Colorado Baseball: We Beat the Other Guys Almost Half the Time
by Mark T.R. Donohue
The experience of being a Rockies fan might not be rewarding as rooting for the Yankees or Cardinals, but it is unique. Things happen to this franchise that don't happen to baseball's more-scrutinized outfits. Also, we have a humidor.
This thing with Rockies starters in the first four innings is weird. I went to the game last Saturday, and Jeff Francis didn't allow a baserunner until the top of the fifth. Back out at Coors on Tuesday night, it was Jason Hirsh retiring the first 14 hitters he faced. I didn't go to the game yesterday (and good thing, too, with ridiculously high winds causing my car to shake as if coming apart even when I was just driving around the neighborhood in Boulder) but Aaron Cook apparently sent down the first ten guys he saw. We got some starters up in here, eh what? Of course the Rockies haven't won very many more games than they usually do during this recent run. Hirsh and Cook both collapsed almost immediately after losing their perfectos. The Rockies scuffled back against a bad Astros team to win yesterday 8-7, but they left Hirsh out to dry on Tuesday with a simply ghastly team performance with runners in scoring position.
Let's talk about Houston for a second, since this is the only time they'll be in town in 2007. What a strange team this is! It's not so hard to understand how Rockies starters have been able to get on rolls against a lineup that basically sends out guys who hit like pitchers six through nine. (Unless Jason Jennings, who Colorado fans will remember can hit a bit, is starting.) The same guys filled the six, seven, and eight slots in both games, Luke Scott, Adam Everett, and Brad Ausmus. Mix that string of pushovers with a decrepit Lance Berkman and Craig Biggio, and what you get is the fifth-worst record in the majors. Roy Oswalt, Jennings, and pleasant surprise Chris Sampson give them a pretty good 1-2-3 when it comes to starting pitching but Wandy Rodriguez and Woody Williams are not acceptable options at four and five. The weird thing, though, is that they still have the bullpen of a championship contender, as I observed firsthand on Tuesday night. Chad Qualls, Brad Lidge, and Dan Wheeler in the seventh, eighth, and ninth? Forget about it. If only the Astros could ever score the runs required to build a lead to protect. Amusingly-named journeyman Dave Borkowski is having a nice season for Houston as well. Whomever it is in the Astros' front office that is in charge of scouting relievers, he gets the first interview in Denver after Dan O'Dowd finally gets fired.
I almost forgot: Knock it off with the indecision already, Rockies starters. Either throw the no-hitter or give up a single to the leadoff hitter in the first inning. Nobody likes a tease. This goes double for games I am attending. Like all baseball fans, other than seeing my team win a World Series (ha, ha, ha) there's nothing I crave more down in the deepest most secret places of my heart than seeing a no-hitter in person. I've never gotten farther than the sixth, and I remember that game like it was yesterday. Curt Schilling was pitching at what was then Pac Bell Park in San Francisco; I was sitting in the bleachers and even though I had brought suntan lotion with me I got so wrapped up in Schilling's performance (he went to 10-1 after that game) that I completely forgot about it and got utterly lobsterized. I've seen something happen in person than has only happened twice in baseball history, which was Mark Bellhorn hitting home runs from opposite sides of the plate in the same inning for the Cubs against the Brewers in Milwaukee. (My dad totally called it happening, by the way, the second time Bellhorn came up after the Brewers had changed pitchers he poked me and we were debating whether it had ever happened before when Bellhorn connected.) And I've caught a home run ball, too. But I want that no-hitter. It's just a different experience since it doesn't happen all at once but rather builds throughout the game. I'm definitely living in the wrong MLB city if I want to be sure to see a no-hitter before I'm old and gray. Perhaps one day I'll move for that very reason. I didn't move here for any reason better than that it seemed like the Rockies needed me and besides I like snow.
I almost forgot, again: The MLB draft is on TV today, for the first time ever, starting at noon mountain time. A good one-liner from Dan Shanoff: "How interesting can a draft be when you have no idea who the players are?" If I can tear myself away from the Pirates-Nationals game, I'll be blogging it. The key for the Rockies, as we have surely been over before, is whether they will step up to the plate and pick guys worthy of their slots rather than opting for "signability" in the high rounds as they did last year. Whose picture will appear in the Post tomorrow under an ill-fitting Rockies hat? I'm kind of into Quebecois high school pitcher Phillippe Aumont, since the Rockies have had luck with Canadian starters in the past. ESPN's Keith Law (Insider required, sorry kids) connects the team with Georgia HS centerfielder Jason Heyward and also mentions Aumont and Clemson lefty Daniel Moskos. Moskos should not be confused with California high school shortstop Mike Moustakas, whom the Rockies absolutely under no circumstances will touch with a hundred-foot science pole because he's a Scott Boras "advisee." You've got to shudder at this all-too true point from MLB.com's Thomas Harding in the second piece linked above: "Since selecting right-hander Matt Harrington fourth overall in 2000 but watching negotiations become contentious and unsuccessful, they stress the importance of reaching an agreement quickly and having the player in the Minor League system as soon as possible." What that means, folks, is they're cheap. See you at noon!