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No place like HOME 07/14/2010

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NL players celebrate their All Star Game victory

Finally!!

After 13 years. For the first time since the game decided home field advantage for the World Series, the National League won the All Star Game. As a NL fan, I am ecstatic today. I have always rooted for the NL in the midsummer classic. The win has extra meaning for me as one of the teams that I follow in the NL is assured the advantage should they reach the World Series.

Do not misunderstand me. I HATE the rule. I think it was much more fair to shift the advantage between the leagues every other year, but, hey, the rule is

The shadows caused by the early start time gave the pitchers from both squads the early advantage

what it is and the advantage has been taken by the NL for the first time. As All Star games go, it was a fairly good one. To accommodate TV, game time was too early for a west coast site. (The game was played in Anaheim, California.) The shadows gave the pitchers a great advantage for the first half of the game. Not that these all-star pitchers needed any help. Once started, the game zipped right along. The AL scored its only run with an unearned tally in the fifth inning. Atlanta catcher Brian McCann struck a bases loaded double to plate all 3 NL runs in the seventh. That was it for the scoring. The NL had won the game for the first time since Bill Clinton was re-elected for a second term.

The Midsummer Classic is still the best of all of the All Star Games played. With a season that encapsulates Memorial Day, Independence Day and Memorial Day, and traditions that include ball park hot dogs, peanuts and Cracker Jacks, as well as the singing of God Bless America during the 7th inning stretch (see Cobie Caillat’s All Star Version HERE: http://mlb.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?content_id=9915105 ), Baseball is still America’s Pastime.

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Ramblings 06/07/2010

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I snapped this picture of Ryno coaching 3rd base Sunday in Des Moines.A Monday morning mish-mash….

I spent a BEAUTIFUL Sunday afternoon watching AAA baseball in Des Moines, home of the Iowa Cubs and their current head coach Ryne Sandberg. I grew up a Cub fan, and visited Wrigley Field in most summers growing up. I have seen many Cub greats play in the Friendly Confines. Santo, Banks, Reuschel, Suter, Monday, Jenkins, Beckert, Grace, Maddox. The list goes on and on. I then watched the Cubs when they visited Coors Field when I lived in Colorado for the 90’s and most of the 00’s. I guess I have seen most every Cub great play in person for the past 40+ seasons. To me, the greatest Cub of all during that time was Sandberg. His Hall of Fame Career in Chicago has cemented him as one of the best 2nd baseman to ever play the game. During his career, he combined tremendous range and skill defensively with power at the plate. A rare combination at 2nd at the time. He was a 10 time all-star, won 9 gold gloves and 7 silver slugger awards. He was the NL MVP in 1994 and was elected to the HOF in 2005. In addition, he is still the last 2nd baseman to lead his league in home runs when he topped the NL in ’90 with 40 round trippers. I have been out to the ball yard a few times this season and I must admit it is still a thrill to see old #23 in Cubbie blue. My hope is to see him manage in Wrigley in the future……..

The Flyers allowed 7 pucks into their net in game 5 (photo Jim McIsaac-Getty images)

The Flyers are in trouble. They dropped game 5 to the Blackhawks in Chicago to go down 2-3 in the series. Sure, the home team has won all 5 games so far, but in the 3 games played in the Madhouse on Madison, Philly has had no answer for the energy the Hawks draw from the largest, and perhaps loudest crowd in the NHL. That place gets ROCKING during the National Anthem and the Flyers find themselves down before they gain their legs. Even if they can extend the series by winning a game 6 in the City of Brotherly Love, game 7 will be back in the Windy City. The Hawks WILL win the Cup!………

What a gutsy performance by the Celtics in game 2 of the NBA Finals. After failing to show up in game 1 against the Lakers and getting waxed in LA, Boston

The Celtics rose above the Lakers Sunday, capturing game 2 and sending the series to Boston tied at a game each (photo: Ronald Martinez-Getty Images)

came out and took a big lead early in game 2. To their credit, the Lakers refused to roll over, and took a lead in the 4th quarter. Boston then closed out a 16-4 run over the last 5+ minutes to take game 2, and home court advantage, away from LA. As the series now shifts to Boston, make no mistake about it, this will be a long series. If Beantown wants to prevail over Hollywood, they can not afford to take another game off as they did in game 1……

