Thursday, May 31, 2007
We'll learn a lot about the Rockies by the way they approach tomorrow's game. Any team can get hot for a stretch, and they're lucky that it carried them from nine under .500 to three, but they're still not clear of the break-even mark and if they don't bounce back and play a good, strong, winning ballgame tomorrow, the winning streak is going to mean exactly zip. They have to show that their ability to piece together a successful run of games is more than just an accident, and that when they're denied, they have the desire to come back just as hard the next day and play with fire and resilience. With Aaron Cook facing Brad Thompson, the odds are in their favor, but then again, they looked to be today with converted ex-Royals reliever Wellemeyer making the start against Hirsh. If the Rockies lose tomorrow, split the series, and go into a funk afterwards, then it's safe to start labeling them flukes, but I've had a glimpse of the talent and passion that they can play with, and I'm loathe to let it go. I've had so much fun with them making me feel good, making me eager to see what happens every night, and I'm not at all ready to go back to the doldrums of losing two out of every three. The win streak was the longest since 1998, but they need to make it stick, taking this defeat and then roaring back, not allowing the Cards to follow up tonight. Fortunately for them, the Cards have shown a remarkable inability to get it going consistently, and we don't want to be the catalyst that lets them. As I have said... fond feelings for the Cards, but not in the Rox' home park. We need three of four and we need to keep winning.
Also, I happen to be attending tomorrow's game with primo free tickets (16 rows back of home plate) scored from my sister's friend's dad, who knows people who know people... etc. I want to go there and enjoy my boys giving me a win, not a crushing split, which would be a failure considering the red-hot wave of momentum the Rockies were riding into the series. I want to see a fire under some asses, and I want to come out of Coors happy. I'll be wearing my Hawpe shirt, my purple and black Rockies jersey, my Rockies necklace, and possibly my autographed cap as well. Last year I thought my heart would belong to the Cards during this series, but I think the Rockies have well and truly stolen it away. And since I had such a great time rooting for them as a winner, I'll be even more upset if I'm forced to settle for a loser again.
I also have a quasi-special-agenda for tomorrow's game. Jason Hirsh is usually out and about during warmups, and he's quite good about signing, so I'm going to see if I can talk to him. I already have his autograph and picture, so I don't need to bother him about that, but I'm going to ask him what he was doing tonight. In San Francisco he was trying to establish his fastball, but couldn't, and resorted to his curve and changeup as effective enough tools to get him through six innings and three earned runs. The results were not similarly serviceable tonight, so I am planning to ask which pitches he was using and what feel he had for them. Clearly, he wasn't fooling anyone, so I'll ask if it was just a night where he felt good in the bullpen and lost it when he came to the mound, if one specific pitch wasn't working enough to set up the others and so he had to make do with a reduced arsenal, or if he felt all right but they were pummeling him anyway. (I did notice early on that his "out pitch," which is usually his changeup, wasn't working, as guys were fouling off a lot of pitches in order to sit on something hittable). Hirsh is a very sweet and affable guy, so although tonight may not be his favorite topic in the world, he'll probably still give me a decent answer if I manage to snag him.
I have to say, the Rockies chose kind of a lousy day to break the streak, aside from squandering what looked like a pretty favorable matchup on paper. I had to attend training for my new job (Starbucks) today, and since it's done through King Soopers, there were all these required food handling videos I had to watch, and... oy. Let's just say that when your day starts off hearing about Barney Kroger's entrepreneurial exploits with sauerkraut in Cincinnati, and goes downhill from there, you're in trouble, especially when you're forced to watch endless, mind-numbing bars of text scroll onto the screen at the approximate pace of a glacier and be repeated by criminally perky virtual people. (Not to mention that you review them about five times... I feel sorry for anyone who actually needs those videos, as they clearly do not have an IQ above 80 and will never be successful in life aside from teaching connoisseur courses on how to load plastic grocery sacks. Yes, there is apparently a whole art to this. Shoot me). I went through a number of stages. I actually almost cried when I saw I had to watch yet-fricking-more videos after my noon break. I sat there in despair. I took off the headphones. Then I began scrabbling for happy thoughts, most of which involved the Rockies, the fact that I'm going to the game both tomorrow and Saturday, the fact that they were going for eight.... etc. Then I became very fascinated with the operations of the printer -- seriously, I thought it was interesting to watch the wheels and arms and paper feeds. Then I began reciting a militant litany of "fuck you"s under my breath at the idiots on the screen teaching me about correct food temperatures, and flipping them off when I was sure no one was looking. Then I noticed spelling and grammatical errors and became homicidal, and to top it off, the Rockies couldn't even win and salvage my day. How very inconsiderate of you, boys.
Side note: Why in crapping hell does Steve Finley still have a job in the majors, let alone on my favorite team, where I have to watch him spectacularly suck in all manner of key situations? Not only is he good for a pair of weak groundouts, a shallow popup, and a feeble K a game (pick and choose one as the result if he's put in as a pinch-hitter) his defense is atrociously atrophied. Today he tried to dive for a Jim Edmonds flyball that went past him completely, turned into a triple, and keyed the Cardinals' big inning; five in inning five was enough for them to thrive. Then, when Hirsh allowed a hit to the pitcher (bad), Finley bobbled the ball anyway on a routine single to center. Veteran presence is the most overrated quality in baseball and it offers absolutely nothing of value if the veteran in question is as godawful as Finley is. His start tonight was another example of Hurdle's overmanaging; he heard that Wellemeyer was vulnerable to lefties, so he stuck the matchup statistic (Finley) in there instead of the hot hand (Spilborghs), apparently missing the memo that certain pitchers' vulnerability to left-handers does not include ancient, decrepit, grizzled geezers, left-handed or otherwise. Finley can't see the Mendoza line with a telescope and he's taken up far, far too many at-bats for the big club while poor Sean Barker withers away down in AAA. (It's worth noting that Barker's "slump" has dropped him to .338 from .398. Wish I had that kind of slump on the big club). The reason Finley is kept around is precisely because he is left-handed, which is coincidentally also the reason that Tom Martin is still employed. As you can see, Hurdle loves matchups, but I for one am a believer that stronger hitters are worth more than which hand is on top of the other on the bat. Barker's right-handed, but he's hitting over .300, for Christ's sake. The promoting Spilborghs experiment worked out -- SEE! I told you. Now it's time to free Barker. The only other left-handed outfield option is Seth Smith, but he's hitting only .265 and may not be ready for the callup to the Show yet. It isn't as if we're short on outfielders, and if the Rockies need a good veteran presence, how about, uh, Todd Helton?
Hopefully, somebody will see the light and realize that Finley has no redeeming value to contribute to a big-league club and that he should be given his walking papers pronto. Even though Hirsh was throwing like a Little Leaguer tonight, Finley's defense behind him wasn't doing much to help out. Hirsh has evened out his GB/FB split a bit since last year, but he's still a flyball pitcher with almost 50% of his outs coming in the air, and although he's managed to (usually) escape with this at Coors, he's going to need outfielders there who can, you know, track down and catch the ball. Spilborghs has shown some terrific range and versatility out there, including a great catch to save Ramon Ramirez' bacon and preserve what would become game five of the winning streak in San Francisco. He also had Scott Rolen dead to rights yesterday night with a perfect throw to Torrealba as Rolen tried to score on Pujols' shallow fly, but naturally Torrealba flubbed the catch. In other words, HE'S HERE, HURDLE, NOW PLAY HIM! God. How many times do I have to yell it?
Well, that's all for tonight. Despite my trepidation about whether or not the Rockies can avoid an all-new and even more depressing tailspin, I am looking forward to going back to Coors, very much so. There is never enough time for me to be there and to be with my boys. So I'll be there to root, root, root for the purple and black and hope that there's a spark under more than one butt. Tulowitzki, I'm sure, will have it, and most likely Holliday and Hawpe as well, but three guys do not a winning game (or team) make. So, Rockies, thou have thy mandate. Thou shalt go forth and fulfill it.
