.

You might have suspected that the reason the site has been quiet for so long is the stellar play of Willy Taveras. He's scoring two or three runs a game and starting to show up in the "FANTASY IMPACT" crawlers they run on ESPN sometimes. Willy Taveras, impact! I can't believe it. Well, sometimes it's more fun to be wrong than to be right, and I continue to insist that Taveras is a nonentity as a long-term asset and the Rockies should think seriously about shipping him out of town now when his value is as high as it ever will be. I understand that "baseball people" all feel like there is some kind of mysterious stigma attached to the leadoff role and those with the true pluck to fill it are rare indeed and worth keeping, but even so the Rockies already have an extra guy like that in Kaz Matsui.

I just found out in a hotel room in Ohio last night that the Cubs traded for Jason Kendall. Ha! Billy Beane does it again. As much as I moan about Willy T, the Katfish Kids have been rending their garments on the subject of Kendall for two full seasons now. I hope they are happy.

The Rockies still have to put together a winning road trip before I will believe that they are genuinely on the "playoff bubble," as the man says, but if you look at the standings in the NL West and for the wild card you have to admit that all things seem possible. For the first time in Bad Altitude history I am going to have to take a serious look at the competition for the National League playoffs after the All-Star Break and include the Rockies in it. That'll be a lark. I think I'll get to work on that after I get home to Boulder, however.

The research department and I are heading up to Milwaukee to see those first-place Brewers take on the Diamondbacks tonight. Go, second-half baseball!

2007-07-07 18:35
by Mark T.R. Donohue

After losing eight of their first ten series or whatever it was, we were pretty sure the Rockies were bad. Then they tore through interleague play like it was going out of style, and we thought maybe we were wrong and they were actually good. Then there was that 1-9 road trip. Clearly the Rockies were bad. Then they came back home and swept the Mets. It's time for the franchise to make up its mind and make things a little easier on analysts like me.

The last couple of little positive runs the franchise has been on were the product of excellent starting pitching, so this four-game streak is a little different. While the starters have been shaky as they were on the recent brutal road trip the bullpen and the offense are pulling more weight. The team's latest pattern has been allowing a handful of runs in the first inning and then immediately coming back with rallies of their own in the first and second. That bodes well for the game tonight, which is presently in a rain delay after half an inning with Philadelphia leading 3-0.

Brian Fuentes took himself off of the All-Star roster, which is probably for the best. Fuentes has problems enough right now without having to read in a hundred places every day that he's the single least worthy NL All-Star. Willy Taveras has been in and out of the lineup the last few games with a sore right quadriceps, Cory Sullivan has been playing pretty well in his stead. I would still like to see the Rockies experiment further with Ryan Spilborghs in center, since seemingly every time I see Spilborghs get a start he hits in three or four runs. He had a grand slam in the game I went to on Tuesday, part of the three-game Mets sweep.

If the Rockies can come from behind in the game tonight and win tomorrow, they will finish the "first half" two games over .500. Or they could lose two and be two under. It would be most appropriate, I feel, for them to go ahead and spilt. A break-even record seems like a good stopping point for this most schizophrenic of teams. It would be somehow fitting for a team that has looked at times unbeatable and at times like it can't get out of its own way to finish the first section of the schedule, in a sense, exactly where it started.

Update: ESPN's Jayson Stark lists Matt Holliday as his NL MVP in his midseason awards column. Finally, national recognition! For my part it seems like Stark's choice suggests a rather old-school fixation on batting average, in which Holliday leads the league. Going by VORP Barry Bonds, Chase Utley, and Hanley Ramirez have been more valuable. Holliday (.349/.400/.586, 38.0 VORP) is having a lovely little season, and would be getting more credit for it were not the team around him so suspect to repeating runs of subprofessional play. Given the numbers it's hard to quibble with Bonds starting in the All-Star Game at Holliday's position in left field, although the sudden late surge in votes Bonds got does look a wee bit fishy. It would be nice if the game were at an AL host so that Bonds could DH and Holliday could get a start -- he's having that kind of year. The All-Star Game is one of the few occasions where I see no argument against the designated hitter. None of the pitchers are going to bat, anyway. What's the argument against having the DH in the NL parks too? It would reduce the risk of there being a repeat of the tie game in Milwaukee, 2002.

Brian Fuentes, All-Star Closer
2007-07-01 16:03
by Mark T.R. Donohue

First the Rockies completely failed to show up for a 12-0 battering at the hands of the Astros, managing only four hits (with Wandy Rodriguez starting!) and completing their annual season-busting miserable road trip 1-9. But then, the good news! Matt Holliday and Brian Fuentes have been named to the All-Star Game. Holliday's choice is a no-brainer; if there was any justice in the world, he would be starting. But Fuentes has to view the honor as something of a hollow accomplishment since he's just finished the worst stretch in his entire three-year tenure as Colorado closer.

It's too bad All-Star selection is based mostly on what city you play in and only after that on outdated stats such as RBI and win totals for pitchers; Jeff Francis deserves a nod one of these years but playing for this franchise his chances are never going to be very good.

This season is shaping up as the worst the Rockies possibly could have had, given the circumstances. They're not going to be bad enough to secure a dazzlingly high draft pick, and their one period playing above their heads coincided with the Yankees series, allowing ownership to continue promoting illusory progress and line their pockets with fat revenue sharing dollars. The Monforts might even be able to get away with not firing Clint Hurdle and Dan O'Dowd even though the team is going to miss the playoffs for the 12th consecutive year. That means we might as well write off 2008 as well, since Hurdle and O'Dowd have already received their extensions and the Monforts are not the sort of owners to pay four people to perform two jobs. Hurdle... well, I think he might well be a really nice guy, maybe one of the nicer managers in the game, certainly nicer than Jim Leyland, but he's a loser. Come on. His complete lack of leadership during this recent skin-crawling stretch of horrible play is pretty damning. "It's been bizarre, quirky, any word you want to use," the Post quotes the skipper. "I said eight days ago that our confidence is probably at a peak. So what's changed? Is our talent level any different? This is our most traumatic test so far, but we'll pass it." Uh... pass it how? All that's left for the Rockies this season is to play out the string, again, and it would be nice to hear one person in the organization take some responsibility. This aw-shucks, sometimes-you-eat-the-bear-and-sometimes-the-bear-eats-you tone the players and management are taking is loser talk.

That loud ominous "clunk" you just heard was the other shoe dropping on the Rodrigo Lopez signing. Scary true fact: It's hot in the summer in this country. Lopez and Jason Hirsh and Josh Fogg are going to get knocked around like the bargain-basement penny-clutching rotation-fillers they are for the next two months and change, and don't say I didn't warn you.

Does anybody care about the All-Star Game any more? When I first started writing a baseball blog I duly went through the motions analyzing who ought to make the teams and who ought not to, but I didn't much enjoy it and I stopped when I realized few of my readers really did either. I always thought it was one of those things geared more towards the casual fan, but all of my friends whom I would describe as casual fans ignore it and are somewhat surprised to hear that I think it's pointless, too -- they think it's for the hardcore. So the hardcore fans think it's for the looky-loos and the casual fans think it's only for seamheads. Who's left? Fans who think their team is really going to benefit from having home field advantage in the World Series? I don't know. Even the Home Run Derby stopped being amusing a few years ago when ESPN made it seven hours long. I'm sure a lot of players would miss the time off, but for my part they could do away with the whole tradition. There's a whole of of playing out the string left to be done that I'd just as soon get started with right away.