Monday, October 15, 2007

Rockholm Syndrome
I'll admit it: I'm rooting for the Rockies now. And I've even been watching the NLCS, earlier comparisons to televised Boggle notwithstanding.

This doesn't really make sense on my part. First of all, they did beat the Phillies and there's some atavistic craving for sweet, sweet vengeance; if the Indians knock off Boston and win the AL pennant, I'm sure I'll be pulling for the Tribe in the World Series, because I generally root for them. (And, damn, Cleveland needs a little joy. That town is like Philadelphia, only without the history or cuisine, and with maybe a third of the culture.)

Second, the Rockies are God Squadders, starting with their top management, and there's nothing I deplore more in sports, other than maybe Terrell Owens, than the sanctimonious assertion that God Almighty has taken a rooting interest. GM Dan O'Dowd, who brought in Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle--failures on the field and, at least in Neagle's case, conspicuous sinners off it--might be doing nothing more than kissing up to his boss, a Tom DeLay/George W. Bush-type reformed party animal who's now evidently into judging others. Or he might be sincere. Either way, it's grating. (Considering that Colorado is also home to some of the most obnoxious would-be theocrats in the country, it's doubly annoying that they're presumably weighing down the Rockie bandwagon these days.)

To be fair, I haven't heard any Rockies players rubbing this in anyone's face during the last few weeks--and with wins in 20 of their last 21 games, standing a victory away from the World Series after coming within one strike of not even making the playoffs, it's sort of understandable to entertain the notion that God might be on your side.

All that aside, though, what this team has accomplished is staggering. Winning 20 of 21 games against any schedule is impressive enough; the Rockies, though, have notched the last 19 of those victories against teams with winning records. In no more than one or two of those games (I'd need to go back and figure out exactly when the Dodgers were eliminated--they might have been done before the end of their final series against Colorado) were they playing against teams out of the race: the last seven were either play-in or playoff games, of course. And most of them have been close: the streak-starting 13-0 win over Florida wasn't, and two of the Rockies' seven wins against LA were by five runs or more; they beat Arizona 11-1 on Sept. 29, and I guess you could argue that the 10-5 win over the Phillies in Game Two of the NLDS wasn't close (though Manny Corpas earned a save, so the tying run was on deck late). Otherwise, they've all been relatively tight games.

Like the Phillies, the Rockies won in the regular season mostly on the strength of an overpowering offense. In the playoffs, though, they've done it with arms. Other than the five runs the Phils scored in Game Two, Colorado hasn't allowed more than two runs in any of their six playoff wins. The Rockies bullpen has allowed two runs in 23 innings; that's almost unimaginable.

When the Phillies lost, I was a little embarrassed that they got swept, particularly that they dropped the first two games at home. Now I'm almost feeling good about their role--and the fact that they battled in all three games--in what could prove to be the greatest run in baseball history.

(Archival note: if Arizona wins 10-0 tonight, I reserve the right to delete this post.)

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