Tagged: My Team(s)

Put a fork in ’em?

For days, this forum has been silent. The glass is always half full here–and by that, we mean that there’s always an optimistic outlook. But, after an 0-6 road trip, with sweeps by the Mets and the Brew Crew, our glass was half full of whiskey. We were ready to say, put a fork in the Rox, because they’re done. They couldn’t hit with runners in scoring position, and were even worse with runners in scoring position and two outs. But then the Padres rolled into town, and the Rox bats awoke with a 13-run output in the first game, and a series victory.

I was ready to pull out the "Best Last Place Team In Baseball" sign. I was ready to bring it to the game on Saturday. And maybe I should. Have the Rox really proven that they are anything but a last place team? As of today, they’re 7 games out of first, and once again in the familiar cellar that they owned all of last season.

On the bright side–and that’s what we always focus on here–the Rox played some meaningful games in August. And that’s a **** of a lot better than can be said for them last year.

BABY ICHIRO
With such a struggling offense of late, Rox manager Clint Hurdle has been looking for someone to provide that spark to get a struggling offense going. Jamey Carroll will always be our boy here at On The Rox, but his recent struggles at the plate are a huge contributing factor to he fate of the Rox. As goes the team catalyst, so goes the team. So, Hurdle has looked to a new member of the Rox infield over the past week to jumpstart things. Kaz Matsui, acquired in a trade from the Mets earlier this season for Eli Marrero, was called up last week and has seen immediate insertion in the Rox line-up, splitting time between 2B and SS, with primary playing time at SS. Kaz brings the element of left-handed speed at the top of the Rox line-up, a very valuable asset. In his first week, we have personally seen him leg out 3 hits that no other member of the Rockies–save Choo Freeman–would have beaten out. Kaz’s left-handed slap-and-run and super-speed is reminiscent of the great Ichiro. Even the way he bends and stretches before getting into the batter’s box reminds of faintly of Ichiro. So, the Rockies got their very own Baby Ichiro.

FIRE BLEYER

Now, I don’t know if Keith Bleyer reads On The Rox or not, and let’s hope he doesn’t because I don’t wanna hurt his feelings. But, personally, I can’t stand the guy. I can’t put my finger on it really, but I guess it’s because he’s just kind of a little wiener. I mean, he’s confident, he’s poised on air, he’d be great hosting anything else, I just don’t like his personality mixed in with baseball.

So, who do we want to replace him? How about Erica Irene from ManiaTV.com? Denver is home to live Internet TV channel ManiaTV.com, and their morning host "CJ Erica" is a self-proclaimed Rockies fan. She’s got the looks, the poise, the energy, the experience and the baseball knowledge to do a bang-up job hosting the FSN Rockies Pre-game show. Plus, her interview skills would bring out more about each player’s personal lives that we get with the current hosts. So, FSN brass, if you’re reading, get your headhunters ready. Fire Bleyer, Hire Erica.

You heard it here at On The Rox, where our glass is always half-full.

Daniel Boniface is a freelance writer in Boulder, Colorado. Contact: dbonif@aol.com. You can subscribe to On The Rox at http://www.newsgator.com, or find it online at: rox.mlblogs.com.

Starting Pitching Wins Championships

In the last installment of On The Rox, we took an in depth look at the possible positive effects the humidor is having on the pitching staff at Coors Field. Some out there may think this was a little glass-is-half-empty of us–giving credit to a humidor rather than to the Rox starters. This point is duly noted, so today we’ll look at the other side of the coin. Maybe the latest stats have nothing to do with the humidor, and everything to do with this year’s Rox staff being absolute and utter horses.

Case in point: Last night, Jeff Francis.

Francis hurled a complete game, two-hit shutout facing only two batters over the minimum. 29 up, 27 down. He had control of all his pitches, and hit the glove no matter where Yorvit Torrealba put it. It was a masterful performance, especially the way he handled Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen, Jim Edmonds and Juan Encarnacion, but the crazy thing is, it wasn’t the best by a Rockies pitcher this season.

So far this season, the Rox staff has 3 complete game, 2-hit shutouts, one combined 1-hit shutout, and 8 total shutouts. The 8 shutouts tie the team record for most shutouts in a season, and it’s only July!

Josh Fogg arguably has the best performance of the year with his two-hit shutout in Seattle in which he faced the minimum–27 up, 27 down. Although he gave up two hits and a walk, they were all erased on double plays. Last night, Francis was just as dominating, allowing fewer baserunners, giving up two hits, no walks, but didn’t get any double plays. Jason Jennings combined with Jose Mesa and Brian Fuentes on the Rockies first 1-hitter in team history, and also has a 2-hit complete game shutout of his own.

