Baseball Toaster Bad Altitude
Quickly, Now
2007-06-21 15:55
by Mark T.R. Donohue

Rodrigo Lopez, about whom one of these days I am going to have to admit I was wrong, outlasted Roger Clemens today, completing a three-game sweep of the New York Yankees. The last time New York visited Coors Field in 2002, they scored 41 runs in three games. In this just-completed series, the mighty Yankees scored... five.

Colorado is now 8-0-1 in their last nine series, after beginning the season 2-10-3. Since the beginning of a seven-game winning streak May 22, they are 20-7 overall. That ought to send them shooting up the various "power rankings" that proliferate on the national sports sites. More importantly, the team's local profile has certainly been higher in the last three days than it has been at any time since I moved to Colorado, and very probably since the Mike Hampton signing. People in bars and restaurants and street corners are talking about Rockies baseball. The local sports radio guys have talked about nothing but since Jeff Francis's gem Wednesday. It's pretty neat.

It is difficult to overcome the apathy bred by nearly two decades of mismanagement, however. Most of the discussions I have been privy to regarding the significance of this series have either struck a nostalgic tone ("Wow, Coors Field used to be full like this all the time, those sure were the days") or a skeptical one ("How long now until Matt Holliday is a free agent?"). Unfortunately for the Rockies, to whom nothing ever comes easily, this series... was too easy. A lot of area baseball fans who have been tuning out the Rockies since 2001 probably came home with their premium-priced Yankees series ticket stub wondering why they were paying top dollar to see the likes of Miguel Cairo and Wil Nieves. New York's real problem is the same as it has been for the last several disappointing seasons. Joe Torre doesn't have any faith in his middle relievers, so he continually overextends his venerable starters. I can't say for sure whether this crisis of faith is psychologically affecting the Bombers' lineup, but you can certainly see why an offense that feels like nothing less than a five-run lead will serve might begin to press.

The other problem the Yankees have is one of personnel evaluation. I can't tell you for sure that Brian Cashman is doing a bad job, but I do know that when the Yankees used to go out and add players from outside the organization, they would blossom on baseball's biggest stage. Here I am thinking about guys like Paul O'Neill and Tino Martinez. They were good players when the Yankees went and got them, but they became Pinstriped Legends at the Stadium. Since the 2000 World Series win, this magic touch has abandoned the franchise. It's become uncanny the way they grab a hold of free agents and marquee trade names immediately after their period of peak value has ended. Carl Pavano, Randy Johnson, Bobby Abreu, Jason Giambi... this is becoming epidemic. Meanwhile the Red Sox have made some veteran acquisitions that at the time had to be considered equally risky, like Curt Schilling and Manny Ramirez, and it's paid off for them. You can't expect that the Yankees will go away for a while, because the Yankees never go away for a while (except from 1982 to 1994, but that was all Dave Winfield's fault) but it certainly wouldn't hurt anybody other than perhaps a few hypertensive Bronx diehards if they missed the playoffs for a couple of seasons.

That would benefit... Boston, pretty much, since the Devil Rays have been jogging in quicksand since inception, Toronto's "do as I say, don't do as I do" GM is clearly in over his head, and the Orioles are such a disaster area that Joe Girardi today told them precisely where they could stick their manager's job. Who didn't see that coming? The Orioles are a leaguewide joke and everybody knows the punchline. Please die, Peter Angelos. Please die horribly. You are grinding one of the most proud traditions in the sport, with great fans and a gorgeous ballpark, into a useless disgusting bloody mess much like the lungs of the unfortunates upon whom you callously built your fortune. Sociopaths in the greater Baltimore area take note; I can't speak for the justice system but I for one would totally give you a free pass on this one.

As for the Rockies. They're not awful, and clearly more progress has been made than it first appeared in those brutal early weeks of the season where everyone that remained who cared including myself was screaming for the immediate dismissal of Clint Hurdle and Dan O'Dowd. That's good, but they aren't going to win the division. They're not going to make the playoffs, either. I like to dream as much as the next baseball fan, but there are playoff pitching staffs and then there's what the Rockies have and I know what the difference is. It's terrific the performances Hurdle and O'Dowd have been able to coax out of their dumpster-dive finds like Josh Fogg and Rodrigo Lopez. But if the goal was to be not-awful for cheap, Colorado has already been crushed in that category by the Marlins, who are about equally not awful and are easily twice as cheap. I'm trying to resist the urge, because I think I'm starting to sound like a broken record on this subject, but I can't help it. If the Rockies had Jason Jennings still, they could contend in the NL West. It would be a long shot, and they would be one injury away from falling apart the whole season, but they could do it. On the other hand Willy Taveras, Taylor Buchholz, and Jason Hirsh have all been wholly ordinary this year. None of them are contributing particularly to the Rockies' success; Buchholz has only been in the majors because he's out of options, Hirsh's rotation spot could have been filled just as well by... anybody, and the Rockies might be even better off than they are now if they'd been playing Ryan Spilborghs in center all year instead of Banjo-Stick Willy. But if they had Jennings they could go into any series with the Giants, Padres, or Dodgers feeling like they had the horses to match up in every game. That would be cool.

