Of Major League Baseball's six divisions, only the NL West has sent each of its clubs to the playoffs at least once since 2006. "There's no clear favorite from year to year," says Giants GM Brian Sabean, "which makes it interesting."
Compared to Prince Fielder's $214 million deal with Detroit, every other transaction in the past week qualifies as "other news." Nevertheless, while Fielder was grabbing all the attention, some other impactful moves took place that warrant attention, such as:
At first glance it's a fix-it strategy bound for disaster: take an 89-loss team that quit last year and make it . . . older. In this age when older impact players practically don't exist, Colorado Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd added age at second base, third base, rightfield, closer and possibly in his rotation. It begs two questions: What is O'Dowd's plan, and does the Joint Drug Agreement list Metamucil as a banned masking agent?
The big transaction news of the last week was the five-player trade that landed the Reds Mat Latos, Jimmy Rollins re-signing with the Phillies for three years, and the Rangers winning the right to negotiate with Japanese ace Yu Darvish. However, Joe Lemire nailed the first two in his column on Saturday, and the Darvish news won't have any real impact unless (or until) the Rangers actually ink the right-hander, something which might not happen until mid-January. Still, there were a few other noteworthy moves from the past week, including the coming and going of three Twins outfielders, a trade between the Red Sox and Astros, and a handful of smaller signings by teams looking to flesh out their bench and bullpen.
The Angels and Marlins weren't the only teams getting things done at the just-completed Winter Meetings in Dallas, and Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson weren't the only players the Angels acquired. For fans of the other 28 teams and LaTroy Hawkins, here's a summary of some of the less-celebrated player transactions from the last week and a half.
Why would the Rockies even think about trading Ubaldo Jimenez? Aces are so valuable -- especially young ones under team control for years -- that I keep a rule of thumb: The minute you trade one, you begin a lengthy search to come up with another one. But this is different. This is Denver.
So far, the slowest-moving trade market in history has featured one big deal (the Mets' salary dump of Francisco Rodriguez), one small deal (the Tigers' pickup of Wilson Betemit), and one very serious logjam.
The Rockies have been in contact with the Yankees and a few other teams regarding right-handed ace Ubaldo Jimenez.
The Colorado Rockies are absolutely doing the right thing by shopping talented right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez. They also are doing the right thing by asking for the moon and the sun for him.
"To sell, or not to sell, that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of angry season-ticket holders or to acquire arms against a sea of contenders and by opposing end them? To buy, to keep, no more; and by keep to say we end the heartache, and the thousand natural shocks that baseball teams are heir to."
It's official: The Rockies no longer have an ace. It's not Ubaldo Jimenez right now -- not the way he's pitching. A team doesn't go 0-9 behind its ace, as Colorado has done in the last nine games Jimenez has started. An ace doesn't walk 15 batters in his last 13 2/3 innings, as Jimenez has done. And an ace doesn't go 6-10 with a 4.68 ERA over 25 starts, which Jimenez has done since last June 23.
Colorado Rockies stories in the SI Vault
This is the 10th season in Denver for one of the key fixtures in Rockies' history -- the Coors Field humidor, which has now been around long enough to acquire Hall of Fame eligibility and veto power over trades.
NEW YORK -- My day of baseball was already in its 24th inning when Jorge Posada stepped to the plate at Yankee Stadium in the bottom of the ninth on Thursday night. While attempting to watch the rare baseball tripleheader, I had seen the first 15 of the 18-inning twinbill between the Rockies and Mets in Queens before making the 9.7-mile cross-borough trip to the Bronx see the Yankees host the Orioles.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- With 12 managers running their first spring training camp with their current club, the most shopworn phrase this spring has been "change the culture." But nowhere is there actually more meaning behind those words than in the camp of the Diamondbacks, where former MVP Kirk Gibson, who took over midway through last season for A.J. Hinch, is emphasizing the need to compete better.