STARTING SOMETHING GOOD

Shutouts are one thing, but how about the consistency? Going into the season, there were question marks about the Rockies staff, and those all been answered…and some! The Rox starting rotation’s combined ERA is 4.23, which is tied for second
with San Francisco for the second best mark in the National League.
Only the Florida Marlins rotation has a better rotation ERA at 4.21. (Yeah, Florida!)(We didn’t believe it either…but who would have believed Colorado would be second at this point in the season?)

SULLY TO THE RESCUE
Leading off the 6th inning last night, Francis was in the midst of a perfect game. He had retired the first 15 batters, and had cut through the heart of the Cardinals line-up twice. Yadier Molina led off the 6th with a little flare into center field. Cory Sullivan, well aware Francis had a perfect game in the balance, came charging in full speed, dove and barely, BARELY came up short. The ball barely hit off Sully’s glove, dropping in for the first hit of the game. Sullivan, still sitting on his knees, slammed the ball into his glove and yelled in frustration, well aware that the perfect game was gone.

The one consolation was the fact that Sully was the one in center field. If it had been anyone else on the team, we would be saying: If Sully was in center field, he would have caught it. Because here at On The Rox, Sully is our boy. If he couldn’t come up with that catch, no one in the National League could. Francis was well aware of this too, and was the first player to great Sully with a smile as he returned to the dugout. After the game, Francis said he was relieved to have the hit drop in front of Sully so he could worry about winning the game, not hurling a perfect one.

If he had come up with it, maybe Francis pitches differently to Pujols with a perfect game still on the line, but that’s just a big…if. Pujols doubled to the left-center gap in his 3rd and final at bat.

WELCOME BACK SULLY

Speaking of Cory Sullivan, we do enjoy the fact that Sully is finally seeing some starts again. Aside from his nearly flawless defense, Sully has found his swing again, and found his way out of Manager Clint Hurdle’s dog house. He’s hitting .352 over the last month, 19 for 54, with 9 runs, 3 2B, 2 3B, and 6 RBI. Not to mention, Sully brings excellent bunting skills and a toughness and intensity matched only by Jamey Carroll and Clint Barmes. Here at On The Rox, all we ask is that you play hard. If you do, you’re officially our boy.

Good pitching, timely hitting, good defense, toughness and intensity will take the Rox to the wire this season. You heard it here at On The Rox, where our glass is always half-full.

Daniel Boniface is a freelance writer in Boulder, Colorado. Contact: dbonif@aol.com. You can subscribe to On The Rox at http://www.newsgator.com, or find it online at: rox.mlblogs.com.

Don’t Fret Just Yet

Get down from that highrise in Denver, don’t get all upset. No need to throw yourself into the streets of LoDo just because the Rox dropped a series to the Butt-Pirates. Sure the Rox dropped another one yesterday, and sure it was a heartbreaker 6-5 late-inning loss. BUT, there are some good things we can take from this loss. Remember, the glass is still half-full.

MADDER THAN A HORNET NEST
Yesterday’s loss was the kind that stings. It stings long and hard. And the Rox have a day off today to think about it and stew and get really really ultra-pissed off. And we hope that happens because Denver’s boys are heading into Arizona to face the Diamondbacks, and as we all know, the Snakes have had the Rox number this year. They swept the Rockies at home right before the All-Star Break, and now it’s time for some payback; some good old-fashioned mad-as-**** revenge. We need some wins Rockies, so get pissed!

TWO-OUT MAGIC
Yesterday’s best sign was that the Rockies put together a little two-out rally. Down 3-1 in the 6th, the Rox put together a nice little rally with a walk and 3 consecutive two-out doubles. It was something that we haven’t seen much of in the last couple weeks, and it was great to see. Right in the middle of the scoring yesterday was 1B Ryan Shealy. As you know, here at On The Rox, Shealy is our boy. We want to see him get his cuts, and he sure helped yesterday…..well, up until the final out, when he struck out with the bases loaded in a tie game, but hey, that’s baseball. He’ll get ’em next time.

ALMOST: BUT THIS AIN’T HORSESHOES
Unfortunately, "Almost" doesn’t count. Yesterday’s almost win was a heartbreaker. It seemed like the Rox would turn the tables in the 9th when they loaded them up with 1 out for Matt Holliday and Shealy on deck. Unfortnately, the mighty Holliday and the mighty Shealy both struck out. (Shades of the Mighty Casey and the Mudville 9.)
I gotta give out the props to the guys who did load ’em up, though. Choo Freeman had a big hit after a long at bat. Carroll drew the walk, and Clint Barmes–did we mention he’s back, folks?–came through with a HUGE hit to load’em up. I was jumping up and down at this point.
Then it looked like we had a tied game when Atkins socked a single up the middle, but 3rd base coach Mike Gallego held Carroll at third!***** it, Gallego! This is the Rox, let’s be the team with some guts, roll the dice. If you’ve got a chance to tie the game in the 9th, roll the f**king dice! Jamey Carroll has wheels, let him try for home in that situation.

