Fans of Other Teams Call This Unusually Late Mathematical Elimination Thing a "Pennant Race"
by Mark T.R. Donohue
Well, I have an obituary for the season all ready to run. I have for over two weeks now. But the Rockies can't be written off. Some short-term disasters against Pittsburgh and in San Francisco have somewhat obscured how well in the larger picture the Rockies have played in the second half this season, and the bottom line is that ESPN still has to list their name in the NL wild card standings.
I went to the game yesterday with the research department and was surprised by how casual an atmosphere there was. The fact that San Francisco between their decrepit veterans and nonprospect no-name position players barely sent out a single major league-worthy player besides Matt Cain contributed a lot. A tiny holiday crowd did its bit. Still, I have yet to see any sign of killer instinct in the Rockies. This is the only team in the league that can score seven runs and knock out your ace in the third and be honestly described as doing it "politely." Given that it's football season in Colorado the Rockies really need to have a team meeting to practice fist pumps, chest bumps, and insouciant post-homer bat flips.
The Rockies are having the best year they've ever had, and hardly anybody has noticed. I have to keep reminding myself. I guess it's unrealistic to expect everything to change at once, but it sure has seemed like a long hard slog to me. In order for people to get on a bandwagon, it has to have been moving perceptibly for more than a couple of weeks.
Trouble is, the Rockies have set the bar so high for themselves in terms of what they'd have to accomplish to win back local hearts and minds that this season is likely only to have larger significance if the team leaps another level from competitive to dominant and the Rockies lead the NL West wire-to-wire in 2008. That... could happen, but the catch with a reputation for futility as entrenched as Colorado's is is that evidence that nothing has changed is a lot more abundant and easier to spot than the tea leaves that spell out a bold and unfamiliar new future for the major league game in Denver.
I'm totally the worst offender at this. Nine-tenths of the time I am moaning and groaning about how awful the Rockies' management and ownership is; only when the team is at home and winning do I switch gears and start making noise about what a shame it is that no one pays attention.
I hope you agree with me that this is not a self-contradiction. It's management's fault that most sports fans in Denver take a "fool me 14 times, shame on me" attitude towards becoming really emotionally engaged with Rockies baseball. Cubs fans are losing sleep right now over the Brewers, Cardinals, and Carlos Zambrano; Rockies "fans" are having their Jay Cutler jerseys dry-cleaned and working on their denial about how badly the Chargers are going to throttle the Broncos twice this season. Which one looks more like a playoff team? Putting aside how lousy the NL Central is this year, I'd rather have the Rockies' roster, even with Aaron Cook, Jason Hirsh, and Rodrigo Lopez gone for the season.