After I returned home from the game last night, I was all worked up to write an angry post about the cheap owners, the terrible starters, and the possibility of a 100-loss season. I even wrote the first paragraph, which I won't repeat here. But then I thought better of it. I thought that (if you'll excuse me) if my bad attitude was starting to wear thin even on me, it might be old news to readers as well. So I figured I'd sleep on it and see where things stood in the morning. (Sadly, with the major league schedule now completed for the evening, the record incontrovertibly shows the Rockies tied for the worst record in major league baseball. But we're trying to be uplifting here!)
So instead of writing a vitriolic "Cardinals 6, Rockies 5" blog entry, I went to finish all of the chores I had put aside to go to the baseball game. I cleaned the cat bin. I emptied the dishwasher. I did the laundry (including the Curt Flood jersey I wore to the game in protest). Then I decided to have a glass of lemonade, listen to Wilco's exemplary Sky Blue Sky, and finish this weighty history of the Ottoman Empire I've been trudging through for the past few weeks.
While I was stirring the frozen lemonade concentrate into a pitcher of water, I noticed that the back of the new shelf I bought to house my ever-expanding record collection, which perches on the kitchen counter due to single-bedroom space requirements, looked kind of bare and unpleasant. I thought it might be nice to brighten it up with some magazine clippings, and the first thing my eye caught over across in the stack on the far side of the counter was the monthly Rockies magazine.
The magazine also doubles as the program they sell at games, so there's always full-page pictures of everybody notable on the roster. Jeff Francis and Troy Tulowitzki have been on my fridge for a while. (I must digress to note that the issue in question, May 2008, has Manny Corpas, the "Eye of the Storm," on the cover, and also introduces a "Tulo and Nix" feature that I suppose will not be appearing again for some time.) Who's the next guy that leaps to mind that I need represented on the back of one of my shelves? Why, Todd Helton of course.
And then I began to think about Todd, as I looked for scissors and tape. How much have I written about Todd Helton this season? Not a whole lot. I gave credit to Garrett Atkins and Matt Holliday for doing their thing in the midst of all the anarchy, but I took Helton for granted. That's unforgivable. Todd Helton is the whole reason I live in Colorado in the first place. That's overstating things slightly, but I never would have moved to a region without a baseball team I could feel comfortable rooting for. And although the Rockies were pretty crummy from 1996-2004, I had always admired Helton as a great hitting, fielding, and throwing first baseman. He was a complete player at a position that began to see a preponderance of Mo Vaughn types during this era. So I figured even if Colorado was bad for many years, I would always have Helton's play to admire. That was good enough for me. I bought a Rockies cap, a purple #17 jersey, and I packed my bags.
(I also have, as a relic of a similar process, a #54 Houston Astros Brad Lidge jersey. It didn't work out so well in Houston, for myself or Lidge. Maybe I'll tell the story of my #10 Shingo Takatsu White Sox jersey another time.)
Coming back to my kitchen, and my lemonade, and my action photo clipped of that perfectly level swing at its very completion, I've decided to give the Rockies a break this year. They're horrible, and venal mistakes were made on the part of the management team that caused this to be so. But they gave me and a lot of other people a ton of joy last year. Yeah, by the end of the year Coors Field is going to be as empty as it was at the end of the game last night, after Mark Redman got lit up for five runs and three innings and a nice blast of cold rain fell through the middle innings. But it was never about full stadiums or winning teams for me, and I don't see why a little taste of success one year should change that.
It's a shame and a missed opportunity for the Rockies that they weren't able to follow up on their 2007 breakthrough with another contending season. That makes me sad because I want my team to win and the sharp dropoff in season ticket sales for '09 (after this year's surge and, accordingly, price hike) will hurt their chances to do so; but the fact remains that I like it in Colorado, I like Coors Field, and I plan to be here for a while. I'm stuck with the Rockies and the Rockies are stuck with me.
All right, I still have some bullets from the game to get through:
Hand it to the torturous Rockies offense to finally hit a groove in the ninth inning and ruin the one thing that was going to save my miserable night, the extremely rare experience of seeing a complete game thrown at Coors Field. Braden Looper wasn't dominant in the least, giving up ten hits and striking out only one, but he didn't walk anybody. His ball-strike ratio: 38-76. You hear that, Ubaldo? You hear that, Franklin? You hear that, Francis Channel?
Speaking of #26, the reason I quite pointedly did not include Jeff Francis with Aaron Cook when I excepted Cook from the Rockies' "Festival of Crap" rotation I wrote about earlier is because Francis is not doing what he needs to do to go deeper into games. Even though he's put up some nice starts his last few times out, the Channel is still throwing too many pitches and walking too many. He's getting to the 100-pitch mark in the fifth or sixth and if he's going to be an ace (and the Rockies need him to be, with Cook's defense-dependency) he needs to throw first-pitch strikes and force opposing hitters to get aggressive early in the count. That's not really a note from last night's game but Francis does pitch tomorrow.
Cardinals rookie outfielder Brian Barton looks a lot like Eddie Steeples, aka Darnell from "My Name Is Earl." His nickname should be "Crab Man," if it isn't already.
Willy Taveras got an RBI groundout in the third, his fourth. The Rockies rank 29th in RBI from the leadoff spot this season. Anemic Minnesota is last. And Colorado plays half their games at Coors Field!
Chris Iannetta's introduction music is "I Can't Dance," by one of my favorite bands (really, I'm not being sarcastic), Genesis. The music nerd slash baseball fan in me hopes that Iannetta is a fellow true believer and I'll run into him at a record store one day while I'm searching for a replacement for my slightly scratched copy of Trespass and we'll become fast friends due to our shared love of Tony Banks' synthesizer mastery and Phil Collins' inventive drumming. In the offseason we'll hang out in my apartment listening to Abacab and hopefully he'll be able to use his fame and influence to get "Turn It On Again" into a Guitar Hero game already. The realist in me, however, thinks that it is far more likely that Iannetta is just a really terrible dancer and his teammates thought it would be funny.
I thought it was a great confidence boost for Manny Corpas when Clint Hurdle deliberately sent him in to pitch with Albert Pujols, who had a relatively quiet night (1 for 5 with a double), coming up. Corpas struck him out and completed a scoreless inning. Hurdle erred, though, by doubling down and leaving the dethroned closer in to pitch another inning. Rick Ankiel hit a titanic home run that ended up being the difference in the game. However, the loss shouldn't hang on Corpas's shoulders -- he has enough of those. This one belongs to Mark Redman.
Finally: Ankiel's throw to catch Omar Quintanilla attempting to stretch a double into a triple (with two outs, even -- go say hello to the pine, meat) from the very deepest recesses of Coors Field's altitude-adjusted outfield was the single best I have ever seen. I still can't believe how perfect it was. It looked as if he was still pitching and just flipping the ball to third for a force-out -- not the motion of the throw, but the path of the ball. Generally when you whip the ball it goes on a line, but this had a lazy arc like Ankiel could have, if necessary, thrown it harder still. Crazy. It was like the YouTube thing with Kobe Bryant jumping over the car, only I actually saw it happen. The friendly Cardinals fan who was sitting next to me and I were trying to think of another current player who could have made the same peg and the only names we could think of were Vladimir Guerrero and Jeff Francouer. But I don't know if even those guys could have done what Ankiel did. Oh, and he also doubled off Willy Taveras -- who can run a bit -- when Taveras tried to advance to third in the first. That one was routine by comparison, but it would have taken Willy, Ankiel's Colorado counterpart in center, two cut-off men.