Opening Day at Last: Rockies Win 8-0!

April 2, 2001. Mike Hampton, with a little help from the Walkers, Todd and Larry, totally subdued the fat bats of the slugging Cardinals of the River City, last year's Central Division Champions. Mr. Hampton had the Redbird sluggers, from the legendary "Big Mac" on down waving their hickory sticks at thin mountain air. The Walkers, though unrelated, knocked twin drives over the right-center field fence. Larry Walker also contributed from the field by catching a high fly off the bat of "Big Mac" and winging it on the fly to Rockie's steadfast catcher Brent Mayne in time to tag out the surprised Cardinal base runner at the plate. It was to be the visitor's only scoring threat. What a way to begin the season! The largest crowd in club history had the times of their lives. Great glee was had by all in taunting the Cardinals starting pitcher, one Darryl Kile, who had spent two very unsuccessful seasons as a pitcher for the Rockies. The fans seemed to be aware that Mr. Kile was paid a great deal of money, yet didn't seem to care that he pitched poorly and broke their hearts. So, chants of "Darryl, Darryl" mocked his failures thought the game until he was unceremoniously removed early, losing 5 runs to none. On the other hand, the crowd cheered lustily for their new hurler, Mr. Hampton, according him at least 3 standing ovations. Every Rockies fan went home happy, let us hope this is the start of a trend that will continue for a long while.

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Baseball Sticks It To Web Users

March28, 2001. It's a bad day for Internet Users who are also baseball fans. First, remember all of those great web sites put up by Major League Teams? Like the Cubs with their real-time cameras all over the field, and the unique features on other sites. Well, they are all gone. In the first of many displays of amazing greed, Major League Baseball, with the unanimous consent of the team owners, has taken over the design and operation of all web sites, replacing the unique and beautiful sites built by the individual teams with the same site for every team, with very little to offer fans. Here is their response to me when I emailed them those observations: "We're still in the process of rolling features out, and many of the original features should return. For specific features, please write the individual teams at their feedback addresses to let them know what you're looking for. Thanks for the input." Translation: "We don't care, bug off". (Note: it is very nearly impossible to find any feedback addresses for the individual teams.)

No more free broadcasts!

But, wait! Today things got even worse! Today Baseball announced that they are selling the EXCLUSIVE right to broadcast baseball on the Internet to Real Networks, who will begin charging for the service! I'm sure no one will  pay for the broadcasts, and visitors to the sites will drop off drastically, eventually forcing them to change their "minds". But in the meantime, we will all be deprived of listening to games and getting any unique information. Baseball and the fans will both suffer. It is a sad day indeed.

Save Baseball!

Email Major League Baseball at feedback@mlb.com and tell them what you think of their web sites and their new radio policy. Then email Real Networks at public_relations@real.com and tell them how you feel about paying $4.95 a month (for the Gold Pass) or $9.95 for the season to listen to baseball. Be sure to visit your favorite team's site and express your feelings to them by clicking in the feedback area and sending them a message.

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No Matter Where You Go, Rockies Have the Worst Announcers

June 2, 2001. I suppose it's our fault - listening to the game on the radio while your at the ballpark can make you want to start screaming in the general direction of the Press Box, if, in fact those guys are really there. The radio announcers are constantly doing this stream-of-consciousness thing where they just say whatever comes into their heads without any regard to what's happening on the field. Here are some examples from today's game:

 

The actual situation: Jeff Cirillo is at second and Todd Walker is at first base. New guy Jacob Cruz takes a mighty swing and dribbles the ball about 5 feet in front of home plate. The Giant's catcher, Bobby Estalella, pounces on the ball and throws to third in time to force out Cirillo, in the opinion of the third base umpire, Doug Eddings. Cirillo saw it differently, however, and was gesturing toward the umpire as he lay on the ground after sliding into the bag. The gesture was very clear to us, sitting in our perch in the second deck in right field - the third baseman, Russ Davis was bobbling the ball and Cirillo thought he should be called safe. Jeff recognized that Eddings couldn't have seen Davis juggling the ball because it occurred in front of the Giant while the umpire was behind him. So, as he scrambled to his feet, he clearly indicated that the third base umpire, Eddings should ask the first base umpire, Eric Cooper for help, since he would have had a better view of the play. Apparently Eddings refused, because Cirillo raised both of his arms and threw them toward the ground in frustration. Then he gestured toward the Rockies bench and stood on the bag for a while before finally trotting toward the Rockies dugout. Then, home plate umpire Cooper, suddenly ran toward the Rockies' dugout and gestured emphatically that someone had been thrown out of the game. Then, Rockies' batting coach Clint Hurdle ran out into the field and started yelling at Cooper, presumably because he had seen the play and was angry because Cooper refused to take any action. Buddy Bell, the Rockies' manager joined in the argument for a while, then the banished Hurdle went to the clubhouse and Bell sat down.

