Baseball Toaster Bad Altitude
Monthly archives: July 2008


Will They or Won't They?
2008-07-31 08:33
by Mark T.R. Donohue

This has been the best trade season in recent memory. How many potential Hall of Famers have been moved or will probably get moved? Pudge. Harden. Sabathia. Ramirez? Griffey? And dude, Casey Blake. I couldn't go to sleep last night, that was how excited I was about the rundown to the deadline. Also, I did want to catch that USA-Turkey game (kind of a letdown, only one rad alley-oop and a lot of Turkish passes bouncing off of US guys' knees). Mostly, though, I didn't want to miss a second of hot stove news. The Griffey thing, that came out of nowhere, right? Except for that Chicago has been trying to land the Kid since '05 or so. You have to give Kenny Williams credit for his tenacity.

The big question for Rockies fans is, will Brian Fuentes go? Fuentes is hardly an MLB HOFer but he probably would go into a Rockies Hall of Fame, if the franchise had enough great players to justify the existence of one. He's the best closer they've ever had, not that that is saying very much. ESPN, by the way, is doing this "three best players of every franchise" thing on "Baseball Tonight" and it's a real poser figuring out a trio for Colorado. Todd Helton is a given. He's a real-deal Hall of Famer. Larry Walker probably will never go to Cooperstown unless it's to attend Helton's induction, but he's clearly the second-best player in Rockies history. After that it gets murky. The sentimental choice for a lot of fans would be Vinny Castilla, but except for one season (1998) Vinny was painfully mediocre and he never hit on the road. I think my choice for #3 is Matt Holliday. The fact that two of the greatest three Rockies ever are playing right now (well, Helton's on the DL, but you know what I mean) is another fine indicator of just how barren the first decade of Rockies baseball really was for talent. How they could be that bad for that long and yet still not draft any decent players is beyond me.

So is Fuentes going to go? I've said and the Rockies have said all along that whichever team wants him will have to do better than the value Colorado would get if the reliever left as a free agent, which is a first-round pick and a sandwich pick. I had been assuming that some team was going to panic, blink, swallow, and pay Dan O'Dowd's asking price, but now I'm not so sure. The club I had my eyes on was the Cubs, who are short in the bullpen and locked in a serious dogfight with Milwaukee. The fact that they've won the first three games in their showdown series with the Brewers reduces the chances that they'll desperately overpay considerably. This is why I've been watching baseball more attentively lately, flipping between three or four games at a time and watching from the time the East Coast games begin until the last late games end. These games are dripping with significance on multiple levels.

So if it isn't the Cubs, what about the two low-budget Florida squads? It seems like giving away prospects and adding salary is against Florida and Tampa Bay's religion, but things have been slightly funky in MLB all season. You'd have to imagine they'd have good guys to trade, though. It's hard to believe given their history, but the Rays might actually have starting pitching to spare. That's the Rockies' #1 need with a bullet, an asterisk, and a flaming dagger next to it.

Back to the action on the field, finally -- the Rockies saved a lot of face with their win in Pittsburgh last night. Aaron Cook just keeps on rolling. In order to make this a successful road trip, the Rockies have to win a series in Miami. That'll be a tall order considering that Colorado is starting not one but two former Brewers with "De" in their last names in the series.

Those Comeback Bucs
2008-07-30 17:39
by Mark T.R. Donohue

I'm watching Aaron Cook pitch against Zach Duke and the Pirates and thinking, can this be happening again? Pittsburgh has made late rallies in each of the last two games to win this series and they're going for the sweep tonight. They lured the Rockies into a false sense of security by spotting them a six-run lead.

The comebacks the last two nights were at the expense of the Rockies bullpen, now experiencing one of its periodic funks, but they just ran off four against ace Cook to get back within two. A sweep in Pittsburgh would not be what Colorado had planned coming into this series, but it follows in the pattern of their play all year. The Rockies are dreadful on the road; whether it's the hitting, the starting pitching, or the relief, there's always something working not right.

