Baseball Toaster Bad Altitude
Diamondbacks 8, Rockies 6
2007-04-02 17:46
by Mark T.R. Donohue

I'm, if anything, annoyed. It's long been one of the principal goals of my existence to know more about baseball than my father, and ask my dad right now, he'll tell you. LaTroy Hawkins isn't any good. The Rockies' first loss of the 2007 season will be placed squarely on Hawkins' expensive (in Colorado terms) free agent shoulders, as the new setup man came in with a one-run lead in the eighth and promptly allowed three to score. LaTroy only needed to get the seventh, eighth, and ninth guys in the lineup to hand the lead over to Brian Fuentes, and he didn't. In fairness to Hawkins, the Rockies did less than they could in capitalizing on the early wildness of Arizona's starter and Aaron Cook didn't have one of his best outings. But, yeah, it was mostly LaTroy's fault.

I get criticized sometimes for being too down on the Rockies, but listen, teams with bad players don't win a lot of games. The Rockies have fewer bad players than they did a couple of years ago, but they still have some. LaTroy Hawkins wouldn't be the eighth-inning guy on a real contending team. Willy Taveras wouldn't be the leadoff hitter. And let's face it, Aaron Cook wouldn't be the Opening Day starter. Cook gave up nine hits in six innings and walked four, yet he actually outpitched defending National League Cy Young winner Brandon Webb, who allowed five runs in five innings. It was the work of nearly the entire Arizona bullpen that turned the tide for the Diamondbacks, as Bob Melvin aggressively changed pitchers five times and the group of Brandon Medders, Doug Slaten, Brandon Lyon, Juan Cruz, and Jose Valverde allowed only a solo home run to pinch-hitter Jeff Baker.

What kind of team has three dudes named Brandon pitch in one game? Way to go with your naming, parents of the early to mid-1980's.

It's always nice to be at Coors Field for the requisite one sold-out day a year, and the game if not crisp was pretty entertaining. I noticed that the fans sitting near me, who had last attended a Rockies game last Opening Day, were pleased that most of the same names showed up in the Colorado lineup. Well, when you go to your next game in April 2008, you'll be pleasantly surprised again.

Chris Iannetta and Troy Tulowitzki are going to be good. Strike that. They are good. They absolutely should be the starters for the Rockies at their positions and it's a relief that there are no veteran curiosities around to distract them or Clint Hurdle. Tulowitzki had a double and a single and Iannetta reached base twice and gunned down Chris Snyder at second base after a failed bunt attempt. In a game where Matt Holliday and Garrett Atkins were never able to get it going, the Rockies' offense still managed to score six runs. That's a good sign and something they were usually incapable of last season. However, Willy Taveras is horrible. Make him go away, please. Four strikeouts, a walk, and a meaningless stolen base from the leadoff slot? At least Steve Finley has magic veteran leadership power. Or maybe Jeff Baker can play center field. I've suggested it before. Manage to get his bat in the lineup instead of Taveras's (which I hesitate to even describe as a bat), and the Rockies are as solid from 1-8 as they've ever been. The defense might take a hit it can't afford, though. Colorado was a little lax fielding the ball today, as Brad Hawpe misplayed a single into a double, Matt Holliday had an E, and Garrett Atkins mishandled a ball that could have started a double play and was later charged with a throwing error. And they still have to pitch.

Maybe this is a good sign and not a bad one. The Rockies have had a knack for winning Opening Day games in dramatic fashion through the years, and little ability for winning many other ones afterwards. Still, this loss strikes me as a bit like the bad old days. Why did Hawkins enter the game when Manuel Corpas barely even broke a sweat pitching a 1-2-3 seventh and his spot didn't come up in the bottom half of the inning? Because Hawkins was acquired to pitch the eighth inning, see. Clint Hurdle had no choice.

Clint, if I may quote Clerks: Title does not dictate behavior. Just calling LaTroy Hawkins a setup man doesn't make him one. Same thing with the terms "Willy Taveras" and "leadoff hitter." Or "Willy Taveras" and "hitter," come to think of it.

I really like Kaz Matsui, if he can maintain his numbers from his Denver cameo late last year, as a number two hitter. In the eighth inning with runners on first and second after Taveras fouled up two bunt attempts and struck out on the third pitch he saw, Matsui put the ball in play to the right side of the infield. Of course Garrett Atkins followed this up by completing his 0-for-5 day with a flyout, but I still notice these things. You're all right by me, Kaz. I would worry about your timing being thrown by Willy T. steal attempts and hit-and-runs, but that assumes that Willy T. will ever get on base again, of which I am not so sure. Corpas and Ramon Ramirez look ready to pick up just where they left off last year in the bullpen. I could have told you this before Opening Day, but the Rockies' bench is miles better than was last year with Finley (who walked for Jeremy Affeldt in the eighth), Baker, John Mabry, Jamey Carroll, and Yorvit Torrealba.

Now, who's excited for the all the empty-seat Rockies games? C'mon, I know you're out there, I can hear you mentally constructing Willy Taveras jokes.

2007-04-02 18:55:51
1.   rynox
The Rockies' first loss of the 2007 season will be placed squarely on Hawkins' expensive (in Colorado terms) free agent shoulders

As a Cub fan I feel... wait, I used to feel your pain. He's maddening. Oddly enough he has good stuff, but apparently it's just easy to pick the ball up out of his delivery or something. Who knows. Your problem now.

2007-04-02 19:03:59
2.   Mark T.R. Donohue
1 Yeah, my dad is a Cubs fan. He thinks pretty much everybody who used to play for the Cubs is bad, and he thinks guys who do well against the Cubs are great. In his view, Brad Ausmus is a Hall of Famer.
2007-04-02 21:12:38
3.   gabe
Mark, oh man. I'm so ready to go to empty-seat Rockies games. So, so ready. I also confess - I really wanted to see Eric Byrnes slip on one of the plastic bags that was blowing about the field.
2007-04-03 10:30:11
4.   Kels
No Willy, they're not saying Boo…they're saying, oh wait, they are saying boo.
2007-04-03 13:10:45
5.   Kels
Hey Mark, my father was at the game yesterday and he said the new announcer was horrid. Any opinion?
2007-04-03 18:57:41
6.   Mark T.R. Donohue
5 Honestly, I didn't notice him in the slightest. I've grown accustomed to ballpark announcers who don't promptly tell you everything that's going on down on the field and I always go to games with a freshly printed-out roster for each team and my ultra low-rent "scorebook" (which is just a regular spiral notebook). I don't really listen to the announcer or even look at the scoreboard if I can possibly avoid it.
2007-04-04 10:19:11
7.   Woden325
5 The new announcer is not bad, but he's not great, either. He's no Alan Roach, but he does an adequate job of reminding me who's pinch-hitting.

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