 

Quite a lot of action, wouldn't you say? Well here's how the radio announcers, Jeff Kingery and Wayne Hegan saw(?) it:

Wayne: "I wonder what Hurdle was saying to the umpire?"

Jeff: "I don't know. He couldn't have been arguing about the play at third, because it looked like the ball was there in time."

Wayne: "Yeah, and Cirillo didn't argue the call."

What were these guys doing while all of the above was happening? Must have taken a break, or had a blackout or something.

 

Later, Jeff Kingery was talking about Adam Eaton, a pitcher for the San Diego Padres, who injured himself with a pocket knife while trying to open one of those stubborn DVD packages. Trouble is, Kingery said it took 6 stitches to close the wound, while ESPN, The Denver Post, and Adam Eaton himself said it took only 2 stitches. So from now on, just discount everything these guys say by 67%.

 

Hegan showed how aware he was of what was going on later in the game when he said "Are we rolling?" to no one in particular.

 

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The Gold Glove Should Have Gone to the Official Scorer.

June 2, 2001. (Neifi Perez, the Rockies' Shortstop, was awarded the coveted Gold Glove as the best fielder at his position in the National League for the 2000 season. The trophy is awarded based on voting by the managers and coaches of other teams, most of whom are obviously not aware of the antics of Denver's "homer" official scorer. Many obviously vote for the fielder with the best fielding percentage or least errors. ed.) It happened again today, just as it has at least 5 times this season and over a dozen times last year - the Denver Official Scorer robbed Neifi of an error that he so richly deserved. In this case, you could call it a present for Neifi's 26th Birthday . The play in question involved a short pop-up hit toward the Rockies' left fielder, Jacob Cruz. Perez decided to try to make the catch himself, but the ball went further than he had anticipated, and instead of backing off and leaving the ball to the left fielder, Perez continued to chase it with his back to home plate. He reached the ball and was about to make the catch when he suddenly pulled his glove back, possibly anticipating a collision with Cruz, and the ball hit the glove and bounced to the turf.

 

It has always been understood in baseball that if a fielder touches the ball with his glove, he should catch it; otherwise, it is an error. Neifi touched the ball with his glove, and obviously should have caught it, but the official scorer ruled it a double. Incidentally, the "hit" was Shawon Dunston's 1,500th career hit, and scored a run for the Giants.

 

In an admittedly half-hearted defense of the Scorer, we would have to say that perhaps he didn't see the ball hit Neifi's glove because his vision was obscured by Perez' body. If that is the case, however, he can change his ruling once he looks at the replays. We bet he won't, though.

 

In any, case, we have seen similar bad calls on Perez errors 5 other times in home games this season, and we haven't even been to half of them. How many more errors should Neifi have, this year and last? At least twice as many as the official number, in our estimation. And that doesn't include the boneheaded plays he makes like the one in LA last week by not covering the base on a sure double play.

 

Anyway, Happy 26th Birthday, Neifi, and many happy returns (hopefully with another baseball team).

 

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Neifi the Whiner

We first heard about "The Squirrel" when he was a raw shortstop at Colorado Springs, bawling to Don Baylor that if he didn't bring him up to the Big Club, he (Neifi) was going to go back home to the Dominican Republic and retire from baseball. There was probably only one man on the face of the earth that believed that idle threat, and that man was... You guessed it, Don Baylor. So, Don promoted Neifi (pronounced Nay-fee, in case you were wondering) to the Rockies, and the fans, not to mention the team and particularly the pitchers have suffered ever since.