Monday, May 28, 2007
On the offensive end of the stick, Matt Holliday launched his team-leading ninth homer into the bullpens in the bottom of the first, continuing his ownage of Kip Wells -- he's mashed him like a pinata to the tune of 9-12 with four bombs. (Holliday and Francis are also the Cards' personal nemeses, as Holliday has hit .481 in his previous 19 games against them and after today's victory, Francis is 4-1 with a 2.28 ERA against the Birds). Holliday also added an RBI groundout to continue a run of torrid hitting -- he's ripping just about anything that anyone throws him. Inside, outside, away, up -- he's strong enough and smart enough to make almost instantaneous adjustments and take the ball all over the field. Wells had to work around traffic, as Troy Tulowitzki tripled and singled (continuing his run of multi-hit games) and Willy Taveras walked and stole second, but he managed to strand the runners in scoring position until the fifth, when Jeff Francis bounced a double to help himself out and scored on Kaz Matsui's RBI single. Kaz himself came home on a passed ball by Gary Bennett, starting in place of regular Cards catcher Yadier Molina, and Francis escaped his most serious threat in the sixth, when, after walking Pujols with two outs to load the bases, he threw a first-pitch fastball and induced Scott Spiezio to ground into a force out. After that, he was untouchable again until the (unfair) homer in the eighth, but in the bottom of the seventh, the Rockies tacked on three more runs to ice the game. Holliday collected his second RBI of the afternoon and Brad Hawpe slammed the first pitch the opposite way for a two-run homer, his sixth on the season and fifth in May. After a somewhat slow start, Brad (or, as he's called on Purple Row, Brandon) has rediscovered his power stroke and is now hitting .290 on the season.
The last thing that remains is to get Atkins into gear. Even Garrett collected a line drive single and a long fly ball today, and it seems as if simply poor luck may account for the dip in his BABIP (batting average on balls in play) from .340 last year to .248 this season. He ripped a sharp grounder in his first at-bat, but right at second baseman Adam Kennedy; this is the story of his season thus far. He's still hitting the ball hard, but they just aren't finding the holes that they did in '06. I for one think that this aberration will correct itself, and he did tear up the joint after the All-Star break last year, but hopefully we don't have to wait that long this year for the magical salve that will give those balls eyes. I remain deeply fond of him and I'm willing to have patience with his struggles as long as the team keeps winning. Six in a row is wonderful, and the last time they did it was in May 2002, but I'm not satisfied with it -- and nor is the team. The streak bumped their record up from an abysmal 18-27 to a just-below-.500 24-27, but even with it, they remain stuck in last place in the NL West and 5.5 back of division leader Los Angeles. To keep rolling with it, they need to take advantage of the Cardinals' vulnerability on the road -- they've dropped 11 of 13 away from Busch -- and continue to get strong starting pitching and timely hits. Tomorrow will be more of a test, because Rodrigo Lopez will be pitching for the first time since early April and Braden Looper will be taking the hill for the Cards. Let's hope the Rockies can continue to hit good pitchers; they dismantled Morris and Lowry's pretty ERAs in a hurry in San Francisco, so they'll need to do the same against Looper. Yes, Looper is the Cardinals' ace. Strange season in St. Louis.
Also, aside from Pujols, the Cardinals ran out their best AAA lineup in today's tilt. Rolen, Eckstein, Edmonds, Duncan, and Molina won't likely be warming the pine for a second straight game, so the Cards' order should offer stiffer competition in the second game than it did in the first. Lopez is also, you know, still the pitcher who lost 18 games for the Orioles last year, so it'll be important to see if he can maintain his good start. Seven in a row sounds nice, but I still would like to see more.
You may also have noticed that the general team I favor goes in cycles. Last year when the blog was first started, the coverage was mainly A's-oriented, then shifted to pro-Cardinals as the Redbirds completed the process of shocking the world and capturing the trophy. This year, it's moved more in a Rockies direction as I am after all spending the summer at home in Colorado and am deeply immersed in the triumphs and travails of the boys in purple and black. That's just the way it goes, as I continue to like all three and pay more attention to all of them than surely is good for anyone's mental health. But, well, as mentioned, I am rooting for the Rockies in this series, and I'd like to ride this win streak for as long as they'd like to carry it out. Hopefully this thing is primed for a few more, and that Hurdle doesn't make any more slap-your-head-and-cry-in-your-beer decisions, of which he's unfortunately all too good at. Hope everyone had a safe and fun Memorial Day, and see you tomorrow at 7:05 MT, Looper vs. Lopez, as the Rockies try to roll sevens.
Although Rodrigo Lopez is returning from a forearm strain, Josh Fogg pulled his groin in his last start in Arizona and may or may not be ready to take the hill in his next turn, which would get at least one more start out of Buchholz. I'm ambivalent about which of the two, Fogg or Buchholz, I'd rather see in the last rotation spot, but I think I'd go for Buchholz. He has the unfortunate tendency to get shelled and be unable to do damage control if things spiral too far out of hand, but he's also much younger than Fogg and still able to "develop" (the Rockies' favorite word) into a competent starter. Fogg alternates good outings with total clunkers, and even when he pitches well, he either doesn't get enough run support or is left out there an inning too long and gives up what almost always turns out to be the deciding margin. His record is a slightly deceptive 1-5, as the hair-raising horror show that is the Rox bullpen has robbed him of a win following quality outings, but frankly, I've never felt comfortable with Fogg on the mound. He is mercurial to the umpteenth degree and has never showed any flashes of consistency -- he's perfectly capable of following up a 7-inning/1-run gem with a 4-inning/7-run turkey.
However, today, Buchholz's battery mate, Chris Iannetta, showed yet again that he should be the starting catcher and will probably have to take another seat to Yorvit Torrealba tomorrow. Aside from shaking off being hit in the head by Ryan Klesko's backswing, Iannetta rang up 2 RBI with a triple to bring the Rockies even at 1 in the fourth, and a double to extend their lead to 6-4 in the tenth. (After the 'pen blew it in the eighth, and the top of the order went quietly in the ninth, Todd Helton walked to lead off the tenth and was replaced with Kaz Matsui as a pinch-runner. He advanced to second on a wild pitch, but when Atkins blasted one that got reeled in on the warning track, he just stood there and failed to advance to third. This was precluded from being a grave mistake by Troy Tulowitzki, who has been the most clutch hitter in all of baseball this season, dumping the tiebreaking single into right field. Iannetta extended the lead with a double over Fred Lewis' head in right, and Brian Fuentes closed the door on the Giants in the bottom of the tenth for the sweep). But still, Iannetta has been suffering from a disgraceful lack of playing time, and although he has more than earned his start tomorrow (the last time Torrealba had 2 RBI in a game was in his dreams) I'll bet you anything that Hurdle will pen in Yorvit instead. He's decent for a backup catcher, but his manager for some bewildering reason thinks that he's the starter.
Iannetta's best buddy Tulowitzki has been outstanding this season, establishing himself as a legit contender for the NL Rookie of the Year, but Iannetta himself needs to play much more than he does. If this sounds like a familiar axe I'm grinding, I apologize, but he's young (only turned 24 in April) with a high upside. I understand that the management might be nervous about turning over their pitching staff to the guidance of a rookie catcher, but Iannetta's preparation is unmatched -- he constantly studies tape of hitters, reviews game plans, and as evidenced by today, called a fine game for a young and previously struggling starter. He knows the mechanics of baseball intimately and deserves so much more playing time than he sees. Yes, well. Axe ground, let's move on to the other topic at hand, which shall be addressed in brief: Adam Wainwright's next start.
