Sunday, September 30, 2007

Whoof Hee Hooba

OMG. Jesus. Wow. Need cardiac unit. Need it.

The Brewers, down to their last strike against Trevor Hoffman in Milwaukee, which would give the Pads the Wild Card outright and eliminate the Rockies, pulled off a pretty improbable rally. Tony Gwynn Jr., in the mother of all ironies, hit a game-tying triple to force extra innings, and in the bottom of the eleventh, Vinny Rottino's RBI single brought home Ryan Braun to seal a 4-3 win for the Crew. Still, it didn't mean anything unless the Rockies won; a Pads win or Rox loss would boot my boys out for the 12th straight season.

The Rockies did not lose. Led by a 4-run first and a sixth-inning grand slam from tROY Tulowitzki (if he doesn't have that thing wrapped up, it's highway robbery) they assaulted the Diamondbacks 11-1 and lived to play another day.

But they faced the same situation today -- they had to win, and the Padres had to lose, just to reach a tiebreaker. The Padres chose to pitch Brett Tomko and save Jake Peavy for a Monday start in the tiebreak, while the Rockies tabbed talented 23-year-old Ubaldo Jimenez. They were opposed by Jeff Suppan and Yusmeiro Petit, respectively, and the Padres went up 3-o early. It looked as if the Rockies were going to go down without being able to lift a hand in their own defense, which sucked.

Then Tomko began to pitch like the 4-11 pitcher he was, the Brewers capitalized, and went up 5-4, stretched it to 6-4, and didn't look back with Gabe Gross's bases-clearing triple making it 9-4. They tacked on a few extra, fended off a ninth-inning threat from the Friars, and made it an 11-6 final.

U-ball and Petit came out of the gate dueling, and Jimenez was amped; his first pitch clocked at 98, and he no-hit the D-backs through five complete innings while racking up 10 Ks. His control goes to hell around 95 pitches, and usuallly in the seventh inning. He walked two, Hurdle put in Julio for some reason best known to him, and naturally, he permitted an RBI single to tie the game at one. (Atkins' single and Hawpe's triple had led to a 1-0 advantage for the Rox an inning earlier). Hurdle fortunately yanked him and installed Fuentes, who came up with two huge strikeouts to end it, and managed (after two walks) to repeat the performance in the top of the eighth as well.

Bottom of the eighth. Tulowitzki reaches on an error, Holliday reaches on an infield single, Tulo to third, Helton walks. Atkins comes through with the tiebreaking RBI single, and then, with Coors going berserk, Hawpe delivers the two-run double to push them to 4-1. Torrealba struck out, naturally, and Cory Sullivan grounded into a double play, to squash their chances of getting more.

Onto the ninth. Usually reliable Manny Corpas has been looking wobbly lately, and allowed a single and a double to open the inning; a run scored on a sacrifice fly. He then induced a groundout, but an RBI bloop single made it 4-3. I was pretty much dying. Rocking. Squeaking. Hyperventilating. Moaning. Crazy.

Stephen Drew chops it back to the box. Manny fields it off-balance and flings it to Helton, who beats Drew by half a step to the bag. Coors goes off the handle and so does Helton, who skips around madly and flings himself into Tulo's arms. The Rockies did what they needed to do. They won 13 of 14 to set up the playoff game tomorrow, which will be Jake Peavy vs. Josh Fogg (not good, admittedly, but who had us winning 13 of 14? Who had us in this position, tied for second place in the NL West at 89-73, one game behind the D-backs? Playing in front of a sold-out crowd with the purple fever?

Here are the playoff spots:
NL West: D-backs
NL Central: Cubs
NL East: Phillies (yes, the Mets tanked, and I'm afraid this will cost Holliday the MVP in favor of Rollins)
NL Wild Card: Padres or Rockies (pending outcome of the game tomorrow)

AL West: Angels
AL Central: Indians
AL East: Red Sox
AL Wild Card: Yankees


NLDS 1: Wild Card vs. Phillies
NLDS 2: Cubs vs. D-backs.

ALDS 1: Angels vs. Red Sox
ALDS 2: Yankees vs. Indians

I'm pulling for a Rockies/Indians series. And I do believe that the Rockies are going to win tomorrow. They've defied every odd so far, they're going to make this one as well.


Thursday, September 27, 2007

..... Wow....

Yeah, that's pretty much anyone can say. 11 in a row. 11 in a fucking row. 76-72 to 87-72, one back in the Wild Card, two back in the division (My God, can we ever get any help?! 11 games won and we're still not in the lead?!) and the first unbeaten multi-city trip in franchise history. 10-4 brooming of the Dodgers, homers from Garrett, Brad (back to back in the fourth) and Todd (to provide a crucial insurance cushion, to 6-3 from 4-3). After that, my baby Brad came through again with a three-run double. And.... wow. We did it. We did it. We swept the Dodgers again and head home to what will be a packed, rollicking, screaming, and wildly supportive Coors Field for a season-ending showdown with the D-backs. Win 0 of 3 or 1 of 3, we're toast. Win 2 of 3, we tie for the division. Win 3 of 3, and we sweep, win the division outright, and finish with the NL's best record.

Let me repeat that. The Colorado Rockies, if sweeping the Arizona Diamondbacks at home this weekend, will finish with the National League West crown and the best record in the league.

Amazing. It gives me chills to think what Coors will be like this weekend. I wish I could be there. I wish. It will be an experience for a lifetime. For the first time ever, we have roared to life, we will have a sold-out crowd screaming deliriously for us, and the last three games will be fraught with meaning. We are not playing out our string. We could do this. We could.