The Tigers are the earliest winners of this offseason. In a players' market, they already added two exceptionally talented guys -- Victor Martinez, an excellent hitter, and Joaquin Benoit, a dominant reliever. Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski, who engineered the deals, said, "We've been happy so far.''
Hindsight, of course, will be 20-20, but it now may not be until the year 2020 that the Rockies are afforded the luxury of evaluating whether the lavish contract extension they just handed to Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki was a smart investment.
The Rockies and All-Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki have agreed on a six-year contract extension worth about $120 million, SI.com has confirmed.
The Rockies and left-handed starter Jorge De La Rosa were so far apart in contract talks -- about three years apart -- it seems highly unlikely he'll stay in Colorado.
It has been 25 weeks since Opening Day and 2,330 games have been played. There is just one week and 100 games remaining but several questions still have yet to be answered. These are the most pressing:
DENVER -- Tim Lincecum has done a lot in his young career. He's won two Cy Young awards. He's pitched in an All-Star Game.
Five cuts from Wednesday night's action ...
That's not "magic" going on in Denver, where the Rockies are making another crazy September run. There's something very real at play: The Rockies are exploiting yet another favorable schedule down the stretch.
With just 17 days left in the regular season, Major League Baseball's playoff picture is coming into focus. Though home-field advantage still has to be settled, the Rays, Yankees, Twins, and Rangers will be the American League entrants barring something shocking. In the National League, the upstart Reds seem to have the Central sewn up, and the Phillies, healthy after an injury-riddled season, are surging toward a fourth straight title in the East. Yet, while the rest of the league seems to be sorting itself out, the wild, wild NL West has only gotten tighter and more compelling in recent days.
1. The Rays continue to find ways to win with baseball's most unorthodox offense, as evidenced by their 4-3 victory over the Yankees on Wednesday night to reclaim the American League East lead by a half-game.
1. It took until their 144th game of the season, but the Padres may finally have found their leadoff hitter. In defeating the Rockies 7-6 on Tuesday night to maintain its 1 1/2-game lead over the Giants in the National League West and push Colorado to 3 1/2 games back, San Diego relied on one of its finest offensive performances of the season with 16 hits, including three by left fielder Aaron Cunningham.
NEW YORK -- Placido Polanco reckons that his left elbow hurts when he hits, when he dives for a ball and really anytime he has to extend it. The Phillies third baseman has bone chips that will require offseason surgery and, he hopes, lessen the pain that he says "has been there for awhile."
First place: Braves Contenders: Phillies (3 GB)
As Tigers manager Jim Leyland mentioned several times after umpire Jim Joyce's whopper of a mistake on Wednesday night, humans tend to err. The story of Armando Galarraga and Joyce is a very human one indeed, and the nicest ending possible would have been the decision by a human to undo Joyce's error and award the perfect game Galarraga rightfully deserved.
Here's yet another surprise from the first-year general manager of the team that has been the season's biggest surprise to date. Jed Hoyer says if the Padres contend, they could actually become a trade-deadline buyer, and not the seller everyone expects them to be.
DENVER -- On Wednesday morning, Diamondbacks manager A.J. Hinch strolled around the visiting clubhouse at Coors Field wearing a hooded sweatshirt, shorts and flip-flops. Such youthful fashion choices -- not entirely out of place in a big league clubhouse but rare for a field boss -- suit the 35-year-old Hinch just fine.
Through five innings on April 17, Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez had thrown 82 pitches and walked six Braves batters. He was wild but also unhittable, having yet to allow even one Atlanta hit.
Before taking the mound last Saturday night in Atlanta for the game that would change his professional life, Colorado pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez felt different, and not in a good way. He was sleepy and sluggish, so much so that Jorge de la Rosa, a fellow member of the Rockies starting rotation, sensed his friend's fatigue and, playing modern-day apothecary, offered a Red Bull and a whiff of ammonia to awaken him from his slumber.
Colorado Rockies president Keli McGregor was found dead in a hotel room. Utah officials look into the cause of death.
