Okay, I admit it — I’m actually looking forward to football season.
What’s that, Tom? What in the name of Ian Stewart is going on here?
It’s true. No, I’m not looking forward to the NFL season. I’m never looking forward to the NFL. I hate the NFL. The Super Bowl, to me, is more about the party and watching the commercials than it is about the actual game. College football, though, is a great love of mine. A lot of that has to do with growing up largely in SEC country, where if you don’t like college football, your manhood is in serious question. Perhaps part of my excitement has to do with the fact that maybe, just maybe, this is the year that my beloved Vanderbilt Commodores finally get to a bowl game.
But what’s wrong with me? It’s the middle of August, the Rockies are over .500 and are playing solid baseball right now … and a large part of me is looking forward to college football?
Well, I’ve just had this sinking feeling lately that this isn’t the Rockies’ year. Sure, there was that game tonight, a competitive game for six innings that turned into a 15-2 laugher. I was driving back from Memphis to Nashville tonight, turned on the radio in the sixth inning of a 2-2 game, and figured I’d be listening to a great game for much of the ride home. Instead, well, Jamey Carroll almost immediately connected on his first career grand slam and it turned into the other kind of great game — not great because it’s competitive and could go either way, but great because your team is not just winning, they’re killing the opposition in front of 48,095 fans, many of whom, in fact, were rooting for the other team. And let’s be honest with ourselves; the spike in attendance numbers has nothing to do with the fact that the Rockies are in contention for a playoff spot. They were in contention for a playoff spot during the Brewers series, too, and the Brewers are in the playoff race too — there’s just no other way to explain a jump in over 10,000 fans per game from that series to this one. This one’s a draw because the Cubs are in town, and those aren’t Rockies fans boosting the attendance numbers. One only needed to hear the Cubs fans screaming and chanting "Let’s Go Cubs!" during the first game of the series to figure that out.
So, after tonight’s win, why is that sinking feeling still there? While the Dodgers are tanking, the Diamondbacks have suddenly gotten very, very hot. Brandon Webb’s complete game shutout tonight — his second in as many starts — only underscores the Diamondbacks’ M.O. for the season: don’t hit much, but get enough good pitching to (just barely) get by. It continues to boggle my mind how the Diamondbacks, despite being outscored by 20 runs over the course of the season, are a ******** sixteen games over .500. On the flipside, the Rockies have outscored the opposition by 43 runs, and yet we’re just four games over .500.
But that’s what this "sinking feeling" is all about. While the Dodgers are tanking (4-12 since July 23) and the Padres are treading water (13-15 since the break), the Diamondbacks are red hot (19-8 since the break, and 17-3 since July 20.) I keep waiting for the Snakes to fall apart, but every good thing that happens for the Rockies, like tonight’s win, seems to be counterbalanced by a bad thing (from the Rockies’ perspective, anyway) happening concerning the Diamondbacks. Beating the Cubs 15-2 doesn’t matter when the Diamondbacks are beating the Nationals 1-0; to the gods of baseball, both wins are equal, even if in our minds they’re not. And losing the first two games of the series really hurts when the Diamondbacks were beating the opposition both nights. That’s why the Rockies’ poor start to the season hurts so much. We’ve had three straight winning months since April, but the bad start in April means we’ve been playing catch-up all year.
I was correct and Tim Harikkala’s going to be making the start in tomorrow’s finale. Tim’s made exactly one start in the big leagues, for Seattle in 1996, and that didn’t go well. He’s made 72 career appearances, 71 in relief, and 55 of those came for the Rockies in 2004, when he went 6-6 with a 4.74 ERA. A lot of his success that season had to do with an amazingly lucky — especially in 2004 Coors Field! — .227 BABIP. That’s incredible luck — that year, Coors had a park factor of 120, compared with 107 this season. We’ll see if Tim’s luck at Coors continues tomorrow, but I’m not betting on it. Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks are playing host to the Nationals and Mike Bacsik, a man who, no matter what else he does in his career, will forever be known as the man who gave up #756.
Tim’s probably up just for tomorrow and will be sent out again after the game. On the flipside is Ian Stewart, who made his major league debut last night, went 0-for-2 and got hit in the head by a pitch, then left the game, probably just as a precautionary measure. Ian may just be up for a cup of coffee for now with Jeff Baker on the DL and Todd Helton banged up, but he should be in the majors for years to come. Ian’s apparently playing third, with Atkins at first for now. In light of that, I’m not sure why the Rockies didn’t call up Joe Koshansky. The team’s in a similar situation with Koshansky as they were with Ryan Shealy last season, except that Todd Helton is just a little closer to being in the twilight of his career. In retrospect, we probably made the right move with Shealy, who didn’t hit for the Royals and got sent back to AAA. But can we be sure that Koshansky’s not the real deal? Now’s as good a time as ever to find out.