So, I have a dilemma. The Mets are in free-fall. If the Phillies pass them and win the East, we don't have to worry about them in the Wild Card, and the Mets losing (and a few losses from the Padres, dammit... help us out, Brewers, and learn how to freakin' field, while you're at it) would substantially clear our path to the Wild Card. But, if the Mets somehow hang on and the Nats beat the Phillies and the Rox claim the WC (you think this is complicated, try reading the tiebreaker scenarios) then the Rox and Mets will play each other. Aside from being favorable for the Rox (Mets backing badly into the playoffs on a terrible swoon) it then means I would be able to go to an actual Rockies playoff game here in New York, probably with Mary and Steve (the latter would protect me from any too crazed fanatics). And yeah, I'd be booed mercilessly instead of being among a sea of purple brethren, but I don't care. I'd take it. I'd take it and more to see my Rockies, my deepest and most beloved Rockies, in a NLDS game. October baseball for all the chips.

Three days to go in the season and while the AL playoff spots are all sewn up (snore, I hate the AL, I can only hope the Indians get to the Series because any of the other entrants make me vomit) absolutely nothing is settled in the NL. We could be facing up to four days of tiebreakers.

And my Rox are, finally, enjoying a winning season. More than that, they are winners. They have an amazing camaraderie, they enjoy playing together, they enjoy winning together, and now, finally, they expect to and have shown us what they can accomplish. Even if they fall short, 2008 is going to be amazing.

I live for this.

Go Rockies.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

What Does Not Kill You Will Make You Stronger

Jesus. H. Christ. It's 2:25 AM, I have class in seven hours that requires me to be awake again after six of them, and only now is my adrenaline high wearing off enough for me to think about sleep. What a crazy night. The Phillies lost to the Braves (good!) the Padres stunned the shockingly shitaceous Giants (fuck!) and the Rockies themselves just kept up the good times, logging a 9-7 win over the Dodgers for, coincidentally, their ninth straight win. And boy, did they do it in a wild, roller-coaster, completely draining way. Now that I've resigned myself to the fact I'm not going to get a lot of sleep tonight, it's time to put this down so hopefully it will be out of my head and I don't lie awake hyperventilating for another hour.

What. A Game. And as I say, whatever doesn't slay you must toughen your resolve for the playoff games (I BELIEVE!) that will come. By my (admittedly inexpert... c'mon, I go to a liberal arts school) calculations, the lead changed hands or the game was tied five times. Kaz Matsui got the scoring started; Sullivan hit a single, Matsui did as well, and both scored. Confused? I'm sure the Gameday operator was as well. It featured the Rockies running wild on Juan Pierre's joke of an arm in center and Russ Martin throwing a ball into center field. End result, both Sullivan and Matsui scored in what must have been a very bizarre play to score indeed. 2-0 is a good edge to jump out to, especially in a must-win game (they all are) against Brad Penny in a forbidding Chavez Ravine that has been brutally unkind (4-12) to the Rockies. But the rollercoaster had just gotten going.

Ubaldo Jimenez had been dominant against the Dodgers in two previous starts, but forgot his lucky charms tonight, allowing a two-run homer to Chin-Lung Hu. The very next inning, the Rockies pushed across two runs on a RBI single and a botched DP ball. In the bottom of the inning, James Loney cracked a three-run homer to put the Dodgers ahead 5-4 -- dizzy yet? It also featured the unusual combination of strikeout-double play-strikeout, as Martin struck out but beat the wild pitch to first. Andre Ethier lined into a double play which featured lightweight Cory Sullivan gunning Jeff Kent down at home to prevent him from scoring; Torrealba redeemed himself for letting Martin's ball get away with a perfect block of the plate. Then Andy LaRoche struck out, leaving Ryan Speier successfully having gotten four outs.

The next inning, Kaz (the Purple Dragon) and the Iceman swungeth for the Rockies yet again. Troy Tulowitzki, long may his godliness grace us, hit a two-run shot to left to push it to a 6-5 lead. Visibily pumped, Tulo skipped and punched the air as Rockies fans had orgasms and heart attacks simultaneously. After Scott Proctor hit Holliday in the seventh (making a successful return from oblique injury, he didn't hit any bombs, but got two singles) Helton got his third hit of the game (he smells the postseason and you can bet to hell he wants it) to make it 7-5. The cavernous drought that is Dodger Stadium's center field stole a three-run shot from Atkins (it was out of any park except the hitter's abattoirs known as the Ravine and Petco). Matt Herges, having already gotten through a successful sixth, did the same with the seventh.

Then the real heart attacks started, better known as the bottom of the eighth. Brian Fuentes threatened so badly to revert to June form, Hurdle actually thought about putting Julio in. (Thank GOD he did not). Fuentes allowed a run, walked the bases loaded twice, and then let Matt Kemp hit a low, slicing liner into center field. In any other year, any other day, perhaps, it would have dropped for a two-run single, devastating a two-run lead for the Rox into a one-run deficit. But not in this day, this age, this moment, this charmed season that perpetually hangs on the edge of a knife. Ryan Spilborghs made a sliding catch and saved it. More simultaneous heart attack/orgasms for Rox fans. I was pretty much dead by this point.

The Rockies went to the ninth. Torrealba doubled. Mr. Clutch, Spilborghs, came through with the insurance double, and Jamey Carroll, in as a defensive replacement for Atkins, cashed him in with a single. 9-6 going to the bottom of the ninth, and usually lights-out Manny Corpas wobbled, allowing a one-out solo jack to Delwyn Young, getting Martin to ground out on the first pitch, and then allowing a double to Andre Ethier.

I was rocking, whimpering, shaking, crossing my fingers, unable to stand up and totally drained by this point. I didn't know what he was going to do if Manny didn't get the next out -- but he did. Groundout. Game in the bag. And one totally exhausted, completely euphoric, never-did-finish-reading-her-politics-assignment-so-what fan, who almost collapsed in her computer chair and took a while to get up the focus to take a shower, much less anything else.