 

That was 1997, since then Neifi has shown occasional periods of steady play, but mostly he is inconsistent at bat and in the field. As a fielder, he makes a lot of spectacular-looking routine plays because he is usually out of position or not paying attention. The generous official scorer in Denver almost never gives Perez an error, saving him at least a dozen every year, and helping him win the Gold Glove last year. But the most costly errors Neifi makes are the mental ones; last week, for example, in one game at Arizona he muffed a ground ball because he wasn't paying attention, then later he underhanded the ball slowly to second, botching a sure double play. Later in that same game, he failed to cover second and was in the wrong position to cut off a throw from the outfield. All of those plays allowed runs to score, and the Rockies lost. Strangely enough, the stupid announcers noted all of these lapses, then raved about what a great player he is!

 

Neifi, a lifetime .283 hitter, has problems at bat as well. He seems to have two obsessions: bunting and hitting triples. Last week he was a bat with no outs and the bases loaded in a game that the Rockies trailed. What did he do? Bunted, of course, and the runner was forced out at home. What would have caused him to do that? He couldn't have thought that it would have caught the other team by surprise, they were playing in already! Did the manager tell him to - no one could believe that Buddy Bell is that stupid. I guess he just didn't want to hit into a double play. Great strategy. Just another Neifi rally killer, just another Rockies loss.

 

One thing Neifi does have - an enormous ego. Every year he refuses to sign a multi-year contract, holding out for the biggest one year deal he can get. Every chance he gets, he tells everyone who will listen about what a great player he is; how he plays hurt, and how unappreciated he is. Too bad he is not as dedicated to proving it on the field.

 

Now Neifi is steamed because he didn't make the All Star team. He thinks the last place Rockies should send 4 players while the first place Phillies should send none. He is threatening Baseball and the Commissioner by saying he won't go if someone else can't make it.

 

Once again, the Denver Baseball Observer would like to reiterate our official position:

 

"It's a great act, Neifi, but we have seen enough of it here. If you don't mind, take it somewhere else."

 

We can't wait to hear what he says 15 years or so from now when he is not elected to the Hall of Fame. Maybe then he'll make good on his threat to go back to the Caribbean.

 

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Mark Kiszla Writes "Don't put the blame on Bell"

July 10, 2001. We were going to start this critique with something clever like "Apparently the Post has no rules about drinking and writing". But after re-reading Mr. Kiszla's latest article, we're afraid that it's much more serious than that.

 

Normally, you would expect us to say that poor Mark has suffered some debilitating brain injury rendering him incapable of coherent writing. But it is something far worse than that - something we had never foreseen, even in our wildest dreams. The fact, is Kiszla has IMPROVED! He has now elevated his boring, pointless, meaningless writing to the point of being truly putrid! Instead of falling asleep while trying to slog through his usual pap, we shot up to the edge of our seats and exclaimed "what on earth is this idiot trying to say?"

 

We're quite certain that Mark thinks he has written an article that is a true gem of erudition; insightful, hard-hitting, and persuasive. The truth, however, is that he has written a horrible mess of convoluted, unsupported, emotional, illogical, ungrammatical meaningless murky muck. But enough praise, let's get right down to what he says:

"For all of baseball's losers, it's getting late. Do you know where your Colorado Rockies are?" (Yawn) Well he's off to a good start with the usual lame attempt at cleverness.

"In assigning the blame for a season born with such fresh promise in April, only to go up in flames by the heat of July's dog days, whom do the Rockies blame? The 25 losers on the team? Or their exasperated manager? Ok, besides the anguish of a man struggling to do a job for which he has no ability, what do we see in these sentences? Very little, actually, except that he is calling the players "losers" and displaying some insight into the psyche of Buddy Bell in order to know what he is feeling. Don't worry, good (bad?) part is coming.

"The easiest dog to kick would be Buddy Bell -- even if it's wrong."

"Any time a baseball team is routinely described as underachieving, the manager can't avoid abuse. And there's no denying Bell has a role turning a club with three All Star Game representatives into the major league's biggest disappointment of 2001." What is he trying to say here? It kind of sounds like he is saying that the Rockie's poor performance is Bell's fault. But then...

