Monday, May 19, 2008


Rockie Horror

A series at Coors Field is a great way to get the bats going, but not necessarily a great way to get a winning streak under way, no matter how bad the Rockies are at any given time. I seem to remember in the 1997-2004 period always salivating when the Giants were heading into Colorado coming off of a tough stretch in which their bats went cold. Since the Rockies were rarely good during that timespan, I always figured the Giants could beat up on them to their hearts' content while revving up the bats at the same time.

Of course, nothing ever works out the way you want it to. I always realized, too late, that Coors Field was a certifiable house of horrors, with routine fly balls going ten rows deep into the outfield stands, singles turning into triples in the huge expanse of outfield, shallow fly balls falling in for singles, and Neifi Perez hitting season-killing bombs off of Robb Nen.

Nothing epitomizes the theater of the absurd better than this nightmare in 2000, when the Giants coughed up an 11-5 lead in ways that defy description. Perhaps the worst part came in the first inning, when Bobby Estalella hit what should rightfully have been a grand slam over the right field wall. The ball hit a bench in the bullpen, however, and ricocheted back out onto the playing field. The umpire, in a fit of acute blindness, ruled that the ball hit the top of the fence, even though the benches were a solid ten feet behind the wall and the ball clearly crossed over into the bullpen. Estalella was credited with a triple and didn't score in the inning. The Giants went on to blow the game. I don't think I've ever cursed so loud at a blown call in my life. It was unreal.*

Now, I doubt that a 6-0 lead in that game, as opposed to the 5-0 that the Giants ended up holding, would have saved the team from crapping that game away in such colossal fashion, but those are the kinds of things that happen at Coors Field. It's weird, it's wacky, and it seems like the Giants always come away with a series loss and a pitching staff in tatters. In short, not the best place to end a five-game losing streak and sort out the sudden bullpen problems that have been plaguing the team.

As it is, Coors Field isn't the horror show that it used to be. Its park factor this season is 109, which still favors hitters immensely (anything over 100 is hitter-friendly), but that's nothing compared to its 1995-2004 period, when the average park factor was like 120, and topped out at 129 (yeah, that's unbelievable). Even if it's still a bandbox, the park's years of making guys like Vinny Castilla and Dante Bichett look like good hitters are over. Still, 109 is 109, so Pat Misch be warned.

*One hilarious moment from this game came when Russ Davis hit an absolute bomb off of Julian Tavarez to give the Giants their fateful 11-5 lead. Normally even when a batter launches a no-doutber home run, the outfielders will at least take a few cursory steps back in pursuit of the ball, as a courtesy to the pitcher. This time, though, left fielder Larry Walker didn't even move. As Davis's blast landed like two-thirds of the way up the bleachers, Walker just stood there motionless as if to say, "same shit, different day." I guess if any pitcher deserves to be shown up like that, it's Tavarez.

--In the eternal Peyton Manning vs Tom Brady debate, I'm squarely in the Manning corner, but...props.

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