Finally, as I flipped back and forth between the NHL and NBA games on Sunday, I was reminded of an old addage. While the seconds of the last 2 minutes of the basketball game melted slowly away, the final few minutes of the hockey game flew by. It took twice as long to play the final 2 of the Celtics-Lakers than to play the final 5 of the Flyers-Blackhawks, reminding me that if you only have 2 minutes left to live, you want it to be the last 2 minutes of an NBA game.

Rocky Mountain Cy 05/04/2010

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Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez

In the bizarro world that is Major League Baseball, perhaps the oddest event of all is that a pitching star has emerged in Colorado. The rarified air of Coors Field is the home of Ubaldo Jimenez. The home of the Blake Street Bombers and 15-13 games hosts one of the best pitchers in the game. You can’t pitch at altitude, right? I can hear the cries of unfair humidor advantage already! Jimenez threw the season’s first, and so far only, no-hitter at Atlanta on April 17th.

Just a fluke, right? Wrong. In his 3 starts since the no-hitter, he has gone 3-0, allowing only one run on 11 hits and 6 walks in 20 1/3 innings pitched. Oh, and he has struck out 24 batters over that stretch. He is 6-0 so far this season with an astonishing 0.87 ERA. He is a workhorse. In his no-hitter, he threw 128 pitches. He seemed to have lost nothing, however, as his last pitch was a 97 mph fastball. He has thrown 115 or more pitches in 4 of his six starts this season. The concern among the talking heads is that he is being used too much, but he topped that count 10 times last season, with an additional 11 starts of pitch counts between 105-114. He was 15-12 last season. Something clicked during the all-star break, however, because he went 9-3 after July 17th. He is 15-3 in his last 18 decisions. His current 6 game winning streak is the second such streak in this run.

The Rockies have ridden the right arm to a 6-0 record in games he has staarted this season. They are 7-13 in the other games so far this season.

[The guy is filthy right now. He topped the 100 mph mark several times last night while setting his game career high of 13 strike outs. The only time he got in trouble, and had his 26 inning scoreless streak come to an end was when he went to the curveball too much. His sinker was simply untouchable again last night. He shows no signs of stopping any time soon. While he will not finish with an ERA under one, he is only the fifth pitcher in recent times to start 5-0 with a sub one ERA. Each of the other 4 won the Cy Young award. While it is too early to talk that award, especially with the likes of Tim Lincecum and Roy Halladay in the National League, it is not to early to say that the NL pitcher of the month for April is off to an early lead. Rocky Mountain High may just become Rocky Mountain Cy.

Ubal-NO 04/18/2010

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Jimenez throws a pitch Saturday

Like most things human, the game pitched by Colorado Rockies pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez was far from perfect. Still, it was a masterpiece. Jimenez’s gem was only the 264th no-hitter in MLB history. 264 sounds like a lot. No big deal, really, untill you realize that there have been over 190,000 games played in MLB history.

Complain all you want about the 6 walks allowed, as if that somehow diminishes the accomplishment. Sure, the control was not there at the beginning. Still, this 26-year-old did something most pictures never do. Not one batter reached base safely via a batted ball. None. Nada. Center fielder Dexter Fowler made a tremendous catch in the 7th inning to save the feat. We have all seen that catch on highlight shows many times by now. If you didn’t actually watch the game, you may not know that Fowler also made a merely spectacular catch in the same inning. That will not diminish the feat. Almost all no-hitters have a key play or two that define the event. What many do not talk about is how Jimenez contributed to the game offensively. In the 4th inning, he came to the plate with two outs and two runners on. The Rockies were leading 1-0 at the time. He singled to center, driving in a run and advancing Ian Stewart from first to third, then took 2nd on the throw. That heads up base running play allowed him to score on Carlos Gonzalez’s double Instead of a 1-0 lead had he made an out, the Rockies finished the 4th, and the game for that matter, with a 4-0 lead. This game showed the ability of Jimenez.