It's almost 3 AM. I'm still awake. As one of my friends reminded me, Rockies playoff race > everything else. I have taken up a 24-hour Rockies representation -- I have worn my Hawpe shirt for the past three days, and now I am sleeping in my Atkins shirt. Nine in a row ties the franchise record and leaves us still one behind the Padres (ARGH! FUCKING GIANTS! Try not sucking for once in your life! Goddammit! Yes, a lot of frustration here... we could have been tied if they'd just hung onto a 4-2 lead in the ninth!)

Peavy vs. Misch for the Pads/Giants tomorrow. That's bad. Fogg vs. Lowe for us, not great. Tim Hudson vs. Kyle Lohse for Braves/ Phillies, good. And not to mention... I believe. I do. I do. This is a Rockies team that is hot and hungry like you would not believe.

I have learned my lesson.

I will never doubt them again.

I may never sleep, either. Or get anything done in a timely fashion.

One thing I will not do is stop loving my Colorado Rockies. Ever.


Sunday, September 23, 2007

Eight Straight

Holy shit, that's about all I can say. Everybody in the world, myself undoubtedly included, wrote the Rockies' obituary after they lost two of three to the Marlins to follow up a disappointing split in Philly, painful experiences that I am sure you are already well aware of if you've been following their season or reading this blog. And while Baseball Prospectus still puts their playoff odds at a disappointingly far-away 5%, what the Rockies have done defies explanation. They said they needed a sweep to be talked about at all, and a sweep they got. Their convincing 7-3 victory today featured an absolutely ace-like performance on the back of Jeff Francis (8 innings, 7 hits, 2 runs, 8 K) to improve to 17-8 and tie Kevin Ritz and Pedro Astacio (yes, he's following a dubious precedent) for the all-time franchise single-season victory rotal. Adding to the oddity was an inside-the-park-homer from Garrett "Fankles" Atkins, whose sprinting lumber barely beat the throw home after Cameron and Bradley collided on his deep flyball to center, and Brad Hawpe turning into Mad Hawpiday after Mad Mattie MVP had to sit out (boo!) for the second straight day with an oblique strain. After having the game-winning homer in fourteen innings, he followed it up with a 4-for-4 performance in the middle game of the series and another multi-RBI performance, and another HR, today. So proud of my boys I could burst -- and I will be wearing my Hawpe shirt around SLC for the foreseeable future.

Speaking of which, doing my homework on Sports Sunday (football and baseball, the Rockies won and the Broncos got their asses kicked by the Jaguars) didn't work so well. Good thing I already read Adam Smith, now I was supposed to read Karl Polanyi as a counterpoint, and now I really should be in bed since I have a busy day tomorrow (politics lecture, neuropsych class, Mets game with Mary and Steve YAY) but I'm staying up late talking to my friends, reveling in the Rockies' glory (84-72, 1.5 back of the WC, 8 wins in a row) and trawling laboriously through page by page of Polanyi and really getting worried that it will not be done in time. Who cares?! The Rockies rule!

Oh man. My love for my sports teams is going to get me into so much trouble. But it's amazing the way you can feel for them. At the close of the Rockies game today, I cried. It was in joy, in disbelief, in hope, perhaps, relief, gratitude for them for giving me this ride and this amazing resiliency and talent. This team is for real. I love them deeply enough to forego homework, and if you know me, you know that's something.

They begin their final six games of the season -- three against the Dodgers starting on Tuesday, three at home against the D-backs -- with a chance to stun everybody and complete this comeback. And you know what? I believe they can. There is no quit in them. It's time. They can. And that's what a fan's prerogative is. I can't let go of them, not now and not ever.

Go Rockies. Yours forever.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Don't Stop Believin'

Cue the Journey. I wrote their epitaph, and yet... it has gone down to the wire. It may be. I can believe. 3.5 back of the Padres with 8 games remaining to play. A dramatic 14th-inning victory against the Friars culminating with Brad Hawpe's 27th HR of the year, hit off a lefty, as he did all the offensive lifting and Matt Herges closed it after Manny Corpas blew his first save since July. Baseball is amazing and unpredictable and I love this game and my Colorado Rockies forever, no matter how this ends. That is all.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

In Which Some Goes Wrong and More Goes Right

The Rockies confound me. Not that I think they'll really make the playoffs, that coffin was pretty much nailed shut by the disastrous umpiring and Jeff Francis's horrible start in Philadelphia, and their playoff odds currently stand at an oh-so-overwhelming 2.5%. After struggling to a split in the City of (Not-So) Brotherly Love, they went home and promptly lost two of three to the Marlins, who entered the series 20 games south of .500 to pretty much put the kibosh on any talk of pulling out a last-minute wild card. Then they faced their direct combatants in the standings, the Dodgers, who entered a four-game series at Coors (making up for a July rainout, the teams played a doubleheader last night) with a 13% chance of making the playoffs. So if the Rockies couldn't make the playoffs themselves, at least they could spoil it for the Dodgers, who have confounded them all season and have been responsible for their fair share of purple-and-black woe.

The Rox won the first game of the doubleheader in traditional fashion -- a strong performance from ace Francis (winning his 16th game of the season to tie for the franchise record, and setting a personal best of 10 strikeouts -- one-upping his 9-K performance from June 20 against the Yankees). They got RBIs from big man Matt Holliday and Todd Helton, and Brian Fuentes the much-maligned and the amazing Manny Corpas finished off the game by retiring the final six Dodgers batters in order. (Manny is 15-for-15 in save chances since taking over for Fuentes, who is fine as a setup guy but completely lacks the bulldog mentality needed to finish off save chances, especially in tough situations). This is a very patchwork bullpen showing signs of fatigue and overuse -- Matt Herges lost his rabbit foot and pixie dust, probably in unison, to explain his sudden nose-dive, and Affeldt has an ERA over 6.00 since the All-Star Break. Julio was serviceable earlier, even good, but the grind of the season caught up with him as well and he's now giving up runs like a sieve every time he's out there. Four or five months' worth of rest will be good for everyone, my mental state included. Boy, it's hard rooting for (and watching the hijinks of) this team day in and day out, but hey, it's not like I'm going to stop now.

