Baseball Toaster Bad Altitude
Coors vs. Ted
2006-04-15 10:10
by Mark T.R. Donohue

This is what it takes: I watch ESPN's afternoon chat shows, "Around the Horn" and "Pardon the Interruption," nearly every single day, and yesterday was the first time anyone talked specifically about the Rockies this calendar year. It was infrequent panelist and Denver Post writer Jim Armstrong who brought them up, he was only able to do so because he "won" yesterday and therefore had thirty seconds to pontificate on a topic of his choosing, and his comments boiled down to "they're not actually good, but isn't it great that it's April and they're 6-3," but still, there it is. National awareness. I'll take it. Meanwhile, most of the print coverage that notices the Rockies' unusually good start dismisses them in the same breath, often while praising the Tigers. Apparently Chris Shelton is for real while Brad Hawpe, Garrett Atkins, Cory Sullivan, and Todd Helton just had a good week. Well, it's a long way to the top if you wanna rock & roll. Weekly power rankings update: Fox #21, ESPN #20, CBS #20.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers' season is going down the tubes ahead of schedule, with Yhency Brazoban and Brad Penny joining Eric Gagne in the M*A*S*H unit. Kenny Lofton is back, for what it's worth. Familiar face Jamey Wright was dazzling for the Giants last night. Go figure. Of course, the only Giant anybody wants to talk about, ever, is you know who. Kind of unfair to Moises Alou, who's started the season .348/.385/.783. The 3-6 Padres have already begun to panic, replacing Dewon Brazelton (the stat that will follow Brazelton until it doesn't continues to be his remarkable 0-16, 8.59 road record) in the rotation with Clay Hensley, also pounded by the Rockies in their recent series. This is not a good San Diego team. Arizona is an unsurprising 5-5, but they're doing it with pitching, which is a bit weird. They're 22nd in the majors in OPS, even with six of their ten games played at Coors or Chase Field. But they're second in ERA. Didn't see that coming.

Amidst the constant drumbeat of grousing about Barry Bonds, there's one mitigating factor I hear too seldom. Would it be a tragedy if Bonds passed Babe Ruth on the all-time home run list? What about Hank Aaron? I don't know. I can see arguments either way. But what difference does it make, really, when Alex Rodriguez is almost certainly going to obliterate the records of all three? A-Rod is 30. He has 431 career home runs. If he plays for eleven more years, which he will, and hits 30 a year, which he will, he will lap Aaron with Sadaharu Oh within shouting distance. Rodriguez has been accused of many things, from being "unclutch" to grinding children's bones to make his bread, but he's never been called a juicer. As they so often do, these things have a way of working themselves out.

OK, but here's another famous record under serious attack that no one's talking about: the .400 barrier. Rob Neyer mentioned in passing a few days ago that it's only a matter of time until the Rockies luck into a player with the talent level of an Albert Pujols or a Miguel Cabrera (hey, maybe it's Ian Stewart) and Ted Williams' fondly remembered Last .400 Season becomes as much of a relic as the Curse of the Bambino. Hell, if Todd Helton decided to take an Ichiro-like approach at the plate and swing at everything he could reach, he could probably do it right now. When this happens -- and Rob's right, it's going to happen -- will people be as angry as they are about the steroids thing? In one sense it's an apples and oranges comparison, but baseball traditionalists are hardly rational about the numbers and players they hold dear. Is it Coors Field's "fault" that it's a mile above sea level? Will MLB's expansion to Denver be viewed as a greater sin by the tireless minions of baseball orthodoxy than the 15 years of nudge-nudge wink-wink steroid policy?

2006-04-15 11:10:00
1.   Ken Arneson
Judging from what I've seen from Bonds so far this year, there's no way he'll break Aaron's record. He's now in that high-OBP, plummeting-SLG phase of a slugger's career. He still has the eye, but the bat speed looks like it's going, and fast.

He hit a fly ball to left field last night that two years ago was ten rows up in the seats. It didn't even make the warning track.

2006-04-15 11:13:30
2.   Mark T.R. Donohue
See above re: the self-working-out-ness of things.

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