Saturday, August 25, 2007

A Birthday Blast

Well, you know, the general Rockies-related news recently has not been that inspiring, to say the least, as they fell on their face and lost 3 of 4 to the Pirates. Yet again, they've put their own backs against the wall and need some kind of miracle run to get back into contention -- with the D-backs appearing to have a stranglehold on the division, it looks as if the only way the Rockies will taste that playoff savor is if they somehow make a sustained push for the wild card and leapfrog all the teams logjammed ahead of them. As I have noted previously, I am not sure that this will happen, but I'd settle for a winning season at this point. Still, all I wanted for my birthday was for them to win, especially since I had been planning to attend a game on this day ever since the beginning of the summer, when I discovered Gillian's friend's father could aid us in getting prime free tickets. (The last time we used them was on May 30 against the Cardinals, but we've had this game on the schedule since I came home from school. In other words, high expectations).

Well, for starters, yesterday was my 19th birthday and I had an excellent time. Got a day off from work, got to sleep in, then got up and enjoyed a nice morning. I was briefly shanghaied into being used as brute labor by my mother, who had to haul a load of books to the middle school (and just stepping into that building made me unspeakably grateful that I am a college student). Then I picked up my sister, and we headed down the hill to spend an hour or so at the Colorado Mills mall, where we lustfully eyed assorted Rockies paraphernalia in the hundred or so sports stores (no, we don't have a problem at all). We ate pretzels, wandered into accessories stores, bickered like, well, siblings (but all in good fun) and then departed for Coors Field. Upon arrival, we headed straight to the Diamond Dry Goods store, where I was given $100 ($80 from parents/sister and $20 from aunt/uncle) to pick out my birthday presents. I ended up picking out a light jacket, a blanket, an autographed baseball (well, not real, but it has copies of the whole team's signatures on it, and Gillian and I spent quite a while trying to decipher who was who) and a pennant; I now have so much Rockies stuff, which will be posted in my dorm room, that it's rather ridiculous. Someone will walk in and go, "Uh... you don't like the Rockies, by any chance?" I'll go, "No, really, how'd you guess? What tipped you off -- the two pennants, the flag, the stickers, the posters, the tickets, the photos, the blanket, the ball, the cap, the jersey, the shirts -- " At which point they will tune out and contemplate how sane, exactly, I am to be rooting for this team, which is something I myself indulge in on occasion. I am looking forward so much to getting back to NY and having my own space, filled with all my stuff, mementos of things I love and an awesome summer. :)

Still, after the shopping was concluded, Gillian and I headed to the sidelines along the first-base side. We had theorized that the combination of a) the Nationals b) the Rockies sliding recently, and c) a weekday night would lead to rather less autograph-seekers than there usually are, in which we were correct. We were hanging out, still trying to work out who was who on the ball, when guess who? -- Jason Hirsh showed up. I was very surprised to see him, as he's still on the DL, and hadn't expected him to be kabitzing around Coors on such a pretty late-August evening. Sure enough, however, there he was in the flesh; you know that he's one of my favorites and I was planning to ask him to sign my ticket "Happy Birthday." When he actually got to us, I chickened out and handed it to Gillian to ask him instead; she did, he did just that and wished me happy birthday, I asked him how it was going, he said it was good, and I stood there grinning like an idiot as he moved on down the line, patiently answering questions about when he's going to get off the DL (for the record, Jason thinks it'll be a few weeks). Then Jamey Carroll, the other frequent signer, showed up (and I swear he has to know us, or at least recognize us, by now, with all the time we spend down there). He also wished me a happy birthday, and by this point we didn't have much time left before the game. We watched the usual suspects come out and warm up, a routine that is always amusing because a) Tulo runs like a pigeon, and b) Atkins has his own personal stretcher guy who maneuvers him into various uncomfortable-looking positions while Gillian and I snigger. And assorted sundry other amusements, but we got back to our seats (sixteen rows back, Section 132) with plenty of time.