As I mentioned in my post earlier questioning Tony La Russa's relationship with Wainwright, his next start would be telling, both in terms of pitch count and results. There was no arguing with either today, as Wainwright whipped through seven mostly tidy innings on an economical 81 pitches. However, the two runs he allowed came on a homer allowed to ex-teammate Ronnie Belliard, and since the Cards' offense was snoozing at the wheel again, he ended up a hard-luck loser despite an otherwise stellar line of 7 IP, 7 hits allowed, 2 earned runs, no walks, and six strikeouts. The bullpen combined to allow five runs in the late innings and the Cardinals' bats only mounted two, leaving the score as a final 7-2 and unfairly evening Wainwright's record at 4-4. To be fair, he's escaped with some wins due to the offense bailing him out at times, but c'est la baseball and I must confess to being a bit disappointed that he started today instead of yesterday -- if he'd gone then, it would line him up for the Thursday start in Denver, at the game which I happen to be attending. I was hoping to make it to more than one of the Cards/Rox games, but it looks as if I'll only catch the fourth and final tilt. Oh well. It'll be Brad Thompson vs. Aaron Cook, which concludes a favorable string of matchups for the Rox. The starters will go thusly:
Monday: Kip Wells vs. Jeff Francis. Wells collected his first win in nine tries last time out, but hopefully, the Rox can put an end to that, as he went eight previous starts while allowing four runs or more. Francis has been on fire recently, averaging 7 innings pitched and 2 or fewer runs allowed, and he won on May 7th when the Cards and Rockies faced off in St. Louis. He has been commanding his high-eighties fastball to both sides of the plate, he uses his changeup effectively to keep hitters from sitting on it, and his curve has been very sharp, so it shall be seen if he can extend the Rockies' winning streak to six at 1:05 pm today, almost exactly 12 hours from now (it's 1:11 AM as I type this. Yes, there's a reason I haven't seen the AM daylight hours since I came home. Well, almost). Francis has also enjoyed considerable success against the Redbirds, as he's 3-1 with a 2.27 ERA against them lifetime and pitched eight innings of shutout ball at Coors last July.
Tuesday: Braden Looper vs. Rodrigo Lopez. Looper, screw me sideways with a lunchbox, has been, to my considerable surprise, the ace of the rotation since Carpenter's demise. He is 6-3 with a 3.10 ERA, and although he had his one nuclear moment, it surprisingly didn't extrapolate into anything more. This game will be Rodrigo Lopez's return from the disabled list. He pitched quite well in two rehab starts in AAA Colorado Springs, mainly using his fastball but eventually getting a feel for his changeup and slider as well. He ended up 1-0 with a 2.38 ERA in AAA action, a good sign for a man who was a pleasant surprise in the early going, marking down one win with a 1.59 ERA. Hopefully the long layoff from big-league action hasn't dulled him down, as he may need it -- gasp -- with Looper on the mound.
Wednesday: Todd Wellemyer vs. Jason Hirsh. Wellemyer is making the start in place of Anthony Reyes, who was demoted to Memphis after falling out of the gate with a 0-8 record and a 6.08 ERA. He hasn't pitched quite as badly as those hair-raising numbers would indicate, but the Cards can't keep letting him go out there and lose games, whatever the cause may be. (In my worst case Cards rotation scenario, I predicted Reyes would get demoted, but I also spotted him 5 or 7 wins as well before that happened. Clearly, I was too generous). Wellemyer struggled to a 10-odd ERA with the Royals before being cut and picked up by his fellow Missourians, so the Rockies should try to get to a pitcher that throws a straight fastball, serviceable curve, and not much else. Hirsh has been a bit unpredictable as well, but registered a quality start in the opener against the Giants -- 3 earned runs, all coming in the first, through six innings. He was in the 100-pitch range in the fourth inning the last time he faced the Cards, so he's definitely going to need to improve his efficiency and come up with a new game plan. His changeup has been his out pitch in the season to date, but he can't sit on it -- he'll need to establish his fastball, as he was trying to do with middling success against the Giants, and complement it with his above-average curve.
Thursday: Brad Thompson vs. Aaron Cook. Thompson is one of the assorted remedies the Cards have tried to patch the gaping wound that Carpenter's absence left. He doesn't work that deep into games, as he's never lasted past six innings in an outing this year, and he's not particularly efficient, as 96 pitches only got him through 5.1 innings today against the Nationals. Both Thompson and Cook's signature pitch are their sinkers, which Thompson mixes with a standard fastball and curve. Cook occasionally will throw a fastball, but generally relies on an arsenal of sinker, changeup, and curve. When the sinker's working, he gets groundball outs like a machine -- same with Thompson. Cook's last outing was his complete-game victory against the Giants, and he's won four straight outings with a no-decision mixed in. This will clearly be the best game since I'll be right behind home plate with primo free tickets. Also, a couple Rockies homers wouldn't go amiss. Okay, I'll admit it, I'm rooting for the Rockies in this one. Just because my love for them is starting to climb to possibly unsafe levels. Also because a nice long winning streak that seems as if it may never end would be fairly awesome.
Sunday, May 27, 2007
The Rockies have managed to climb from nine games under .500 to five under, but they've still got a long way to go to get out of the cellar, much less think about mounting a challenge for the division. The Dodgers are way out in front and the Rockies have numerous problems of their own, so it's far too early to herald this mini-surge as significant of anything. They have the ability to turn around and lose four or five straight, as well, but there have been a lot of dissatisfied sportswriters penning bitter indictments of the way this franchise is managed, a number of which I happen to agree with. However, the players themselves have stepped up their game over their streak; I haven't seen stupid mental mistakes or botched plays. Eventually they'll need to hit a home run, as this is the first time since their inaugural season of 1993 that they've won four straight without the help of a round-tripper, but bloops, errors, bunts, and one or two RBI doubles (including one from Garrett Atkins, which warmed my heart) have been enough for them. Still, four games isn't enough for me. I want to see five, maybe even six or seven, and then we'll talk. I also don't want to see them follow it up by stumbling, bumbling, and swooning to a 10-20 June or something, as they might do. One of those nice long glorious winning streaks would be most welcome, and at the least I've stopped feeling as if watching this team makes me want to put out my eyes with hot bamboo spikes. I even watched the game in its entirety on television tonight, something that I actually haven't done in a while, and spent most of it unable to get over how adorable Brad Hawpe is and how much he fails when trying to look fierce. Using MLB.com Gameday seems to detach me from the frustration a bit.
After tomorrow, the Rockies come home for ten against the Cards, Reds, and Astros, and I'll probably be attending a game against each opponent. I'll be behind home plate (hooray for good free tickets!) on Thursday against the Cardinals, and somewhere in the second or third deck (not entirely sure) for the Reds, and Photo Day, on Saturday. (This is a very good thing. Also, fuck the Monforts for raising ticket prices again. Last year, the free Ladies' Night vouchers could be redeemed for any tickets under $26; now they're only redeemable for tickets under $20, which means that my sister and I can't sit in our favorite spot in the right field mezzanine. Charlie and Dick, you guys are a pair of, uh, the latter. But, well). After that, we'll probably buy cheap tickets for the Wednesday Astros game and re-start our collection, as we used them last time for Photo Day. We also bought an extra ticket for my sister, who's coming home from school on Friday and will be accompanying us. (She has a crush on Atkins, something that I discovered to my great surprise, and for some odd reason is terrified of getting a picture alone with him -- she's going to make our younger sister go with her. Whatever).
It'll be a fun week. Two baseball games and then we're going to see the musical Wicked on Sunday. We may even get in another showing of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, which isn't your movie if you're looking for nuanced cinematic greatness, but is just the ticket for a sit-back-and-turn-off-your-brain rollicking summer popcorn blockbuster. I usually lack a social life and fun activities, but hey, at least I'll get some of them in. I also have training for my job on Wednesday -- as I expected, I'll be working at Starbucks over the summer. I still can't entirely get over the fact that I didn't get the Rockies job, but Starbucks isn't too bad. I'm just a little addicted to Frappuccinos, and have this feeling that I won't be able to evict my dad, who's a coffee hound, from the place during business hours....
Oh well. Point of all this is, I want to see the Rockies win tomorrow and then keep going. Although it's a great shock to me, I think I'll actually be rooting for them over the Cardinals on the Thursday game that I am attending. I do want the Cardinals to turn it around, and they have a prime stretch of schedule coming up, but I have to admit, I love the Rockies too damn much to allow it to happen at their expense. Not that I, you know, have any say in this matter, but for what it's worth, that's my two cents.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
The Rockies also won their second straight, clinching a road series win over the D-backs. Jeff Francis continued his recent run of brilliant pitching, going 7 shutout innings and NOT getting yanked by Hurdle (what a thought). Manny Corpas and Brian Fuentes did their thing, and Ryan Spilborghs, in his first start of the season, made the most of it, knocking in both Rockies runs for a 2-0 final. Sad (and illuminating) fact: In 5 at-bats this year, Spilborghs has 3 RBI, and this is more than Steve Finley has all season. And we're not giving the grizzled veteran (translation: should have retired two years ago) his walking papers why?