Jiminez is mobbed by his teammmates after the final out

The thing is that the no-hitter came as no surprise to his teammates. Jimenez played a big role late in the 2007 season as the Rockies went on their mad run to the World Series. He won 15 games last season. To a man last night, including Manager Jim Tracey and long time Rockies first baseman Todd Helton, two old vets that are hard to impress, the Rockies talked about how they knew it would happen sooner or later for this guy. Some have been saying it since ’07. He has crazy good stuff. He consistently goes deep into games. He was in the top 5 in innings and pitches thrown in the NL last season. He makes it look effortless. In fact, his fastball was constantly hitting the speed gun at over 95 mph all night. The final pitch he threw was clocked at 98 mph. It was his 128th pitch of the evening! His teammates say he is a great guy. A real class act. One of the hardest workers on the team. As if to prove the point, did this guy rest on a job well done? Nope. There he was early Sunday morning, finishing his 6 mile run, just like he does after every start.

Congrats, Ubaldo! Keep that work ethic and this highlight is just a beginning for you. One thing is for sure. Ubaldo Jimenez is no longer one of the best pitchers that no one has heard of.

The Turner Field score board tells the story

Opening Day 04/05/2010

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Baseball!! I found this via a Facebook friend linked from utube. It is Perfect, obviously, for Cub fans. But also for any baseball fan. I LOVE opening day. The Boys of Summer are BACK!!!

Integrity 01/12/2010

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BOMBSHELL!!

Mark McGwire used steroids!  Wow!  What a shocker!  As news, this revelation ranks right up there with the news flash that the  sun sets in the west.

Let me state from the onset that this post is not about McGwire getting in to the Hall of Fame.  If he gets in, fine.  If not, fine.  I have no feeling either way on the McGwire Hall candidacy. 

Sure, I understand that for years McGwire has danced around the steroid issue.  He repeatedly  told congress when asked about his usage in a 2005 hearing that he was

McGwire before congress in 2005

there to talk about the future, not the past.  But the innuendo had chased him from the game.  You knew that when St Louis Cardinal manager Tony Larussa hired McGwire as the Card’s hitting coach during the off-season that this day had to come.  Larussa wanted to bring his former (and some say fallen) star back to the game that he loved and that had defined him for most of his adult life.  Larussa had to know that this would ultimately force McGwire to go public with his past.  For his part, Larussa says that he did not know that McGwire had used steroids until he received a call from McGwire the morning of January 11, 2010.  All Larussa knew was that the Cardinals ran a clean strength and conditioning program.  Larussa also knows all the revelations that have come out from that era.  Larussa ‘knew’ about McGwire, but he never asked the question, therefore he did not know.  Baseball ‘knew’ about steroids, but turned a blind eye and counted up riches beyound belief.  Heck even the fans ‘knew.’  Apparently the only people who did not know were the writers who watched players double and triple their home run output along with their size.  These writers kept their head in the sand, or turned a blind eye to what was happening, and now talk about how we all were fooled or cheated.  They were either incredibly obtuse, or were complicit to behavior they now condemn and distance themselves from. 