Foul play is not suspected in the death of Colorado Rockies President Keli McGregor, whose body was found Tuesday in a Salt Lake City, Utah, hotel room, police said Wednesday.
Colorado Rockies President Keli McGregor was found dead Tuesday morning in a Salt Lake City, Utah, hotel, police said.
This article appears in the April 5, 2010, issue of Sports Illustrated.
This spring, SI.com writers are filing postcards from all 30 major league spring training camps. To read all the postcards, click here.
How can a club compete when it has the misfortune of playing in a division that also includes the two highest-revenue clubs in Major League Baseball? The answer for the Baltimore Orioles, for the past dozen seasons anyway, has been: It can't. Since 1997, when the Orioles won the American League East before losing a six game ALCS to the Cleveland Indians, they have endured 12 consecutive sub-.500 seasons, and have just once finished better than fourth in the division -- never once winning more games in a year than did the Yankees or the Red Sox.
Are you ready for the 2014 World Series between the Pirates and Royals? It could happen. I'll admit that it sounds insane. Aren't the Pirates and Royals two small-market teams that just spent the last decade or two in the cellar? Can I really be talking about the same two inept franchises who don't spend much money and whose farm systems are just so-so? Aren't these two teams the same clubs that just lost 99 and 97 games respectively? Even the most optimistic fans in Pittsburgh or Kansas City might concede that there's little hope for contention any time soon. So why on earth would I be predicting a World Series involving these two clubs in just five short years?
DENVER -- "A cigar, dammit," Ryan Howard, holding a bottle of champagne in his right hand, barked as he stood in the middle of the visitor's clubhouse at Coors Field moments after Game 4 of the Division Series in Denver. "Somebody get me a damn cigar!" A simple request, really, from the man who delivered Philadelphia's biggest hit of the series: a ninth-inning two-out, two-run double that tied a game that had more twists than a le Carré novel. In the end, the Phillies eliminated the Rockies in a 5-4 thriller that somehow topped the four-hour Game 3 epic a night earlier -- and yes, in the end, Ryan Howard got his cigar.
Postseason baseball is filled with thrilling highs and lows, and each October produces its own heroes and goats, many of them victims (or victors) of timing and small sample sizes. Nonetheless, it's always fun seeing which players seem to rise to the occasion and, more sadistically, which appear to fold under the pressure. With one round of this year's postseason in the books, here are the heroes and goats of the 2009 League Division Series.
DENVER -- The doors swung open, and he jogged in from centerfield as the faithful back home -- the ones still awake, that is -- held their breath as they watched. It was exactly 2 a.m. in Philadelphia. Seventeen hundred miles away, a cold chill whipped through the Colorado air in Coors Field; the temperature in the Mile High City: 24 degrees. And here was Brad Lidge, attempting to shut the door on the Rockies in Game 3 of the NLDS, his team clinging to a one-run lead.
PHILADELPHIA -- His clubhouse nickname is "Little Pony," but Carlos Gonzalez's influence on the Rockies has been as big as a 757, which is precisely Colorado's winning percentage in games that the 23-year-old outfielder started this season.
PHILADELPHIA -- "One day you're up, one day you're down," Rockies closer Huston Street, standing in the visitor's clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park on Thursday night, said of the high-wire act of finishing games. "There's no middle ground, really." Eleven months ago Street was shipped to Colorado in a package that sent Rockies franchise player Matt Holliday to Oakland. Street was a mess then: he couldn't locate his changeup, his fastball wasn't quite sinking the way it used to. The season began, and it wasn't clear if he'd be the Rockies closer --- or a closer for anyone.
He doesn't have the celebrity wife. Nor does he have the perfect hair, the perfect changeup, or the World Series MVP on his resume. No, Cliff Lee is not the fabulous Cole Hamels. But on a chilly Wednesday afternoon in Philadelphia, as winds swirled wildly and napkins and cheesesteak wrappers blew across Citizens Bank Park, the underrated and unflashy 31-year-old left-hander showed why he is the true ace of the defending champs. With two outs in the ninth of a 5-1 game, the chant of "Let's go Lee!" echoed across the ballpark as the lefty buzzed a 94 mph fastball over the plate and past swinging Rockies third baseman Garrett Atkins for the final pitch of an exquisite October complete-game gem.