Ah, no complaining. I'm happy. The Rockies next head into a weekend series with the resurgent Giants, where they will have to face Matt Cain, Matt Morris, and Noah Lowry, three straight tough assignments; only Cain has an ERA over 3 and even then by not a great margin. The Rockies really will have to discover the thunder in their bats to win a second straight road series before coming home for 10 to face the Cards, Reds, and Astros. They'll also have to start playing better at Coors, where they are 10-13. Hopefully they can finally get something going, as that would be fun. It's painful to be addicted to this team, but I really am. Go Rockies!
The A's managed to avoid the sweep after inadvertently waking the sleeping dragon known as the White Sox offense and getting their behinds served to them on platters the past two games. Hiram Bocachica (!) hit a two-run homer to back a stellar start from Chad Gaudin (7.1 shutout innings) and the bullpen didn't crumble when faced with a bases-loaded situation in the bottom of the eighth. The A's nipped the Sox 4-0 and head to Baltimore next, where they'll open a series with the Orioles on Friday. AL ERA leader and staff ace Danny Haren faces off against Baltimore ace Erik Bedard. Baltimore has scuffled this year, posting a 21-25 record, but the A's have been playing a season-long game of tag with .500, currently sitting on a 23-23 record. The [censored] Angels will just not lose (although they did tonight despite Jose Mesa's best efforts to the contrary. How does that man still have a job? Honestly). Half the A's are on the DL, no exaggeration, so by the time they get their A-team back (pun intended) it may be too late... Oh well. No bitching in this post. Go A's!
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
The Cardinals are looking to land fairly squarely in the cellar this year barring a miraculous turnaround. There is no better time for that to happen than now, as 21 of their next 27 games are against sub-.500 clubs including the Pirates, the Nationals, the Reds, and yes, my beloved Rockies. The Brewers are starting to show their flaws -- overcompensating at both plate and mound led them to their third straight series loss. Chris Capuano is 0-2 with a 9.64 ERA in his past few starts, and the home run power provided by J.J. Hardy and Prince Fielder has temporarily vacated the building. So they are the team that's dragged through fourteen previous losing seasons, but they're still a country mile better than the Cards, who haven't shown any sort of sustained spark or resilience despite a 9-4 win tonight. It was against the Pirates, one of the teams they're supposed to beat, but even the Buccos have a better mark than the Cards and are two games closer to the break-even point. Whether it's the front office, aging players, or just evenly distributed incompetence, I'm starting to wonder a little bit about the managing going on within the organization.
Tony La Russa is one of those love-him-or-hate-him managers, obsessed with platoons, lefty-righty matchups, and trying to outmaneuver the opposition in every possible situations, and he has a distinct style that earns him both high praise and sharp criticism. His contract situation is uncertain after this year -- the club can opt to bring him back or let him move on -- and the fate of La Russa after a disappointing season has been widely questioned. He finally skippered an arguably less talented team than his monster '04/'05 squads to a World Series championship, but he (and the rest of the personnel) haven't exactly been doing the most inspiring job at following it up. To some degree, however, I get the sense that La Russa is deliberately holding the unsettled contract over the front office's head. He's been uncommunicative at times and impassive at others -- after all, he's under no obligation to return to this team if he doesn't want to, and who would blame him after the painful season that his '07 Birds are putting together? Still, the coverage of the contract situation, and La Russa's refusal to address it, can sometimes take the focus away from what's going on in the clubhouse and on the field. I get the sense that he's a little exasperated with the whole crew, and God knows I am as well, but I'm a fan and not the manager. It appears to me, with the limited and partial resources I do have, that La Russa may be losing the trust and confidence of the players as well.
Last season, his feud with Scott Rolen was widely publicized, and while both of them insisted that the bridges had been mended, it's amazing what someone will say in the rush of a championship. It's led to speculation that despite a blanket no-trade clause, Rolen will ask to get out of St. Louis before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. (The Dodgers have been mentioned as a possible destination, but they'd be sadly mistaken if they think he'd bring power to their lineup. Rolen is struggling to stay north of the Mendoza line and playing in the cavernous confines of Chavez Ravine wouldn't do him any favors. Still, his glovework is impeccable, and the Dodgers, who have been looking for an established cornerstone at third since losing Adrian Beltre to free agency, might take a flyer if they can convince Rolen to relocate to Southern Cal). But a less-publicized, and slightly more alarming, schism that seems to be developing concerns La Russa and Adam Wainwright.
Regular readers of this blog know that I adore Wainwright, and I'm not taking La Russa to task for doing what a manager is supposed to do in trying to get the best out of his players. I just happen to think that he's going about the situation in the wrong way. A few days ago, it came out that Wainwright has been experiencing pain in his pitching elbow all season and that's why he's putting up some highly uncharacteristic numbers (despite the win tonight and allowing 2 runs in 5.1 innings, his ERA remains an untidy 6.02). According to a team official, it was "never serious enough to consider shutting him down." Now, the Cardinals' rotation is picked to the bone and stitched painfully together with converted relievers and AAA hopefuls as it is, but what is the point of running Wainwright out there if he can't follow through correctly and is going to get shelled? (His start before this one was particularly unsightly -- 8 runs in 2.2 innings vs. the Dodgers). Especially with this somnolent offense, if a pitcher digs a hole every time he's out and has trouble working efficiently, that's not going to give the club much of a chance to win.
The reason that it came out that Wainwright was experiencing pain was because Wainwright himself told the media, not because he went on the DL or because a doctor let something spill. And at once, there came rumors of, if not a Rolen-like feud, at least a bit of coolness between Wainwright and La Russa. La Russa is a gamer, a tough guy, with an absolute drive to get to the top no matter what it takes, and that's why he's currently enjoying the position that he does. Don't get me wrong, I think his will to win is absolutely unmatched, but at the same time, I think he takes the bulldog mentality a little too far. It seemed to Cards fans that La Russa was upset with Wainwright confiding there was something wrong; he was making excuses instead of battling through it. Well, seeing as Wainwright was a prized rookie phenomenon last year who was widely expected to be very successful upon conversion to a starter, I'd expect the fans would want to hear at least some reason as to why instead of continuing to be frustrated every time he took the mound and didn't do well. You can only hear, "There's nothing wrong, it's just a lull, it'll sort itself out," so many times before you stop believing it, and again, I fail to see how going out there anyway and giving up runs that a tepid offense can't make up would help the Cards win. If La Russa wanted Wainwright to shut up and go through it, what good would that do?
Wainwright has said that the pain is correctable, but that when things aren't feeling right, he can't follow through his delivery properly. This doesn't surprise me; if you watch a pitcher throwing in slow motion, the contortions that their arm goes through will make you wince, and this is even when they're perfectly healthy. It seems as if the repeated, vehement motion required to throw a small horsehide sphere at a velocity above every highway speed limit would unstring even the most valiant tendons in short order, and all that delicate machinery, when off, is really off. Pitchers are very particular about which ways their pitches come out of their hand, and if Wainwright can't follow through or use his elbow the way he's accustomed to, it's certainly one of the reasons his curveball lacks its customary bite and break this year. His fastball is only low-nineties, so he's not going to blow guys away with the heat if his offspeed stuff isn't working. A hanging curve is just as desirable as a straight fastball for hitters, and it seems as if too many of Wainwright's curves are doing just that. Of course, it's a different mentality for a starter, with different preparation, and hitters can familiarize themselves with his stuff as the game goes on instead of being forced to acclimate quickly over the course of one inning. However, the discrepancy in his performance is too large to simply be explained away as new-starter jitters.
The most encouraging pitch Wainwright made tonight against the Pirates was to get his fellow Adam, LaRoche, chasing on a very sharp-breaking curveball to escape a jam, and he insists that he is regaining his form with the pitch. One hopes so, as otherwise, he's going to get hit hard again. He wasn't exactly effective in his start tonight, laboring through 96 pitches for 16 outs, and escaped from bases-loaded jams in three of his five innings. But at least he didn't let them score, as he's done in the past. The efficiency will have to come after he figures out how not to be shelled on a consistent basis. His next start will be very telling, and you can bet that he will make it, funky elbow or otherwise.
