Baseball Toaster Bad Altitude
Rockies 5, Giants 3
2007-04-18 09:22
by Mark T.R. Donohue

Boy, we needed that one. I haven't gone to many games at Coors Field that were as emotionally satisfying as the Rockies' late-inning victory last night. I suppose others' mileage may vary. Probably the fact that my group was sitting in right field contributed to the good vibes. Thanks to Barry Bonds, that was the only full section in the joint. But after seven ugly innings of woeful defense and Matt Cain's mastery of Colorado hitters, the bottom of the eighth was about as good as it's gotten (or is likely to get) for Rockies baseball this season. It had an immediate high (a pinch-hit homer for Steve Finley, who was due) followed by an extreme predictable low (Willy Taveras unconscionably being picked off between first and second with a two-run deficit). Then after Jamey Carroll lined out that most unusual of Rockies phenomena began, a two-out rally, with the middle of the lineup loading the bases and producing a run without hitting a ball out of the infield and Yorvit Torrealba picking up the team with a bases-clearing Coors Field special of a double down the left-field line. Yorvit didn't really catch his ball squarely, but it kept carrying, and the unexpected roar of energy was more than enough to sustain team and crowd for a perfect Brian Fuentes ninth. Boy, it sure would have been nice if more than 18,207 had made the trip, but I would have been hard-pressed to head home any happier.

Two Coors Field technical notes from only my second trip of the young season. First of all, this was the first occasion on which I took the bus from Boulder, and while I justifiably bag on Denver's overly expensive and inefficient public transportation system, as far as taking the express shuttle directly from the Boulder bus station to Coors is concerned, things went smoothly. Of course, traffic and parking around the stadium at game time are presently so sparse that there's no real cost or time benefit to taking the bus, but on the off chance that the alternator in your '98 Volkswagen is busted, it's nice to have options. The second thing I wanted to mention about going to a game in person this year is something that has come up in Bad Altitude comments a few times. The new announcer is terrible. He simply cannot be heard under even weak one-third capacity Coors Field crowd noise, and he somehow managed to forget pointing out the single most important substitution in the entire game. How could you possibly not announce that Matt Cain, who absolutely stifled the Rockies to the tune of two weak singles, was removed to begin the eighth in favor of Vinnie Chulk? Finley hit his homer and my first thought was, "Wow, Cain is finally tiring, we have a chance to knock him out here and maybe win this game." Then my second thought was, "Vinnie CHULK?" How could the PA guy possibly overlook mentioning this change, possibly even a little gleefully? Was he even watching the game? There should be a recall election. Maybe he did make the announcement, but I didn't hear it, which is pretty unusual since I watch games with intense monklike focus and keep score in a plain notebook using an elaborate system that leaves no game development unrecorded while filling two college-ruled pages to the margins with intense, obsessive left-handed scrawling. I can forgive not announcing that Todd Linden was coming in to pinch-run for Barry Bonds or laying out the double-switch with Fuentes and Finley in the ninth, but Bruce Bochy's decision to take Cain out in favor of Chulk after 110 pitches lost the game for the Giants.

I was pleased by yet another awful game by Taveras, who in addition to the brain-dead pickoff play also managed to turn a ball hit right at him in center by Rich Aurilia into a costly RBI triple. I spent most of the runup time to the game explaining to my various companions and anyone else who would listen that Taveras is a hideous festering canker sore on the lower lip of the Colorado franchise. I would have felt less than vindicated if he'd managed to just quietly go 2 for 3 rather than so visibly cost his team runs seemingly every time he was involved in a play. What can be done? Finley, obviously, isn't the answer as center fielder/leadoff hitter either. I would like to see the Rockies shake it up and give Taveras a chance to get out of his slump in the eighth spot, but doing something as logical as putting Todd Helton and his .467 OBP in the leadoff spot would probably make Clint Hurdle's head explode. Did I predict this was going to happen the moment the Rockies acquired Willy T? Yes, yes I did. Am I going to continue to gloat about this up until the very minute Colorado puts him out of his misery and then continue for long after? Yes, yes I am.