Here at On The Rox, our glass is filled with whiskey. And our glass is always half-full. But for playing conservative baseball in the midst of a rough stretch, Mike Gallego has earned himself the first ever On The Rox Shirley Temple award. So Mike, enjoy that drink….ya big wuss. Grow a set next time and roll the dice.

Anyway, Gallego is probably still reeling from seeing Helton and Sullivan both thrown out at the plate this week, and so he probably figured he’d play for the sac fly to get Carroll in, since Holliday was coming up next and is hitting very well with the bases loaded. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out and Holliday and Shealy both failed to even put the ball in play.
Cest la vie, we’ll try again on Friday. We got Aaron Cook and his 3.59 ERA on the hill, and an offense that’s mad as ****. There are reasons to feel positive about things; after all, the glass here is always half-full!

Welcome Back, Rockies!

Here at On The Rox, we like saying one phrase more than any other. That phrase? "We told you so."
We told you the Rox were playing good ball. We told you yesterday 8 losses in a row was enough. We may not have guaranteed victory yesterday, but we certainly IMPLIED it. So, with the losing-streak-monkey off the Rox back, we’d like to say, WELCOME BACK ROCKIES! Welcome back from the All-Star Break…only 5 days late. You may be in last place, but that’s just an unfortunate momentary unpleasantry. Right now, The Colorado Rockies are the best **** last place team in baseball, and there’s nowhere to go but up! And as such, today’s edition of On The Rox will focus on the theme: Welcome Back!

WELCOME BACK ROCKIES BATS!
Thank the big dude upstairs, the Rockies bats are back. After scoring only 8 runs in their previous 4 games, the Rox struck for 13 last night against the Pirates. They weren’t hitting with men in scoring position, but they did last night. They hadn’t had a rally in what seemed like weeks, and there it was, a few rallies last night. So, welcome back, Rockies bats. We missed you! Don’t ever leave us again!

WELCOME BACK SHEALY!
The call-up of Ryan Shealy may have been a mere footnote in most newspapers, but here at On The Rox, Shealy is our boy. Heck, we wish he had been healthy all season! But yesterday may be–and should be–Shealy’s final call-up to the majors. For those who don’t know Shealy or haven’t followed his saga this season, the guy hits a ton but is behind Helton on the depth chart, so Hurdle tried to convert him to an outfielder during spring training. The experiment back-fired and Shealy hurt his shoulder from all the throwing, and just finished his rehab stint in the Springs. But, he’s a major-leaguer who deserves a roster spot, has earned his roster spot, and deserves some playing time. Unfortunately for him, he’s playing behind Todd Helton, so he probably won’t see much PT this season, unless the Rox deal him. (AND WE ALL HOPE THEY DON’T DO THAT, AHEM….DAN O’DOWD!)
Our hope is that he gets spot starts here and there to keep Helton fresh, maybe use his right-handed bat versus tough lefties, and use his legitimate power bat off the bench in late-game situations, a la Jorge Piedra. And of course, here at On The Rox, we must also point out that when the Rox make the World Series this year (yeah we said it), Shealy’s bat will be a great DH in AL parks. (Come on, the glass is always half-full here, so we won’t start talking about "next year" until we’re mathematically eliminated.)
So, crack the champagne, here’s our toast to Ryan Shealy: Shealy, welcome to the majors for good. May your years be prosperous, may your homeruns be plentiful, may your yearly RBI totals reach the triple digits, may your batting average always be north of .300,  and may you do all of it in a Rockies uniform.

WELCOME BACK GONZO
Gonzo, we feel sorry for you. You’re our boy, and it hurts us to see
you lose the everyday spot at 2B, really it does, becuase you earned it last season. But, we also love
Jamey Carroll. Our slogan: "You’re number 1, Jamey!" is meant both
literally and figuratively from the bottom of our hearts. But we digress.

As a team
player, we know that you’ll adjust back to your utility role, and I for
one, am here to say, "Thank You, Gonzo, and Welcome Back!" You were
there for us last year whenever anyone went down. You played first base
when Helton was hurt. You played everywhere in the infield and even
played some outfield. You socked some homers, and have an incredible
errorless streak when starting at second base. Gonzo, we love you,
thanks for being a team player, and welcome back, buddy! We missed you.
Here’s to Gonzo, a team player and a class act!