The Cards don't have many options as it is. Mark Mulder is out until at least the break and his ability to come back and be effective, let alone good, is under serious debate. (Side note: When I was watching the Rockies game a few days ago, somebody emailed the announcers to ask why the Cards were so bad. When the first words out of their mouth, I shit you not, were "Mark Mulder," I screamed at them for being idiots and failed to hear the rest of their reply, some nonsense about how Mulder, for the love of God, somehow precluded them from being competitive). As I've mentioned, the only way Carpenter comes back this year is if the Cards are miraculously in striking distance in the Central in late August. The Randy Keisler experiment was a disaster. Anthony Reyes isn't pitching that badly any more, but just can't win. Kip Wells is proving to be an ex-Pirate (part of the rotation worst-case scenario in my Cards projection.... YIPES, most of that is true! Dear God!) and has a 1-7 record and some bloated mid-6 ERA. Brad Thompson has already been used to make an emergency start. I can understand La Russa being reluctant to let another pitcher slip to the nefarious clutches of the disabled list, but the "pitch Mulder when he's hurt" idea last year backfired splendidly, and the Cards are going to go down the same road with Wainwright if they're not careful. I thought it was Dusty Baker who was known for blowing out pitchers' arms (Kerry Wood and Mark Prior may never throw a big-league pitch again; partly because of him, partly because they're made of Waterford crystal) but I would have thought the Cards should have learned their lesson about trying to pass off injured starters as serviceable.
Now, if Wainwright insists he's good enough to go, then I'll trust that he knows his own body well enough to make that assessment, and he'll have to face the consequences that follow, possibly including an extended trip to the DL a la Mulder. That's not La Russa's fault, but I do get the sense that the manager is losing his players, and if you thought the chemistry in a losing clubhouse wasn't that great to begin with, then this isn't going to help at all.
There are a few other things I'd like to mention. La Russa, as everyone will recall, was arrested for drunk driving during Spring Training, an incident which sprang to renewed prominence after Josh Hancock's alcohol-related fatal crash. While La Russa, a standup guy, took the blame for his bad choices at the time of his arrest, he hasn't spoken about it again even after Hancock's death. Now, I don't want the players to be joining MADD or posing with highway cleanup crews or something like that, but a word or two would be nice. Perhaps La Russa has spoken about it behind closed doors -- sadly not being a Cardinal, I have no way of knowing what goes on in the clubhouse with any certainty. La Russa, publically at least, was silent on the issue even during the first few days afterwards, and while he may have privately amended things, it has left fans wondering what message he wants to send to them. They supported him even during his own imbroglio, and an acknowledgement wouldn't go amiss.
Also, one more thing. This is utterly unproven, and probably means absolutely nothing, but tonight, with two runners on, La Russa gave Wainwright the signal to bunt. Wainwright, one of the team's best hitters period and not just for a pitcher -- he's hitting .357 and that is no accident -- pulled one bunt foul and then decided to swing away, ending up with a two-run double. There's no way to say that La Russa himself didn't call for the false bunt and then change the signs, knowing that Wainwright can swing it, and either way the outcome was favorable for the Cardinals, but it makes one wonder who chose to go that route. Again, baseless speculation, but interesting nonetheless.
Go Cardinals. Do try to win some games, but when you play the Rockies for four, let them have at least two.
Monday, May 21, 2007
Nah, the greedy bastards will probably just try to get Helton and peddle Kyle Farnsworth back in return. Even worse, Dan O'Dowd might fall for it. My biggest fear is that O'Dowd would decide to get equal monetary value for Helton, and take on a package of bad relievers/low-end prospects just because their total salaries equal out to what Helton's making. Helton himself is enjoying a marvelous resurgence, among the NL batting average leaders, and has jacked his on-base percentage up over .500. It'd be hard to get what he's worth, and I have my doubts that O'Dowd will insist on the right deal. I'd be upset to see Helton go, especially after he's stuck out so many losing seasons in Colorado and never complained, but I'd part with him for the right price. That includes at least one young and good, proven major-leaguer and not just a hopeful prospect.
While I'm not happy about this possible move either, it makes more sense from a purely business standpoint -- clearing Helton's cumbersome salary off the books might provide enough open revenue to re-sign Holliday once he finishes his last year of arbitration eligibility in 2009 and hits free agency. Seeing as the Dev -- apologies, I keep doing that -- Scott Boras is his agent, it's more likely that he'd head for the open market instead and try to get a king's ransom, which Boras will certainly supply. That said, there is an even more nightmarish scenario that the Rockies trade Helton, trade Atkins, and fail to re-sign Holliday anyway. Where does that leave them? Back at square one with a team of young prospects, just like always, and that would leave me frustrated beyond measure. But the current logistics being discussed about Atkins (although not in any depth, and just as names matched up by each club as having interest) would ship Garrett to Anaheim (heeuurgh) for Ervin Santana and possibly Brandon Wood as well, but that may require an extra player, possibly Koshansky. I do not like this deal for a number of reasons. Here's why.
I am not at all sold on Santana (unless you're talking about Johan, which I somehow doubt). His current numbers are 3-5/5.06 and that isn't that different, and is in fact worse, than what we've already been running out there. Not to mention that ghastly home/road split: Ervin's an other-Santana-like 3-1/2.33 within the confines of Angel Stadium, while he morphs into a Mike Hampton-like 0-4/7.86 on the road. He is young (25 in December) but our track record with pitching prospects isn't that great. I'm not sure about Wood, as why would we need another young third baseman if we're going to ship Atkins out with the express intention of having Stewart take over? Wood is hitting .237/5/21 at Triple-A Salt Lake, and I admittedly don't know that much about him, but I wonder if he'd be able to produce at the big-league level. Minor-league stats are a gaudy thing... until you get to the Show.
There's also the question of what would happen if the Rockies shipped both Helton and Atkins out, then didn't re-sign Holliday -- what kind of message would that send? "Okay, we got a couple good years out of these guys, now it's back to the rebuilding phase yet again?" If, as is widely speculated, Joe Koshansky may not be ready to contribute at the big-league level, who will play first? There are other scenarios tossed around of clearing off the payroll by trading Helton, promoting highly regarded prospect Ian Stewart to play the hot corner, and moving Atkins back to his natural position at first. But if both Helton and Atkins are gone, are we willing to take our chances on Koshansky and Stewart? What would the Rockies be saying if they got rid of guys every time they finally became legit major-league players and no longer "prospects?" Young players are the future of the game, but I for one get a little tired of the constant turnover within the organization. This may be a complete pipe dream, but I wish management would stick with their established players a little longer.
I'm not sure that the slow start for Garrett this year heralds the start of a steep decline, as there are a number of other stars, even the infallible Pujols, who haven't really found their swings. He's still young, still good, under club control until 2011, and only making $400,000, and it's rare to find players with all those traits. So although everyone may be frustrated by his somnolent offensive performance to date (including myself, mind you) I don't think we need to hit the panic button and ship him out just yet.
Is Wood actually a bonafide talent, and not just another highly-achieving minor leaguer that will sputter out once he hits the Show? I'd be leery of trading for him now, since his minor league experience is limited to 11 at-bats and 1 hit. Likewise, if he's projected to be as good as everyone thinks he can be, then why can't the Angels put some time into the Rockies' favorite catchword, and develop him? I'm not arguing against acquiring him, but I am arguing against acquiring him just because he's "supposed" to be good. If we're thinking about making a 3B-for-3B swap and the production is currently about at equal levels, then what would be the point? (For both Anaheim and us, for that matter. It seems they'd be more keen on keeping a 22-year-old than trading for a 27-year-old, but the Angels have placed a premium on single-season production in the past). If they need an upgrade at the hot corner, then if Atkins doesn't provide much more and possibly less than Wood, why would they pull the trigger? I suspect Stoneman may be trying to buy low and hope he can groom Atkins back into the player he was last year. But if Wood is so good, why isn't their solution to their third-base problems to be found within the organization? There is no reason they shouldn't bring him up for a look-see, just to judge if they can get adequate production, and if he's not Major League ready, I oppose dealing an established major league player for him.
Right now, if Atkins slumping is still worth Santana and/or Wood, I think O'Dowd (if he is planning this trade at all, which management has denied) should wait and see. It's only May and it's still likely that at least some of Atkins' unluckiness could correct itself. The spike in the K rate and the drop in the walk rate is alarming, but if a couple more of those liners had gotten past someone or made it over Andruw's head, for example, his average would be higher than it is. Of course, the what-if game can be played to death, and what only matters is the results on the field, but I think that, if perhaps not the MVP-caliber player he was last year, Atkins is still better than what he's shown thus far.
