Boneheaded Plays Nobody Noticed

Play 4, June 8,2003 Kansas City at Colorado

This time the bonehead was actually the home plate umpire, Kerwin Danley. In the eighth inning, with Chris Stynes on second base, Jose Hernandez struck out as usual, but this time the catcher missed the ball and it rolled away, possible allowing Hernandez to make it to first safely. However, the umpire, apparently thought there was a runner on first base and called Jose out before he ever had a chance to run. According to the radio announcers, he realized he made a mistake, but didn't know what to do about, so he decided to forget it. What a bonehead. Luckily, it didn't cost them the game, but it probably did cost them a run, because the next batter, Charles Johnson, doubled.

Play 3, May 10, 2003 Colorado at Florida Marlins

In the first inning of Saturday's game, the umpire twice warned Rockies' pitcher Jason Jennings to quit wasting time, in accordance with the league's continuing policy to speed up games by eliminating unnecessary delays. For some reason, this bothered Rockies' current manager Clint Hurdle, who proceeded to go ballistic, screaming at the home plate ump and gesturing wildly. He was so demonstrative that the umpire ejected him from the game.

Angering this umpire, and showing him up in front of the fans could come back to haunt Hurdle and the Rockies. First, it will cause animosity between all umpires and the Rockies, particularly since Hurdle was not at all apologetic. Second, Hurdle will probably be suspended and fined. Third, this umpire may personally cost the Rockies a number of games over his career if it becomes a vendetta. Such occurrences are not uncommon, as in the case of umpire "Country" Joe West who was somehow angered by the Philadelphia Phillies and subsequently cost them a number of games with debatable calls against them.

Play 2, May 4, 2003 Colorado at Chicago Cubs

Every Little Leaguer is taught to "tag up" and wait for the ball to be caught, then go to the next base if you think you can beat the throw (or if the base coach signals for you to go). It is generally pounded into the head of all baseball players that they should never assume that the ball will not be caught if it is hit high in the air, because even the safest looking fly ball - the ones that look like they are hit into a gap between fielders, or over the fence - can end up in someone's glove due to wind conditions, great plays, miracles, etc. And when the runner assumes that the ball will not be caught and is proven wrong by actual events, he ends up being doubled off while desperately trying to run back to his original base. It is a frustrating and humiliating experience that usually only happens to a ballplayer once.

Apparently, it never happened to Preston Wilson before Sunday in Chicago, because he was on second base when Larry Walker lofted a high fly to left in Wrigley Field, and Preston took off for home like he had inside information that Moises Alou would not catch it. Well, Alou DID catch it, and Wilson was doubled off, and instead of one out and a running on third, the Rockies had two outs and nobody on. They ended up losing in the 10th inning. If Mr. Wilson had done what was fundamentally correct, he would have gone back to the base and advanced to third after Alou caught the ball. If he thought Alou couldn't catch the ball, he could have run halfway to third and waited - that way he could probably score if Alou missed, yet still get back to second if the ball was caught. Instead, he ran almost from the crack of the bat, had rounded third and was heading home when he realized Alou caught the ball, and was easily thrown out.

It may not have been Preston's fault at all, if he was doing what the third base coach, Sandy Alomar was telling him. In which case, he should go and kick Mr. Alomar and tell him he's the bonehead.

Play 1, April 30, 2003 Cincinnati at Colorado

The scene: Top of the first inning, two out, Cincinnati ahead 1-0. Austin Kearns, a 22-year old second year player, has just doubled and is leading off from second base when the batter, Aaron Boone, smashes a ground ball just inside the third base line that has left field corner written all over it. The Rockies third baseman, Greg Norton makes a desperation dive and miraculously snags the bullet before it can streak by. However, Kearns thinks the ball went past the Rockies' infielder and continues to run full speed toward the base. Norton, unbelievably, jumps to his feet and bounces the ball toward Todd Helton, way too late to even have a chance at getting Boone. Norton never seemed to notice that all he had to do was tag Kearns who was running right at him, to end the inning. Hopefully he knew immediately how stupid it was to make the throw, which was never going to get the runner, but could have gotten past Helton to score the run. As it turned out, the next batter grounded out to second, so no harm was done.

The two TV announcers never got it at all, remarking that Norton made a great play on the ball, but just couldn't get it to first on time. Even as the replays showed Kearns running right behind Norton as he wound up and shuffled toward first for the throw, the announcers never said a word. The announcers are boneheads.

Rockies Open 2003 Season With New Lineup, Hope

Houston, Texas. April 1, 2003. Today, here in sunny Houston, the Colorado Rockies will open their 11th Major League season with high hopes for their first legitimate venture into postseason play, culminating in a World Series victory. Well, if they believe that, they can't be faulted for their enthusiasm, even if it is April first. Rockies management, along with the Denver press, have been huffing and puffing for months about the potency of this new line-up, going so far as to say that seven hitters in the order have a chance to hit 20 homeruns or more this year! That would really be a return to the old Blake Street Bomber era and hopefully to their winning ways.
We all know Todd Helton and Larry Walker can crush the baseball with the best of them, so what follows is a look at the new guys in the lineup and what can be expected of them:
Ronnie Belliard, 28 years old on April 7th, will be the new leadoff hitter and second baseman, at least for a while. This will be Ronnie's 5th full major league season, after spending four with the Milwaukee Brewers. Belliard is a compact 5'8" tall and weighs in at about 200 pounds, has good speed and is slightly better than average at fielding his position. Juan Pierre will certainly be missed here, as Belliard averages 40 stolen bases fewer and has hit about 40 points lower than Pierre did as a Rockie.

