Arts & Entertainment, Sports

Picking Splinters: The Rockies

The scope of what the Colorado Rockies have achieved thus far is simply staggering. Twenty-one wins, one loss — that's Colorado's record after September 15, the day the Rocks' roll began. And not a speck of moss has gathered since.

By winning their first seven games of the postseason, the Rockies matched a feat last achieved by the Big Red Machine of 1976. And that's just the playoffs. That doesn't even count the four-and-a-half game gap the team closed in the Wild Card race with only nine games remaining. Nor does it include their victory in the National League play-in game where the Rockies topped probable Cy Young Award winner Jake Peavy and all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman in a marathon-like 13-innings.

I don't care that most experts, fans and even casual viewers believe that the American League champ, be it Boston or Cleveland, will walk over the NL representative en route to the World Series title. I would not want any part of the Rockies right now. And if the rest of the sports world wasn't so rapped up in Joe Torre's future, Midges, Matsuzaka's mediocrity, the Patriots' perfection and BCS lunacy, they wouldn't either.

For some reason, be it East Coast bias or mid-American ignominy, the Rockies' run has not reached the media magnitude it deserves. I know there are a ton of sports storylines that are grabbing readers' attention and overshadowing the Rockies' streak, but, simply put, they shouldn't be.

In the middle of September, had you discussed the odds of such an accomplishment with a Rockies' player they would have made the Miracle on Ice look like a 50-50 proposition.

So what if the Rockies “only” beat the Phillies — who made it into the playoffs on the season's last day — and the Diamondbacks — a team whose largely anonymous roster would challenge even seasoned fans to name half of the starting nine. The fact of the matter remains that Colorado is one of only five teams to ever make the World Series after finishing last in its division the year before. This is an epic achievement.

For the previous five years, the Rockies sported a combined record of 358-452, and finished in last place in 2005 and 2006. Rocky Mountain High? Not so much. Numbers like that made the comments of Lloyd Christmas from the comedy epic “Dumb and Dumber” look spot on. That John Denver was full of it. But this year, man, has this team turned itself around.

Maybe it's the scope of this story that has kept people from fully appreciating it. After all, you don't just ride one superstar performance to 21 wins in 22 games. Instead you have to acknowledge the two-run walk-off homer by first baseman Todd Helton that pulled the Rockies even with the Dodgers on September 18 and the eighth-inning, two-run blast a night later by outfielder Brad Hawpe that put L.A. in Colorado's rear view for good. Then there's Hawpe's walk-off home run in the 14th inning against San Diego on September 21. On September 29, a day after the Rockies' lone loss in the past 22 games, it was National League Rookie of the Year Candidate Troy Tulowitzki who highlighted an 11-run outburst with his first career grand slam. On the season's final day, September 30, a three-run eighth, sparked by a Matt Holiday infield single provided the difference and forced that fateful, definitive play-in game against the Padres.

And that's to say nothing of the game-changing, post-season blasts by Kaz Matsui and Yorvit Torrealba, a tandem that combined for exactly 12 home runs during the regular season.

Not to be forgotten are the heroics of the Rockies' unheralded pitching staff — a group that has allowed more than four runs in just five of the last 22 games. On September 26 it was Josh Fogg who threw six and two-thirds innings of shut-out baseball to lead his team past the Dodgers and give Colorado its 10th straight win. And then there's the back end of the bullpen, where Brian Fuentes has flourished in his new role as the team's setup man. Rather than hang his head after being deposed from the closer role by flame-throwing Manny Corpas, Fuentes has picked up three wins and seven holds during the streak. Meanwhile, Corpas has nailed down 10 saves in the Rocks' last 22 games.

So will the latest Cinderella story finish with a happy ending and a World Series ring? At this point, I wouldn't bet against it. This Colorado team knows how to play under pressure. Heck, when the Rockies' met the Phillies in the first game of the Division Series, it was the first contest in about three weeks where Colorado didn't face elimination if it lost. However, you don't need to know how this tale ends to know it's a great one. These are the stories you savor, the ones you look back on for inspiration when the chips are down and the odds are long. For now, all those other headlines about the Yanks, the Pats and the craziness of college football can take a back seat.