The team should not have marketed itself as a contender, but they always say that each current group of players is a core. Well, we're still looking for that right touch. If it won't be Helton/Atkins/Holliday, will it be Koshanksy/Stewart/Barker? When will the search actually end, or are we just a revolving door to develop good players that we then trade off? I'm not asking a rhetorical question here; I do wonder what the heck can be done to fix this organization. The losing is frustrating and it's all we've really ever known, and I for one want to see it end -- but will a constant revolving door lead us to this end? Are we like the Brewers, hoping that years of high draft picks will finally lead us to our glory days?
As for the Pujols/Atkins comparison, perhaps it's a bit overreaching, but I did want to point out that there are others who haven't performed at their accustomed level this year. What that might be for Atkins, we still don't know, and I just hope that we don't make a deal for a young third baseman that doesn't pan out and Stoneman ends up getting the last laugh. For no other reason than I hate the Angels, and that would be deeply aggravating. If we acquire Wood for Atkins, so be it; I'll be upset. If we win, it will make it better. If it doesn't work out, and we just keep losing, I'll be even more upset. Why is Wood one of the missing pieces? Who knows.
I still have one more logistical question. If we intend on getting Wood, how does that affect Stewart? I doubt we're planning to platoon two highly regarded prospects. At this point, it would make more sense for the deal (should it go down) to be Santana for Atkins, and I don't endorse continuing to take a risk on a pitcher that "could" be good, and yet, this year, still hasn't achieved his potential. I don't care what scouts see if he isn't bringing it to the field and consistently producing. It was rumored earlier in the year the Angels were mulling a demotion for him, and while God knows we need pitching help, I don't like the idea of trading our established third baseman for their mercurial is-he-or-isn't-he possible greatness, possible burnout. The Angels have some quality arms -- if they want Atkins, they should give us one with proven talent in return.
Also, third base isn't a position in which we have need, seeing how highly Stewart is regarded. So why would we need to trade away a third baseman for another third baseman that might cause playing time conflicts with him? As I mentioned, the most logical trade would be Atkins for a pitcher, and while I would always appreciate help in this sector, for some reason, I don't necessarily see it coming from Santana. I'd be more willing to listen if it was another name being tossed around -- I wish that O'Dowd would insist on a proven pitcher instead of taking a flyer on one that may or may not achieve his potential. The Angels are known for their pitching, so let's not just take the first name they throw at us. Santana has been a problem for them in the past and Atkins hasn't been one for us until now, so let's at least try to get somebody who has a better-than-average chance of working out. Joe Saunders or Dustin Moseley, maybe, if Stoneman absolutely can't be enticed to give up one of his established starters.
And besides, I don't want Garrett to go. He's one of my favorite players. There, I said it. You can talk statistics and splits until your face turns blue, but there's a human element to the game too, and I for one would be very, very upset if Atkins was traded, partially because as much as I want my team to win, I really do care about the guys wearing the uniform as well. I can't step back objectively and support every move supposed to help the wins, also because O'Dowd hasn't shown himself to be that great at judging transactions in the past (evidenced by all these losing seasons that are getting Rockies fans so hot under the collar). Hopefully it doesn't happen.
Sunday, May 20, 2007
Tigers sweep the Cardinals. 6-3 is your final.
A's miss the sweep of the Giants as Matt Morris throws a complete game, permitting only one run. That tally ends up as 4-1.
And then the Rockies. 4-3 Royals almost all game, but going to the bottom of the ninth, they tie it on a single from Matt Holliday. Goes to extras. Brian Fuentes gives up the go-ahead triple. Rockies tie it yet again on a single from Holliday. Next inning, Ramon Ramirez decides to end the game and gives up five. Royals win 10-5 in one of the most sheerly maddening rollercoasters of the season. The Rockies fail to score the winning run with two on and no out, as Garrett Atkins K's (following a K earlier with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth) and Brad Hawpe grounds into a double play. The bullpen was completely burned. Absolutely nobody could get the winning hit to save their lives.
I'm seriously thinking I should get a new hobby.
Current music: "Given Up," Linkin Park.
Saturday, May 19, 2007
Also, the start of my babysitting job got pushed back to 7, so if I wanted to, I could watch the first hour of the game. Or not. Maybe I really do need a break. But I... but I... why are the Rockies so much like a drug and why do I keep coming back to them? Isn't this called masochism or something?
Maybe they lace Rockies gear/tickets with crack. It would explain a lot.
Go Rockies! [checks self into rehab]
At least Hurdle took responsibility for the bad decision, but how many more will there be?! What is up with this irrational fixation to pull a starter who's cruising in favor of a very suspect bullpen? When Francis' spot came up in the seventh with two runners in scoring position, we threatened Hurdle that he had better let Jeff hit for himself. He did, and sliced a liner into the corner that looked like a two-run single but was flagged down by Emil Brown (that pest again. Oy). So, he came out for the eighth and we had confidence that Hurdle was going to let him go. Only for two batters. We all know what happened afterwards.
To add salt to the wounds, Emil Brown took away a possible game-tying homer from Yorvit Torrealba in the bottom of the ninth. Helton flew out deeply, then Garrett Atkins got his second hit of the game (a very good thing to see) and Brad Hawpe walked. Yorvit ripped a deep drive into left field that made every Rockies' fan's heart rise -- and then Brown caught it. Pinch hitter Steve Finley (OY) replaced Jamey Carroll, and predictably as sunrise, grounded out on the second pitch to end the game.
I have yet another horse to beat regarding Finley and his symbiotic suck partner, John Mabry. I am extremely frustrated with Hurdle's completely illogical thought that bringing up Ryan Spilborghs and/or Alexis Gomez and/or Sean Barker from AAA Colorado Springs would be "counterproductive." How, exactly, would putting someone hitting .323 (Spilborghs) or .398 (Barker) in those late-inning crunch situations be worse than installing the current editions batting .118 (Mabry) or .179 (Finley)? The geezers are getting "limited opportunity" and aren't coming through. How could the kids do any worse?
So.... Hurdle, you think that Spilborghs/Barker need to stay at AAA and get "developed?" Guess what, they are developed and the big club could use them -- I happen to care more about the Rockies succeeding rather than the Sky Sox. Just try it. If the Spilly/Sean combo hits worse than the Finley/Mabry kiss of death, you'll be vindicated. Otherwise, cut the deadweights and give the young guns a chance. You'd make a great minor league manager, but this is the big leagues, buddy. Gah. Hurdle drives me absolutely insane, and I think it says something about the management and ownership that even Jim Leyland, who skippered the previously moribund Tigers to the AL flag last year, quit in disgust after a year. The talent on this team isn't the problem (well, except for the bullpen and Finley/Mabry, but a competent ownership will take steps to fix those). It's the fact that absolutely nobody in higher management seems to possess the winning instinct. The money instinct, yeah (and it's still likely they won't open up the purse strings to keep Holliday after '09, which really will break my heart). But winning instinct, no. Hurdle has never shown fire, innovation, invention, or perseverance. He's just a nice guy who wants to watch a ballgame. There's a name for those people, Clint. Season ticket holders.
As for tonight's game, I'm not that hopeful. I think I'm a bit relieved that I have a babysitting job from 6 PM to 3 AM, and will go in blissful ignorance of the game's outcome (until I get home and probably check it in the wee hours and start cursing again). Gil Meche, who has actually looked like an ace and has not permitted an earned run on the road this year, matches up against Taylor Buchholz, whose last start came in the 15-2 Sunday debacle against the Giants. Of course, there's always the chance that Buchholz could repeat his May 8th performance and this time Hurdle wouldn't pull him since that decision blew up so spectacularly in his face last night, but that would be assuming that Hurdle learns from his mistakes. Since he did the same thing with Francis that he did with Buchholz, and they had the same result, I think it's fair to question if he does. I still love the Rockies, even though they had me screaming and at the verge of tears last night and questioning why in the hell I do. Therefore, you can probably see why I think I need a break. Losing a home series to the D-backs and splitting a four-game set with the Giants was an indication that this season may be keeling past the point of return, and losing a home series to the Royals may be a fairly good indication of stick-a-fork-in-em time.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Shea Stadium on a lovely April evening. This was right after I got done having my religious experience and fumbled my camera out of my bag.
