I'm Still Laughing Uncontrollably About Willy Taveras: Designated Hitter
by Mark T.R. Donohue
Of course, Shawon Dunston started at DH in a World Series game. Sorry, in two World Series games. Isn't that by itself enough to get rid of that stupid rule?
If the Rockies are going to keep winning series the way they have been doing, they are going to do permanent and irreparable harm to my theory that they are not very good. But then again, who have they played recently? There just aren't a lot of very good teams in the National League, and Baltimore is surely one of the most pathetic, pathologically incompetent franchises on the junior circuit. The Rockies will be tested against the Yankees and the Red Sox (the Old Boss and the New Boss respectively) during this interleague pod, but what I am really interested to see is how they will fare when they face the Padres again. While Colorado has been making baby steps towards relevance, San Diego seems hell bent for leather on proving that the caretaker NL West titles they won by default the last two seasons were just a buildup. Good for them. They're presently #1 in ESPN's Power Rankings, and when was the last time an NL West team was up there?
The star of the Rockies' 6-1 win over Baltimore Sunday was Ryan Spilborghs with two homers and six runs batted in. It's nice to see Spilborghs making an impact, because opportunities have been few and far between for the tweener outfielder. It must be frustrating being a Colorado minor leaguer, since the team evidences such schizophrenic attitudes about what constitutes a winning major-league roster. The last two seasons they've had a ruinous obsession with "true" centerfielders, which apparently means guys who couldn't hit home runs in a little league park and run into lots of outs on the basepaths. I'm no scientician but it seems to me that a guy who can get half as many RBI's in one game as Willy Taveras has all season might be worth giving a few more looks to out in center. Jason Hirsh pitched beautifully as well, but like every other starter on the team besides Jeff Francis, we're withholding praise until Hirsh puts together a multiple-start streak of effective outings.
I've mentioned it in passing before, but it's worth saying again. The Rockies' defense is really good this year. I'm hard-pressed to think of a better infield in the National League. Troy Tulowitzki is a monster, Kaz Matsui hasn't made an error all year, Todd Helton free of health complaints is back to his old form, and Garrett Atkins though he'll never be a Gold Glover is making the plays in front of him this season. It's funny, but the idea that the Rockies would be well-served by assembling a staff of groundball pitchers has been around far longer than the seemingly peanut butter-to-its-chocolate idea of putting together a sublime group of glove guys to back them up. The tipping point was when Tulowitzki fell unexpectedly to the Rockies in the first round of the 2005 draft. Then the Mets gave us Matsui (who played shortstop in Japan, remember) for nothing. My point here I suppose is that like most things the Colorado franchise has gotten right recently, this upswing in leather-flashing is a complete accident.
It would be intellectually dishonest to not at this point admit that Willy Taveras, while he demonstrates horrible judgement when it comes to the balls he can't get to, gets to more balls than pretty much anyone the Rockies have had in center field ever. I don't care, though, he's slugging .370 and his stolen base rate is unacceptable. OK, right, Atkins and Tulowitzki aren't slugging any better. But one is in a horrific slump and the other is in his first full year in the majors. This is the best Willy Taveras has ever played. That's terrifying.