Troy Tulowitzki has been killing it since he came back from his second disabled list stint of the year, the one enforced by splinters of a bat he broke lodging themselves in his hand. That the Rockies have showed signs of competitive life lately and Tulowitzki is more closely resembling his 2007 self cannot be a coincidence.

Two sides of the same coin: You can criticize Clint Hurdle for his inconsistency in lineup-making, or you can praise his creativity. Clint Barmes is playing in right field tonight against the left-handed starter. I don't know how much outfield experience Barmes has, but I like the effort to get more guys who can hit in there. Chris Iannetta, as well, has looked locked-in on this road trip. The Rockies still need to do something about the parade of De La Rosas, Rusches, and Wells-es that are inadequately filling the back of the rotation. A trade of Brian Fuentes for a AAA up-and-comer who's blocked where he is might fit the bill nicely.

Is it just me, or does Pittsburgh's lovely PNC Park resemble Coors Field rather strongly? The outfield lines, the locations of the bullpens, the scoreboard on the right-field wall under a raised grandstand. You'll have to decide for yourself whether you prefer Pittsburgh's bridge or Denver's purple mountains majesty, but either way, not a bad way to build a ballpark.

Few more thoughts from my trip out east: The priest officiating my cousin's wedding mentioned the Red Sox and the Rays in his homily. You gotta love Boston. Also, it's been bugging me all week that I spelled Edinson Volquez's name incorrectly and couldn't get to a computer to fix it. I went to Boston last summer too, and was struck by the incredible ubiquity of Sox gear everywhere I went. I'm quite used to being the only person wearing a Rockies hat at any event that isn't an actual Rockies game. But this year was a little different. There were more Rockies hats and shirts at the airport. Progress is being made. Now the team just has to avoid slipping into oblivion for the next several seasons. Easier said than done.

East Coast Baseball
2008-07-25 16:37
by Mark T.R. Donohue

I'm writing this evening from Rockport, Massachusetts, where I'm staying in a beach house with my folks and sisters for a few days. Luckily I've managed to find a nice family just a few doors down who have the MLB Extra Innings package, so I'm getting to look in at tonight's attractive pitching showdown between Aaron Cook and Edinson Volquez. I would like to think that I'm the only person along the entire Atlantic coast tonight who cares about the Reds-Rockies game, but my logic tells me that there have to be at least a few Cincinnati retirees in Florida.

We'll see how much of the game I'll actually get to see -- try telling a room full of Boston fans some time that you want to switch away from the Yankees and Red Sox to see what the Reds and Rockies are doing, it'll be funny -- but it's nice that I'm getting at least a few peeks. This is a big game for Colorado, who played as well as they have all year in their recent homestand. The distance between them and the lead in the NL West continues to shrink, regardless of how unimpressive that is real numbers. We can't treat one good 6-1 homestand as a breakthrough because the Rockies have good homestands all the time. They could easily give all of that good work right back.

Well, I sense another battle over the remote brewing so you must excuse me. I'll check back in later to comment if anything particularly sensational happens.

Never a Dull Moment
2008-07-22 13:36
by Mark T.R. Donohue

The Rockies seem to be experiencing a sea change recently, starting right before the All-Star Break and continuing into the second half. They're still terrible -- Kip Wells gave up eight runs in the first inning yesterday. But they're not boring. After Wells' quite predictable meltdown, the Rockies' offense went on to score in the last seven straight innings, getting Joe Torre to sweat the use of his bullpen in the ninth. They still lost 16-10, but it was the most entertaining Colorado game since the insanity on the 4th of July. Troy Tulowitzki, on the disabled list since that game (he got shards of bat in his hand after slamming it), arrived back to go 5 for 5.