It is worth noting that the "amusements" included the fact that it was "80's Night," and all the Rockies' scoreboard mugshots had been doctored to alter their appearance to the best (worst?) of the eighties. I fortunately managed to get photos of most of them (up later) but they were, shall we say, most amusing. Some of the highlights included: Tulo sporting a sweatband and a 'fro paired with a poofy orange bomber jacket, Atkins transformed into a unibrowed monstrosity adorned with a sunflower, Holliday turned into a truly revolting used-car-salesman type with a combover and a porno-stache, Hawpe given flowing brown dreadlocks and a sleeveless top, and Helton rocking the big hair with a penguin suit. (Stewart had a mullet and a golden jumpsuit, while Spilly had long shaggy bangs. Extremely amusing). Also, it is a discovery of some interest that Jeff Francis somewhat resembles Atkins while wearing what appears to be an orange toilet plunger on his head -- what this intimates for either party concerned, I shall refrain from speculating. Still, most funny, and I'll post the photos in a subsequent entry.

The game got underway, Jeff Francis (in the first inning at least) seemed determined to suck, and after Tulo helpfully chipped in an RBI single in the bottom half of said inning, the offense went AWOL. They left runners on third with one out two innings in a row, but Francis managed to limit the damage and keep the Rox in striking distance, trailing 2-1, until for some inexplicable (cough, Clint Hurdle, cough) reason, he was sent out to start the seventh, having already amassed 109 pitches and never really having gotten into a groove all night. Well, Hurdle learned in June that it is a Bad Idea to pull Francis early, so now he just leaves him out there too long. Predictably, Francis went nuclear, helped out with some shaky defense, and after a failed force play at second left the bases loaded for Ryan Zimmerman, who is quite scary for being a National, and who had hit the homer that made it 2-1. That was all for Francis, as Taylor Buchholz (5-1/2.31 as a reliever before last night) was summoned from the pen. He promptly yielded a 2-run single to the pestilential Zimmerman to push the Nats' advantage to 4-1, and by the time the bottom of the ninth hit, Buchholz had also given up a solo homer to Wily Mo Pena(Wily Mo Pena?) to stretch it to 5-1. Thus started the ninth with Chad Cordero summoned out of the 'pen to face Tulowitzki, Holliday, and Helton, and while this is the meat of the order, I felt little hope. I could not believe that they were actually going to lose on my birthday, the bums. But I put on my rally cap and hoped for the best.

It started off well. On Cordero's first pitch, Tulo laced a single into right field. On Cordero's second pitch, Holliday took him downtown to the Rockies' pen for a two-run blast to shave the deficit to 5-3. I began to ramp up the yelling intensity, just since I had had no excuse to do so all game. In this case, however, it wasn't over. Helton shot one deep into the hole, Jimenez overthrew, and he was safe at first. The stadium was on its feet, cheering, yelling, clapping, really getting into it, and it was great to feel that spark of shared energy and excitement.

Still not over. Atkins belted one into the left field corner that rolled to the wall for a double. Coors was yelling itself berserk, joined in heartily by Gillian and myself; we were screaming, whooping, jumping out of our seats, practically on the edge of them on the rare occasions that we sat down. Brad Hawpe worked a walk and that was enough for Manny Acta; he came to retrieve Cordero and summoned Jon Rauch instead. Yorvit Torrealba was up, the whole stadium was behind him, and Yorvit rewarded them for their loyalty by snapping a two-run single into right-center. With Coors going apeshit, Cory Sullivan bunted the runners over into scoring position for only the first out, and Spilborghs came up. Right about this point, Gillian and I were going hoarse with all the screaming we were doing, fervently and madly rooting on whichever current hero in the purple pinstripes was up there. All previous dislikes or biases put aside, we loved them all, and the fact that Spilly eventually grounded out did not deter us. There were still only two outs, after all.

Then Kaz came up; he had a single and a triple already in the game and we were going berserk (along with everyone else who had stuck it out). Kaz hit a ground ball to short, Jimenez couldn't come up with it, and there wasn't even a throw to first as Hawpe crossed the plate with the winning run and everybody jumped up and down, thumped each other on the back, and whooped it up. It was an amazing finish, I was completely euphoric, and I woke up this morning with a sore throat from all the yelling and still feeling that kind of dizzy, drunken happiness (but no actual alcohol involved, thank you very much) that settles in you and makes you grin. And as you know, I really needed that due to how down and unhappy I've been recently. As a matter of fact, I had to wake up at 6 am for work, which really did suck, but it was okay. The fact that I have a killer blister and a sore foot that makes it rather difficult to walk dampened my ardor only slightly, and what I really need to do now is start packing (including all the Rockies stuff I've somehow accumulated over the summer... no idea how that happened...) in preparation for my relocation back to NY and the start of my sophomore year. I really am looking forward to getting back to my other life, but after being in "home: Colorado" mode for four or so months, it'll just be odd (at first) to switch back to "school: New York" mode. It's transferring everything, after all.