"But listen to the grumbling by the baseball dilettantes at Coors Field, where attention spans are in even shorter supply than solid knowledge of the game, and you'll hear a growing number of angry fans who can't wait to fire Bell after only 1 years on the job." OK, this is where the going gets difficult. What on earth is he talking about? Websters defines "dilettante" as "a person having a superficial interest in an art or a branch of knowledge: Dabbler". So, Kiszla is apparently saying that a) Colorado fans are not serious or committed to baseball, b) they are stupid, and c) they are all sitting in the stands, talking about how angry they are and that they want Bell fired. We would like to respond that a) most Colorado fans know baseball and are not "dilettantes", but loyally attend game after game, b) the stupid ones are a vast minority, unlike the percentage in the sportswriter community, and c) we are down in the stands game after game, and we haven't seen or heard any angry fans talking about getting rid of Bell. Besides, how would he know? During the 3 or 4 games he attends every season (if there is no Broncos, or Rockies, or Nuggets, or Rapids, or high school event going) he is safely ensconced in the Press Box, far above the low-life baseball fans that pay his salary and foot the Rockie's bills. Who is the real dilettante?

"Anybody who thinks Bell is the primary problem with this dog-butt Colorado team, however, is barking up the wrong tree. Sure , the Rockies have a payroll of $65 million and a record of 39-48. By any accounting method, that's shameful." There he goes again. It sounds kind of like he is saying Buddy is responsible again. "Dog-Butt"? Now that's writing!

"None of us, from general manager Dan O'Dowd to a booing bleacher bum in the Rockpile, knows exactly how to fix everything that's gone so unexpectedly wrong. Of course, why look for solutions, when it's so much easier to assign blame?" That's funny, for someone who includes himself among the ignorant, you seem over-willing to tell us what the answers are. By the way, Mark, who made you so angry and defensive? You are obviously losing your temper here. He is wrong, anyway, because the Denver Baseball Observer knows exactly how to fix everything.

"Bell has become the most convenient target of our ire. It doesn't take a genius to figure out why. The Colorado manager is as faithful and friendly as a Labrador. Back to the dogs again! Colorado has a dog-butt team lead by a faithful, friendly Labrador. Brilliant.

Bell doesn't growl at his un-reliable players, who are the masters of his fate. He refuses to chew on the clubhouse furniture after a Colorado loss, even when the team drops 16 of 19 games. And he almost never bites back at his critics. 

Apparently what he is trying to say is that Bell just quietly accepts the losing and the lack of effort by the players. These are strong points?

"I believe in these players," Bell said during the most recent lost weekend, in his same monotone voice of equanimity that sometimes drives many of us, myself included, nuts. Just once, why doesn't Bell share our frustration by storming into the clubhouse and turning over the post game buffet? Instead, he is more apt to softly say, "All of us have to take the blame."

Once upon a time in America, way back in the days when Bell was an all-star third baseman, patience was a virtue and real leaders didn't back-stab their underlings. But in this the era of 57 cable channels, instant gratification, wild-card playoff berths and plausible deniability, only a fool stands up and quietly takes responsibility.

Let's summarize: according to Mark Kiszla, Buddy Bell is a fool who is driving him (Kiszla) nuts. But he doesn't want him fired.

So maybe having good character is Bell's fatal flaw. Being a throwback could get him thrown out of his job.

Read that last sentence again. This is what passes for clever phrasing in Mr. Kiszla's mind.

Before you join the growing herd of baseball ignoramuses bleating for Bell's ouster, however, please take note of things the Colorado manager probably has seen, but is far too classy to mention.

Bear in mind that these are things that Mark IMAGINES Bell to have seen, heavily slanted by his own twisted reasoning as one of Denver's ranking baseball ignoramuses, though his colleagues Mike Klis and Jim Armstrong give him quite a run for his money.

The toughest defensive duty at Coors Field is covering the great prairie known as center field. Juan Pierre can't do it. He doesn't have the instincts to steal hits in the gap. He lacks the arm strength to earn the respect of base runners. Until O'Dowd unloads Pierre's proven major-league bat and obtains a legitimate center fielder - Shannon Stewart of Toronto, for example - the Rockies never will be a serious World Series contender.

We would like to say that this is just so much ignorant dog excrement. If Mark had attended any games, he would have seen that Pierre does cut off hits in the gaps and has thrown extremely well. In fact he is probably playing the best center field we have ever seen in Colorado. Also, Shannon Stewart is a LEFT FIELDER, who is known for his weak throwing arm, has little power (6 HR this year), strikes out too much, and is injury-prone. Good research, Mark. You've got it wrong, Kiszla, if the Rockies listen to YOU, they will never be a serious World Series contender.