The Phillies and Rockies just might be the most unlikely postseason rivalry in baseball history. The Phillies were the worst of baseball's 16 pre-expansion franchises before the arrival of Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton in the early '70s and made just two postseason appearances between their first championship in 1980 and the beginning of their current run in 2007. The Rockies were a foundering expansion team unable to solve the mystery of pitching at high altitude prior to the introduction of their humidor in 2002, and remained mired in the bottom two spots of the NL West for several years after its arrival as well. Despite that, there's a rich history behind this matchup.
With one weekend remaining in the regular season, baseball suddenly finds itself with the one thing it seemed almost sure to be without this year: pennant race drama, albeit a much more muted version than the high-stakes scenario that has played itself out so often through the years. For instance, with three games remaining, seven of the eight playoff spots are already taken, the American League matchups have been set (AL East vs. AL Central, AL West vs. wild card) and the series that might have been the most compelling because of its head-to-head nature (Rockies-Dodgers) instead will be not much more than a postseason warmup act for two teams who are already playoff-bound. 1951 it is not. That said, there are still several playoff plotlines yet to be determined.
1) It's official: Young pitchers have taken back the game. A down cycle of starting pitchers has turned upward. An ERA that begins with a 2 no longer is an oddity.
Two of the best moves of the year involved Matt Holliday. One was a deal to acquire Holliday, the other was a deal to be rid of Holliday.
The Colorado Rockies aren't a team, they're an armada. Even their depth is deep. With apologies to Atlanta fans -- all 18 of them -- the Braves are strictly an opening act when it comes to thrills, bedlam and suspense in the National League's wild-card race.
John Smoltz, who posted an 8.32 ERA for the Red Sox, has turned his game around since getting to St. Louis and has a 2.65 ERA for the Cardinals. Rafael Betancourt, who was an average reliever for the Indians, didn't allow a run his first 14 outings for the Rockies. Cliff Lee, who pitched well but lost more games than he won with the Indians this year, transformed into an almost-unhittable hurler in his first five starts for the Phillies.
As the season winds towards October, here are some key players to keep an eye on:
All of a sudden, the Colorado Rockies aren't walking on water anymore. They've lost a season-high five straight, including a crippling three-game sweep in San Francisco, and have given up sole possession of the National League wild-card lead.
Last week in this space, we took a look at baseball's biggest loser, so this week we decided to do a complete 180 and delve into the season and career of the man who does nothing but win. We also look further into the best non-signing of the offseason and a reeling team that just can't find any relief.
When a team is struggling and falling far behind in the standings, its players will often invoke the Colorado Rockies, the team most famous for coming out of nowhere to make it to the World Series. Players on these fading teams inevitably suggest they could become the new Rockies. But few do.
Yesterday, Tom Verducci examined the AL wild-card situation, so today it's time to break down the race in the NL, which is slightly more competitive, with five teams entering Wednesday within four games of the lead, compared to four teams within 5 1/2 in the AL. Here's a snapshot of each of those five clubs. (Sorry Brewers and Astros fans; you must be this tall (at least .500) to go on this ride.)
A month ago this was not looking like a road trip as much as last rites; and taunting last rites at that.
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Jim Tracy speaks in a cadence, slow and singsong, that has inspired imitations from Los Angeles to Pittsburgh to Colorado. He often starts sentences with a dramatic pause, then gets louder as he goes, like a speechmaker building toward a point that should not be missed. Whether it's the beginning of April or the end of September, he has a habit of reminding his audience exactly how many games remain in the season, perhaps because that number provides the context for almost everything he has to say.