One of David Wright's many female fans, somewhere in the middle of Mets' batting practice. My friend Mary, it must be noted, is among them, and was wearing her "Mrs. Wright" T-shirt.
Jason Hirsh in the dugout. :) As mentioned, I'm a little bit in love with him after last night.
Jeff Francis being interrogated by a few MLB reporters. He's surprisingly large for a kid who looks like he's about 17.
COOKIE (:D) signing my hat.
Me and Cookie. (:D) For the record, I didn't realize my arm was around him until I saw the pic, and yes, I think I look terrible in this picture. Cook was a total sweetheart, though, so I'll tell him that if I ever see him again.
Me and Garrett. (:D :D) This is a moderately better pic. I was probably fluttering just a bit. It was fun. So I'm a bit sweet on him. Shaddup.
Shea by day. The guys were actually a lot bigger than it looks from here; the seats were pretty good considering they cost five bucks.
Shea by night.
This concludes the Shea portion of the photos... Yankee Stadium next.
This is the kick-ass strip of sports bars, memorabilia shops, and whatnot that parallel Yankee Stadium (the gray thing on the right). I wish I'd gotten more shots, since it's a great atmosphere.
Looking down into Monument Park. We didn't actually go in, but it's cool nonetheless.
The famous white facade and scoreboard. As you can tell, the weather was just pristine.
Right field corner in Yankee Stadium during batting practice. A little piece of baseball heaven.
Speaking of heaven. Can't you just hear that angelic chorus?
Our seats. We moved out from behind the flagpole.
Yankee Stadium scoreboard announcing C.J. Wilson pitching. (My favorite Ranger. Read his blog, I mean it).
Sadly, this isn't my picture. It's actually from C.J.'s blog, and features him sporting his new mohawk hairdo. Fierce.
That's all for the pictures. There will be more from Coors at some point in the season, especially if my sister and I go to Photo Day, June 2 vs. the Reds. She may keel over if she got one with Holliday, but I know, I know, I shouldn't be pointing too many fingers.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
When the Rockies jogged in and the D-backs started hitting instead, we relocated to the concourse behind the bullpens and plotted to take over Coors for a day so we could go sit on the grass by the fountains that they shoot off whenever the Rockies hit a home run. We should take over Coors for a number of reasons, but that's a long story. When they opened the rest of the concourse, we headed to the Diamond Dry Goods store in an attempt to chase down a black Atkins shirt for my older sister's 21st birthday present. (You learn something every day, and until quite recently, I was unaware that my sister, who's young for her age and generally seems to disdain the concept of dating, was sweet on Garrett. But evidently she is. Can't blame her, as I am too, just a bit. Shh). We did not locate the shirt, but we did find the issue of Rockies magazine in which my (younger) sister's sign is featured. (Sorry for any confusion; my younger sister is the one that I am referring to in regards to the game and my older sister is still at college in Georgia). There she is on on page fifteen with Jamey Carroll in the foreground, so she bought the magazine in addition to a Rockies hat and then we decided to head down to the first base line and prospect for autographs. We hung out and admired the field and skimmed through the magazine until Chris Iannetta showed up, promptly dropped the catcher's gear he was carrying, and began to patiently sign for a line of fans.
Okay. I know I generally blog objectively about baseball, and that is what I like to do, as my passion is first and foremost for the sport and not for the guys. I am not a feather-head female fan who just goes to the game to be a bimbo, but let's admit it, for a very straight woman, there are certain aesthetic compensations. So, therefore, allow me to say that Iannetta is very, very good-looking, and let's leave it there. I always go in terror of devolving into too much girlyness, and I get extremely irritated if anyone thinks I'm only interested in the game for the guys. But I am allowed to notice, and I did. I took a picture of Chris with my sister, and he signed my hat and the page of the magazine starring the sign. It was funny -- he's very quiet and intense and went about the autographing as if planning a battle. She gave him the magazine and said, "Can you sign there?" pointing to the top of the page. "Yeah, I can do that," he says seriously, signs, and asks, "Is that good?" Aaah, well. I was going to ask him if he was starting, but someone else did, and he said that he was. Finally. Clint Hurdle's "rotate Torrealba and Iannetta until one of them gets hot" strategy seems to be, "play Torrealba until he gets hot." Iannetta is currently batting south of the Mendoza line, it's true, but has a much better eye and OPS than Torrealba, and he's a young guy who needs the playing time to refine his game; Torrealba is a veteran and you know what you're getting out of him. Sorry, but one of my current axe-grinding campaigns is to play Iannetta already, and Hurdle, naturally, keeps frustrating me.
Side note: I do not think I was the only one who noticed that Iannetta is gorgeous. Just as I took the pic of him and my sister, she said, "Look behind you." I did, just in time to see an absolute raft of teenybopper girls descend the stairs and migrate to him like a pack of succubi. Ahem. There was also a girl with large sunglasses, pouty lips, a bright orange sign that read, "Garrett Atkins' Biggest Fan!"and a hopeful look. (I wonder what she would have said if she knew that I happen to possess both his autograph and a picture with him. Heh. But Garrett wasn't playing, so she didn't get a chance to see her sweetie. Darn. If I see him or Cook again, I'll be like, "Hey, remember that one lonesome Rockies fan you signed for in Shea? Um... that was me.")
We waited a while longer, Iannetta went out to the outfield wall and narrowly avoided getting hit with a mower (we told him to do something to make himself not look so much like grass, evidently) and did assorted interesting stretches. Then Jamey Carroll showed up and began to make his way down the line, signing for everyone. The "Baseball is Back!!!" sign which engendered so much attention happens to bear his John Hancock already, but when Jamey got to us, my sister pointed to the page featuring him, her, and the sign, and asked, "Do you remember the sign from Opening Day?"
"Yeah!" says Jamey. "That was you? Looks like it was worth it, huh?" He grins, signs the magazine page and my hat, which is doing well at accumulating Rockies' autographs (hurrah) and heads on. Gillian was thrilled that he remembered it, and we were still hanging out and hoping for any stragglers when the starting lineup came onto the field and began warming up about ten feet away. They probably weren't going to sign, but I hold out hope, since I will be a very happy girl the day I get Brad Hawpe's autograph. (Similarly, my sister will expire if she gets one from Holliday... I tell you, she's obsessed). But even though game time was quickly approaching, Jason Hirsh (who really is humongous) came ambling over to the line of fans and began signing. I have to say, he is absolutely the world's nicest guy. He was talking and laughing, very articulate and approachable, clearly content to sign for everyone who was there. My sister prepared the magazine page and gave it to him when he arrived at us, and said, "Hey, you remember the sign from Opening Day?" (He had also signed it then).
"Yeah!" said Hirsh enthusiastically. "That was all you? Awesome! You ended up on the calendar too!" (I was stunned that he knew that, but Gillian was totally thrilled, as we'd heard elsewhere that she is featured on the front of the Rockies' calendar they gave out the other day). "That's great!" he said, and signed the page as well. He signed my hat as well with that big, sweet, cross-eyed smile on his face, and I asked, "Hey Jason, can I have a picture?" He says, "No." For a second, I actually thought he was serious, and was like, "Well, okay..." and then he reached out and put his arm around me, grinning like an idiot. (So I put mine around him too. It may not have reached. He's a very sizeable fellow). My sister took the pic of us, and I may be a little bit in love with Jason Hirsh. Honestly, he's one of the sweetest guys I've ever met, Major Leaguer or otherwise, and now, since he knows Gillian, we're going to go down there and wave at him before every game, at least the ones that we're there. He comes out and signs almost every day, even when the game is about to start and everyone's warming up already.
That did it for the autographs, but surprisingly, since no one had kicked us out, we ended up standing in the first row on the first-base side for the National Anthem, with Hirsh, who had naturally stayed late to sign, about five feet away from us. That was pretty cool. Then we headed up, paid only $2 for hot dogs (and about $6 for two drinks, naturally) and went back to our seats. Section 206, first row, so in other words, the first level of the second deck and our favorite spot. Our favorite right fielder was also present. I love Brad Hawpe, and I have since last year, so it was really nice to see him back in his familiar spot, bending over and doing crazy yoga positions and generally amusing us. He showed up in another way, too; more on that in just a second.