McGwire celebrater HR 62

As I have shared previously, I emotionally came  back to baseball during baseball’s summer of love.  I, like most fans, was disheartened during the work stoppage of  ’94 and ’95.  I still followed baseball when the game resumed in late April of ’95, and the Rockies first ever playoff appearance at the end of that season made baseball easier for me to accept, but something was missing.  The magical home run chase in 1998 changed all that.  I was a season ticket holder in Colorado, and made sure to see every swing by Sosa and McGwire when the Cubs and Cards came to town.  In addition, Colorado had the good fortune to be the host of the All Star Game that season. The main attraction that year was the home run derby.  With both Sosa and McGwire locked on pace to break the single season HR total of 61, along with such luminaries Jim Thome, A Rod and Griffey, Jr., swinging in the thin air, it was going to be quite a show.  (Sosa came to Denver but had to withdraw from derby participation.)  I was sitting at Coors Field during the Derby with 3 buddies and we, as fans, talked about steroid usage as it related to the players we were watching.  We did not know, but we ‘knew.’  We were not sure who used, but we had our suspicion.  That assumption did not diminish the pleasure of the event, or of the great home run chase that season.  Both players involved that summer have been implicated in steroid usage.  One has now admitted it.  Still, baseball cashed in on the new popularity of the game, and writers covered every swing.   Many were apparently too blind to see what we saw.  Yet many of these same writers who enjoyed increased readership because of baseball’s returning popularity and thus cashed in themselves now feel that they must protect the integrity of the game.   They will not vote for anyone associated with steroids for the Hall of Fame.   They did not mind, however, when the ball bashing kept the parks full and therefore kept them employed.  In a very real sense, they owe their livelihood to the very people they covered and built up at the time, but now villafy.  We all ‘knew’ what was going on, yet these pundits did not?  These writers vote on Hall membership because they know better than we do.  They have access to locker rooms and travel with the teams.  They have more exposure to the game and players than the average fan, therefore they are better qualified to judge.  With all that access, they did not know at the time? 

Apparently the one of the biggest flaws of many players who used  steroids is that they have not admitted their usage nor been contrite for their transgression.  Is it not

Sosa and McGwire in '98

time that the same people calling for these acts of contrition make one of their own?  Many of the writers who now pontificate about how these players stained the game were in a position to know at the time, yet said nothing and thus were complicit in the era as well.  Perhaps it is time for these bloviators to ‘man up’ and come clean themselves.  Stop with the hypocrisy.  If the writers can not come clean and admit their complicity in keeping the story quiet within the steroid era, then it is time to take the writers out of the Hall selection process.  If these individuals did not have the moral fortitude to be honest about what was going on at the time, why should they now have the moral authority to sit in judgement on Hall membership?

We want it NOW 10/30/2009

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Instant Replay!  Coming to a ballpark near you.

It has been a challenging post season for the men in blue.  Almost every series, heck, almost every game has been marred by questionable calls by the umpiring crews. 

Joe Giardi Brian Gorman

Yankee manager Joe Girardi discusses a call with umpires Brian Gorman

 You have obvious blown calls.  (Two Yankees at third base, both tagged when they were off the base , yet one is called safe.)  You have bang- bang plays.  ( A line drive is caught at first base and the fielder fires to second, where the runner advancing from first is doubled off.  Inning over.  But replays show that the ball skipped off the dirt before it is caught by the first baseman.  The inning should have continued.) Surely replay will solve the problems.  But is that truly the case?  In the cases described above, the errors would be easily corrected.  They happened at the end of the play cycle, and no continuation is involved.  Both of the Yankees are out in the first example.  No problem.  Neither player is out in the second example.  When the runner was tagged at second, he was on the base.  No force out at first.  Aaah, but there is the problem.  If the umpire had not signaled out when the ball was caught, would there have even been a throw at second, or would the first baseman assured an out by stepping on first base? 

Both Yankees were off the base when tagged with the ball, yet only one was called out.

Both Yankee runners were off of third base when they were tagged, but one was called safe.

Unlike football, the game of baseball is fluid and decisions must be made on the spur of the moment.  There is no statistic for fielders choice in football.  In baseball, the choice a fielder makes is often dependent on the umpire’s call.  Here is another example from the playoffs.  The Phillies are in the field.  A Rockies batter hits a line drive  to left.  The Phillies outfielder makes a running attempt to catch the fly, but he misses it and it lands.  The umpire throws his hands up calling time and ending the play.  Foul ball.  Just a harmless strike.  But replay shows that not only does the ball skim off the end of the fielder’s glove in fair territory, making it a fair ball, but the ball actually lands in fair territory then skips foul.  Since the play stops when the umpire calls the ball foul, how is this situation resolved?  How far would the runner have gotten? Should he be safe at first?  Second?  Did the ball get far enough away that he would have gotten to third?  Who knows.  Is there truly a fair way to resolve this example? 