It's too early to grade the 2009 baseball draft, as none of the players chosen has even signed a contract, not to mention played a pro game. Most baseball drafts require at least three years to evaluate, if not five years when high school players are factored in.
The managing careers of Bob Melvin and Clint Hurdle seemingly have run a parallel course out West, with the pair often appearing to rise and fall in unison but most apparently in the fall of 2007, when they met in the surprise Arizona-Colorado NLCS matchup of upstart teams.
1) This is officially now Troy Tulowitzki's team. Much like the rest of the Rockies last season, cult hero Tulo came crashing back to earth after the team's improbable run to the 2007 World Series. Six months after being rewarded with a six-year, $31 million extension last January, he was battling injuries and batting .166, a slump that culminated with him angrily -- and somewhat childishly -- slamming a bat onto the ground after manager Clint Hurdle pulled him from an 18-17 win over Florida.
CLICK HERE FOR: Arizona | Colorado | Los Angeles | San Diego | San Francisco
It may be in just a few days, it may take weeks. But the inevitable truth is CC Sabathia is going to become the 17th player in the history of Major League Baseball to sign a multi-year contract in excess of $100 million. And depending on how the dominoes fall, Mark Teixeira and Manny Ramirez (for a second time) could be close behind him.
It has only just become official, now that physicals and medical histories and the like have been handled, but the Rockies' trade of Matt Holliday to the A's is finally a done deal today. I can't say that the delay hasn't been a good thing for me, because had I written something on the deal in the immediate aftermath of the news breaking, it would have looked completely different than what follows. The A's trading youth for a player likely to become an unsignable free agent? The Rockies converting their lame-duck left fielder into 14-or-so years worth of performance? What a deal for Colorado.
The A's have acquired star outfielder Matt Holliday from the Colorado Rockies, SI.com has learned. Sources indicate outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, starting pitcher Greg Smith and reliever Huston Street are involved but the exact particulars of the trade are not yet known.
The whole concept of a team getting all fired up to play the role of "spoiler" is probably a little overdone. I'd like to think that professional ballplayers, all of them pulling down nice, healthy paychecks, are going to play hard in September whether it's against somebody angling for a playoff spot or somebody just trying to get this whole thing over with.
It's been almost exactly a year since the Rockies began one of the most memorable and impressive stretch runs in baseball history. On Sept. 16, 2007, Colorado snapped a three-game losing streak by hammering the Marlins 13-0 in front of a sparse Coors Field crowd of 19,161 fans. Not one of them would have guessed that the victory was their team's first of 14 in 15 games to close the season and complete a stunning rise from near-death to a playoff berth.
It begins with a puff of infield dirt, a tiny smoke signal sent up from near first base. Translated for the pitcher, it might read, you are toast. With that liftoff, the crossing of left cleat over right, Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins, the best base stealer on the best basestealing team in the league, is headed for second. Let's freeze it right there.
Embattled Nationals general manager Jim Bowden still appears to have the support of his bosses, who blame others for problems that have beset Bowden and the club in recent days, according to people who have spoken to the leadership of the last-place club.
After huffing and puffing uphill past luminous Aspen groves and delicate wildflowers for more than an hour, we expected a big reward: a sweeping view of Steamboat Springs, an imposing waterfall, a cold beer -- something.
Brian Fuentes has a trailer that he loads up with family possessions: a bunch of toys for his kids, some stuff for his wife, a few things in there for him. If the news comes, he'll get his dad to hitch it to the back of his truck, have him point it in the right direction and then have him take off. That's one way Fuentes has prepared for Thursday's trade deadline.
In the wake of five straight wins, and nine wins in 10 games since the All-Star break, Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd characterized a trade for either star outfielder Matt Holliday or closer Brian Fuentes as "highly unlikely'' in an interview Sunday with SI.com.
NEW YORK -- Superstar Matt Holliday and the Rockies are still in the midst of a love affair. But there's a question now about how long it will last.