WELCOME BACK SMITTY!
Also a big welcome back goes out to Jason Smith. Most Rox fans only remember him as the guy who owned the Padres in that early season series at the unfortunately named Petco Park. But Smitty came back in a big way last night, socking a homer in his first at bat since being recalled from the Springs. Good on ya! Way to be Smitty.

WELCOME BACK PREDICTION

Our welcome back prediction is that in two weeks, we’ll be welcoming back Rockies fair-weather fans. The Rockies seem poised to rattle off two good weeks of baseball, catapulting themselves back into the NL West race. (Not that they’re out of it now, by any means.)(But we mean, enough to where the fair-weather fans will return.) Anyway, that’s the type of scoop we dish here at On The Rox, because our glass is always half-full!

Eight is Enough!

Here at On The Rox, we take our baseball straight up on the rox and the glass is always half full. Let us remind you of that fact as we delve into the Rockies current 8-game losing streak. Sure they’ve lost 8 in row; sure they’ve been swept twice; sure they haven’t won a game since the All-Star break; sure the offense hasn’t had a rally in over a week; and sure the bullpen has been pretty bad–BUT, there are bright spots. And here at On The Rox, it is our job to illuminate that.

STARTING PITCHING AND DEFENSE
Fear not, Rockies fans, despite the 8-game losing streak, there is one
thing that shines through the mess. The Rox have been in every game. 3
of the 8 losses have been by 1 run, 4 have been by 2 runs, and only one
loss was by 3 runs. What does this mean? Well, despite losing, the Rox
ARE playing good baseball. They’ve had stellar starting pitching, in
fact it’s unfortunate that they’ve blown such good pitching during this
stretch. However, this is baseball, the season is a marathon, things
will turn around. And with good pitching and good defense, good things
will happen for these Rox. Don’t let the national media convince you
otherwise. Get out to Coors Field and support our boys.

GO AHEAD, MAKE MY DAY
Clint Barmes has finally managed to find the form he had at the beginning of last season. Over the past week, Barmes is hitting .389 with two HRs, 3 RBI and 1 SB. Barmey was hitting under .200 just a few weeks ago and now has his average up to .218. With Barmes providing some good offense to go with nearly flawless defense, Barmes should provide a spark to Rox offense if he can keep up this hot clip, which he proved he’s capable of carrying for at least 2 months at the beginning of last season.

Nothing epitomized Barmes’ hard-nosed play more than a pinch-hit AB on Saturday. For those who missed it, Omar Quintanilla, getting a rare start, fouled a 1-2 pitch off his shin. A huge knot formed immediately on his shin and Quintanilla was lifted for Barmes. Inheriting a tough count at 1-2, and after sitting on the bench all game, Barmes came in, looked for a breaking pitch off the plate and flung his bat out, flipping a Texas-Leaguer into center for a basehit. But Barmes wasn’t done trying to energize a team in the midst of a long losing streak. He stole second on the first pitch, catching everyone off-guard.

Since then, Barmes has homered in 2 straight games. Go ahead, Clint, make our day.

LAZY BOY MANAGING
Yesterday was the first time all season that Jorge Piedra got the start in centerfield. It was an interesting move by Clint Hurdle, one that lined up perfectly for success. Piedra came up with runners on base nearly every time, but failed to capitalize. Smart move by Hurdle to try and shuffle things up during a losing streak. Here at On The Rox we hope this was just an experiment for now, because we like having that power bat on the bench for late game situations, and the pristine defense of Cory Sullivan in center. If it were up to us, here’s how the line-up would look:

1. 2B J. Carrol (R)
2. CF C. Sullivan (L)
3. LF M. Holliday (R)
4. 1B T. Helton (L)
5. 3B G. Atkins (R)
6. RF B. Hawpe (L)
7. SS C. Barmes (R)
8. C  J. Closser (S) or Y. Torrealba (R)

I think it is important to keep the line-up flip-flopping from right-hander to left-hander, this way in a late game pitching change, you either force the other team to use multiple relief pitchers, or you get a good at least one good match-up.

Also, Helton is a career .349 hitter in the second half of the season. Putting him behind Holliday will only increase his production. Using Sullivan in CF provides the best defensive option, and his bunting skills would help generate more RBI opportunities for Holliday and Helton, should Jamey Carroll reach base to lead off an inning. For those who missed it, Sullivan set a record for most sacrifices in one game earlier this season. Barmes has been one of the best clutch hitters in the Rox line-up, just look at his RBI total. So it makes sense to keep him down in the line-up in a spot where he’ll either be called upon to drive in runs, or start rallies.

Alright Rox fans, keep the faith, here at On The Rox, our glass is always half full.