Fear not, football fans. It's been a long and depressing offseason since the classic Super Bowl that put an end to the 2008 campaign, but don't worry, there's a glimmer of hope in sight. The combine's right around the corner, free agency starts on February 27th, and then after that, only two months until we get to find out who gets dibs on the top college stars like Rey Maualuga, Malcolm Jenkins, and Matthew Stafford. Of course, the Broncos could use some help upgrading to the 3-4, working out a new defensive scheme, adjusting to a new head coach, and --
We apologise deeply for the mixup. It has been brought to our attention that there is in fact another sporting season scheduled to kick off, and that unlike the NFL, this one has the decency to start in April. Of course, that's still a long time away, but it's a-coming. Now, we would like to return you to your regularly-scheduled programming.
It has come to my attention that the natives are restless, wondering when this column will kick off on a weekly basis. And if ya wangdoodles had been listenin' the LAST time I told you this here stuff, this feature is meant as a recap of games and an outlook for the next week, and it ain't my fault that they haven't started yet. But since spring training is underway and there is plenty of news to catch up on, I decided to gracefully bow to public sentiment, and make a triumphant... er.... return to the sports blogging arena. * What's been going on as the boys terrorise Tucson for the first week of spring training?
* I'm onto you! You're trying to steal my job! I knew it! You and the government satellites! You're waiting for me to keel over dead and steal my identity!
** /adjusts tinfoil hat
ROCKIES REVIEW: WEEK 1.
What have we learned this week? There's been a lot. We've learned that Tulo's sporting mangy roadkill on his face, that Dan O'Dowd thinks that "wins" are another one of those weird sabermetrician stats like "VORP" that don't have much to do with judging the progress of a baseball team, that Clint Hurdle STILL loves him some bunting, that Jorge "The Jungle" De La Rosa has consulted a shrink, that Troy Renck gave Purple Row proper kudos after two Rowbots invaded his chat, that Chris Iannetta might as well kiss his job goodbye again, that Glendon Rusch is a comedian, that the Padres are hoarding Everth Cabrera, that Aaron Cook Just Says No (tm) to steroids, that Brad Hawpe further upped his redneck credentials by naming his son Drake, that Seth "Dixie" Smith is ready to not be this year's version of Jayson Nix, that Joe "Asplosion!!!11" Mikulik is just hunky-dory as a father-in-law for Ian "Caber" Stewart, and that, respectively, Jason Hirsh, Greg Reynolds, Manny Corpas, and possibly others that I missed are in the stereotypical best shape of their lives. Noteworthily, we learned that Jeff Francis is not -- in fact, the Physicist has gone nuclear and has had to be decommissioned. We've also learned that the mainstream media is not entirely as oblivious as we think they are, since Buster Olney actually pointed out that we have the depth to withstand his loss.
What's a Rockies fan to keep an eye on? There's the developing closer battle, of course, in which Huston Street has the experience, Manny Corpas has the motivation, and there will have to be a cage death match, with mud, to settle the matter. Manny's apparently looking sharp, has stopped trying to be cute, and is getting back into form with his slider, which of course was his bread-and-butter pitch during his dominant '07 campaign. There's how the offense will take shape without their main masher -- some guy named Holliday, now in green and gold -- and without their speed element, now that Willy T has taken his blinding speed and miniscule OBP off to Cincinnati.
There's the fifth-starter battle, of course, although favourites won't definitively emerge until everyone's had a chance to get some game action under their belts. We've also heard that the Toddfather is feeling better and ready to return to the lineup, which is a mixed blessing -- when healthy, Todd is a pitcher's nightmare. Not since he's got that old video-game power, but because a typical at-bat lasts about seven or eight pitches and multiple fouls. On the flip side, this does nothing to clear up the Atkins-Stewart-Smith logjam for third base and left field, but I think we'll agree that having too many talented players is an enjoyable change. We will have to see how well it translates, since everyone's riding the spring-training pixie dust at the moment.
The spring slate kicks off on Wednesday, February 25, at Hi Corbett Field against the D-backs. I don't care if we lose every game against the D-backs this spring (okay, that's a lie, I do) as long as we do something about that 3-15 mark we incurred against them in 2008. Just to make it hurt, if we'd gone .500 against them, our final record would have been 83-79, and we might have been able to squeak past the Dodgers for the division. At least we would have then have had the satisfaction of taking the Cubs out of the playoffs before being speedily dismantled by Philadelphia. Ah well. We weren't built for a playoff contention last year, and expectations were crippling everyone. It's too bad that we had to return to sucking, but maybe it will help everyone's focus. I particularly think that Tulo will have a chance to get into an improved headspace, stop taking every game as life and death, and as long as we can keep everyone healthy (never a given) there's no reason we can't make a run in a crap division.
Jason Hirsh, 27 (February 20)
So, Rowbots, what's emerged as the most interesting story this week? What bears further watching? And whoever gets to watch a few innings of sleepy spring baseball on FSN, with our pals George and Drew -- damn. You are some lucky SOBs. Our long wait is almost over. But not quite. We're still waiting for the story about who's developed a cutter.