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Wednesday Rockpile: Portrait of an Absentee Fan

Short and late Rockpile today, as my computer is running about as fast as an unmotivated Garrett Atkins and my internet connection is as consistent as Colorado weather. I hope that you'll allow me a small treatise on absentee fandom.

I'm back from my summer-long world tour at long last (anyone miss me?) and am still trying to put my life in order. Life is sneaky like that--you turn your back for a week and all the bills and hassles pile up really quick. That's kind of how I feel about the Rockies' current predicament--it really snuck up on me. Here is my situation, that of a man without two of his great loves (baseball and the internet) for over a week:

When I left for Peru, Colorado had just finished the Florida series, so they were only two games into the wrong kind of streak and still very much in line for a run at the division title or at least with the wild card still in hand. When I was finally able to find some internet 12,000 feet high in the Andes, the Rockies were nine games back from the division lead, having just snapped their eight game losing streak. I was shocked and dismayed, obviously, but even worse was the helpless feeling I had.

I mean, all fans are more or less unable to propel their team to success or prevent them from terrible failure, but this feeling I got was just...empty. I had invested so much emotion and time into this team and had such high expectations for them coming into the season that it just felt indecent of the team to leave me with the weight of six losses at once. The Rockies had gone from a decent bet for at the least a NL WC berth to on the outer fringes of the playoff picture and I had no idea what had happened. The saying is that ignorance is bliss--well, that's only as long as the ignorance lasts. When the fog has rolled back, it's a worse feeling than dealing with the losses one by one.

I mean, no the Rockies weren't going to be in first place when Tulo got back (what idiot would write that on a prominent Rockies blog?), but at least they were still very much in line for at the least a wild card spot and a few games back in the West. Now...well, despite my season-long optimism about this team's chances, things look very bleak for the men in purple and black (and those of us who guaranteed a NL West title back in March -- looks like the same idiot). My optimism and faith in the team is waning and I have no idea what the problem is. Not knowing why is simply the worst.

And yet...I feel as if there is yet hope for Colorado, however slim it might be. The Rockies will need to be beasts from here on out, especially vs. the Giants and Padres, but 7.5 games is not an insurmountable deficit by any means. This must start tonight. TODAY IS A MUST WIN GAME. Last night was the opposite of what I'm talking about and should not ever be repeated.

I've been wrong about so much this year (the staying power of the Padres and Giants come immediately come to mind), but please Rockies, don't make me a liar about the NL West.

News and links after the jump...

Rockies News

Todd Helton is back with the Rockies and Jonathan Herrera is gone for now as a result, optioned back to AAA. It will be interesting to see how Tracy handles the first base situation--will he have Helton and Giambi split time more equally? Will Hawpe still be in the mix? Dexter Fowler was healthy enough to avoid a DL stint, so it's not like Hawpe will have to fill in for Dex in the outfield on a regular basis. Hawpe's future with the team is very murky, and Helton's return muddies the waters even further.

As for Herrera, he did have an option left after all, which the Rockies exercised. Herrera played very well during his stint with the big league club, but I very much doubt that he will repeat that success in the future (and hence shouldn't be a big part of Colorado's future plans). Then again, I'm unashamedly a proponent of Chris Nelson for 2B, so take that how you will.

The Rockies also picked up a player off waivers, Cleveland 1B/3B prospect Wes Hodges. To make room on the roster for Hodges, Colorado shifted Matt Daley from the 15 day to 60 day DL. ITR's Steve Foster (above link) has a good description of Hodges, but he looks to me like another body at a position where the Rockies have a bunch of players already. He's certainly a reclamation project, one that I don't really have high hopes for.

In other news, the recent poor performance of Aaron Cook may mean that his rotation spot is in jeopardy (it might already be gone). The Rockies are probably a better team with Jhoulys Chacin pitching in the rotation in place of Cook, but two things make this situation very complicated.

One, Cook is being paid a lot of money and will remain on the roster, meaning that a roster move would need to be made (probably for Buchholz or Corpas) to bring Chacin on the roster. Two, Cook doesn't fit the mold of a relief pitcher in that his stuff is not swing and miss. Of course, most relievers are failed starters, so that doesn't preclude Cook from success in a long relief role. My point is simply that Cook's stuff might not play out of the bullpen well.

Finally, Troy Renck has a mailbag in which he answers a few less-than enlightened questions from readers.