The Colorado Rockies and Philadelphia Phillies have overcome a decade of futility and finally returned to the National League playoffs. They're the two teams that I personally find most appealing in this year's post-season, so they are of course squaring off in the first round. Blake Street Bombers! Phightin' Phils! National League Division Series Fever - catch it!
There's no historical animosity between these two teams. They're not in the same division, and due to their usual non-contender status, they've played very few meaningful games in Colorado's 15-year existences. If anything, the teams can find a lot of common ground:
Maybe they can start a feud about the Allen Iverson trade, or some manufactured rivalry between the Colorado Crush and the Philadelphia Fire. Did Jon Bon Jovi and Judy Collins ever get into a brawl?
What are the Phillies like?
In 2005 and 2006, the Phillies missed the playoffs on the very last day of the season. For fans, it's like they're collectively Charlie Brown. They tried to kick a football, Lucy pulled it away, and then Schroeder and Linus kicked them in the nuts - two years in a row. Seeing Phillies fans have their dreams crushed at the end of a six-month, 162-game season made me feel relieved that the Giants sucked from wire-to-wire these past few seasons. This year, I gave up around St. Patrick's Day. It can be freeing.
Philadelphia has four players in their starting lineup having near-superstar years: MVP-favorite and Oakland native Jimmy Rollins plays short. Second baseman Chase Utley might have been the MVP front-runner without a midseason trip to the DL. First baseman Ryan Howard won the MVP last year, and hit 47 homers this year. Center fielder Aaron Rowand made the All-Star team and is one of the best defensive outfielders in the league.
Besides those guys, they have former star Pat Burrell, two other solid outfielders in the clumsy Jayson Werth and Shane Victorino, whose bobblehead features him wearing a grass skirt. They don't have a good third baseman, but they do have three crappy guys who are crappy in different enough ways that they make an interesting platoon.
Their pitching is bizarre. Wife-beater Brett Myers started the season as the team's ace, got moved to the closer role, punched manager Charlie Manuel in the face, apologized and remind Manuel that he loved him, but he just gets crazy sometimes, bought Charlie Manuel flowers as makeup gift, went on the disabled list for two months, and later called a beat writer a "fuckin retard". They'll be starting both a 44-year-old and a rookie in this series. They also have a relief pitcher with twelve fingers. Don't be surprised to see a dwarf or a centaur take the mound if any of these games go extra innings.
What are the Rockies like?
The Rockies also have an excellent lineup, with overrated MVP candidate Matt Holliday leading the way, and defensive whiz Troy Tulowitzki helping out at shortstop. Regular Zembla feature subject Todd Helton is still at first base, thanks to his 27-year contract, and Japanese import Kaz Matsui plays second. Matsui is a crucial part of this Rockies team, both because of his solid glovework and his status as one of the few minorities on the team. It's just him and Yorvit Torrealba among position players. If you like white people, you'll love the Rockies.
The position players are good, but the Colorado bullpen is the Refugee All-Stars of the baseball world. Wyclef would have plenty of material with this collection of vagrants and unwanted players from other squads. Still, the bullpen kept them together in the playoff hunt. In their one-game playoff versus San Diego, starter Josh Fogg (a refugee from the Pirates)only lasted four innings. The Rockies were trying to stay alive, or they'd be gone 'til November, when the free agency signing period begins. So they turned to their reclamation projects.
Matt Herges had a beleaguered stint as the Giants' fill-in closer in 2004, before declining further in 2005, eventually earning a trade to Arizona. He gave up four home runs in his first eight innings with the new team, and the Diamondbacks released him two weeks later. In 2006, he signed with the Marlins, and landed in Colorado before 2007.
But that's not all. In 2002, the Dodgers dealt Herges to Montreal. Montreal kept him for the season, then traded him to Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh released him a week before the season, he signed with San Diego, and was traded to the Giants at midseason. In summary, that means Herges has pitched for eight different NL teams, including every team in the NL West. (His brother-in-law, Todd Hollandsworth, played for eight different teams as well.) In the tiebreaker win, Herges pitched three shutout innings.
Herges wasn't alone. LaTroy Hawkins was run out of town in San Francisco and Chicago. He threw a shutout inning. Jeremy Affeldt, who couldn't cut it in the third world baseball nation of Kansas City, closed out an inning. Winning pitcher Ramon Ortiz was booted from Anaheim, Cincinnati, Washington, and Minnesota. Now they're in the playoffs. Maybe Steve Kline should sign there next year.
Thing to say to appear more knowledgable about this series
"That change of venue really helped Matsui."
"Now that they're using the humidor, Coors Field is much more of a pitcher's park."
"A real Philly cheesesteak is covered in Cheez-Whiz."
"Then, the beat writer asked him to spell 'retard'."
"Alfonseca also has six toes on each foot. And he's not a freak; it's called polydactylism."
"Sean Keane is probably not attracted to that dude."
Root for Philadelphia if...
You're from Oakland, Pennsylvania or southern Jersey, you feel bad about the Patriots stealing signals in the 2005 Super Bowl, you like mullets, you enjoy crazy press conferences where players and managers scream at reporters, or if you want to see if Ryan Howard can hit a ball 600 feet in Colorado.
Root for Colorado if...
You like John Elway, John Denver, infield defense, left-handed starting pitching, position players with long surnames, and the possibility of blizzards postponing the World Series.
Rockies in five, winning Game 5 in Philly, because God hates Philadelphia fans, regardless of the sport.