Game 2, the nightcap, was far more dramatic, a thrilling, agonizing, and ultimately glorious see-saw of a battle. Fill-in starter Mark Redman naturally permitted three first-inning runs before the Rockies roared out of the gate against David Wells and got them right back to tie it at 3. Redman wasn't content in that state and had to turn it into a deficit again; the Rox went down 4-3 and stayed that way until the bottom of the fifth, in which Mad Matt Holliday struck again. After being rewarded for his insane play (six homers in seven days, 11 RBI) by being named the NL Player of the Week for the second time this season (at least he now has an extra luxury watch to give as a present) he went out and did it again, bashing a no-doubt moonshot of a two-run homer to edge the Rockies ahead to 5-4.

The lead didn't last long. Herges, now notably lacking his lucky charms and/or lucky underwear, immediately permitted a game-tying homer to James Loney in the top of the sixth. After he allowed the next two batters to reach via walk and single, Affeldt came in and managed to get two outs, falsely raising hopes that he would get out of it unscathed. Not so; the man is a former Kansas City Royal, after all. He coughed up a two-run triple to Tony Abreu, yanking the Dodgers up 7-5, and while the damage was minimized (for that inning, at least) it wasn't a good sign. Every game, as mentioned, is now must-win territory for the Rockies, and they've made it very hard on themselves by consistently losing to teams they should beat, while confoundingly beating teams they should lose to. In fact, they seem to play to the level of their competition -- they can look insipid, lifeless, and flat while dropping 3 of 4 to the Nationals (getting shut out in each of their losses) only to turn around and score 34 runs in the course of a three-game sweep of the Mets. It happens all the time. Some teams' fans look forward to the cupcake portion of their schedule, yet we as Rockies fans actually want them to be facing the stronger teams since they seem to play better when they do.

But never mind the digression. Jorge Julio came in for one inning, miraculously escaped, and then for some bewildering reason (he's already overworked and ineffective) was left out for a second one. He promptly yielded a solo shot to All-Star catcher Russell Martin to stretch the deficit to 8-5 going to the bottom of the eighth, and the Rockies had a tough task ahead of them in trying to crack Jonathan Broxton and Takashi Saito. Broxton has been solid as a setup man for the Bastards in Blue, and closer Saito's numbers are unworldly -- before last night, 39 for 42 in save chances, a 1.21 ERA, four homers permitted all year, and five games, and five saves, against the Rockies, who were 0-for-14 against him. You shall soon see the point of this numerology, but in the meantime...

The Rockies started the bottom of the eighth on a high note when Garrett Atkins fought off seven pitches and cracked a clean single to center. Then Ryan Spilborghs the super-sub stepped up and followed with his third hit of the night -- this one just happened to leave the yard and push the Rockies to within 8-7. Unfortunately, they couldn't get more that inning, as pinch-hitters Brad Hawpe and Yorvit Torrealba struck out, and after a quick and clean top of the ninth from a suddenly rejuvenated Ryan Speier, they headed to the bottom of the frame down one run against an elite closer who'd owned them all year.

Omar Quintanilla hit a hard shot, but unfortunately right at Saito, who snagged it for the first out. Troy Tulowitzki was called out on a questionable strike for the second out, leaving the bases empty and the Rockies down to their last gasp. But they had the big men coming up -- there was still a hope, even faint and flickering, and Holliday's fourth hit of the game, a sharp single to right, brought up Todd Helton, who's playing meaningful games in September for the first time in his long and illustrious career. Despite hitting well through the stretch, he had been 0-4 that night with a rally-killing double play, and his power numbers have taken a swan dive in general -- he only had 14 HR coming up to that at-bat.

Saito started with a ball; Helton fouled off pitches twice before lighting into one of Saito's nasty sliders and sending it over the scoreboard in right field, keeling Coors into delirium and Todd sprinting around the bases like a kid in little league. As he rounded third and headed for the plate, he ripped off his helmet, let out a roar of jubilation, and stage-dived into a mob of ecstatic teammates who hopped up and down, hugged, and thumped madly -- I have never seen Helton, the reserved veteran, so absolutely psyched. He'd just hit 300 career homers earlier, but No. 301 had to top them all -- it was a moment that Holliday, who jumped in the air and pumped both fists as the ball left the yard, said he'd never forget. It was an amazing finish, almost as great as their comeback on my birthday, an amazing moment for a veteran who's ground through so many disappointing and empty Septembers, to hit one that meant so much.

My sister was at this game with our friend Betsy (I have never been so jealous) and she said the atmosphere was amazing. Everyone was screaming, leapt to their feet when the ball left the yard, and she said she hugged Betsy, high-fived a complete stranger, and did a little dance as she was leaving -- the crowd roared and treated Helton to his second career curtain call, the other coming earlier this week. Outside the stadium, people were yelling, screaming, high-fiving as well -- if nothing else, even if this year closes like all the other ones, it is not the same. The Rockies have proven what this nucleus has the capability to do, and they have gotten the city of Denver to fall in love with them again. It has been (and still is) Broncos country for so very long that the Rockies, once they stopped being the new thing in town, failed to draw 60,000+ a night, and started all the abysmal seasons, were an afterthought, occasionally parodied or despaired by an ever-dwindling fanbase. But the city is genuinely excited about and in love with its baseball team again, and that just makes me so happy -- the thought of all this gives me the chills. Ah, September. Fall baseball. It's a beautiful thing.