But it will be fun. Very, very fun. My summer (mainly thanks to the Rox) has been pretty kick-ass. Now it's time to start up the New York segment of things. Which means I should get started on the packing (I have several boxes I need to ship, since the fact that I am going out alone and relying on the bus/train to get me back to school means that I am limited to bringing on the airplane only what I can schlep up the hill to SLC. Ah well). And my birthday party isn't really even over yet, since I get dinner, cake, and a few extra presents tomorrow night (Sunday being the only day we could all get off). Hooray.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Standing By My Boys

Well, the Rockies lost tonight, 4-2 to the Pirates, after LaTroy Hawkins coughed up the game-tying homer in the eighth and then usual suspect Brian Fuentes blew it in the top of the eleventh. It's become pretty obvious to me that this isn't their year; that they have made improvements in some phases and are standing still (or going backwards) in others. And don't get me wrong, it's not as if I am all right with this. I hate losing and can't stand the pain of watching something that I give so much to give me nothing in return. But as long as our bullpen remains a sieve, Hurdle misuses it, our offense can't collect hits against bad pitchers, and Garrett Atkins can't play defense, we aren't going to make a serious push for the wild card, let alone the division -- it's as simple as that. And as odd as it sounds, I've finally come to terms with that. The Rockies have given me a very, very magical summer in which my passion for baseball has escalated to unhealthy heights (yeah, believe it or not, I wasn't always this much of a fanatic). And for that, I'm grateful.

I can't always support what the organization does. The management on a number of levels drives me insane. I feel absolutely wretched watching the team fail in important situations. So.... why do I stick with them? Because they are my boys forever and that is what being a sports fan is about. I will never abandon them. And for the record, 2008 is shaping up as pretty exciting.

Thanks guys. Now win at least two from the Bucs, just to salvage your dignity.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

In Which I Am Partly Justified

Yeah. Huh. No sense in ending the road trip with an inspiring come-from-behind win to take two of three from the Dodgers, right? A night after Jorge Julio blows it with a little non-help from the defense, giving up two runs, Hurdle puts him in in the eighth, where he blows it without any extra outs from the defense; he does get helped by Jeremy Affeldt deciding to completely suck at the worst possible time. After Affeldt gave up five runs without recording an out in San Diego, in a game that the Rockies lost 11-9, he does the same thing in Los Angeles, giving up a two-run single to RAMON MARTINEZ, who is hitting, for the record, .173/0/18. Great job, Jeremy. Great freaking job.

The Elmer Dessens experiment did not work; the Franklin Morales (!) flyer might have. The 21-year-old lefty went 5.1 innings, permitting only one run, in his MLB debut, in a game that the Rockies eventually won 7-4 in 14 innings. They lost two of three to both the Padres and Dodgers, going a heartbreaking 2-4 on their six-game crucial West swing. At least two of those losses are attributable to Affeldt becoming Affuentes at the least convenient juncture. Yeah, I know that playing on 100-loss teams in Kansas City didn't really prepare you for the heat of a pennant race, buddy. Just go away.

And now for the brief foray into real life issues: I am not okay right now, with the Rockies only comprising one of many reasons. I am trying to work through the anger and depression and get my head back on track, as I've been in a serious emotional swoon for the past few weeks and need to exorcise the blues. I'm having a pretty wild self-esteem and self-knowledge crisis, I suppose you could say, and I have difficulty letting that side of me out; so naturally it all caught up and nervous breakdowns really aren't to my taste.

Still trying to recover, today's travesty didn't help, and sometimes I feel like I am hanging on by my fingernails. I am so tired and so down and the blues are taking over me. I have no creativity and ambition. I can’t write, novels or blog or anything. I want to sleep forever and work is becoming more of a chore than ever. I want to go back to school, I’m actively looking forward to it, and at the same time I hold back and want to stay home, which is odd, because I know I love it in New York and want to go back there; maybe it’ll be good for me. It’s the end of the summer and I am mired in a serious emotional swamp. Slipping off the edge. Clawing back. Crystalline shards beneath the fingernails. Dealing with family, with self, money, ambitions, images, life. Splintered mirrors, shifting shadows. Going slightly crazy, clearly. I am too old to be this confused; I may be only 19 (well, in five days) but I am very mature for my age. I know what I want in life and I am generally content. This slide came out of nowhere and it really sucks. I keep pretending that I am fine, and that's what I say when anyone asks, but I am not. This has more to do than just baseball. Everything seems to be teetering on the brink just now. It'll get better, I hope.

