Okay, I may have recently said that you can't talk about the playoffs until your team is over .500. I meant it, I really did. It's like a rule. But you're going to have to indulge me for a second here. Let me first explain why I'm not breaking the rule by using "Rockies" and "wild card" in the same sentence here. It wasn't me who broke the tape, so to speak. Some other guys started talking about teams currently beneath Colorado in the standings making the postseason, and some of their sins of omission galled me such that I figured just this one time I would risk the karmic lashings the baseball gods always parcel out to those who dare flaunt The Rules. Now, I'm not saying that two wrongs make a right. Not at all. I'm just saying I don't have anything else good to write about today, and not posting hours before the biggest series of the year thus far for our heroes would be bad form indeed. There might be another rule involved there. We'll check with the judges.
So I was listening to ESPN radio this morning and the host guys were "breaking down" the NL wild card race with card-carrying baseball expert Buster Olney. Maybe you heard this. Mike Greenberg would read the race leaders, in order: Cincinnati, Arizona, Los Angeles, Colorado, Philadelphia. He'd stop before he got to Houston (4 back) or Atlanta (5 1/2). Then Greenberg, Olney, and Mike Golic talked about every team with an outside shot of making it, including the Braves and Marlins (6 out) except for three NL West teams -- the Diamondbacks, Rockies, and Giants. This seemed weird to me. Of course, no one takes the Rockies seriously. Perhaps they shouldn't. The Giants are old and disinterested, and besides national radio guys can only talk about Barry Bonds when discussing San Francisco. People who watch the NL West closely have observed how entirely incidental Bonds has been for the Giants all season, but never mind that.
This has got to bother you if you're a serious baseball fan. The national media, by and large, isn't paying attention at all to half the teams in the race and hasn't all season. When asked to give his opinion on which teams in the crowd were his favorites, Olney didn't pick the teams with the actual best chances to come out on top. He picked the ones about which he had coherent opinions. Imagine the muted trombone adultspeak effect from the "Peanuts" cartoon playing during the following nuggets of conventional wisdom. The Dodgers: "Wah wah wah Ned Colletti wah wah trade deadline wah." Atlanta: "Wah wah division title streak wah wah wah can't count them out." The Reds: "Wah wah wah wah bullpen wah wah." Houston: "Wah wah wah wah RogerClemensrunsupport wash wah wah wah wah." Then, before dedicating the remaining 75% of his segment to some long overdue Red Sox and Yankees updates, Olney actually said (I downloaded the podcast version to be absolutely 100% completely sure) that you couldn't count out the Marlins, for sure, because they had the best starting pitching among the wild card contenders.
NO, THEY DON'T.
NL ERA leaders, starting pitchers only:
1. Colorado 4.07
2. San Francisco 4.28
3. Florida 4.28
4. Los Angeles 4.40
5. San Diego 4.44
6. Houston 4.49
I looked this up in a couple of different places because I wanted to make sure it wasn't a terrible joke. Did you know the Rockies had the best starters' ERA in the National League? By a small but significant margin? Why isn't this a huge story? Why aren't the national flacks calling the Rockies dark horse candidates to steal the wild card? Why aren't they talking about the Rockies at all? Well, the same reason they're not talking about Arizona. National baseball guys don't know the names of any of the players on those two teams except for Todd Helton and Luis Gonzalez, and to be sure they're not 100% certain if either is still playing there. This franchise just can't catch a break. Finally, at long last, the Rockies have some pitching, and the response has been snooty accusations of cheating from the stathead crowd and deafening silence from the mainstream baseball media.
Tonight, the Rockies play the Dodgers. It's the first game of a four-game set that is the franchise's most important since I've been living in Colorado. If they can pull out a series victory, no easy task on another one of those California trips that sink them on an annual basis, they'll be above .500. Meaning I can start talking about the playoffs without using east coast media bias as a flimsy pretext. So how about Los Angeles? They lost eight in a row, then they won nine in a row. It's emblematic of the NL West as a whole this year that the Dodger franchise was recently able to weather a losing stretch that set post-relocation futility records only to emerge, unscathed and phoenix-like, as the division favorites once again. The fact of the Dodgers' winning streak bodes well for the chances that some northeastern baseball writers might tune in for the first few innings of this game before going to sleep early to prepare for their morning radio commitments. We might even hear a highlight tomorrow! "The Dodgers' nine-game winning streak was ended last night in Los Angeles." Whether or not they throw in "by the Rockies" after that is not a proposition on which I would care to wager.
Brad Penny vs. Josh Fogg. Start working yourselves into purple frenzies now.