In 2005, the San Diego Padres won the National League West with a record of 82-80, the kind of accomplishment a division never lives down. It was the worst record ever for a division champion, and it was embarrassing, but it was also not likely to be repeated. The NL West was about to unveil a crop of new players who would make it impossible for anyone to win the division at 82-80 again.
At almost 8,500 feet in the Rockies, it can take a few breaths to walk up Central City's steep granite hills lined with Victorian homes, souvenir shops -- and an opera house that has served 19th-century gold miners as well as modern-day visitors.
Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd is the sort of fellow who has the ability to make a brutally honest assessment of his team. "We stink,'' O'Dowd said in a recent interview, an interview conducted even before the Rockies were throttled 20-5 by the Phillies on Monday, lost four straight and fell to 20-34, which is tied for the worst record in baseball.
Word is Braves pitcher Mike Hampton is making very little progress in his efforts to come back from the "strained pec'' injury he suffered while warming up for what was to be his season debut on April 4. What a shame it is that so many words were written this spring about a comeback that was, very predictably, a mirage.
Some Octobers, as if with a wink and a grin, baseball grants a peek at its future, slipping the best of its coming attractions into the Sturm und Drang of the postseason. The 1951 World Series gave us the sweet synchronicity of rookies Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays facing each other. In 1995, Manny Ramirez and Chipper Jones, both 23 and playing in their first postseason, squared off in the Fall Classic. Last October the opening game of the National League Championship Series brought another clash of phenoms, though seeing was less revelatory than hearing, "Get your ass down to first base and shut up!"
Sports Illustrated will announce its choice for Sportsman of the Year on Dec. 3. Here's one of the nominations for that honor by an SI writer. For more essays, click here.
CNN's Larry Smith previews game one of the World Series between the Colorado Rockies and Boston Red Sox.
DENVER -- This is how things turn sometimes in baseball, and how things have most decidedly flipped for the Rockies this postseason: Less than a week ago, the Rocks were the hottest team in the game, riding an historic winning streak into the first World Series in the franchise's 15-year history. Sunday night, in Game 4 of the Series, it'll take everything the Rockies can muster -- everything they've failed to summon in the first three games of this Series -- to avoid being summarily swept by the Red Sox.
The Colorado Rockies are the most religious team in baseball. And they sure could use a miracle now
It may seem that the moment the Colorado Rockies' season turned into a scene out of Rocky ? on the verge of being knocked out, only to get up and come out swinging ? was Todd Helton's walk-off home run against the Dodgers in the second game of a doubleheader on Sept. 18. After all, that swing catapulted Colorado to its third straight win in what became a 21-of-22 victory run that landed the Rockies ? the Rockies! ? in the World Series.
Also in this column: • Yankees manager update • Girardi as Dodgers bench coach? • More news and notes
BOSTON -- An autumn rain fell from the dark, windswept sky above Fenway Park as Josh Beckett -- with bulbs flashing everywhere -- unleashed a 96 mph fastball at 8:37 p.m. Wednesday. It was the first pitch of the first game of the 103rd World Series, an electric October moment in this hallowed baseball cathedral. Some three hours later, near the merciful end of the most lopsided Game 1 in the history of the Series, the country had long flipped over to CSI; Red Sox uberfan Stephen King was in the stands reading Newsweek; and Todd Helton, standing on Fenway's moist infield grass, gazed around the ballpark thinking to himself, "Is this the World Series or spring training?"
Also in this column: • Yankees' top three candidates • Henry endorses Steinbrenners • Mets won't hire Jaramillo • More news and notes
One of the worst aspects of this sports writing gig is you are forced to become a quasi-market analyst, deconstructing events by off-the-field factors. For example, we feel compelled to note the NBA suffers when the franchise in New York (let's leave their name out of this) is so weak that Madison Avenue does not plug its resources into the sport.
The Colorado Rockies spent the sixth of eight consecutive days off frolicking in the snow on Sunday in Denver, hardly the schedule or climate you would associate with the hottest team ever to reach the World Series. In an upside-down baseball world in which the Boston Red Sox have become the New York Yankees and just about anybody can go to the World Series -- one third of the 30 franchises have done so in just the past six years -- the Rockies entered the Fall Classic like no other club in history: riding a 21-1 run. Talk about your freak storms.