On another Rockies note, as we thank the guys for this great season and eagerly anticipate 2008, the team has announced their intention to try super-prospect Ian Stewart at second base. I, for one, am fully behind this idea. The one (well, actually, two) problems being a) Stewart hasn't played second base since Little League, and b) at 6-3 and 215 lbs, is a big guy and only getting bigger. If he actually did make the conversion, he'd be the biggest 2B in the league, beating out Jeff Kent (6-2, 210) by an inch and five pounds. Although this probably isn't going to work, I find myself rooting very hard for it to somehow come through. First, it would give us an in-house solution to the second base vacancy, as Kaz Matsui may or may not be re-signed, and secondly, it would allow us to keep Garrett Atkins' bat. Atkins' defense at third is an iffy proposition, and since he's a natural first baseman, you'd have two defenders out of position in the infield -- Atkins at third and Stewart at second. However, the infield would have absolutely astronomic offensive totals (Helton-Stewart-Tulowitzki-Atkins is a serious helping of firepower) and would find a way to accommodate Helton, Stewart, and Atkins at once, which otherwise isn't possible; Atkins or Helton would have to be traded this off-season.

I regularly defend Atkins (or at least his offense, as his defense makes me roll my eyes too) and it's important to note that .290/23/103 is not chump change. Stewart replicating that in his rookie season would be a feat for the ages (not everyone is Tulowitzki here, people ;) ) and for next year at least, there would be a significant offensive drop-off with a still-aging Helton and a newbie Stewart. While Ian is certainly capable of this production, it may not come for a few years, and by that time, Holliday will have hit free agency and the Devil will have garnered him some insane contract with a high-profile East Coast team. If the Rockies really want to compete, 2008 and 2009 may be their best shots to do so if they keep the talented nucleus intact. They still need all that offensive cannonade as long as they keep playing in Denver and their pitchers hiccup accordingly, humidor or not, and there is no doubt Atkins knows how to hit. Damn, this Stewart-at-second is such a pipe dream... but please work. Please?

The other drum I must beat regards the candidacy of Matt Holliday and Troy Tulowitzki for Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year awards. If they don't win, or at least finish in the top three, then it's a blatant act of highway robbery that yet again focuses on the popular markets instead of actual talent. The field of potential winners is deep, there is an elite crop of talent to deal with this year, but the numbers stack up every which way (and Tulo should get a Gold Glove as well, leading his position in fielding metrics).

Matt Holliday (season to date)
AB: 597
H: 202
BA: .338
HR: 33
R: 109
RBI: 126
OBP: .400
SLG: .601
OPS: 1.001
2B: 48
3B: 5

That is a monster season. Those numbers you see are good for first in the NL for batting average and RBI, third for slugging percentage, fourth for homers, OPS, runs, and eighth in on-base percentage. Not to mention that he's drastically improved his defense in left field. He leads the NL with 281 putouts, ranks third with a .990 fielding percentage (three errors in 291 chances) and second with a .912 zone rating, which measures how many balls a fielder is able to get to. If you don't believe me, just check out all the defensive video highlights he has this year -- it used to be all homers and they skated over the iffy fielding stats. He is a complete player, not at all a product of Coors (and that drives me nuts. How about bandboxes like Cincinnati, Arlington, and Philadelphia -- where Holliday hit four homers? Do those somehow count less?) You'd think, and yet people discount Rockies players out of hand because they play in Denver. Take a look at the numbers, people. Holliday received the most votes by his fellow players to the All-Star Game. They know what a wrecking ball he is, even if the fans at large haven't caught on yet.

And as for Tulo, his chief competition appears to be Ryan Braun, who has him beat in precisely two categories, home runs (30 to 21) and batting average (.323 to .295). Everywhere else, the numbers point to Tulo in a walk. He has more doubles (27 to 22) more runs scored (89 to 78) more RBIs (89 to 83) and half as many errors. Tulo has been a catalyst for the team after starting sub-Mendoza, set the NL record for homers by a rookie shortstop, and plays Gold Glove-worthy defense. His howitzer of an arm leads to regular swollen thumbs for first baseman Helton, and he can hit 90 with regularity on blistering throws from deep in the hole; it's just a joy to watch him play. Braun's defense, by comparison, can charitably be rated as poor. He has 22 errors, a sub-.900 fielding percentage, and achieves the difficult task of making Atkins (13 errors) look like Brooks Robinson. BBWAA writers, and ROY voters, love the surface offensive numbers, and it's true that Braun can mash like nobody's business and came up on May 25, instead of starting the season like Tulo has. However, if you want to rate the complete player, the true sparkplug and young star of a contending team, it's Tulo. And I'm not even saying this because of my permanent purple-colored glasses (or maybe I am). Troy puts in tremendous work each and every day, will go above and beyond the pale to get a win, and refuses to settle for losing or mediocrity. Simply put, he's the fire and inspiration the Rockies have been lacking for so long, and deserves to be rewarded for it.

I know this has been a long post already, but I would like to close by noting that since I am unable to attend Rockies games (clearly) I have made up (sort of) for the lack by attending two games, one Mets and one Yankees, since my return to school. (I will also be going to either one or two Mets games next week). Both times I went with a guy friend, and I tell you... I've been generally indifferent about the Mets, but the Yankees are seriously enough to make me almost actively like them. I can root for the Mets without feeling unclean (and I had to, since the one game I was at, they were playing Philly, and lost anyway.... the Mets are following the 2006 Cardinals script for the postseason by choking and threatening to squander it all before backing into the playoffs). The Yankees and their fans, however, are all such douchebags. They have an astounding arrogance and ignorance, strut around like they own the place (yeah, yeah, we've already heard about your 26 fucking championships, want to talk about the years since you've won your last one? 2004, for example? God, I hope there's a Curse of A-Rod or something that will prevent them from winning for another 79 years... such poetic justice, they could suffer through every inch of the agony that the Red Sox did).