Garrett Atkins is playing some first base with Todd Helton unable to go. The lineup with Atkins at one corner and Ian Stewart at the other is one I once imagined would be Colorado's everyday alignment. I always figured that Helton would get traded at some point, given the huge disparity between his salary and those of everyone else on the team. But the economic landscape has changed somewhat. For a time, Helton was overpaid at $12 million a year. But nowadays guys like Eric Byrnes make eight figures. Even though Helton's deal escalates in value for its last few years he's practically a bargain these days. He's always going to be among the league leaders in OBP and he plays a marvelous first base, turning the 3-6-3 double play as well as anyone I've ever seen. His power seems to have waned, but Colorado surely would get less value back were they to trade him, and his identity as the only surefire Hall of Famer the organization has ever produced gives him an off-the-field cachet in Denver that he wouldn't have elsewhere. I was once almost certain that Todd Helton would be traded before his contract expired; now I feel pretty confident that he's going to finish it with the Rockies. If taking a massive pay cut appeals to Todd, he can play out his whole career with Colorado.

The Rockies are only seven games back in their division. Arizona and Los Angeles, whom they trail, are both under .500. Can Colorado climb back into the playoff race in the second half for the second year in a row? They certainly can, but it might be a setback for the franchise in the long term. Management does not deserve to be rewarded for the team they put together this year. It's debatable whether they should get any credit for last year's run, but clearly this is not as good of a team. Dan O'Dowd flubbed badly when he made Kip (8 runs in 1/3 inning) Wells the team's biggest free agent acquisition. Luis Vizcaino hasn't been bad but he's been impactless, and Josh Towers seems to have disappeared off the face of the earth. The Rockies made the World Series last season with a shoestring pitching staff, and the organization made no improvements. In fact, by letting Josh Fogg and Jeremy Affeldt go, they've clearly gotten worse. This is not acceptable behavior and even if the Rockies finish 10 games under .500 and win the NL West, O'Dowd needs to go. Clint Hurdle and his obsession with the sacrifice bunt ought to follow.

Tulowitkzi's nightmare season represents to me a larger point about this Rockies club that O'Dowd's successor needs to absorb. Colorado has a massive leadership void. Hurdle has zero authority, Helton is the quietest superstar in the game (OK, besides Vlad Guerrero), Matt Holliday is generically pleasant, the pitching staff is anonymous (the one guy with any zing whatsoever is Taylor Buchholz, WHO OUGHT TO BE STARTING ALREADY), and the biggest personality on the team is Ryan Spilborghs, when he's not in a SkySox uniform. Tulowitzki stepped into this situation last season and gave the team exactly what they needed, a vocal leader and recognizable face. His slump at the beginning of this season and then his injuries drained him of his confidence, and the Rockies turned back into the anonymous losing team of years past.

Maybe the Rockies need to can Clint Hurdle and get themselves an Ozzie Guillen type -- the actual Ozzie Guillen, if he became available, would be terrific. They need a loudmouth lightning rod to take care of all the talking, boasting, and media firestorms none of the Rockies players want anything to do with. Coaches with big Q factors are hardly new in the Denver area, whether you're talking about pro football, college football, or basketball. The Rockies tried to follow in this tradition with some of their first few managers, but Don Baylor was incompetent and Jim Leyland was a sniveling, self-serving quitter. If the team wishes to win again with the current core, they're going to need to import some charisma along with all the pitching.

Rockies 5, Pirates 2
2008-07-18 20:27
by Mark T.R. Donohue

A possible good effect of the All-Star Game: I was waiting for this regular-season game between two bad teams to start all day, and I watched the whole thing from beginning to end. I was glad of the opportunity to do so. Maybe baseball's relevance crisis in the instant-access age stems from its overavailability.

Despite Todd Helton and Troy Tulowitzki being on the disabled list, the Rockies have started the second half 2-0. While the official web site says the team is thinking about getting into the race over the trade deadline, the Fox Sports Rocky announcers were selling Brian Fuentes' mechanics pretty hard in the ninth inning. Seems like Rockies fans would know Fuentes' motion by ths point seeing as they've had them to look at for the better part of three seasons.