I thought the Nationals thing with the Virginia Tech caps was super cool; I'll bet you did too. I watched the whole Cubs-Padres extra inning game yesterday afternoon. Boy, talk about a team trapped in a recursive loop. I swear I listened to Pat Hughes and Ron Santo call this same game on a portable radio on the swingset in my parents' backyard in 1996, complete with the repeated "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" for the 14th-inning stretch. How did the Cubs manage to go from having so many outfielders that they couldn't find a roster spot for Felix Pie to calling up Pie and still having to play infielder Ryan Theriot in right, where he made a costly misplay to pair with one in left by Jacque Jones? I didn't think there was much point in doing a Hastily Assembled Preview on the Cubs because it seems intuitively obvious to me that the team is broken and Alfonso Soriano, Ted Lilly, and Lou Piniella are not the sort of individuals who fix broken teams, and titanically overpaying them does not promise to correct this. I didn't predict it would get this dreary this fast, though. Like a lot of Extra Innings subscribers, I suppose, I end up watching the Cubs a ton because they're often the only team playing weekday afternoons. I wish I could quit them. I still think somebody like the Devil Rays are missing an opportunity hooking up with some low-budget national cable network and putting a bunch of games they're not going to sell any tickets to anyway on during weekdays. They could become a new hybrid between the Braves and the Cubs, the team of choice in far-flung regions without franchises of their own and among weird obsessive types who don't work regular business hours. This is a coalition just waiting to be built.

A team I did preview about whom I may have been wrong: The Pirates, who have been road warriors of late, sweeping the Cardinals in St. Louis. I criticized Pittsburgh for assembling a whole rotation of low-ceiling young arms, but I didn't consider the possibilities inherent in having a whole starting staff of young healthy guys all of whom have reached their low ceilings or close to it. Tom Gorzelanny was extremely effective in the game I was watching yesterday. Ian Snell has been very good in the early going, too. Paul Maholm and Zach Duke have yet to get untracked, but both have pitched effectively in the majors for at least short stretches before. I don't think the Pirates are a playoff team, not with that offense, but they're not a joke either. No use baiting them, as the Cardinals announcers repeatedly did every time Adam LaRoche was at the plate. LaRoche has started slow, but the StL TV guys were abusing their privilege to kick a guy when down. The color guy was in the middle of a ridiculous sentence about LaRoche's body language indicating he wasn't even trying to break out of his slump when LaRoche promptly roped a three-run homer that effectively won Pittsburgh the game.

2007-04-18 10:54:42
1.   ToyCannon
Not so sure that Gorzelanny and Snell are low ceiling guys. Maholm fits that profile and maybe Duke but the other two I expect much more from.

Love the Tampa Bay idea. They should be a fun team to watch for the next few years. They are my team of choice when using MLB.TV or extra innings.

2007-04-18 12:36:40
2.   uess
Taveras must sit. He is irredeemably awful. Those of a certain age who grew up in New York City or surrounds will understand the allusion as I unveil my personal pet name for this joke: "Willy the K." (For those of you who don't get this, see here:

Hurdle ought to give some serious consideration to putting Baker in center. I guarantee he won't be worse in the field than Willy the K, and he will certainly be better at the plate.

2007-04-18 13:25:20
3.   tj5825
It stinks because it seems like Taveras could give us that speed on the bases...but you gotta get there first. I'd like to see more of Baker too.

So with the "demotion" of Hawkins, will he be sent to the Springs or is it just one of those things where he's way down on the list when the bullpen phone rings? (thank god either way).

Go Rox!

2007-04-18 14:40:44
4.   underdog
Taveras almost makes me (Dodgers fan) happier about having Juan Pierre (almost). At least JP gets things going once in awhile, gets on base, but it's kind of a close call.
2007-04-18 15:16:48
5.   Mark T.R. Donohue
3 I think that "you have to have speed at the top of the lineup" is the dumbest yet most perniciously unkillable myths in baseball. Playing at Coors and with the lineup they have, the Rockies should have guys who are going to hit for extra bases at every spot in the lineup. (Except for Taveras, they already do.) With the outfield fences some 20 feet farther back than any others in the majors, having a really fast guy on first is not important at all. Besides, Taveras is demonstrably a horrible baserunner. You know who the best baserunners on the Rockies are? Matt Holliday and Todd Helton. I doubt either of those guys could beat Dick Bavetta in a foot race but they make good reads of the ball and make decisions about when to go quickly and confidently.

Anyway, your leadoff hitter is only guaranteed to be the first guy up in the first inning. What about when the #7 or #8 hitter gets on and the pitcher moves them over? There are few guys in the majors, past American League pitchers, who I trust less than Willy Taveras with two outs and a runner on second.

Whether it's sacrificing or getting caught stealing bases, every time the Rockies play small ball at Coors (other than the ninth inning of a tie game), they're hurting their chances to win.

2007-04-18 21:52:13
6.   Kels
Tonight I went to the Dodgers/Rockies game....I don't remember hearing the announcer one time...he's must be bad.

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