Jay Payton will bat second, beginning his second year with the Rockies after coming over from the Mets last July. He has been a center fielder most of the 4 full years he has played in the bigs, so he will have to make some adjustments. He has some power, hitting 16 or more homeruns twice, and looks like a .300 hitter who makes pretty good contact. In short, an excellent 2-spot kind of guy. Small at 5'10", 187, with fair speed and a good defensive outfielder.

Helton will hit 3rd, with Walker following and unless the bottom of the lineup proves to be much more dangerous than their reputations, Todd and Larry won't be seeing many pitches to hit this year. The Rockies are probably making a mistake by not splitting them up in the order.

Preston Wilson will be batting 5th and playing center field. Preston came over from the Marlins, where he had been the regular center fielder for the last 4 years, averaging 25 homers and 20 stolen bases per season. He doesn't hit for average, and strikes out often, averaging .262 and 166 for his career. If the Rockies are to succeed, he needs to improve drastically in these two categories.

Jose Hernandez will start the season at shortstop and bat 6th, being given the opportunity due to the injury to last year's starter, Juan Uribe. Hernandez, 34 was an all star with Milwaukee last year, which isn't saying much, and has had a not-so-stellar career to-date with the Brewers, Cubs, Indians, and Rangers. He has some power, but has been striking out at the highest rate in baseball the last two years. His career average of .255 isn't going to thrill anyone, either. He is a competent fielder, averaging 18.5 errors the last two years.

Chris Stynes, 30, is projected as the 7th batter in the Rockies' new lineup, and comes by way of Kansas City, Cincinnati, Boston, and the Chicago Cubs after 7 years in the Big Leagues. He has never been a regular over a whole season before, with 123 games and 380 at bats his career highs so far. The most homeruns he has hit in a season is 12, but he does have a healthy .286 career average and a reputation as a contact hitter. He hasn't exactly torn up the base paths either, with 15 total steals in the last 4 years. At third base, he's no Vinnie Castilla, or even Jeff Cirillo, for that matter.

Hitting 8th will be Charles Johnson, once one of the best catchers in the game, winning 4 Gold Gloves in a row in 1995-1998. Lately, though, the 32 year-old's skills are in question, with his speed, hitting, throwing, fielding, and game calling all coming under fire the last two years. Hopefully, the magic Coors field atmosphere will rejuvenate Johnson's career, because it sure needs it. He once had good power, hitting 31 dingers in 2000, but he only hit 6 last year in 83 games.

So, if these guys all have career years, which, after all, is possible at Coors Field, the Rockies may have a better-than-average year. But if they don't look out for another precipitous decline in attendance and a last place finish, because these guys are no Blake Street Bombers, and the you pitching staff is not going to be able to carry the load alone.

There is definitely hope, just not much.

Invisible Rockies

April 23, 2003. The good news is that the radio coverage of the Rockies has improved drastically since Wayne Hagen took his self-promoting white noise with him to Saint Louis to annoy Cardinal Fans. The new guy, Jack Corrigan, talks about baseball during the game - imagine that! And he does his homework, coming up with an  assortment of interesting items that he clearly has gotten through diligent journalistic practices. Hopefully, he will keep this behavior going, instead of following Hagen's approach of using the broadcast as forum for his many friends and causes, which made for an extremely frustrating experience for people who wanted to find out what was going on with the game and the team. Jeff Kingery has been a good play-by-play guy since the beginning, if a bit dry.

Television, on the other hand is another story. Drew Goodman might be OK if he was paired up with someone with a personality, but instead he has George Frazier, an ex-player who should be an ex-broadcaster. We have waxed poetic in the past about the sophomoric yet incredibly boring and teeth-grittingly irritating antics of Frazier and his unwitting and witless accomplice, so there is no reason to belabor the point again except to welcome them inexplicably back for another year of offense.

 The bright spot in the TV coverage is how little there is of it. We try to watch, listen to, or record every game, but this year, there aren't any! This week's games with Philadelphia, for example, are not on TV at all! In the past, nearly every single game was televised on a mainstream local station. Now, even when they are being televised, they are broadcast on UHF channel 20 which most people don't get because they threw away that goofy bow tie antenna, and is not carried by some cable and satellite systems. The TV band radio which we used in the past to monitor the broadcasts doesn't pick it up either.

So, fewer people are attending the games, and fewer games are being televised to smaller audiences. This is not a recipe for success. Add to that the fact that you can no longer get the radio broadcasts free on the internet, and the Rockies are being heard and seen by fewer fans and potential fans every game. How does "Portland Rockies" sound?