I went to the Yankees/Orioles games with my friend Nick, and while we admittedly asked for it by sitting in the bleachers, the fans sang "Why Are You Gay?" to him to the tune of "YMCA," and incessantly chanted, "Ug-ly shirt!" pointing at his Jeremy Guthrie T-shirt. (I was wearing my Rox stuff -- Atkins shirt, Rockies jacket and hat, and was hoping so very much that they'd heckle me about rooting for a bad team, but they probably don't even remember that the Rockies exist, and maybe had enough sense to realize that I could, you know, point out that we swept them). Don't get me wrong, both of us found the heckling very amusing, but only in the way you find an irretrievably stupid person funny; because they just think they know so much and know actually nothing at all. Perhaps it's a rite of passage, but they are stupid, aggressively stupid, and strut around like they're still the kings of the world. The late-90's Yankees dynasty has passed, people, and besides, you root for the Evil Empire/Chevy/GMC of baseball, headed by an asshole owner and fronted by a calvacade of "twenty-five guys/twenty-five cabs" overpaid primadonnas. Oooh. Don't get me onto the topic of the Yankees, clearly; there is so much hatred here. Don't try to justify liking the Yankees to me. I understand that you're from New York so they're your hometown team, and they win a lot and it's fun to root for a winner, but that's it. And what about all the Yankees "fans" that have never even been to NY? They don't have an excuse at all. They are shameless front-runners, and should be ritually crucified as a warning to all others. (Same goes for non-resident Red Sox and Cubs fans as well. Besides, I don't even get why you'd want to root for the Cubs if you were from Chicago, much less anywhere else. See my diatribe against Cubs fans below).

In contrast, the Mets seem like more fun, have a few players that I could even like, and even though planes roar overhead every half-hour, their much-maligned Shea is less of a dump than the historic but shitty Stadium. Not that I'm going to suddenly start rooting for them, but if you had to make me pick a sports team from my adopted home state with a gun to my head, I'd take the Mets in a (New York) minute. I'm looking forward to going with Mary and possibly Steve (remember them?) next week, and will probably clap for the Mets since a) I'll be in Shea anyway, and b) who the hell wants to cheer for the Nationals? Even those from D.C.? Seriously.

Okay. Long post over. I feel a little better now. Or maybe I don't. I hate the Yankees. Oh well. I fiercely adore my Rockies, even though they shave years off my life, inflate my blood pressure, and ruin my emotional state, and so that shall do. Josh Fogg vs. Brad Penny tonight (Fogg always seems to draw the toughest assignment from the opposing team) as the Rockies try to find their oft-missing killer instinct and put the finishing smackdown on the Dodgers.

Go Rox!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

An Interesting Phenomenon Is Observed

Less than twenty-four hours after the brutal, backbreaking, extra-innings loss to the Phillies that most probably ended the Rockies' fledgling postseason ambitions, here I am, watching the second game of the series, Franklin Morales vs. Adam Eaton. I will probably be even watching tomorrow's game as well, which features the hair-raising fact of Denny Bautista taking the ball to inaugurate a "bullpen" start. Mark Redman, All-Star, will probably be in there as well (it can't be this cold in New York, it's still warm and unpleasantly sticky, so that must have been the freezing breath of foreboding).

I am in a neuropsychology class. You think I could read my brain books and find out what's wrong, right?


Also.... Whatever your opinion of the political skullduggery, partisan mud-throwing, and general incompetence and turmoil that followed the terrible events of that Tuesday six years previously, the fact remains that the events themselves have, indeed, been catastrophic and life-shattering for everyone involved. The war, the grim outlook, the rampant xenophobia, the fact that you can’t board an airplane without five hours of TSA scrutiny and signing, the equally repugnant posturing on both sides, and well.... a lot of things, and a lot of innocence, broke on that day. Please offer your prayers, or whatever your personal spirituality is, to those who lost friends and loved ones in the attacks.

Pretty Much Just Shock and Disbelief Here, Folks

Rockies season: April 2, 2007 -- September 10, 2007.

Ended later than most. Was lots of fun along the way. Nice job, fellas. Love you dearly, except for Hurdle, Barmes, Julio, and Affeldt.

Requiescat in Pacem.

Life (School) & Life (Rockies)

Everything has gone swimmingly at the outset of the new school year, ever since my belowmentioned trip from hell. I got the classes I wanted, which are: a politics lecture (The Legitimacy of Modernity) a psychology seminar (Narrative Neuropsychology, which is so interesting that I've already read about half my course texts voluntarily) and a writing workshop. It wasn't my first choice, but it'll be interesting anyway; it focuses on the craft and art of writing as much as the actual act, and features four novels to be read and analyzed, which is just fine with me; I'm starved for new reading material (one of the reasons I tore into my psych books like a ravening wolf) and look forward to having a new professor offer perspective on my work. Classes started today, and I am as happy as the proverbial pig in slop. I got up with no complaints at 8:30 (which I generally consider too early) to trot off to my politics lecture, and really enjoyed the first day of studying. Around 4 pm, after I'd finished with both my lecture and my seminar, I found myself in the library, happily reading Hobbes' Leviathan and taking notes about it from the discussion questions. I am the very rare breed of college student who actually enjoys studying (although I suppose that's easy to say at the start of semester, and my assiduousness will probably go down as time goes on) but I am thrilled to be back in the swing of things.