We can't draw any positive conclusions about Colorado in the second half until they've played some road games. Nothing has changed on that front.

Fate Saves Bud's Bacon... Or Does It?
2008-07-16 13:23
by Mark T.R. Donohue

The fascinating thing about watching the All-Star Game last night in extra innings, after making such a furious point of not watching it at all, was the extreme knife's edge upon which the game's fate rested after the eleventh or so. If the managers ran out of pitchers and a tie was called, it would be one of the worst All-Star Games ever. If one team managed to scratch out a run in the nick of time, it would be called one of the better ones in the cable TV/ESPN/overexposure for everything era.

Baseball got lucky. Or was it luck? Was it some force or forces unknown acting in favor of the game, as many observers have seen to happen at earlier points in baseball's great history?

Then again, didn't everything seem to work out a little too well? Looking again to the past for guidance... well, they did fix a World Series once. They could surely fix an All-Star Game.

Just thinking out loud. You'll have to excuse me, as I am a little out of sorts after prolonged withdrawal from meaningful baseball.

Sucked In To This Thing, A Little
2008-07-15 21:24
by Mark T.R. Donohue

When checked in to see what was going on in the All-Star Game after watching a bunch of "King of the Hill" and "House" reruns off the TiVo, it was tied in extra innings. And Aaron Cook had just come in! So pretty much the only story of possible relevance was about to happen, or not, and now I'm watching. Cook pitched quite well in bailing out Dan Uggla for two errors in the 10th, and as I'm writing he's in the midst of an even more interesting 11th. He's had one runner thrown out trying to steal second (on a pitchout! a good call by Clint Hurdle!!) and another gunned down at the plate.

Some interesting questions come into play this late. What happens if they run out of pitchers? Would they just have a tie again? Doesn't there have to be a winner with home-field in the World Series at stake. Wasn't the tie the reason for that rule being changed? How did that address the problem, exactly?

In a game that it's in no one's interests to elongate any further, and particularly not the Rockies', I'm not sure what it says that Cook and Hurdle are working so hard to keep the National League alive. I'm happy that Cook at least kept the game going long enough for the announcers to acknowledge his entry into the contest; most of his first inning was spent reading the Yankees Stadium visitors' guide.

Back Up the Truck
2008-07-15 09:01
by Mark T.R. Donohue

If you've been a Rockies fan for longer than a year, you know the drill this time of the season. It's all about waiting for the trades. The other day on "Around the Horn," Woody Paige started frothing randomly about Brian Fuentes in response to a question about the Tampa Bay Rays. I'm with Woody: I can't wait for all of the non-fan midsummer nonsense to get over with so we can start picking apart the Rockies' roster for worthy trade bait.

Matt Holliday probably isn't going anywhere. It makes me sort of uncomfortable to share it with anyone, but I feel pretty strongly that if the current regime remains in power Holliday is going to end up walking at the end of next year with the Rockies receiving nothing. It just seems like the sort of series of mistakes that Dan O'Dowd and the Monforts are likely to compound. They'll have a vague notion of re-signing him, but no understanding of what it will actually cost, and then when other teams start bidding in the winter of '09 they'll be utterly shocked that anyone would value one of the best hitters in the National League so highly. And then he'll go.

That's depressing to think about, right? I don't know if it makes me any happier that O'Dowd is certain to pull the trigger on a Fuentes trader and Garrett Atkins may go as well. The Rockies are in a strange position. Their pitching clearly needs to get a lot better, but this season has demonstrated that their offense is terribly fragile as well. The loss of one or two of their few consistent contributors like Holliday and Atkins might sink them utterly. That puts O'Dowd in the somewhat difficult position of needing to get both major-league ready position players and medium-range pitching prospects in trade. If the Rockies trade what's left of their lineup and their bullpen they're going to sink like a stone this season, and they were already kind of approaching the bottom.