I need something to hold onto. Who knows what it’ll be?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

It Is With Great Regret I Announce the Demise of the '07 Rox

Yeah, I know. It sucks to have to write a sentence like that. But the truth is, the injury bug that the Rockies had been so fortutiously dodging all season has caught up with them in a major way -- Aaron Cook is now headed to the DL as per the Rocky Mountain News. This means that Cook, Hirsh, and Lopez are all unavailable, leaving an already suspect rotation in even worse shambles and causing the Rockies to look to players like Ramon Ortiz (acquired from the Twins in exchange for AAA infielder Matt Macri) and Elmer Dessens (salvaged from the D-backs scrap heap and rushed into duty) to patch a suddenly fast-sinking ship.

Add to this cornucopia of crap the fact that ace Jeff Francis was shelled for eight earned runs last night, and the Rockies were shut out by the Pads in the opener of a crucial set, and you can see why I am beginning to accept the fact that we may just be done for this season. We hung in there a hell of a lot longer than we normally do, but with three-fifths of our opening-day rotation unavailable for duty and the cracks chinked by less-than-replacement-level garbage, there is very little reason for hope in the Mile High City. Sure, they could be a sports movie, but they're not. The only way they could hope to stay out of a season-killing tailspin is by using a quick hook and relying on the suddenly good bullpen and usually-potent offense to correct the goose eggs the starter will be laying (and not in a good way). Please, O'Dowd and Co., call up Franklin Morales. Just let him have a shot -- our number-two starter is now Josh Fogg. Good god. Francis has zero margin for error now -- last night's debacle had better be the last of the season as well. I still advocate that I'd feel more comfortable with Buchholz and Morales instead of Dessens and Ortiz -- Dessens and Ortiz, for the love of Christ. The next few weeks are going to be very brutal to watch.

To add further to the misery, Ubaldo Jimenez, he of the hitting-a-wall-in-a-major way, goes tonight against Chris Young, who has a 0.73 ERA at home. Yes, 0.73 in the spacious dimensions of Petco, compared to a more-mortal 3.30 mark on the road. Besides, Jimenez has absolutely imploded in his last few starts and desperately needs to show Rockies Nation something, anything to cling onto. If we have no rotation at all, despite the presence of five breathing guys suiting up for the task, our last pipe-dreams of contention are gone. Even the vaunted offense scored precisely zero runs in said important game last night.

You shall notice that the "Axes I Grind" sidebar has been updated accordingly. Oy vey.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

You Know Who I Don't Like? The Cubs

No really, I don't. I've never seen the allure of being a Cubs fan to start with -- is it fashionable to be a loser and wear blue, sit in the stands at opposing parks, and annoy the hell out of everyone else with your completely unwarranted arrogance while cheering for your pack of toerags -- not to mention splashing beer on people, standing up and doing frat-boy fist pumps every time a spawn of your hapless brood happens to make it as far as first base? True-blue Chicagoites who have seen their team through a lifetime of misery are not included in this diatribe, but I must say, there seems to be an awful lot of Cubs fans who have never even been to the city and just decided to root for the Lil' Bears because... why, exactly? "America's Team?" Because Haley's Comet has passed the earth twice since they were hoisting a championship trophy on the North Side? Because it sounds chic to say that you're a Cubs fan, as if you really "know" baseball and truly "support" a comically inept team? Because one day you hope that your bunch of assclowns accidentally stumbles into respectability and causes the world to end? Do you want that on your consciousness? Then again, you are a Cubs fan, so you have nothing better to do. So, really, is all you can do to sit at Coors Field one seat away from me and posture and preen like you really had something to celebrate? Billy Goat. Steve Bartman. Kerry Wood. Ron Santo, Ryne Sandberg, and no championship rings. Sit down, you porky son of a bitch.

As you may be able to tell, I certainly wasn't addressing that above venting session to anybody in particular. Not at all. I didn't even slip his friend a Rockies sticker to slap onto the back of his Cubs jersey or anything insidious like that. In fact, if I happened to encounter a particulary annoying Cubs fan of any stripe, it was purely coincidence, as they were popping up like poisonous fungi all over my beloved ballpark. They certainly weren't driving me berserk with their beer-fueled bellows and their endless chants of "Let's Go Cubbies!" as if they had forgotten that their ignorant rears had been removed several hundred miles from Chicago and were now unfortunately located in Colorado instead; their stunted intellect could most likely not process this development, so they carried on turning it into Wrigley Field West anyway. The cheers whenever the Cubs happened to get as far as first were absolutely insane. If I was not smarter than your average Cubs fan, I would think that I was the one in Chicago instead.