Anybody notice all-star pitcher Mike Hampton hasn't won a start since the Rockies dumped veteran Brent Mayne for catcher-in-training Ben Petrick? To call the delicate signals and mend the egos of hurlers at the LoDo launching pad, there needs to be a thinking man behind that chest protector.

While we agree that they should have kept Mayne, I don't think you'll find anyone who would agree with this ridiculous proposition, least of all Mike Hampton.

Everybody understands the bullpen is critical to all those high-scoring games Colorado must endure, yet management never has bothered to spend real money on a nasty closer, much less an army of relievers. It's also now evident that while there wasn't anything wrong with dismantling the Blake Street Bombers, O'Dowd went too far by leaving a hole in the middle of the batting order, where the Rockies desperately miss a right-handed basher who can belt homers from the clean-up spot. If it means trading shortstop Neifi Perez and pitcher Pedro Astacio to begin addressing these glaring franchise needs for a sturdier bullpen and a big bopper, then O'Dowd should do it in a heartbeat.

The theory was, if you invest in great starting pitchers, the bullpen is not as critical. And wrong again, newspaper boy: it was very wrong to break up the Blake Street Bombers - the team isn't much better and it has a lot less fan appeal. Have you checked the home record and attendance lately, dog breath? Why trade Astacio? Is there any chance that they can get another pitcher of his caliber to replace him? Don't be crazy. As for Neifi, he's a lousy shortstop who wants $5 million a year. Do you think there are any teams out there dumb enough to take him? Think again. They actually enhanced the bullpen that was so great last year, which should have been enough, given the upgrade in starting pitching. If Gant, Little, and Hollandsworth had not gotten injured, nobody would be screaming for a "big bopper".

Get the message? This disaster of a Colorado season is not all Bell's fault. Far from it. O'Dowd insists Bell is "part of the solution. He's not part of the problem."

Duh. Has it ever been all the fault of ANY manager? Everybody loves Buddy Bell, and he's obviously a drastic improvement over Baylor. But his record as a mediocre manager that has never won anything is piling up behind him.

Nevertheless, if O'Dowd can't close trade-deadline deals that produce a Colorado team capable of keeping Rockies fans from becoming disgruntled empty seats during September, then the public's demand for a scapegoat might give him little choice but to fire Bell in the end.

Which would be a doggone shame.

Where does he get this stuff? What makes Kiszla or the Rockies think that trading for another bunch of over-paid stiffs is the magic trick that will turn the team around and make the fans happy? Nobody is screaming for a scapegoat except those mutts at the papers like Kiszla and Armstrong. But they are doing it in a backhanded way, like this article, insidiously planting the seed in the readers head, while simultaneously discrediting themselves to such an extent that the readers want to do the opposite of what they say. They are practicing a demented form of reverse psychology.

Kiszla wrote this article on the 10th, and Jim Armstrong parroted him on the 11th, even mentioning Shannon Stewart, too. Let's get this straight - Shannon Stewart is not the guy who will make the Rockies a winning team. He will probably never play in Colorado anyway - bringing him here would be a large mistake.

The main reason fans don't come to the ball games is the same reason large numbers of people do anything - because of the media. The newspapers, radio, and television in Denver continue to destroy the Rockies and baseball in this city and state. First, the Rockies have hired the worst announcers, making their radio and TV broadcasts an ordeal rather than a joy. Secondly, the news media as a whole are completely negative in their coverage, but worst of all, they don't do anything to make people come out and watch games. If you read the media in established baseball towns like Philadelphia, Boston, New York, Chicago and San Francisco, you will find they are creating heroes and giving fans compelling reasons to go out to the ball park and cheer for their teams.

It doesn't help that the city of Denver has made going to a baseball game a miserable, expensive, and terrifying experience.

What we need here is a baseball tradition. That won't come overnight. A flurry of trades before the deadline is not going to bring us a winning tradition. We as fans like most of the players that are here now.  O'Dowd's trigger-happy trading frenzies are not improving the team. Guess what, most managers know that playing together for a long period of time can build up synergy and a winning tradition. Everyone knows that you don't fire half the staff every a team has a losing streak. And yet that's what O'Dowd did last year to no avail, and Kiszla thinks he should do it again. Do you think fans want to go to games where they really can't recognize the players without a scorecard?

