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The 2007 Rockies: The Fatigue Effect
October 23, 2007
In the top of the ninth inning of Sunday's game seven of the American League Championship Series, I could not help but notice the atmosphere in the Red Sox dugout. This was mostly captured in the panoramic view of Boston Designated Hitter David Ortiz with his jersey off and goggles on, presumably to keep the champagne from burning his eyes. This sight was eerily familiar to a ghost of sports past. This ghost actually is embodied in the form of Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Vinny Testaverde. Testaverde, who filled in for the Carolina Panthers the past two weeks at the age of 43, led his Miami Hurricanes to the national championship game in 1986. The site was Tempe, Arizona for the Fiesta Bowl against the Penn State Nittany Lions. The brazen style of the 'canes was evident not only in the play of guys like Testaverde and Michael Irvin but also in their appearence. Television cameras stood dormant waiting for the University of Miami football team to emerge from their plane dawned in army fatigues. It was right then and there that the inevitability of a loss for "da U'", as Irvin calls the
Ironically for Boston fans, the first time I saw this phenomenon in my lifetime was during the 2002 Super Bowl. In that game, the Rams were heavily favorite to the Patriots, but I knew that the Patriots would not only beat the spread, they would prevail in the game as well. This sense was obtained from watching interviews on multiple media outlets, but none struck me more so than what I saw on Fox Sports' "Best Damn Sports Show Period." I can remember three Rams players whom I do not remember on Bourbon Street with beeds around their necks and not a sense of doubt in their voices. I imagine that attitude stemmed from ultra-arrogant head coach Mike Martz, a supposed offensive genius much like the Hurricanes' attitude started with arrogant head coach Jimmy Johnson. Who was going to stop the high powered machine that was the "greatest show on turf." It was this aura of invincibility that allowed the scrappy Patriots to be victorious. However, this time around for New England fans, it seems to me it is this exact aura which will bring down the Red Sox.
Now, with all subjectiveness put to the side, now I will try to objectively analyze the 2007 World Series. There seems to be a consensus that the Red Sox are the better team, and while this is very difficult to argue with. However, there seems to be a thought that it is by a large margin. Vegas puts the odds for the Red Sox to win the Fall Classic (which there is only one of, in case you did not know) at -200 compared to +170 for the Rockies. For those who do not understand sports bet nomenclature, for every $2.00 a bettor puts on Boston he will get paid back $1.00 and if the bet is on the Rockies the payoff will be $1.70 for every dollar wagered. In gambling terms, this is a projected romp. What Vegas and other prognosticators do not seem to grasp is that the Rockies are a good team, not just destiny's darlings.
Let's look at the numbers. Of these two teams which team had the better record the second half of the season? If you guessed Boston, you are wrong. The Sox put up a 43-32 record compared to a 45-29 mark for Colorado. It truly was a tale of two seasons for the Rockies who put up a .500 44-44 record prior to the all star break destined for the dust bin of the 2007 season. Since Star outfielder Matt Holliday impressed in San Francisco at the Home Run Derby, the Rockies could arguably be considered the best team in baseball. It has been this drastic change that has led to the 21 of 22 tear that the boys clad in purple and black have been on. The statistics are also consistent in making this argument. As for the second half, the Rockies pitching staff has outperformed the Red Sox hurlers posting a 3.86 ERA compared to a 3.98 ERA. While Colorado edged out Boston in pitching, hitting statistics give a slight edge for the Sox. The Sox posted .286/.366/.452 Avg/OBP/Slg compared to the Rox .282/.358/.454. This data would promote if not for Colorado supremacy at least an even money showdown.
The obvious argument against this logic is that Colorado plays in an inferior league. However there are holes in that thinking due to the wonder that is Interleague Play. The Rox and Sox played a three game series at Fenway in which the Rockies outscored Boston 20-5 while winning two of three. Tim Wakefield beat the Rockies in the first game of the series 2-1 in a pitchers duel with Aaron Cook. In the final two games the Rockies had to face the Red Sox top guns in Josh Beckett and Curt Schilling. In game two Schilling gave up six in five innings compared to two given up by Josh Fogg also in five. Colorado's Bullpen put up a stellar four innings in only allowing two baserunners for Boston. Similarly, the Rockies offense was just as impressive putting up twelve runs including a Brad Hawpe three run homer in the fifth against Schilling. Playoff stud Beckett did not fare much better than Schilling, giving up six runs as well to the Rockies with a lot of help from Garrett Atkins who added a Grand Slam to a 3 for 5 day. While that series may not hold the key for success in the post season which is a much different atmosphere it certainly should help the Rockies overcome the World Series jitters at Fenway.
Another knock wold be lack of post season experience which would seem to give the Red Sox an edge, but it has not affected them so far. They seem calm, cool, and collected going into this series compared to Boston's exuberance. While I could say that if Colorado wins they stole it, that would not be fair for a team that has played as well as the Rockies have since mid July. If they do win, it will be because they are the better team, not because some crazy underdog stole another one. Whether the Red Sox celebration goggles will be equivolent to the fatigues of the '86 'canes is yet to be seen. Despite that fact, I will say this, if the Rockies become the first team to sweep all divisional series, championship series, and World Series games, I am officially coining the term the three-fo'-fo' Rockies.
KJ can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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