Will Clint Hurdle make any hilarious managerial mistakes in the fake game tonight? Will anyone viewing or announcing notice if he does? Man, I hate the All-Star Game so much. Maybe if I had been alive back when it meant something, I might not, but now it's just another night with no actual baseball on, something I can't support. Also the level to which ESPN and MLB's marketing department have misinterpreted what makes the sport unique and lovable hurts my brain.

I suppose after the break is over I'm going to have to start paying closer attention to what's going on in the various division races. I've been watching Rockies games, or checking the box scores when a work conflict causes me to miss them, and going one day at a time. They won? Oh good. They lost? Oh, not again. But now that I have more or less accepted that the Rockies won't be exploring the larger world of competitive baseball this season I guess it's time that I acknowledge the teams that are.

The Greatest Play I Ever Saw, and You Missed It
2008-07-08 10:29
by Mark T.R. Donohue

I've been slammed with non-baseball concerns lately, and it's really beginning to eat away at my mental well-being. I've been stacking up questions I have about the rest of the season and reactions to major news for days, but there's always something else on the agenda. I had a retail shift I couldn't get out of on Friday and I missed not only the fireworks but also the greatest comeback in Rockies history. The sad, unused ticket for that game could have gone into my stack of unforgettable Coors Field memories along with all of the playoff games from last season, the game I caught the home run ball during, and the game when the hot drunk girl took off her shirt and ran into center field.

Then the All-Star rosters were announced and justice was served: Aaron Cook got his spot. Cook's inclusion was never very much in doubt since Clint Hurdle was the guy making the call, but hopefully he'll get into the game and give the 99.5% of baseball fans unaware of how great a season he's having a wake-up call.

The point about most if not all All-Star viewers not knowing that Aaron Cook is one of the best starters in the NL this year has wider applications. Every season every national sports website runs one if not several articles about how unjust the All-Star rosters are. I just don't see what the point of making a fuss is. The All-Star game isn't about "real" fans anymore and hasn't been since the 70's. It's now a glitzy bit of mass-produced PR arranged to allow baseball the chance to rouge itself up and prostitute its product for its advertisers for a few days. You know, like the NFL does year-round. I stopped watching the game a few years ago and I haven't missed it. In fact, it's kind of nice having those few days in the middle of the season to not have to worry about keeping track of whether all the teams I care about (which, positively or negatively, is pretty much all of them; I think the only team in either league which I have no feelings about whatsoever is the Rangers) won or lost. Nothing of significance happens during the All-Star Break, and it's a time for actual baseball fans to recharge their batteries, just like all of the players who weren't elected to the game.

The counterargument to the "it just doesn't matter" thing is the World Series home-field advantage aspect. But that's just what they want you to think. The results of an exhibition game played between two groups of players mostly trying to avoid injury with 30-man rosters and pitchers being changed every two innings are no more or less arbitrary a way of deciding home-field than the old system. As you may remember, the involved former method determined which league's representative got Game 7 by whether it was an odd- or even-numbered year. Why they can't just go to the team with the better record like every other sport (that plays multi-game playoff series) has never made sense to me or anyone else.

Few more things, quickly, as my schedule isn't easing up any time soon: I'm really intrigued by the C.C. Sabathia trade, for a few reasons. One is that I used to be a Cubs fan and now that I'm an apostate I really don't want to see them win the World Series; I'd feel like a lifelong Christian who finally threw in the towel and became an atheist only to see the Rapture occur the next day. So I'm pulling for the Crüe for that reason. Also, even though last season's anomaly makes it harder to recognize, the Brewers are a team further along on the same path that the Rockies should be following. If they can win and stay good, Colorado can too.