The Rockies have the best right fielder (Larry Walker) and first baseman (Todd Helton) in the game. Todd Walker and Jeff Cirillo are talented professionals who excite the crowd by playing the game the way it should be played - flat out. Ben Petrick,  Juan Pierre, Todd Hollandsworth, and probably Butler and Uribe are exciting young players and crowd pleasers. Brumbaugh, Shumpert, Kieschnick, and Melhuse are the kind of interesting role players that excite fans. Astacio, Bohannon, Chacon, Neagle, and Hampton are better starters than most teams have. Most of the guys in the bullpen are new, but they look like they will be OK if given time, though we have our doubts about Suzuki.

The Rockies have excellent coaches in Lachemann, who may be the best pitching coach in the game, and Clint Hurdle, one of the best hitting teachers. We didn't want the Rockies to hire Bell because they needed to get someone in here who knows how to win and has a history of doing it. Bell doesn't. But, we have been impressed with his baseball knowledge and his quiet professionalism. So, while we don't think he will ever be a Hall of Fame manager, we are in no hurry to see him go, especially in light of the Rockies' history of making bad personnel choices.

So here it is - the solution to all of the Rockies problems and a blueprint for a championship dynasty: LEAVE IT ALONE. It takes a while for teams to jell, and it especially takes a while for hitters and pitchers to learn how to play for the Rockies, switching from altitude-ball to regular baseball all the time. The only way to build a winner is to keep a core together and let them become a team. This constant overhaul is tearing up the team and the fans. Put a lid on it. You will find that the fans in Colorado are enthusiastic and patient - look how long they waited for the Broncos to become decent. Bring some stability and tradition to Colorado (except for Neifi, of course).

And ignore those ignorant dilettantes in the media (this means you, Kiszla). Oh, yeah, it wouldn't hurt to get some decent radio and TV announcers, too.

For a saner, more reasoned view of the season so far than you will get from those football writers in the Denver papers, check out Bill Konigsberg at ESPN. You will note that he agrees with us on Pierre, Astacio, and keeping the team together. He also doesn't mention Shannon Stewart.

See the full Kiszla column

How to Build A Championship Team -or-

What the Rockies' Owners Won't Do

 

Rule One - Recruit Winners and Let Them Win

August 8, 2001. The Rockies have had three Managers and two General Managers. Only one of them was a winner before coming to the Rockies - Jim Leyland. The others had no experience or had only guided bad teams to losing records and continued to do the same with the Rockies. Leyland took Pittsburgh and Florida teams to the playoffs and World Series, and probably would have done so with the Rockies if the owners had let him win. Speaking of the owners, they have a history of losing as well, with McMorris driving his Nations Way trucking company into bankruptcy and liquidation, while the Monfort Brothers wrecked the family meat business in Greeley. Together, they made sure that even Leyland couldn't win here by stocking the team with poor players and managers, ignoring his advice and refusing to give him the control he needed to win.

 

Management is obviously the biggest problem with the Rockies, and they probably are not going to get rid of themselves. Especially since their bungling management has probably reduced the value of the franchise to a level where they figure the profit wouldn't be obscene enough. So, the only alternative, if they want to win, is to find a winner to be in charge and stay out of the day-to-day decision making. In the past, they haven't been able to do that, and given the Monfort Brothers relative youth - in their early forties - it is unlikely that they can keep their hands off the reins. It is likely, however, that they will ditch Jerry McMorris in the near future because he would make a good scapegoat for two reasons: a) he has been the man in charge since the beginning, and b) his financial troubles forced him to sell his ownership stake in the team to the Monforts.

 

So, if they really want a championship team in Denver, the current management must find a winner to take over the operation of the team - somebody from the Yankees or the Braves would be good. Then they have to make themselves scarce and let the proven professionals run the team. Let them make all the baseball decisions. The current management should concentrate on making the Denver Baseball Experience a more enjoyable one for the fans. Bring in some new traditions, for heaven's sake! Instead of showing those stupid advertising gimmicks between innings, do something to stir up the fans! Every other team has some unique activity at the ballpark that makes it fun for the fans and gets them into the game. Other teams have lots of fun promotions. The Rockies take the fans for granted. Free parking would be nice, beanie babies once in a while, and why not ask the police to quit giving every fan a traffic ticket as a souvenir?