Now, look. I'm not an entirely unreasonable person. If these people would like to purchase tickets, swell the Rockies' coffers with a hope that this money will be put to a reasonable purpose (Monforts, a Holliday contract extension, for example?) and come out to root on their team, they are perfectly welcome to do so, even if said rooting happens to drive me out of my tree with their consistent and moronic yelling. What I cannot get is why the Cubs have so many fans in the first place. However much I loathe the Yankees, I understand why people root for them; it's easy to support a winner. On the other hand, the Cubs have done nothing but lose, have done so with truly remarkable incompetence, and yet everyone seems to love them anyway. I know, I know, I'm a Rockies fan, I can't talk, but.... hey, at least the Rockies have only been bad for 14 years, with flashes of promise here and there. I also happen to be from Colorado, have been to many many games at my home ballpark, have an encyclopedic knowledge of my team, and don't go to other parks purely to annoy the opposition. The Cubs have been terrible for 99 years and counting (may the curse never end) and they specialize in promising false hope and yanking it away. Lucy and the football. Buy your kids a Bears or a Bulls hat and get done with it. The Bears made it to the Super Bowl, even if they lost to Manning and the Colts and still have Rex Grossman. The White Sox have returned to their customary climes of outrageous suckitude this year, so I guess there's just not a lot of choice if you're born in the Windy City. And let me emphasize, if you're actually from there, then go ahead and root, try not to be such douchebags in our house, and try shutting up for once in your life. If you are not, then don't even show your mug.

There is another reason I hate the Cubs at this point: They appear to either be actively trying to kill the Rockies or just have a bunch of shitty pitchers who can't keep the ball in the zone. Jeff Baker was drilled in the head on Friday night by Jason Marquis, which knocked his helmet off and left him stunned in the dirt for several minutes; he had a concussion and facial bruising and was released from the hospital today. I was at that game (the same one where I didn't meet any particularly annoying Cubs fans) and it was sick; the entire stadium gasped when he went down. He had no time to duck at all and it was as violent and scary as it gets. A few innings earlier, I'd been soundly ragging Baker for throwing an easy double-play ball into center field and wishing that Helton was back for defensive purposes; then he went down and I was just wishing he'd get up or start moving or something. Fortunately, Baker was all right, just a bit worse for wear, but the plunking didn't stop there. Rookie Ian Stewart, called up to play third while Atkins slid to first in the event of Helton not being able to go, took a pitch off the helmet, but payback was sweet when JAMEY CARROLL of all people launched a pinch-hit grand slam. Today, Holliday took a sharp low curve off the foot, and after the Cubs' intentional walk of Matsui predictably backfired when Tulo blasted a two-run double, they threw behind him. Not to mention, there have been near misses on Spilborghs, Taveras, and Helton, just for a start. There has been a lot of ducking to avoid getting drilled, and maddeningly, none of the Cubs have taken it in the ribs yet. Only one inning left. I'll bide my time.

Also, due to extenuating circumstances, the Rockies had Tim Harikkala starting today. Yes, Tim Hur-ick-uh-luh, aka Tim Hara-Kiri, who predictably failed to be good when making his second major league start ever (the last one came 11 years ago when he was with Seattle. Uh, yeah, we're low on options). Now, it's not as if Jason Hirsh (15-day DL, fractured fibula) and Rodrigo Lopez (out for the rest of the season, torn elbow tendon) are world-beaters, but at least you could count on them to go out there every fifth day and give you a decent five or six innings, sometimes even seven if you asked nicely. Now, since they're gone, the Rockies' rotation consists of Jeff Francis, Aaron Cook, Josh Fogg (somehow weaseling his way into being the third starter when calls for his departure, usually from myself, are made often) and a lot of spit, smoke, mirrors, and glue. Rookie Ubaldo Jimenez has allowed fifteen earned runs over six innings (yes, hair-raising) in his last two starts, and if he's hit a wall, we're in trouble. Taylor Buchholz pitched five one-run innings out of the bullpen during Jimenez's most recent debacle, but has looked bad as a starter since he uses only a fastball and curve with any effectiveness; his changeup is, to put it charitably, a work in progress and he doesn't seem to have a decent feel for his slider. Young lefty phenom Franklin Morales, a combined 19-5/3.24 in the minor leagues this year, may attempt to follow Jimenez up if the Rockies can't get the rotation sorted out. So, they're playing Tim Harikkala, who might as well have come from the AARP as from AAA, and who -- shockingly! -- sucked, going 3.1 IP/3 earned runs. This heralds a very worrisome return to the Denny Stark/Scott Elarton/Shawn Chacon days, which I am not happy about. Hopefully they find the right buttons to push, Jimenez re-transforms from a pumpkin into a coach, and perhaps Morales can be given his shot. Tim Harikkala. Cold shudders.