I have a bunch of relatives attending the Twins-Red Sox game tonight, so I'll be flipping between the Rockies, the Brewers, and that game. Look for my peeps on TV, if you know what they look like. If you don't, well, think of what I look like and then look for the same thing only shorter and less bearded. And balder. (Sorry, Dad.)

I was really broken up when I found out that the Rockies came back from nine down on the 4th of July. Really broken up. I might have even cried a little, you'll have to check with my girlfriend. After I got over the disappointment, though, I felt happy. And refreshed. It felt tremendously good to know that I still cared so much about the results of a single game even in the midst of a blown season. As I decided earlier this summer, I am stuck with the Rockies. They're in my blood now. I don't think I'll be experiencing another conversion like I did after the 2003 NLCS. Good season or bad season, this is my team, and I want to be there for them for the highs and the lows. The fact that I can find highs in a season like this proves my commitment, I suppose.

They called from work this morning -- woke me up -- to ask if I could come in on the 22nd. I looked at my calendar and saw that I have a ticket for the game that night, Rockies and Dodgers. I told them where they could stick it. I'm going back to Coors Field, baby! All we have first is a couple more real games, a few days off, and one fake game.

Cook Up Hurdle Down
2008-07-04 13:54
by Mark T.R. Donohue

What Rockies fans were talking about a day or two ago, Aaron Cook's magnificent 79-pitch complete game torching of the Padres, has faded in the background as we're now experiencing the first stirrings of Clint Hurdle's inevitable firing. The Rockies actually made the "Pardon the Interruption" discussion the other day because of Hurdle's alleged swipe at Colorado fans. Following the story more closely in the Denver Post, it seemed as if the ESPN folk were making mountains of molehills. It's hard to say exactly which media source is to be trusted, seeing as most of ESPN's TV branch and the entirety of the Denver Post sports section are massive tools, but if you read the long transcript of what Clint said, he was more frustrated than anything else. And one can see why.

I don't feel insulted by Clint's saying that Rockies fans ought to stay home if they don't like the product on the field, but I still think -- and I have for a while -- that Hurdle needs to be fired. The man clearly has Tracy Ringolsby syndrome and believes that everything that there ever was to be learned about the game of baseball was absorbed in or around 1968. Hurdle regularly appears among the league leaders in managers ordering bunts, despite playing half his games at the freakiest offensive incubator in baseball. He's obsessed with speed to the degree that he often puts two guys who can't hit right at the top of the lineup and one or two more near the back. He manages the bullpen as if an incompletely written algorithim makes all of his decisions for him, and then when one cog in the machine breaks everything goes haywire. It's maybe a stretch to criticize him directly for the rash of injuries the team seems to go through every season on his watch, but there have to be some better conditioning techniques the Rockies can employ to deal with playing in the thin air. Perhaps they need to try someone who's gotten some new ideas from the Japanese leagues, like Kansas City's Trey Hillman.

Whether Dan O'Dowd should be the guy to stay on and hire Hurdle's replacement is another question. He's drafted well and he's been sharp in getting valuable veteran production for almost nothing, like Josh Fogg last year and Matt Herges this year and last. To the extent that O'Dowd is handcuffed by the Rockies' greedy, shortsighted owners, maybe he is doing the best he can. But it's difficult to look at the performance of the Rays this year -- no, really, the Rays -- and think that Colorado could be in a better position given how many years of high draft picks they've had. The Rays have ace pitching and a well-rounded offense, while the Rockies just shut down Jeff Francis and may have broken Franklin Morales, and their offense can't take a walk to save their lives. (Brad Hawpe and Todd Helton, as always, excepted.) The Rockies in their rush to compete down the stretch last season may have won the battle and lost the war.