Well, I suppose I had more to say than I thought I did. Please disregard the title above. Here was the broad conclusion that I meant to arrive upon somewhat more promptly than matters in fact allowed: If this sweep over the Yankees is the highlight of the entire 2007 season, than the Rockies have once again failed in delivering an exciting and competitive product to the eminently deserving sports fans of Denver. The radio guys keep echoing the meme about "playing meaningful games in September," and while they spend altogether too much time debating whether Willy Taveras is the greatest leadoff hitter in Colorado history (no) for their opinions to be taken without a sizable chunk of rock salt, here I believe them to have a point. It was nice to have 50,000 people at Coors for each of the three games against New York. It would be super nice to have 50,000 people at Coors for the series that begins 9/7 against the Padres.

2007-06-21 17:19:30
1.   Brendan
"It was nice to have 50,000 people at Coors for each of the three games against New York."

Nah, you were right before the series started, much better to have only the "real" fans there. ; )

2007-06-21 17:25:25
2.   Mark T.R. Donohue
I'm hardly saying I want the park half-empty all of the time (although if I did, my wish apparently has been granted), I'm just saying I want more people to be genuinely enthusiastic about Colorado Rockies baseball. Here, there, and everywhere.
2007-06-21 17:49:39
3.   vockins
"Joe Torre doesn't have any faith in his middle relievers, so he continually overextends his venerable starters."

You're trolling for Bronx Banterers to come over here and go apoplectic, aren't you?

2007-06-21 17:56:16
4.   Mark T.R. Donohue
I calls 'em as I sees 'em.

What, that statement somehow was more controversial than openly calling for Peter Angelos's murder? Yankees fans have lost all sense of perspective, seriously.

2007-06-21 20:03:27
5.   Chyll Will
I dunno Mark, we do have a few "out on a ledge" folk back home, but in terms of overextending the starters, you must have Torre confused with the guy on the other side of the East River; a protege perhaps, but certainly not Joe. If anything, Torre has restless leg syndrome if he lets his starters get past the sixth inning, much less complete more than one game a year...

Torre has too much faith in certain relievers and none in the rest, that's for sure >;)

2007-06-22 04:25:35
6.   vockins
4 I don't know anyone that doesn't agree with you about Angelos.
2007-06-22 07:02:18
7.   bzavadil
Ha, I don't know how anyone can say we'd be better off with Borgs instead of Taveras. You can't deny the 1-2 punch of the Rockies, and I know Ryan is nowhere near as fast as Willy. Plus, Spilly in center could be a defensive disaster. Spilly is much better from the pinch anyways, I'd rather have him on the bench.
2007-06-22 07:21:04
8.   mbtn01
"'I'm just saying I want more people to be genuinely enthusiastic about Colorado Rockies baseball. Here, there, and everywhere."

You know, it's OK to let go and enjoy it yourself!

I'm a Met fan officially announcing the adoption of the Rockies as my "backup" NL team this year. That's partly because I'm a softie who feels terrible for how badly the whole Kaz Matsui thing went in New York; and partly because I sat close to the field during that Damion Easley/Endy Chavez game earlier this year at Shea and wound up smitten with Troy Tulowitzki's arm (you could hear the whizzz on his throws).

2007-06-22 08:25:40
9.   Mark T.R. Donohue
Troy Tulowitzki is the bomb-diggity. I am surprised there isn't more ROY buzz about him, but he did get off to a terribly slow start and great defense seldom wins you postseason awards (including, it seems, the Gold Glove, which is a whole other discussion).
2007-06-22 10:12:00
10.   Johnny Blackshoe
The Rockies NEED to make a move this year. I think that a trade to the White Sox for either Mark Buehrle or Jon Garland is very doable. Given the depth of the Rockies minor league system, none of the current players on the major league roster would need to be touched (except maybe Iannetta).
2007-06-22 11:50:04
11.   gabe
Mark - As the on-again off-again optimist of the Rockies blog world, I think you need to get off the bad-news express you've been riding all season and enjoy the fact that the Rockies are pretending they're good. Yes, it's perfectly possible that they're jerking us all around and will return to their usual selves after the all-star break or as soon as they start to threaten or whatever - but for now we need to support what they have been able to accomplish, even if it has been through smoke, mirrors and the threads of their pinstripes.

The truth is, people are talking about the Rox all of the sudden - I've been hearing conversations at work, in restaurants and busses, everywhere I go recently - and I think the good that can come out of this is that the excitement will continue and average attendence could balloon to above 35K if the boys can keep it up for this road trip. And maybe, just maybe this sends the Monforts the message that Denver could be a huge - and profitable - baseball town if the ownership would spend just a bit more money and bring in a decent GM. Isn't that prospect worth a little optimism?

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