Why that other team (Rockies) will win in six
Originally Published: October 24, 2007By Jayson Stark | ESPN.com
BOSTON -- The team with the most household names is not going to be the team that wins this World Series.The team that plays in Ben Affleck's favorite hallowed ballpark is not going to be the team that wins this World Series. Oh. And one more thing. The team that thinks it has finally lifted all its curses and busted all its ghosts is not going to be the team that wins this World Series. Yeah, we recognize that, to most of America, this World Series feels like a battle between the World-Famous Red Sox and That Other Team, Whoever The Heck They Are. But get back to us in a week and a half. By then, we predict you'll know exactly who That Other Team is. That'll be the Colorado Rockies -- the team planning its parade route. Rockies in six. That's how we see it. Don't think it isn't tough to pick against the Red Sox. They have Josh Beckett. They have proven October warriors. They have four games in their one-of-a-kind home park. And they just pulled off an ALCS comeback that looked frighteningly reminiscent of October 2004. But the Rockies aren't just this Series' designated punching bag, stopping by to give the Red Sox somebody to play on the way to their inevitable ticker-tape shower. No, no, no. This is the best, and most complete, team in the National League. A team that led the league in hitting. And led the league in defense. And led the league in ERA after the All-Star break. And had the best record in the NL after May 1, June 1, July 1, Aug. 1, Sept. 1 and Oct. 1.
1. They're the real team of destinyWe would never diminish what it took for the Red Sox to bash their way out of that 3-1 cavern against Cleveland. But when you get right down to it, all they had to do to survive was win three games in a row. The Rockies, on the other hand, had to win every game they played (or just about) for two weeks. Now that's pressure. "I think this is destiny, man. Destiny," said longtime Rockies icon Vinny Castilla, now a special assistant to GM Dan O'Dowd. "For us just to get to the playoffs ... we had to win 14 out of 15. We couldn't even lose two games. So I think this team -- it's a team of destiny. It's not going to be beat."
|How did the Colorado Rockies win 21 of 22 games, including seven straight playoff games, to reach the World Series? Check out a game-by-game account of their historic streak.|
2. That eight-day layoff was overratedSo how does an eight-day pre-World Series sabbatical affect a Team of Destiny? How would anyone know? Only one team has done it, and that was nearly 100 years ago (the 1910 A's). We'll concede that a team this hot would never prefer to do it this way. Heck, you can play 1,000 simulated games, but you can't possibly simulate October. And you can't possibly simulate the feeling of having to win every day, a feeling that fueled this team's magic-carpet ride.
|Teams that had six or more days off between games entering the World Series:|
|TEAM||DAYS OFF||WS RESULT|
|2006 Tigers||6||Lost in 5|
|1996 Yankees||6||Won in 6|
|1995 Braves||6||Won in 6|
|1946 Red Sox||6||Lost in 7|
|1911 Athletics||7||Won in 6|
|1910 Athletics||10||Won in 5|
3. The Rockies have the real home-field advantageGranted, there's no place in baseball quite like Fenway. But there's no place even close to Coors Field -- humidor or no humidor. Think about how Games 3-4-5 in Coors will affect the Red Sox. It's tough to make a case they don't hurt Boston just about every way possible. Take a look: • ON OFFENSE -- Anybody want to argue that losing the DH won't change the whole personality of the Red Sox lineup? "Their hottest hitter is Kevin Youkilis," said one scout. "But when they go to Colorado, he can't play -- either him or Big Papi [David Ortiz]. So that's a huge hole in that lineup." It's also possible the Red Sox could play Youkilis at third, but that takes Mike Lowell out of the lineup. Or Youkilis could try to sneak by in right field for a night, but that's a big defensive gamble in the most spacious outfield in baseball. And if the Red Sox go with Coco Crisp over Jacoby Ellsbury in center for defensive reasons, that hurts them offensively, too. • ON THE MOUND -- The Coors Effect is so powerful here, it actually affected how the Red Sox structured their original rotation. Curt Schilling (4-4, 5.51 lifetime at Coors) is president of the Coors Haters of America. But the Red Sox were prepared to send him out there to pitch Game 3 in Denver, at least in part because he was still a better altitudinous option than Tim Wakefield, a guy who has been dodging all games in Denver since 1993 (when he went 0-2, 9.31, in two starts at Mile High Stadium). Now, thanks to Wakefield's health problems, they'll both dodge Coors. But if you're curious about how a knuckleballer might have fared in that thin Colorado air, we looked at the four most prominent knuckleball kings of the last 20 years -- Wakefield, Charlie Hough, Tom Candiotti and Steve Sparks. And their 10 trips to the mound (six starts) in Denver were definitely less scenic than those snow-capped mountains. They went winless (0-4), allowing 50 hits, 69 baserunners, 41 runs and 36 earned runs in 33 innings. That computes to a 9.82 ERA and a disastrous 2.09 WHIP. Oh, and Daisuke Matsuzaka could have his issues, too. "You need power arms to win there," said one scout. "With Dice-K, a guy who has to rely on his screwball or his gyroball, you can't be too sure what that altitude will do to those pitches." • ON DEFENSE -- Just about every scout we spoke with had the same horrifying thought. "I'm trying to envision Manny playing left field in Coors," said one. "That's a little scary." Another put it this way: "Manny will be so lost out there, he'll need radar to find his way back." No matter how you compute it, the Red Sox have leather-working issues at Coors -- whether it's Manny in left, Ortiz wearing his first-base mitt or Youkilis moving to third base or the outfield. Now contrast that to the home team, a team that will have no issues like that, a team that just compiled the highest fielding percentage in baseball history. Definite edge: Rockies. • INTANGIBILITY -- The Rockies are terrors in Coors to begin with. They're 42-15 there since June 2, the best home record in baseball. Now add in the fact that the Red Sox haven't played there since 2004. "So they're not going to have a good feel for what they need to do there, as far as (adjusting to) the lightness of the air and the lack of oxygen," said one scout. "To me, that means if the Rockies split the first two in Boston, they're in good shape."
4. No fear of FenwayAnyone who watched that ALCS should have no doubt that Fenway Park had a lot to do with why the Red Sox are still standing. Fenway's inimitable nooks and crannies were a big reason Kenny Lofton never scored the tying run in Game 7. And the occupants of Fenway -- jammed into every seat, lurking right on top of the enemy -- did their part to intimidate the Indians once they fell behind in Games 6 and 7.
5. Lean to the leftWe can make too much of the left-right chess match this time of year. But in case you hadn't noticed, the Red Sox almost went into this series with no left-handed starters, and only one left-handed reliever (Hideki Okajima) they trust.
|How Rockies left-handers Franklin Morales, Jeremy Affeldt and Brian Fuentes fared against left-handed hitters during the regular season:|