Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Previewing the 2015 Isotopes -- Catcher

The Rockies signed free agent catcher Nick Hundley to a two-year contract in the offseason, hoping to improve the team's defense behind the plate. At the time, Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich said the signing wasn't a precursor to a trade of Wilin Rosario and the team might keep three catchers in the majors. Indeed, Rosario wasn't traded, he's been working at first base and the corner outfield positions, and could be a super-utility player.

With the usual caveat that injuries and trades can change things, we'll project the Rockies major-league club to carry three catchers: Hundley, Rosario and Michael McKenry.

Now let's see what remains for the Rockies triple-A team in Albuquerque.

Top prospects at the position, according to Baseball America: Tom Murphy (#7 in 2014 and #6 in 2015); Jose Briceno (#29 in 2015).
Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is considered by most to be the top catching prospect in the organization. He was drafted in the third round out of Buffalo University in 2012 and signed for $454,000. But he only played in 23 games last year at double-A Tulsa due to a shoulder injury, so it was essentially a lost year. He's been compared similarly to former Rockies catcher Chris Ianetta. Based on last year's injury, it's tough to imagine Murphy starting with the Isotopes, but a strong first half could put him in the PCL before the season ends.

Jose Briceno was at low-A Asheville last year and still only 21 years old, so he's a couple years from triple-A.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Irrational reaction: SDSU 58, Fresno State 47

Avenging a loss to Fresno State is sweet. Not freaking out in the final minutes is sweeter. Returning to a tie for first place is sweetest.

The long-term health of Aqeel Quinn, however, has me worried. Virtually all season, he's been limping, or walking funny, or favoring his back/hip/side. He's received treatment all year, and I heard on the Aztecs radio broadcast just before the game that he received another injection.

After a hard drive and getting fouled at one point tonight, I was worried that Quinn would need help getting off the floor. Laying on his stomach on the sideline, a heat pack on his back, seems to be a necessary requirement when he's not on the court.

It's doubtful Quinn will heal completely during the season. He'll need to gut his way through the rest of the season. You know he will. He's "the people's champion" for a reason. He's a fifth-year senior, with a marvelous story of leaving a scholarship at Cal State Northridge, despite no guarantee of playing time or a scholarship with the Aztecs because he wanted to test himself against better competition. He's the heart of the team, the leader, the guy who should have the ball in hand late in the shot clock, and late in the game.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Recapping the Rockies Winter Caravan in Albuquerque

The reception all over in Albuquerque was impressive yesterday for the Colorado Rockies' Winter Caravan stop. The Rockies sent general manager Jeff Bridich, field manager Walt Weiss, reigning National League batting champion Justin Morneau, 2014 all-star outfielder Charlie Blackmon and their mascot Dinger.

Mayor Richard Berry issued a proclamation that it was "Colorado Rockies" Day in Albuquerque, then Bridich presented him a heavy Rockies jacket for those cold nights. The Rockies contingent visited Eugene Field Elementary School for a "Make an Impact Program" presentation, then visited with patients at UNM's Children's Hospital. After a stop at Frontier Restaurant for something to eat, the day concluded at Isotopes Park. Fans were able to questions for about an hour, then signed autographs for an hour.

The Q&A was a mix of serious and not-so-serious questions, from young and old fans, and there was a little bit of news that came from it. Here's a few of the highlights:

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Keeping track of the 2014 Isotopes

Updated on Jan. 25, 2015

Updating the former Isotopes gets more confusing with the affiliation switch from the Dodgers to the Rockies. No matter what, the Topes roster will be completely different in 2015. Virtually everybody from 2014 is gone.

For simplicity purposes, this list will be players who are no longer in the Dodgers organization. If somebody isn't listed, that means they're still under contract to the Dodgers, or they're an unsigned free agent. 