Despite all that Rocky Mountain hoopla, the NL champion Colorado Rockies are not an overnight success. In fact, they're almost the polar opposite.
The broom came sailing from somewhere in the outfield decks at Coors Field, flying out of the heart of a mile-high throng of delirium-struck baseball fans. It stuck, handle first, into the outfield grass in right-center field, standing there as a kind of inverted exclamation point to a statement that the hometown Rockies made loudly and oh-so-clearly here Monday night.
Clint Hurdle, the ruddy manager of the rolling Rockies, insists he's not surprised that his team is where it is. His players work hard, he reasons. They're talented. They do things the right way. And they've been through the baseball wringer this season.
When you watched the Rockies during this whacked-out and often inexplicable season of theirs -- and I can't think that too many people outside of Colorado (or, probably, in it) really did much of that -- there were more than a few times when you could have said that they were absolutely, without a doubt, completely and utterly dead.
Jimmy Rollins does not look like a typical Most Valuable Player, having lost 10 pounds from a 175-pound frame since the start of the 2007 season, the toll exacted by starting every game at shortstop for the Phillies and coming to bat more times than anybody else in baseball history. Rollins is so small (5' 7") and his bat so large (35 inches, 34 ounces) that when he drags the bat by its knob through the clubhouse, as he did before the season finale against the Nationals on Sunday, he resembles a child pulling a wagon.
The Colorado Rockies would surely not have won 16 of 17 games and have arrived Friday morning in Denver with a 2-0 NLDS lead over the Phillies without an explosive offense (which scored an NL-best 172 runs in September) led by outfielder Matt Holliday and a surprisingly effective, bend-but-don't-break rotation headed by lefty Jeff Francis. But equally key to the Rockies' late-season surge, if far less heralded, has been the performance of the bullpen, which on Thursday turned in the latest in a growing string of fine performances, holding the mighty Phillies to one earned run and five hits in six innings.
And so there they were, ready to plant their red and white flag square in the cold, cruel collective heart of Philadelphia sports fans from the Great Northeast to South Street. Yes, it was the perfect time for the Philadelphia Phillies to become the kings of Rocky Balboa City, at least for a while. The NFL Eagles are temporary toast. Their coach looks more catatonic than usual, their quarterback is getting little support for his charges of racism, their record is an anemic 1-3, and it's a bye week, for heaven's sake. No football unless you count Temple, which you should not.
I. Rolling Rox: Back in March -- while the Generation-R Rockies were in Arizona for spring training -- lawmakers back in the Centennial State were in the midst of some significant legislation: Whether or not to officially raise John Denver's "Rocky Mountain High" to state-song status. After listening to a performance of the song that was recorded in the Sydney Opera House in Australia, the Senate approved the measure with a 26-8 vote. Three months later, the Rockies can truly relate to the late Denver's state-sponsored rally cry.
Also in this column: • Mariners lead in failed drug tests • Rangers not happy with new skipper • Ozzie Guillen's latest controversy • More news and notes
It's 5 p.m. on April 24, and the Florida Marlins are doing what they normally do when it's 5 p.m. and they are in Miami: They're taking batting practice. The Marlins, somewhat unexpectedly, boast one of baseball's most explosive offenses -- at week's end they led the majors in extra-base hits (97) and slugging percentage (.475) -- and this afternoon that potency is on full display. Miguel Cabrera, the hulking 24-year-old third baseman who's averaged 31 home runs the past three seasons, launches ball after soaring ball, many of which land in the outfield seats at Dolphin Stadium. Dan Uggla, the second-year second baseman with the circus strongman forearms, does the same. There is something metronomically workaday about the process: Step in, take a few hacks, let the next guy have a go, repeat. Then Hanley Ramirez enters the cage.