The game itself was a lot of fun. Aaron Cook came out of the gate strong and retired the first 12 men he faced before Eric Byrnes (naturally!) broke up the perfect game/no-hitter with a single to right to open the fifth. Before that, the Rockies scored a run in the first on Brandon Webb's throwing error, and another after that in the fourth, when our own Mr. Hawpe hammered one high to right field for a homer. (If you'd got it juuuuust a little higher, Bradley, you would have hit it to us). The funny thing was that this occurred about an inning after I'd requested Brad to hit it over Byrnes' head. He obliged in his next at-bat; good boy.
Cook lost the perfect game/no-hitter/shutout in the fifth, as Byrnes' single led to a 2-run double, but the game stayed tied until the bottom of the sixth. Matt Holliday powered a one-out laser into the left field corner, came around first and gunned for second, and since the fielder had already retrieved the ball, he looked like he was going to be one dead duck. But he dove in headlong, the umpire called him safe, Coors was thrilled, and Matt sat up looking bewildered, as if he too wasn't entirely sure how he'd gotten the call. (This was after my sister had screamed, "Matt, I love you!" at him as he advanced to the plate. Yeah, it's bad. But she was happy. So was I. And the rest of the stadium, anyway).
Helton grounded out to move Matt to third, bringing up John Mabry, who was making the start in place of a slumping Atkins. (I also love Garrett, but let's just say that the power stroke -- and the hitting stroke in general -- hasn't been there to start the year. .237/2/15 is what you expect from a replacement, not a possible All-Star who was the second best hitter at his position last year, and you can expect that it's bothering Atkins a lot. It's bothering me too, as I want to see him do well and join his buddy Holliday in San Francisco for the All-Star game). Anyway, Mabry is terrible, and Gillian and I told him to walk, even though Webb hadn't walked anybody all night, since that would bring up Hawpe and that was our best chance for scoring. Surprisingly enough, John followed our helpful advice to bring up Sir Bradley. He fought off a number of pitches, worked the count full, and unloaded on a changeup, which he delivered into the left-field seats and sent everybody into a screaming frenzy. Seriously, it was awesome, especially since Brad was hitting .270 with 1 HR and 18 RBI coming into the game, still searching for that power stroke. But he seems to have found it -- you next, Garrett).
Brad had been cheered when he came back to right field after hitting a homer for the first time, and when he came out for the seventh, everyone cheered him again, and loudly, which prompted him to give a little grin and a thumbs-up. Cook started the seventh since his pitch count was low, but he gave up back-to-back singles with nobody out, which prompted Hurdle to summon freshly recovered Ramon Ramirez from the bullpen. He got a strikeout and then a slicing liner which Taveras managed to track down and turn into a sac fly instead of a RBI single. Then somebody (can't remember who) absolutely bulleted a laser down the left field line, which I was sure was going to drop, but Holliday came on at full tilt and gloved it for the last out. Theatrics over, the rest of the game was (mostly) straightforward. Manny Corpas whipped through a spotless eighth inning and, very satisfyingly, K'd Byrnes for the final out. (The man is a bona fide Rockies killer. Serves him right). Fuentes came on for the ninth and got two outs via flyout and strikeout before issuing a walk, which advanced to second on defensive indifference, and going to 3-0 on the next hitter. We shouted at him not to make things so interesting, as he has a bad habit of doing. It's doubtful he heard the two diehards in the second deck, but one or two pitches later, pinch-hitter Conor Jackson lifted a high bloop pop to shallow right. The game's hero came on and caught it to secure things for the Rockies, a 5-3 final.
Gillian and I headed out of the stadium and walked back to the car, just really happy to be back at Coors together, especially with autographs and talks with the guys and a Rockies win to take with us. It was a great first day back at Coors for me, as you know how long I've been looking forward to getting back, and since we got the Ladies' Night vouchers, we're going to go to the next Wednesday home game that we can. Gillian's friend's dad also managed to secure us completely awesome seats for one of the Cardinals games and the Nationals game on my birthday. Now I must ponder whether I want to buy tickets for the Wednesday Cards game as well).
I also got my pictures from the Mets/Rockies/Yankees series developed, and they're as great as I could have hoped. :D Sometime when it isn't midnight, I'll post them. Some highlights: perfect weather at Yankee Stadium, perfect weather at Shea Stadium, Jason Hirsh in the dugout, Jeff Francis being interrogated, C.J. Wilson on the Yankee Stadium scoreboard, a magical fall of golden light in the Yankee Stadium outfield during batting practice, Monument Park, me and Aaron Cook (:D) and me and Garrett Atkins. (:D :D). But that will have to wait. I think I'm going to edit the latest anthology of stories and then go to bed. So much excitement is a tiring thing.
It's going to be a long season.
Adam Wainwright was shelled for 8 runs in 2.2 innings, Cardinals lose 9-7. (I told you they were gonna do that). Cardinals drop to 16-21 and end their 10-game winning streak over the Dodgers.
It's really going to be a long season.
Jason Hirsh turns in yet another strong start -- 3 runs in 8 innings -- and loses since the Colorado bats get shut out by a suddenly resurgent Randy Johnson with a little help from his friends Tony Pena and Jose Valverde. The Diamondbacks pitching staff faces exactly one batter over the minimum and Steve Finley and John Mabry, aka Out #1 and Out #2, bat back-to-back in the ninth inning. By the time Brad Hawpe is called out on a questionable "swing" (he held up) it is too late. Rockies lose and are now 16-23.
Oh boy, is this ever going to be a long season.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Center field has become the hole of death for the A's, as just about anyone who plays that position ends up on the DL shortly thereafter. So, although I wrote this poem a few weeks ago, it remains relevant, also making references to the A's offense, which is either sink or swim - nine runs or no runs, pretty much. Example A: Yesterday Danny Haren pitches eight shutout innings, allowing four hits and recording seven strikeouts, to lower his AL-best ERA to 1.64. He ends up getting a no-decision because the offense doesn't score until the bottom of the ninth, after normally reliable Justin Duchscherer allows two runs in the top half. 2-1 Kansas City (yes, oy) is your final, and yet again, Haren doesn't get a win. The A's offense just can't find that middle ground, and so it is harkened to here along with my frustration at the endless parade of injuries. With apologies to T.S. Eliot.
We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Baseball hats filled with hair.
Alas! Our torn tendons, when
We agonize together
Are painful and multitudinous
As our GM on the phones
Or glossing over broken bones
On our long DL.
Talent without form, shape without ability,
Paralyzed force, gesture without motion;
Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to health’s other Kingdom
Remember us -- if at all -- not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.
Injuries I dare not look up
In Davis’s trainer room
These do not appear:
There, the eyes are
Gazing on a broken back
There, is Crosby swinging
And players are
In Larry Davis’s clutches
More distant and more solemn
Than a fading star.
Let me be nearer
To the dream kingdom of wins
Let me also wear
Such deliberate disguises
Green and gold, hat, jersey
In a field
Behaving as the wind behaves
No nearer --
Not that final meeting
In the championship series
This is the dead land
This is the AL West and
Here the pleas to Beane
Are raised, here they receive
The supplication of a dead man's hand
Under the twinkle of a fading star.
Is it like this
In the healthy kingdom
At the hour when we are
Trembling with hope
Lips that promise anything
Form prayers to replacement-level success.
The hopes are not here
There are no hopes here
In this valley of mounting injuries
In this hollow valley
This broken jaw of our lost players
In this last of meeting places
We grope together
And avoid speech
Gathered on this internet haven
The eyes reappear
As the perpetual star
The waiver wire
Sacramento River Cats
The hope only
Of empty men.
Here we go round the blame game
Blame game blame game
Here we go round the blame game
At seven o’clock Pacific time.
Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
For Thou art Larry Davis
Between the promise
And the playing
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
The DL is very long
Between the strain
And the spasm
Between the pain
And the oblique
Between the injury
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom
For Thine is
For Thine is the
This is the way the rally ends
This is the way the rally ends
This is the way the rally ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.