On the bright side, the Rockies did win today. In one of the more befuddling managerial moves in history, Lou Piniella intentionally walked Kaz Matsui to load the bases and face ice-in-his-veins Tulowitzki, who loves clutch situations and already had a solo homer in the game. Tulo did not disappoint, missing a grand slam by about two inches and settling for a two-run double to break a three-all tie. Matt Holliday added an RBI groundout (after they threw behind him, grr, aargh) to make the score 6-3, which ended up being the final tally. The bullpen did not allow a runner from the top of the fourth until Manny Corpas permitted a one-out walk to Jason Kendall in the top of the ninth. All in all, a good day for the Blake Street Bombers v. 2.0 as they improved to 61-56, stayed two games arrears of the Pads in the Wild Card, and now head out west to take on an absolutely crucial set of games versus San Diego and Los Angeles, which could make or break their fledgling postseason ambitions.

Go Rockies!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Déjà Vu All Over Again

Last year on August 2nd, my sister and I attended the Rockies/Brewers game, the last one we would be able to make it to for the 2006 season, and enjoyed a very special time that evening -- it was the last night of summer for us, and we generally had a religious experience with how much we'd gotten to know and love the Rockies. It was lots of fun, was bittersweet because I was leaving for my freshman year of college in a few weeks, and made us very eager to get back to Coors this year. (If you are interested in further reading about this subject, please consult this entry, which details how I fell for the Rockies as well as offers a recap of the August 2nd game).

It was a great way to cap off the season and a fitting way to bid adieu to our new boys for 2006. Therefore, when the 2007 schedule came out and we saw that they were playing the Brewers on August 7, we immediately made plans to go, hoping to repeat. Unfortunately, my sister was doing the Aerial Dance Festival in Boulder, the same commitment that made August 2 the last game for us last year, but there was no way that I could be kept from it tonight -- as it was, several of my friends from Purple Row agreed that the date worked for an "Internet People Get-Together Redux," and I met three of them (four counting a Cubs-fan friend who was along to root against the Brewers). We had a fine time at the park, sitting in Section 206 just like last time, and it rained during batting practice, just like last time. Since the Rockies also won the August 2, 2006 contest they played, I was hoping that the deja vu would extend that far.

Chris Capuano was starting for the Brewers, and I, for the record, have saved him from ninjas. (Well... not exactly. See, the thing is, during my freshman writing seminar, we were asked to write about our best experience of the summer, so I wrote about the August 2nd game. Then we had to give it to one of our classmates, who would try to introduce a thread of conflict into it. The classmate that received my piece knew nothing about baseball, so she had to resort to having a pack of ninjas attack Coors Field. In the course of this little adventure, I saved both my sister and Capuano from them before the marauding pirates showed up. Ask me later... man, I should see if I still have that). So, I was hoping he'd repay me for his life by giving up runs to the Rockies, but unfortunately, until the bottom of the sixth, he was not getting with the program and had been shutting them out on three hits. Since the Brewers were 21-33 on the road coming into the game, and had lost 12 of their past 15 away from Miller Park, this did not seem like such a tall order to ask for, but the Rockies have a puzzling habit of pummeling good pitchers and making bad pitchers look like Cy Young.