Now, about my Rox.... Pretty much every day is do-or-die time for them in the stretch run, the first time September baseball has mattered since 1995 (coincidentally, their last postseason appearance). Even Todd Helton's annual milestone (in this case, his 35th double for the tenth straight season... the only player to ever do that, congratulations) was relegated to a footnote by the fact that the team is still in the chase. By beating the Padres 2 of 3, including one game in which they used a franchise-record 10 pitchers (and won 10-4) and one game in which they won at Coors with four hits or less for the first time in their history (fortunately, two of the hits were homers, one by Atkins and one by Holliday) they have positioned themselves 3 back in the Wild Card with 20 to play and open a four-game set with the Phillies tonight. The Phils are one game ahead of them, so with a series victory, the Rockies could establish themselves as a down-to-the-wire contender and seriously make the NL wild-card race a last-second affair. There is no drama in the AL, as the Yankees, Angels, and Red Sox have their spots sewn up (heeerurgh, the only AL entrant I can root for is the Indians) but the NL figures to be interesting, especially the wild wild West and the fact that we have to start worrying about giant flaming balls of fire if the Cubs get anywhere. Despite their meteoric plummet, the Brewers are still in first by the skin of their teeth, but they need to do the world a favor and save it from the destruction that would occur if the other Chicago entry became world champs.

The Mets look to have their second consecutive East crown under their belts, but nothing else is certain in the NL. Far more interesting, I like the Senior Circuit better anyway, and everything is still in flux. The Central, West, and wild card could literally be decided on the last day of the season, and I'm rooting for the NL in the postseason anyway; I'm tired of AL arrogance, stupid rules (DH) and dominance. There is no one NL likely entrant that I hate with the bloody vitriol I reserve for the Terrible Trio entering on the AL half, so I'll just have to hope that my support (yeah, like that's the deciding factor) will spur the NL on to victory.... Unless.... Oh my god, what if it's Cubs/Yanks, Cubs/Sox, or something equally awful? My head will explode. I don't mind the Mets, but living in NY, I expect I'd get tired of hearing about them. At least my friends who are Mets fans will be happy, and it would rub the Yankees' face in the fact that the city is holding a championship parade NOT FOR THEM, and it's been seven whole years since they won the Big One. (Oh, please let them never win it again. A-Rod, Giambi, Farnsworth, and Damon preening with a championship ring would make me lose my lunch).

There is one other thing which I'm noting in particular this year, and that is that the umpiring is worse than ever. Recently, the box on Gameday which denotes the strike zone has disappeared, and this has come on the heels of several players and managers airing their (warranted) frustration with the abysmal standard that the calls have dropped to. Baseball is the only major sport in which the referee is directly involved with every play, and the umps have been a constant source of antagonism this year. If one hothead player on one hard-luck team is letting out some dirty laundry, you can't take him seriously, but when a number of veteran players on contending teams are expressing their displeasure with the works (Chipper Jones being the most recent example to come to mind) it's time for MLB to take a look at the situation. I don't care about hurting umps' feelings, QuesTec has to be installed in parks to further accountability. I don't care about the baseball purists who grumble that it takes the human element out of the game to have a machine recording balls and strikes -- baseball is a game that evolves with the time and no need to keep it in the Abner Doubleday era when consistent mistakes are being made. You can bet that with some umps, it's a power thing, showing up the batter and pitcher, and authority complexes make for difficult people to deal with. I want the strike zone in the book, not that as interpreted by a forty-pounds-overweight egomaniac who can be more concerned with ensuring everyone knows he's in charge. I'm sure they do know. I'm fairly sure that the disappearance of the strike zone on Gameday came at the request of the umpires' union, because I can't think of any other reason it would, and this makes me think that they know they aren't cutting it.... it pisses me off.

Watching this Rockies/Phillies game is going to give me heart failure. All things considered, the Rockies have exactly six losses left this season if they want to win the Wild Card, and they used one of them on Saturday, spoiling a 8-inning, 2-run performance by Jeff Francis, so everything is in must-win territory now. They went up 5-2 in the top of the seventh on the back of a monstrous two-run shot by Holliday off their former problem Jose Mesa, but then their current problems Hawkins, Affeldt, and Julio combined to give up three runs on a backbreaking homer by Pat Burrell. Then, with the winning run in scoring position with two outs in the eighth, Hurdle let Omar Quintanilla, who hadn't gotten the ball out of the infield all night, hit; the result was predictable. Hurdle is pulling out the idiot stops tonight, further proving why he is unsuited to manage in big games and that the pressure of a pennant race isn't something that he can cope with, having dealt with mediocre to flat-out awful teams during his four-year tenure. This will likely be the last season that he has such a talented nucleus intact, as the Monforts' skinflintedness will mean that one of Atkins, Hawpe, or Helton will probably be moved in the offseason (with likely money on Atkins in addition to Brian Fuentes. So sad... I really like Atkins). And we get him until 2009? Joy.

More bad umpiring. 3-1 on Hawpe, two on, top of the ninth, two outs. The first call was questionable, but the second call was nowhere close; Wally Bell called the exact same pitch a ball on Utley before the Burrell home run. The count goes to 3-2 when Hawpe should have walked to load the bases, and he grounds out instead to end the inning. This umpiring is making me sick.

The slender thread of hope may be waning, but it's still there... at least my boys still are playing meaningful games in September. Go Rockies...

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Travels and Travails

One of those dreaded updates in which I veer into real life.... (Well, just for reference, the Rockies won both before and after my cross-country flight from hell, which was very considerate of them. Now, about the aforementioned flight from hell and the commencement of my sophomore year...)

So basically, everything that could go wrong on my trip back to school did so. I had to leave Colorado on a 11:55 pm flight on September 2nd in order to make it back in time for registration on September 3rd. Naturally, I got to the airport with plenty of time -- 10 pm, so I had almost two hours in which to satisfy the TSA with all the necessary bag-checking/security scanning/waiting etc. Then, for some reason, they inform me that the flight is oversold and I, of all people, have to go standby. Aside from the fact that I don't have a clue where they got that, as I have had a confirmed reservation for about two months, this freaked me out since there was no way I was able to miss the flight -- I had to get a connector in Philly and head onwards for NY, and being late or re-routing was not in the program. So I, uh, implored insistently for them to make sure I got on the plane. After the ordeal of watching everyone else with confirmed seats who had not gotten stand-by (stand-byed?) get on the plane, I was allowed to board and dashed down the jetway; I got hung up at the end of the queue but ended up in a window seat anyway.