There are easy plays to review.  Did the ball hit at the top of the wall, or did it hit out and come back?  Was it a home run?   Limited use of replay began during the playoffs

2008worldseriesgame4 021

Is the runner safe? Is he out? Has the tag been applied yet? Are you sure?

 last season, and continued throughout the season this year, to resolve those types of decisions.  But the call is intensifying to increase the use of replay.  But that would be very difficult in baseball.  Baseball is a game of split second decisions.  How a play is called can impact how it is continued.  I have already given you an example of that.  Another problem is that the camera is two dimensional, while the game is three dimensional.  On a bang-bang tag play at a base, it is often difficult to tell exactly when a tag is applied, as opposed to exactly when the runner touched the base.  Sportscasters will tell you that they can tell, but try this.  Watch a game on DirecTV and follow the aftermath of a controversal play on each team’s ‘home feed.’  You will be surprised how the exact same replays support the safe call on one network and the out call on the other network. Same replays, same umpire’s call.  One says the call is right and the other says he is wrong. 

Here is another problem.  Baseball has always called the ‘neighborhood’ play, especially for the pivot of a double play.  This is done for players safety.  Often, the pivot man is not on the bag when he has the ball, but rather is close, or in the neighborhood.  This is done to minimize collisions at second base between fielders and runners.   Replay shows this.  What will happen to the neighborhood play?  If it goes away, will there be more injuries in the game?  And then there is the strike zone.  The rules state a single strike zone.  But every umpire calls the zone the way he wants.  There is no consistency from umpire to umpire.  There often is no consistency from batter to batter by the same umpire in the same game.  Most calls for the use of replay at this time say that it should not be used for calling balls and strikes.  If it is not good enough to be used for this most basic part of the game, why should it be used for other parts of the game?  The other question about use of replay is time and implementation.  Is every play to be reviewed?  Will there be a challenge process?  MLB has made a concerted effort to speed up the game.  Game times have been pushing past the 3 hour mark. Do we really need something to slow down the game?  The bottom line is that replay in televised games show that the umpires get it right an incredible amount of the time. 

Replay is progress.  It is coming.  In a limited way, it is here already.  Replay will take all doubt out of the game.  After all, when you watch an NFL game, you NEVER hear an announcer question the decision of the replay official, right?

DP Discussion

Umpires discussing a call. For all the outcty, they get many more right than wrong.

Fresh Blood 10/21/2009

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It was a tough spring for Denver sports fans.  With in the span of a few short weeks, 3 of the 4 major sports franchises that call the Mile High City their home fired their head coaches.  The local sports scene seemed to be a mess.  Now, not so much.

The NFL Broncos fired long time head coach Mike Shanahan and hired New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to lead this storied franchise.  All McDaniels, a

McDaniels has them fired up in Denver

McDaniels has them fired up in Denver

first time head coach and one of the youngest NFL head coaches ever, had to do was to replace the only Super Bowl winning coach in Bronco History.  Though 10 years removed, Shanahan had led Denver to 2 titles in 1998 and ’99.  Replacing a popular head coach is never easy, and the tumultuous off season that greeted McDaniels is well chronicled.  All seems forgiven now, as the Broncos head into their bye week with a 6-0 record and a strangle hold on the AFC West title.   Those 6 wins double the season win total predicted by many pundits.  Fans that were calling for McDaniel’s head before he even coached a game seem to now embrace him.  All is well in Bronco Nation.

The axe fell on baseball’s Clint Hurdle after a rough beginning to the ’09 campaign.  The Rockies were 10 games

Tracy turned the Rockies around and led them to the post season

Tracy turned the Rockies around and led them to the post season

under the .500 mark and going no where fast.  Hurdle had struggled as the Rockies manager but did lead Colorado to the World Series in 2007, Colorado’s  only appearance in the Fall Classic so far.  A scant 19 months later he was gone, replaced on an interim basis by bench coach Jim Tracy.  Tracy had previously been a MLB manager, most notably in Los Angeles with the Dodgers.  The Rockies took off shortly after Tracy took over the reigns and were in the NL West race right up to the last series of the season.  While the Rockies failed to win the West, the improved Rockies played better than 30 games over .500 for Tracy and won the Wild Card playoff spot.  The team finished with a franchise record 92 wins and finished with more wins than losses on the road for the first time ever.  They made their third post season appearance in their short history, bowing to Philadelphia 3 games to one in the NLDS.  The Rockies are attempting to sign Tracy to a long term contract at this time.  The future looks bright for Rockies fans.