Fortunately, they got with the program in the bottom of the sixth, starting with Tulo's leadoff homer, continuing with Atkins' RBI single, Spilborghs' double, and Sullivan's infield hit; Jamey Carroll added the last tally of the inning with a fielder's choice. In the bottom of the seventh, Helton hit his first homer of the game to push the advantage to 6-3, the bullpen had a couple of nice tidy innings, and then the offense went to work again ruthlessly in the bottom of the eighth, highlighted by Helton's second homer, a three-run, 430-foot shot just beneath us. (Side note: There was an incredibly annoying Brewers-fan kid behind us, saying stupid things all game, and when Helton was up with two out and two on, Holliday having missed a three-run jack by the skin of his teeth, the kid said, "It's the third out, it's Todd Helton." Well, sure, Helton's lost his power stroke a bit, but it made me mad; you do not insult my boys in front of me. I guess Todd thought so as well, because seconds later he launched it and shut the miniature dipshit up in a hurry. He was still possessed of the opinion that the Brewers were going to make a comeback, down 11-3 in the ninth, which they did not. Also, of course Helton had to hit a homer -- he hit one during the 8-1 win last year. I told you it was deja vu). And by the way, since when have the Brewers had so many fans (there seemed to be a disproportionate amount of them here tonight, or maybe they were just loud?) They were a losing and footnoted club for the past 15 years, one good season and there they are... but I guess I shouldn't be complaining so much. I seriously doubt the Rockies had this many fans for the last few years either. Good for the Brewers for finally pulling out of their decade-and-a-half tailspin, and if the Cards won't win the Central, I'll take the Crew to do so, although they can wait to return to their winning ways until they get out of Colorado. If the Cubs get into the playoffs, never mind win anything, I'll start being very seriously concerned about the end of the world. We dodged a bullet in 2003... can you imagine? The Cubs, Red Sox, and White Sox all in a row? We'd be melting in nuclear fallout right about now.

It's just fun to go to Rockies games this year. Unfortunately, that may be the third-to-last game I make it to (I'm going on August 10th and 24th, the latter being my birthday, but then I won't be back at Coors until May 2008.... a thought that makes me incredibly sad). The crowd gets into it, they cheer loudly, the electricity is great, and it's not just a bunch of bored people out at the ballpark to talk on their cell phones and eat hot dogs, if they bother to show up at all. This is a good young club finally getting some attention from the national media, Denver is supporting its Rockies again (which warms my little heart) and thirty-thousand-odd fans turning out for a Tuesday night game against the Brewers is very respectable indeed.

The Rockies go for the sweep tomorrow, and they've got the right man on the mound -- Jeff Francis, 12-5/4.01, who hasn't lost in a very long time and seems to be able to inspire his team to do likewise. They've won 15 of 22 starts made by young Jeffrey Franchise, and he looks to be turning into a bona fide ace. Even when he has his rocky outings, the offense seems able to pick him up, something they'll have to do again against Yovani Gallardo (4-1, 2.55) who shut them out for 4 1/3 innings the last time they saw him, in Milwaukee a few weeks ago. A series win is nice, but a sweep would be better. With their victory tonight coupled with the suddenly free-falling Dodgers losing to the Reds and the D-backs being dropped by the Pirates, the Rockies moved into third place, four off the pace in the West and three behind the Wild Card-leading Padres. Believe it or not, they're actually in a pennant race, and although they may not get there, it's been a blast to be along for the ride. Well, usually; Brian Fuentes' little, ahem, hiccup not qualifying. (I keep trying not to imagine what our record would look like.... I know I mentioned that, but seriously, he doesn't have to throw another pitch this season for my team as far as I'm concerned).

Go Rockies!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Iannetta Optioned; The Cracker Barrel Rockies

Yes, naturally, I reneged on my dubious promises to bring you my incorrect insight about how the second half might shape up for the NL, but is anyone really surprised? At least I never got around to making predictions for the Senior Circuit in the first place, aside from the Cards and Rockies, so I don't have to retract any of them yet. Well, it seems as if all my Worst Case scenarios for the Cards have played out, and the Rockies are about what I gave them credit for, except they're definitely better than the Giants (hahahaha, couldn't happen to a nicer team). They're still, remarkably, playing meaningful games in August, and sport by far the best record of the teams that I follow, but 5.5 games (division) and 4 games (wild card) is a tough task to make up, and they have a logjam of teams ahead of them that they're going to have to miraculously leapfrog if they plan to remain in contention much longer. Plus, Clint Hurdle. You know.