 

Bell Falling Apart

September 10, 2001. Up to yesterday, we were firmly in Buddy Bell's corner. While we don't think he is a great manager, we always thought he was competent and dedicated to building a winning team in Colorado. After yesterday's game against the San Francisco Giants and Barry Bonds, we are no longer sure. In fact, we think he should be fired, either right now, or at least after the season is over. Why?

Because in one game he erased everything we believed about him. Here it is in chronological order:

  1. He allowed his hitting coach, Clint Hurdle, to get thrown out of the game two days in a row for annoying the home plate umpire, once by yelling at him from the dugout, and once for confronting him after he had thrown out Larry Walker. Bell should be in control of his coaches. It's OK for a coach to become frustrated because a particular umpire is calling questionable strikes that make it difficult to execute his hitting strategy. It's probably even alright for him to blow off steam by cussing out the umpire and getting thrown out of the game - ONCE. When it happens twice, it is simply inexcusable. You don't argue balls and strikes, anyway - it's against the rules, it gets you tossed out of the game, and worse, it ticks off the ump, who then probably starts calling them with a heavy bias toward the opposing team. In fact, that's exactly what happened - when the umpire, Rob Drake, called Larry Walker out on an extremely questionable third strike, the Rockies were feeling the effects of their bad behavior. Instead of realizing that they had caused the situation, they made it worse.

  2. Oblivious to the fact that he was dealing with a pissed-off crew of umpires, Buddy apparently didn't warn his players to tread lightly when batting. So, when Walker threw his bat in dismay when the umpire called the third strike on a pitch way outside the strike zone, Drake immediately ejected him from the game. Then Buddy let Hurdle run out on the field to argue with the umpire. Worse yet, Bell ran out on the field and got himself tossed. If he hadn't let Hurdle go out screaming at Mr. Drake, Buddy may have been able to reason with the man and even possibly get him to let Walker stay in the game. After all, Walker hadn't really done enough to get kicked out, and cooler heads may have prevailed. It has happened before. Once Hurdle charged out, especially after he had been ejected the day before, it was over.

  3. Once Buddy was gone, apparently no one coached the team. Because, if there had been anyone in charge, there is no way Bonds would have hit 3 homeruns. We are giving Bell the benefit of the doubt here, because any other scenario is much worse. In any case, Bonds is a streak hitter - even newborns in diapers know if he hits a change-up 488 feet to center field in the first inning, you don't give him another chance to swing the bat if you want to win the game. So we have to assume that without Buddy and Clint, no one was there to tell them to be sure to walk Barry every time he came up. If they had, they would have won the game, without question.

  4. Buddy shot off his big mouth after they game saying: "I'm kind of rooting for him (referring to Bonds)," Bell said, "but I'm glad he won't do it here. What he did today was incredible. The first ball he hit was mammoth." This unfortunate pronouncement raises the appearance of impropriety. It's fine if he says that after the season, but saying it now means that there is a chance that Bell was not operating as the most competitive manager possible. Maybe he told his pitchers to pitch to Bonds because he wanted to see him get the record. This also hurts the Rockies chances for winning, and especially hurts other teams that might be edged out for the wild card or division championship because the Rockies lost one or two games to the Giants because Buddy wasn't doing his job because he was rooting for Bonds. Nobody should have to tell Buddy how wrong it is to say you are rooting for a player on the opposing team when they are playing your team. Another guy who should be angry if Bonds breaks the record is Mark McGuire, because these two "free" homeruns might do the trick.

These kind of actions by Buddy send a number of negative messages to the team and the fans. To the team, it shows that Buddy is not in control and they can make any kind of foolish mistake without fear of retribution. Walker should be fined for getting thrown out of the game, no matter how unfair the action was by the umpire, because Larry is a veteran, he knew the situation, and should have swallowed his anger for the good of the team. His presence may have been enough to win the game.

Mr. Bell may not appreciate the importance of these games. Even though the Rockies are going nowhere, the teams they are playing at the end of the season are all in the pennant race, with the exception of the Brewers. Blowing games to one of the contenders could ultimately decide who wins the division, the wild card, and ultimately the World Series. The altered finish could very will have a ripple effect that could hurt the Rockies. Worse, the enemies the Rockies will be making will certainly come back to haunt them.