Colorado Avalanche coach Tony Granato’s second stint as the Avs head coach was a short one, just one season.  After leading the

Sacco has the young Avs off to an amazing start

Sacco has the young Avs off to an amazing start

Avs to their worst record since the move to Denver in 1995, Granato was let go just a week after finishing a 32-45-5 campaign.  Joe Sacco was promoted from the Av’s Lake Erie AHL affiliate to take over the Avalanche.  Many predict a dismal season for the Avs, projecting them to again miss the playoffs.  With a new goaltender and 2, yes 2, 18-year-old centers playing, this young team may have a long season ahead.  But the start has been simply brilliant.  The Avalanche enter their game in Minnesota as the top team in the Western Conference.  The 6-1-1 start is all the more impressive when you factor in the fact that all but 2 of the games have been played on the road.  It is too early to tell what will happen with this young team, but the fans are back and there is an excited buzz among Colorado hockey faithful.

What a difference a few months can make.  Three head coaching changes and all 3 seemed to have worked out.  Throw in the fact that the NBA Nuggets made the Western Conference finals last season and it seems that winning teams abound in Denver.

Remembering an Angel 09/30/2009

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The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim defeated the Texas Rangers  11-0  Monday night.  With the win, the Angels clinched the American League

The Angels celebrate their division championship

The Angels celebrate their division championship

 West Division title and punched their ticket to post season play.  There was the traditional dog pile celebration at the center of the diamond.  As with most championship celebrations, the players poured champagne and beer on each other in the clubhouse.   During the revelry, something special happened.   A jersey of  fallen team mate Nick Adenhart was produced, and it, too, was doused with bubbly.  The team also went, en mass, to the memorial banner of Adenheart on the center field wall of the ball park to celebrate with his memory and have a team photo taken. 

Adenhart was a pitcher with the Angels at the beginning of the season.  He had a career record in the Majors of 1-0.  On April 8th he started a game for the Angels.  He was pulled from the game after 6 innings, and had allowed 0 runs.  The Angels lead 3-0 when he left.  They went on to lose the game, but a few short hours later, they lost much more than that.  They lost a team mate.  Someone who was well liked.  Shortly after midnight, Adenhart was involved in an auto accident.  Allegedly, another car ran a red light and smashed into his vehicle.  Three of the 4 people in Adenhar’ts car were killed, including the pitcher.  The driver of the vehicle that ran the red light was apparently driving while under the influence of alcohol.

The Angels include Adenhart's jersey in their celebration

The Angels include Adenhart's jersey in their celebration

The loss of Adenhart hit the team hard.  But he was never forgotten by the team or his team mates.  His locker at the stadium in Anaheim was left in tact.  He was assigned a locker on every away game.  One of his jerseys was hung in the Angels dugout for every game, home or away.  These players carried their team mate’s memory with them through out the long season.  They included him every step of the way.  They kept him in their hearts.  When they clinched the division, it was only fitting that they included him in their celebration.  They did with his jersey what they would have done with him.  It was a wonderful gesture.

But, as with everything, it seems, these days, the team and the players have come under criticism from some in the public and the press.  It is insensitive, they say, to pour alcohol over the jersey of someone who was killed by an allegedly drunk driver.  On some level, I guess I can see their point.  But I think they are missing the point.  Champagne has long been the symbol of champions.  It is tradition.  Alcohol is beside the point.  It is the tradition of campaign, not alcohol, that is being observed.  You don’t see players dousing each other with, say, Jack Daniels or grain alcohol.  If alcohol were the point, these would be, perhaps, better choices than champagne.  And, to an even larger point, they were symbolically including their friend.  They were honoring his memory.  Every bit as much as when they place a jersey in the dugout, or assign him a locker on the road.  In this day and age of transience, of free agency, it is, indeed, special to see such a tribute to a teammate who has been gone for almost 6 months.  That loyalty is something to be admired.  I say the insensitive ones are the people trying to advance their own agenda by attacking this outpouring of love for a team mate no longer here.  If there is shame here, it belongs to the detractors.