I was watching the A's and the Angels the other day and I saw Bobby Crosby score on a very awkward half flop/half slide into home plate. I used to be a big fan of Crosby's; I have his jersey and everything. His career has been one disappointment after another, with the injuries dovetailing with the failure of his power and his hitting for average to develop. Watching Crosby slide, I was seized with the fear he was going to fracture his hipbone or something. I think the fear was mixed with recognition: could Troy Tulowitzki be the next Bobby Crosby? He was compared to him a heck of a lot coming out of college, which was perhaps inevitable since they both went to Long Beach State. I hope Tulo's major league career does not mirror Crosby's any further. An awful second year is probably to be expected -- "sophomore slump" is an aphorism for a reason -- but from here on out it would be best for all parties involved if Tulowitzki could stay healthy. And keep hitting home runs.

We were so close, and now we're further away than ever. At least this time we can legitimately claim to be rebuilding. Upon further reflection, I do think that it might be best if O'Dowd went with Hurdle. If massive restructuring is going to be necessary to compete again, and after this season's trade deadline it will be, the organization might as well divest itself of its last links to its long and only intermittently competent previous field leadership team. If we could get a GM with a fresh new vision in in time to make those deadline trades, so much the better. The Rockies need radical new ideas, because O'Dowd and Hurdle's doctrine of incremental progress simply isn't going to bring the success their fans deserve. If we wait another fifty or one hundred years, what happened in 2007 might happen again. Most of us are not blessed with that much more time to live.

At Least They Play a Lot of Games
2008-07-01 15:18
by Mark T.R. Donohue

That's one good thing about baseball -- there's no chance your team could go winless, and if you go to more than two or three games a season, you'll see them win in person at least once. That's all we've got to hang on to now, the pleasant momentary tang of one win at a time. It would take nineteen straight wins at this point to return the Rockies to .500, so small victories are all we're likely to see for the rest of this season.

After I took such pains to write something hopeful about the series with San Diego, suggesting that at least the Padres were incapable of shelling Colorado pitching, they went out and laid 15 on the Rockies last evening. I don't know what to make of that. It does seem like my team has returned to the foggy murk with major league baseball's other unloved flyover teams, leaving us right back where we began. I don't think injuries alone can be blamed anymore for the team's poor performance, but rather poor planning and perhaps a dash of hubris. I sincerely hope they don't lose 100 games, but it's not the All-Star break yet and they're alread burning out their third string of retread starters and emergency callups. A more sincere effort to maintain and improve upon the degree of pitching continuity that the Rockies fell upon in the second half last season may or may not have prevented this rapid retreat.

Former Rockies not-so-great Shawn Chacon is in the news again as the player's union has filed a grievance claiming that the termination of his contract with the Astros was unlawful. Chacon, you may have heard, unloaded upon Houston GM Ed Wade in the clubhous last week. Colorado native Chacon had some good moments with the Rockies, but was also mentally tampered with to an unfair degree. Longer-tenured Colorado fans may recall with fond terror the 2004 season, in which Shawn was converted to closer following a mildly successful season in the rotation. The stats are memorable: 1-9 record, 7.11 ERA, 1.7 HR/9. The Rockies left him out there all season and even claimed that the fact that he had 35 saves showed he was hanging in there. After an injury-plagued start to the next year, Chacon was traded to New York and seemed to have found redemption as he put in a string of useful starts for the Yankees. He couldn't put it together the next year and has bounced around since, now apparently bruised to the degree that he takes his frustration out on defenseless old baseball men.

I can't help but wonder if Shawn Chacon's career might not have gone better if the Rockies hadn't decide to perform pschological experiments on him for a year instead of leaving him in the rotation where he belonged. Did his old club's misuse drive Shawn Chacon to Wade-pushing, or was he a bad seed from the start? When the Rockies shipped him out of Denver, they tried to send that impression through their puppets in the local papers. But a few years before that, before the closer thing and the injuries, he was the hero ascendent, the system-developed ace Jeff Francis was also supposed to be and Ubaldo Jimenez probably isn't. Greg Reynolds holds the torch now. Don't let us down, kid! Don't end up attacking Pat Gillick with a broken beer bottle in a couple of years.