OF Roger Bernadina: signed a minor league contract with Colorado Rockies (Dec. 2014). The affiliation switch means that Bernadina is a former Isotope who is likely to become a current Isotope once again. Bernadina will join, among others, catcher John Baker (Marlins, Dodgers) who played for the Topes with two different organizations. We didn't see much of Bernadina last year. He was signed in early July, then was injured in a collision at first-base against Fresno, not too long after the Dodgers signed him. The injury ended up lingering much longer than expected. Wouldn't surprise me if Bernadina goes back-and-forth between the Rockies and Isotopes a few times in 2015.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Irrational reaction: Aztecs at Colorado State

Irrational thoughts after Colorado State defeated my beloved Aztecs, 79-73, tonight in Fort Collins:

The floor at Moby Arena is the ugliest in college basketball. It gives me a headache. I can't fathom watching a game on TV from Moby Arena unless the Aztecs are playing.

This game was be remembered as Malik Pope's coming out party. Curious to see how much of a focus Pope becomes in the offense the rest of the way. At times, his teammates were basically deferring to him. But he must learn to set better high-ball screens late in the shot clock. In the fateful possession in the game's final minute, Pope couldn't free Aqueel Quinn for an open shot, or effectively roll to get himself open. Prediction: Pope will win the conference Player of the Year award in 2016.

Coaches standing on the court, running on the court, and otherwise acting like raving lunatics on the sideline is an epidemic that needs to end. Colorado State's Larry Eustachy and UNLV's Dave Rice are the worst offenders. Why do NCAA officials allow this? They don't in the NBA. They don't in high school. It should be an automatic technical foul. Basketball coaches are usually the highest-paid, most high-profile employees at higher learning universities. Their behavior is deplorable.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

How to save Thursday Night Football

Watching an entire game of Thursday Night Football isn’t easy. Overwhelmingly, it’s one of the sloppiest games of the week. It’s understandable too. It’s a brutal schedule that the NFL shouldn’t subject its players, especially the visiting teams:

Sunday: play a game (and maybe fly home)
Monday: go over the last game film, heal/rest
Tuesday: put in a game plan, prepare for new opponent
Wednesday: travel and probably a light walk-through
Thursday: play another game

It’s no wonder energy levels are so low, mistakes are common, late comebacks are rare, the visiting team rarely wins, and the injury risk is so high.

Here’s two quick steps to save Thursday Night Football:

1. Add a second bye week to every team’s schedule.
2. Mandate that both teams get a bye before the Thursday night showcase.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Miracle Men excerpt: Game 7, 1988 NLCS -- Mets at Dodgers

This is an excerpt from my recent book: "Miracle Men: Hershiser, Gibson & the Improbable 1988 Dodgers." You can order a copy here, here, or at most major bookstores.

Wednesday, October 12, 1988
Los Angeles
Mets vs. Dodgers
NLCS Game 7
There was never a doubt that Orel Hershiser would start Game 7 for the Dodgers. 
There was plenty of doubt—and questions remain 25 years later—about Ron Darling starting Game 7 for the Mets. Many question why Doc Gooden didn’t start the game. Many believe the Mets thought they could win with Darling, and they were saving Gooden for Game 1 of the World Series.

Photo courtesy of LA Daily News
But really, Darling was the Mets’ only option because of the rainout. The rainout meant two off-days between Games 2 and 3 and no off-day between Games 5 and 6. Gooden started Game 1, then Game 4 on four days rest. With the travel day wiped out, Gooden would be starting Game 7 on two days rest. That just wasn’t realistic. Gooden was available in relief, but he wouldn’t start.
David Cone started Games 2 and 6 (on four days rest). Sid Fernandez started Game 5. That left Ron Darling, who started Game 3, to start Game 7 on three days rest.
How much did Hershiser have left in his arm? To review: he threw 100 pitches in 81/3 innings in Game 1, 109 pitches in 7 innings in freezing cold weather on three days rest in Game 3, three pitches to one batter on zero days of rest in Game 4, warmed up in the bullpen in Game 5, and was now starting Game 7. It was three starts and four appearances in nine days.
“There’s no telling what kind of condition The Bionic Man will be in,” Mets manager Davey Johnson said in pregame. “I was amazed he was throwing [in the bullpen in Game 5]. He’s going to have to be Superman. I don’t expect him to have much stuff.”
When told of Johnson’s comments, Hershiser replied, “Tell him to grab a bat.”
It wasn’t the last time Hershiser would tell somebody to grab a bat in October.