Good on you, Angels.  Your loyalty to Adenhart was touching, and is to be admired.  I’m sure Nick was celebrating right along with you!

The Adenhart banner on the Angels outfield wall

The Adenhart banner on the Angels outfield wall

Intensity 08/26/2009

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You’ve heard of Christmas in July?  How about Roctober in August!

Playoff style baseball has come to the Mile High City a bit early this season.  Last Friday the Rockies returned home

Ryan Spillborghs connects in the 14th inning for the game winner against the Giants

Ryan Spillborghs connects in the 14th inning for the game winner against the Giants

 for an important seven game home stand.  They were 2 games ahead of the San Francisco Giants in the National League wild card race.  Colorado also had pulled to with in 4 games of the Los Angeles Dodgers for the NL West lead.  First came the Giants for 4 games.  The series stood at 2 games to 1 for the Rockies heading into the Monday finale.  The crowds had been large and electric.  The baseball had been better than good.  But nothing could prepare the Rockies faithful for what was in store. 

The final game of that series was quite a contest.  The Giants

Tulo reacts to his game winning single in the 10th against the Dodgers

Tulo reacts to his game winning single in the 10th against the Dodgers

scored first, taking a 1-0 lead.  In the bottom of the fifth, the Rockies knotted the score at one each courtesy of a bases loaded walk.  The score remained that way until the 14th inning.  San Fran scored 3 times in the top of the inning, thanks mainly to a Giants triple.  Game over, right?  Not with these Rockies.  In the bottom of the 14th, a bases loaded walk to the pitcher brought Colorado back to with in 2 runs.  That brought Ryan Spillborghs to the plate.  Spilly had come to bat in the 10th with runners on first and third and one out.  He grounded into an inning ending double play, and he wanted a chance at redemption.  He did not waste that chance.  Spilly drove an 0-1 pitch over the right field wall for a walk off grand slam home run.  The first walk off granny in Rockies history.  He raced around the bases and touched off a mob scene at home plate with his teammates.  The Rocks had taken care of the Giants, and had taken the series 3 games to one.  When that home run cleared the wall, the Rockies next game loomed a scant 19 hours into the future.  And with that game came the hated Dodgers.  

The division leading Dodgers were off on Monday.  They would be the well rested team.  Surely that would be all the advantage they would need.  The Rockies came into the bottom of the 4th inning hit less and trailing 2-0.  A Todd Helton double and Brad Hawpe homer later, and the game was knotted 2-2.  The Rockies took a 4-2 lead into the ninth.  Closer Huston Street (33 saves in 34 opportunities) was unavailable, getting a off night after a heavy recent work load, and the bullpen faltered, allowing LA to tie the score at 4.  Extra innings for the second straight night.  The Rockies loaded the bases in the bottom of the 10th, and it was Troy Tulowitzki’s turn to be the hero.  His single to left center plated the winning run and set off another mob scene at Coors Field.   Two very large games at Coors Field in just over 24 hours, and two extra inning walkoff  victories by the Rockies.

While nothing is won in August, these games loom large because of the roll the Rockies have been on.  On June 3rd, the Rockies sat in last place in the NL West with a 20-32 record, 15 1/2 games behind the Dodgers, who were 37-18 at the time.  Since that point, the Rockies have gone 52-22 while the Dodgers have gone 37-34.  That 15 1/2 game lead is down to 2 games.  In addition, the Rockies have opened a 4 game lead in the NL wild card race.  The playoff momentum is building in Denver.  The Rockies believe.  They play hard and with heart every night.  They bring an excitement to the game that is refreshing.  They have good starting pitching, good relievers, excellent defense and potent offense.  They have been the best team in the National League for the past 2 1/2 months.  They go out each and every night expecting to win.  Keep this up and they will win the first division title in their history.  And Roctober will return to the playoffs.

Two nights. . . .two walk off celebrations

Two nights. . . .two walk off celebrations