But the main point of me returning to the blogosphere, if only briefly, is to note that Chris Iannetta got the somewhat-expected boot to Triple-A Colorado Springs today. After opening the season as the starting catcher, he could never clear the Mendoza Line afterwards and had one hit in his last 29 at-bats at the time of the demotion. I did my fair share of pimping him earlier in the season, but have to admit that Yorvit Torrealba now deserves the lion's share of the playing time he now receives. He's the hottest-hitting NL catcher behind the Dodgers' Russell Martin, and his defense is certainly good enough to warrant trotting him out there on a daily basis. The one problem with Torrealba is that he consistently, and sometimes habitually, calls for fastballs, and while this works with starters like Ubaldo Jimenez (who can throw 98) or Jason Hirsh (who needs to use that pitch more often) it runs into a snag with Aaron Cook, who relies predominantly on a sinker/changeup as well. Iannetta actually recognized that Cook could throw other pitches and as such called for them, guiding Aaron through a hot streak of quality starts. He'd become Cookie's personal catcher of sorts, and it does make one wonder how Cook's outings will look if Torrealba returns to catching him.

Yorvit won't be without backup, of course, as the Rockies promoted Edwin Bellorin from the Springs to replace Iannetta in the role of spare catcher. Bellorin looks good on the outside (.326/9/45) but most of that comes in the thin, un-humidored Colorado Springs air, where he hits .358; the number is significantly lower on the road. He's also hit a recent swoon, as he started the season on fire (.480 in April) but has hit only .250 for the month of August. Still, whatever he can provide will probably, and unfortunately, be better than Iannetta. I like Chris and remain convinced that with some extra time to season in AAA, he may prove to be more than he's shown thus far. I also think that Hurdle's mismanaged him, doesn't even seem to really like him (he has a predilection toward crusty and crappy veterans, after all) and a change of scenery and a return to a more familiar level may help out with his swing. Iannetta will probably be back up in September when rosters expand, along with Sean Barker, Jayson Nix, Franklin Morales, Ian Stewart, Joe Koshansky, Seth Smith, Omar Quintanilla, and (groan) Clint Barmes, so we can see if it helped his swing at all. Good luck to him.

As for the second topic of discussion, the Rockies (surprisingly) resisted making any deals at the non-waiver July 31 trade deadline. If you check out the packages they were offered, it's pretty easy to see why (Hurdle, for once saying something that I agree with, termed the offerings "coal for gold nuggets.") To get Jose Contreras, he of the 6.60 ERA, the Rockies were asked to give up Morales (their top pitching prospect, recently promoted to AAA) and Stewart (their hotshot third-base prospect, hitting .302 with 14 homers). To get Kyle Farnsworth from the Yankees (come on, KYLE FARNSWORTH?) the price would be Morales and Ryan Spilborghs. The Twins kicked the tires on Garrett Atkins and offered.... Juan Rincon (5.89 ERA) as the centerpiece of that deal. Come on, Major League Baseball. Show us a little respect. We are not a farm club for you to pick and eviscerate as you like, and you cannot have all our good young talent for the dregs of your system. At least Dealin' Dan O'Dowd, who earned a reputation in the past as being all too ready to wheel and deal and pick up prospects for proven talent, resisted the impulse and kept the nucleus of his young club together.

There really are no gaping holes, and dismantling might prove counterproductive. Sure, we wish our rotation was better... but Francis/Cook/Jimenez/Hirsh/Fogg is average to decent, even if Fogg is like a foot fungus that just won't go away. (Unfortunately, with Rodrigo Lopez having torn a tendon and probably a wash for the season, he may be staying there). Sure, we wish Brian Fuentes would go away and never come back... but Manny Corpas will hopefully continue to impress so that even Hurdle will get the picture. (Hurdle, depressingly, has announced his intent to slot Fuentes into the closer's role upon his return from injury. I keep trying not to imagine what our record would look like if Fuentes hadn't catastrophically blown those four straight saves, but man, it's difficult... 60-50, 1.5 back in the division, probably in the Wild Card lead... OY, that's painful, I'll stop). If our season goes to hell, at least we know who to blame, right?

Either way, I'm still watching, on the rare opportunities that I can. (Money is nice, but I'm starting to be quite sick of work and ready to go back to school). Therefore, I sneak in games when I can, and the thought that I may be attending only two or three more in person made me quite sad. I know I'm going to the game on my birthday, August 24, and that that will probably be the last Rockies game I see for the season. Man, depressing.

On a final note, you may notice that my list of axe-grinding has been cut significantly. Tom Martin is finally gone (hallelujah!) and Iannetta is in the Springs, plus, Spilborghs is now the starting right fielder against lefties as Hawpe still has trouble hitting them. Now just get rid of Hurdle and Fogg, and we'll be good...

Go Rox!