Baseball Toaster Bad Altitude
Rockies 4, Diamondbacks 3
2006-08-14 20:51
by Mark T.R. Donohue

A few thoughts on a huge win which also featured the least interesting bench-clearing incident of the season:

After spending two solid weeks hectoring Clint Hurdle about leaving his starters in games too long, I can't fault him for the decision to go to Jose Mesa in relief of Jeff Francis tonight. With two runners on and a two-run lead, going to the bullpen was the right move. Unfortunately, it didn't work. Eric Byrnes tagged Mesa almost immediately for a three-run homer, and Francis's shutout bid became a looming Colorado loss. Thanks to late-inning heroics by Yorvit Torrealba, Clint Barmes, and Brad Hawpe, the Rockies pulled one out of there. It seems rare indeed that this team scores any runs at all in the seventh through ninth innings, so maybe Mesa's reversion to form was a blessing in disguise. Still, Mesa has been solid the whole season, and Hurdle made the right move. Even had the Rockies gone on to lose the game after the Byrnes homer, I would still be saying so. Really.

I was considering writing a piece about what a huge problem the Rockies franchise is going to have if Todd Helton is going to be a .280 hitter with no power for the remainder of his colossal contract. It pains me to say it, because Helton is my favorite player in the game today and has been the lone bright spot for many years in the baseball wilderness for Colorado, but the difference between Classic Todd (.340, 30 homers) and Todd Lite (.280, 15 homers) is vast indeed. The former is still overpaid at $16 million a year but given that his salary is a sunk cost, isn't a bad player to have to plug into your lineup every day. The latter...well, it doesn't even bear thinking about. "Colossal, disastrous millstone" are the words that come to mind. "Entirely untradeable," too. Well, you know how I was thinking of writing about this? I looked at the calendar and realized it was August. Crisis averted. Todd Helton owns August like Philip Seymour Hoffman owns character acting. His OPS is 1.024 so far on the month. If Helton ever played for the A's in an August, the consequences would be dire and far-reaching. He would hit like .900 and they'd go 27-1. If I didn't love watching Todd play for the Rockies so much, I'd almost want to see that trade go down just to see what would happen.

There were a multitude of examples in the game tonight of why being a major league GM is an impossible job. For all the best-laid plans these guys construct, the teams that take the field never, and I mean never, end up matching the preseason ideal image held in management's exhaustion-fueled fever dreams. Jamey Carroll and Yorvit Torrealba are two guys the Rockies got as afterthoughts, organizational players who were supposed to be cheap and remain upright while more exotic options at their positions blossomed in the farm system. Ditto Eric Byrnes with Arizona. And here it is in mid-August and all three are key contributors for teams that are still very much in the thick of playoff races. Byrnes has arguably been Arizona's most valuable position player this season. If not he's in a dead heat with Johnny Estrada, another guy not necessarily brought on to be a starter for a playoff team. Carroll, as you know, has been indispensible for the Rockies this year. Torrealba despite his late start is rapidly approaching the same status, thanks to his novel knack for getting hits in those vaunted Close and Late situations. Before the season, it wasn't clear what role (if any) awaited this group of players. Now were any of them to get injured their teams would be at a loss to replace them. It's funny how that works.

Don't look now, but the Rockies are hot. They're not Hot like the White Sox or HOT like the A's or HOT!!! like the Dodgers, but baby steps are better than not walking at all. I feel like I've written it a hundred times this season, but the Rockies are not quite ready for prime time. But they're approaching basic cable status. They're not smokin' hot like the ladies in the new CW commercials (Kristin Bell: call me), but regular, approachably good-looking, like the girls on "Freaks and Geeks."

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