Flight out of Denver wasn't much; just long, dark, uncomfortable since as you know there is no leg room in economy class on commercial airlines. My rear end got numb, I shifted vainly to find a feasible position, and my headphones kept fritzing out and annoying the heck out of me since only one side would play. I got to Philadelphia around 5:15 am ET, wandered around a largely deserted suburban airport, killed time, ate an unremarkable sandwich, and finally boarded my connector to New York, a small (and noisy) turboprop jet, but even this was not free of drama; for some reason, my boarding pass apparently showed that I hadn't paid for the ticket (WTF?) and while desperately convincing the airport attendant that I wasn't a crook or a terrorist so she would let me stay on the plane, she took my Frontier claim checks to prove that I had had another boarding pass (and, presumably, a paid ticket). When this snafu was over, we were finally on our way to LaGuardia. The damn turboprop was so loud that I couldn't hear myself think, and the only good thing about this flight was that it was short and we were soon descending into New York. I got off the plane normally, headed for the baggage claim, and of course, my luggage had failed to make the trip with me. Seeing as it was the first time this had happened to me, combined with everything else, I was on the hairy edge of freaking out and paced back and forth by the carrousel muttering obscenities as it failed, and failed, and failed to appear.

Once I had determined that my bags had in fact pulled a vanishing act on me, I managed to control my panic and get to the baggage service office, conveniently located right alongside the carrousels for flustered travelers such as myself. One of my bags miraculously turned up in the hold area, so I just had to go through the teeth-pulling business of filing a missing-bag report minus a claim check. Fortunately, the guy at LaGuardia was really helpful and promised to get my bag delivered once it turned up. White slip in hand, I sallied forth to the bus stop, waited for a while since I'd missed the bus I was originally scheduled for, and then departed for Grand Central. At least, this was the plan, and we spent a while caught in airport deadlock before actually moving. Nothing, at least, went wrong here, and I headed into the terminal, checked the schedule like a New Yorker without needing to ask when the next train to Bronxville was, and wasted some time until it departed at 11:23 am.

When I got there, I hauled my assorted heavy bags up a hill, in the hot sunshine, to school and arrived very tired and ready to just sit down for a while. I had to go through registration, get my packets, room keys, meal plans, etc. Then, with all my stuff safely sequestered in my new room (a single, loads of character, more on that in a minute) I headed back out across campus to find my friends. I was able to fall into their arms for big hugs and bitch about my bad flight, which was very nice; I was so happy to see them. I ran to Bronxville and bought some things, spent about freaking $100, and was able to finish (mostly) unpacking, before crashing around 11 pm; I looked at the clock, thought, "Oh wow, I haven't slept in 36 hours," and fell into bed.

I was woken up around 7:30 by my cell phone ringing, missed it the first time, thought it was the room phone, and was just about to go back to bed when it rang again. I answered, very sleepily, and was informed by SLC security that I had a cab waiting. When I expressed ignorance as to why a cab would be there, he amended that it was a suitcase delivery, and I almost fainted in relief. I scuttled down the twisty spiral staircase of my new dorm in pajamas and flip-flops, waited outside for the delivery, and then hauled it back UP aforementioned twisty spiral staircase. I yanked the extra pillow out of it and went back to bed, slept for another two hours, and when my alarm went off at 9:30, I first reset it and then decided that my fabulous day of faculty interviews could hang on for a bit; I was so sleepy that I just lay in bed and dozed for a while as another beautiful day matriculated outside. Once I was done regaining my senses, I rolled out, got dressed, and headed off to get my course schedule approved and in order.

At SLC, you interview professors before signing up for their courses, so naturally I spent the last leg of my 36 hours without sleep picking out all my courses and writing down all the pertinent information. My schedule, if I get what I want, is: Narrative Neuropsychology (a fascinating-looking psych course) The Legitimacy of Modernity (a political science lecture course) and a fiction workshop, which, of course, is the reason I am at SLC in the first place. Hopefully I get them all, as students are placed into at least one of their first choices and sometimes have to settle for alternates if all the spaces in their desired classes are full. I need the lecture course for requirements, so I'll probably get it, and I asked the psychology professor to place me on the priority list, so I'm guessing I get two. Hopefully. I'm excited and look forward to resuming my studies. Yes, I am weird like that.

My new room is also excellent. Apart from being located at the top of a staircase that would do some old Victorian proud (very steep, very twisty) it has wood floors, slanted roofs, a four-paneled bay window that I can sit in, and strange angles. I have papered the walls with all my Rockies photos, pennants, tickets, and cards, and since I am the only one in the room and don't have to contend with roommates (hurrah!) I am free to go to town with my fanaticism and I did. I'll probably take pictures eventually, as I have a mother and several friends asking to see where exactly I am living for the next year. There is a large Rockies sticker and this photo on the door, and inside is equally plastered with assorted purple, black, and silver tokens of my love. What the hell. At least the boys considerately won for me yesterday, kicking Matt Cain's ass in the process (always satisfying) which I needed after the hijinks of my travel arrangements.

Now that my suitcase is home and all I need to do is trust the post office to safely convey my boxes to me (I shipped them parcel post a week ago, and weekends/Labor Day/post office transfers will take extra time, so I'm not too worried) I'm really happy to be back at SLC in all my places and spaces, with my friends and my interests, ready to get back into classwork and get a few part-time jobs to supplement my always unfortunately-dwindling income. In addition to designing posters for College Events, I'll most likely get a job at the Bronxville Starbucks (I heard that if you have experience, they hire you, and I'm already trained and whatnot). Future reaffirmed, sophomore year begun, excitement high, here we go, and return you to your regularly scheduled Rockies blogging. Thank you.