Baseball Toaster Bad Altitude
I'm So Bored with the NL West
2007-04-19 07:29
by Mark T.R. Donohue

It would be presumptuous (and mighty self-important of me) to say that the game Tuesday was a major turning point for the young Rockies season just because I happened to attend it in person. Building on the slim evidence of another win yesterday, it does seem as if things have picked up since the doldrums of that first intradivision road trip. By the way, are there any other teams in the majors that haven't played any games out of their division yet? Immediate followup: Do I care enough to take the time to check? And here are your answers, in reverse order: Yes, once I figured out that I didn't need to actually look at every team's schedule; and no, there are not, even with all of those snowouts.

Denver always feels a little bit like MLB Siberia. There's no other teams in the Mountain Time Zone* and there's no history of winning or deep connection between the team and the fans here. Plus the Rockies are stuck playing the bulk of their schedule every year against the other NL West teams, which all have problems of their own. Since Colorado entered the league in 1993, the five present NL West teams only have three pennants and a lone World Series win between them. (The AL East, by contrast, has eight pennants and six championships in that time span.) It's no wonder that after Opening Day we have to wait for the Cardinals or Mets to come to town before it feels like real major league baseball. Well, seat coverage is part of the problem too. But I wish baseball would reconsider the unbalanced schedule.

What I'd really like to see is expanded interleague play in concert with realignment to six divisions of five teams apiece, but Bud Selig seems to find the concept anathema. Would the world really come to an end if the Pirates were scheduled to play the Devil Rays on October 1st? You would think they could work something out based on the past year's records that would mostly keep teams in contention from having to play out of the league down the stretch run (the NFL already does this), but even so, what would the big deal be? It's not like when National League teams play in AL parks the batters swing at wiffle balls with cricket bats and all the fielders have to wear snowpants. In fact, a system where every team in each division played identical interleague schedules (again, NFL) would be vastly more fair than the current arrangement where St. Louis gets five free wins against the Royals every year. As an added bonus, such a scheme would allow additional scheduling flexibility to address the currently relevant topic all of these early-season postponements in cold-weather cities.

Rockies roster movements of which you should be aware: Kaz Matsui and Byung-Hyun Kim are on the disabled list; Clint Barmes and Zach McClellan have taken their places. Should you know who McClellan is? Well, he made his major league debut Monday against the Giants. One inning, two hits, one run. He's right-handed. He's pushing thirty, so he's not a prospect. He pitched four scoreless innings in three appearances with Colorado Springs so here he is. Matsui (back spasms) should be back as soon as he is eligible to come off of the DL. As for BK, well, therein lies the question. He was all out of sorts about the Rockies pulling him out of the rotation, and then when they gave him a spot start, he fouled it up. Dan O'Dowd couldn't find any trade destinations for Kim during spring training and I imagine he was only kept on the roster in the vain hope that Clint Hurdle might find a few opportunities to showcase him in relief in the early going. So much for that plan. Colorado isn't the sort of organization that will just eat a multi-million dollar contract, unless BK gets caught in a prostitution sting. But I think Hurdle and O'Dowd alike think they have a good thing going in the Rockies clubhouse with so many decent hardworking young citizens. Will they hang on to a malcontent? Not if he can't pitch. Kim has either been hurt or ineffective thus far in 2007 so how many more chances he will get will be dependent on how the rest of his Rockies pitching brethren fare.

Yorvit Torrealba, who is an RBI machine all of a sudden, is going to get more starts ahead of the slumping Chris Iannetta, at least until those trends reverse. Steve Finley started in center and hit leadoff last night and I suspect we should get used to him in that spot for the immediate future. Rodrigo Lopez has a sore elbow and the list of candidates to replace him is a fine indication of how far this franchise has progressed. Probably in the pole position is Taylor Buchholz, who picked up right where Rodrigo left off when he (Lopez) had to leave the game yesterday. Could also be Brian Lawrence, whom the Rockies had to expose to waivers after the set period of his minor league rehab stint expired. I have absolutely no idea where you would go to check on such things, but today would be the day if any other big league team was going to claim him. If no one does Colorado wants him back. It's a little early to be thinking about Ubaldo Jimenez, but I'll use just about any excuse to get the name "Ubaldo" in a sentence. And theoretically Byung-Hyun Kim could get another start, but he is genuinely the fourth-best option. He sure wasn't as low as ninth on the starting pitching depth chart last year. Hooray for change.

Speaking of smoke-tossing Far Eastern righties, it was great to see Chin-Hui Tsao on the mound at Coors again last night, even if it was for the wrong team. It's been a long, long way back for Tsao, almost two full seasons, but he looked good, throwing hard. I've been impressed both by Tsao and the size and loyalty of his fan following ever since I started Bad Altitude. I wish the best for him and his career, except of course for when he is facing Colorado. It bodes well that he's managed to get on the field so quickly for the pitching-rich Dodgers.

I know I just promised no more unkind words about... a certain benchwarming outfielder, but I didn't say I wouldn't link to Woody Paige getting it done for me.

*Because Arizona doesn't observe Daylight Savings Time.

2007-04-19 08:55:56
1.   Xeifrank
With Hendrickson pitching tonight, there's a good chance of a Rockies two game sweep.
vr, Xei
2007-04-19 08:58:55
2.   Mark T.R. Donohue
Judges: Can winning both games in a two-game series really be titled a "sweep?" Discuss.
2007-04-19 11:11:31
3.   underdog
Maybe less a sweep than a quick wipe with a Swifter. At least the Dodgers are bringing their "A" line up tonight, for whatever that's worth. (Wouldn't have mattered much last night, I'm guessing.)
2007-04-19 14:36:08
4.   underdog
...or not.
2007-04-19 16:17:50
5.   Xeifrank
Rodrigo Lopez starts => Rockies win.
Mark Hendrickson starts => Dodgers win.
bizarro world?
vr, Xei

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