Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Revenge of Mensa!Hurdle

The man just never seems to learn. The lesson currently at hand is: Do not pull your starter if he is cruising in the later innings with a sub-80 pitch count and working on a shutout, and install a reliever instead, no matter how much you want to see everyone get a chance to play. This isn't Little League, and last night, after a questionable May 8th decision to pull Taylor Buchholz after 6 shutout innings and 71 pitches, Clint Hurdle went and did it again. Situation: top of the eighth, 2-0 Rockies, Jeff Francis at only 74 pitches and shutting out the lowly Royals. He did permit a leadoff double, but came right back to get a four-pitch K. For some completely inexplicable reason, Hurdle decides to yank him and put in Manny Corpas, who is the Rockies' eighth-inning guy, but has looked shaky lately and seems to do worse work with runners on. Corpas ended up permitting four runs, three on Emil Brown's homer, while recording only one out, and the game went downhill fast, while Francis sat in the dugout with actual tears in his eyes and looking like he would cry if there was, you know, crying in baseball. It was his game to finish, and yet again, a bad decision by Hurdle in regards to the extremely leaky 'pen cost the Rockies a game that they looked to have very much in hand following Matt Holliday's RBI single and Jeff Baker's RBI triple. After back-to-back shaky starts, Francis has also recaptured the mound magic which led him to be christened "Jeffrey Franchise," and he had been carving through the Royals' bats all night, with a little help from a highlight-reel second-inning catch by Willy Taveras to rob John Buck of a homer.

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.


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