Baseball Toaster Bad Altitude
Home Opener
2008-04-04 08:04
by Mark T.R. Donohue

It would be negligent of me to leave for the ballpark this morning without putting up some kind of hearty season-beginning message, but troubles abound. For one thing, I don't think the Rockies are going to make the playoffs this year, and that makes me sad. I also think that unless the team catches fire early on, fan interest in Denver is going to go back down to its usual level of zero. It's just not going to be like last year, and by that, I mean that it will be exactly last year, up until about September 20th.

They moved my seat. I've had the same 20-game plan seat at Coors Field since 2005, the year I caught a homer while sitting in it. The seat has been good to me, but when I was on the phone with the renewal guy this year he told me someone had bought it in a season plan this year. I don't feel like the Rockies organization did me over unfairly unexactly -- I understand that they make more money getting somebody who's got the money to promise to pay for the ticket all 81 games. But I'll miss my seat.

Maybe they need their heroes' welcome in Denver to build it up, but the Colorado club did not look like NL champions while scuffling through a muddy, boring series in St. Louis. First official regular-season at-bat for your 2008 Rockies? Willy Taveras grounds a slow one to third, you expect to see a real close play at first -- but oh no, Willy has tripped over home plate. The Rockies need to play with more authority on the road against teams they should beat. Given that they won the league last year, they ought to have at least a little swagger. I get that they're young and that as a franchise the Rockies have kind of a low-profile imprint but it's time for management to start quietly encouraging the players who have earned the right to crow a bit (notably Troy Tulowitzki) to do so. They are taking the field as they did last year as just another one of the not-so-bad NL teams that could emerge dubiously from the muck; the only advantage the Rockies unquestionably can claim in the league is that they did win it last year so they might as well make it work for them a little bit.

During the endless ESPN Opening Day feed (I swear, it seemed like there were three Opening Days this year... for some reason) Steve Phillips, who is one of the dumbest people on TV and hence a constant source of light in my universe, said that he didn't think the Rockies could win the division because he didn't think they could do it again with the crazy kind of run they had at the end of the year. Because, see, that having been the way Colorado made the postseason in 2007, it's the only way they necessarily could make it this year. They couldn't, say, not start out April brutally (9-15) and then not go on a 1-9 road trip in June. The Rockies are unlikely to ever again get as hot as they were for that one brief stretch -- it was a singular baseball phenomenon. They will likely not need to to stay in the division mix this year assuming they can avoid another disastrous start and get the starting pitching settled and confident enough to not repeat another such ruinous away stretch. It's incredible that the Rockies made the World Series last year given that they had not one but two such runs of looking like one of the worst teams in the majors. But Colorado doesn't need an incredible or an extraordinary case to make the postseason again -- it just needs to not play badly for long protracted stretches. Given the franchise's history this could seem monumental, but that was supposed to be the whole point of last season's breakthrough. The impossible having happened, the mythology about winning at altitude having been dispelled, the organization really ought to be able to get down to the far more prosaic task of winning games efficiently and regularly.

2008-04-04 17:56:15
1.   Mark T.R. Donohue
Boy, the Rockies played crappy today -- except for Willy Taveras, who had a real hit AND an over-the-shoulder catch on the dead run to center field that was marvelous. This was the worst Opening Day ever. I blame the fact that it was two weeks long.
2008-04-05 09:36:20
2.   Woden325
I couldn't help but wonder how you felt, Mark, when Willy was the only guy to get anything done yesterday.

More seriously, that was one of the most painful ball games I'd ever been to. Micah Owings was brilliant. The close calls at the bases seemed to go AZ's way. The umpire and Mark Redman had distinctly different ideas on the strike zone. The fans were so dispirited they couldn't even boo Eric Byrnes properly by the end of the game.

I'm almost afraid to think what's going to happen tonight if Jeff Franchise has another meltdown. I don't expect the Rockies to have that magic of last September, but I'm disturbed by the lack of offense and the pitching problems.

2008-04-05 12:44:55
3.   BruceR
Let's quickly add that Helton's started out well (4-game streak, OBPS > 1) and added that bomb yesterday (admittedly meaningless, other than to avert back-to-back shutouts). He's also saved a couple of errors on poor throws (nothing new there).

My take (and there's no way to measure this) is that with the exception of Helton, they're pressing to live up to the rock star status they've been living in since October. Holliday's not getting anything to hit and not getting calls (bad combo but doesn't excuse yesterday's golden sombrero). Atkins has to get it going or Hurdle will have to call off the swap. Tulo's over swinging (5 Ks) and playing less-than-stellar defense (the throw in St. Lou; yesterday's bobble that he got a gift call on). Could go on w/ the offense and that along with the (lack of) defense has caused the pitchers to press all the more (glad Francis' game did not count). Redman got in a hole with the error, then got squeezed and eventually lost it altogether. Jimenez started out ok (other than hi pitch count) then lost it. Last year's Cook was AWOL. Vizcaino had no clue in St. Lou. Only Wells(!) has overcome it.

But with all of that, a little perspective -- the season is less than 2.5% over.

2008-04-05 13:38:48
4.   Woden325
3 That strikes me as pretty solid analysis. And yes, there's time to fix this. As Mark pointed out, the Rockies went through some hellacious stretches last year. I'm just hoping we see some encouraging stretches soon.
2008-04-07 11:01:29
5.   Woden325
Ironically Sunday's game was a huge improvement. Franklin Morales pitched well, and recovered from the balk call. Last year, he seemed to go all to pieces when calls did not go his way. There was at least some situational hitting. The bullpen failed, but not as spectacularly as they did earlier in the weekend.

In other news, I am now convinced that the Tu-Lo chant freaks Tulowitzki out. It seems to me that he has hit worse both last post-season and in the early part of this season when the chant is deployed.

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