Welcome to the 23rd Purple Row edition (and 128th overall) of Tuesdays With Mitch, where we're taking an unpleasant walk down memory lane on the last day of summer (sad face). Let's get into it...
Hello, friends. Come, step into my time machine and let's venture back to this same time of the year a half decade ago. More specifically, let's set the date in the DeLorean to Sunday, Sept. 19, 2010. (Yes, that was a few days ago, but I only post once a week, work with me here.) Anyway, young people all over America were singing something about skin-tight jeans in Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream," the No. 1 song in the country. In theaters, "The Town" starring Ben Affleck and Jon Hamm was inspiring a new generation of bank-robbers across the land (probably). Over in the baseball world, Joey Votto and Josh Hamilton were on their way to winning MVP awards as they led their teams to postseason berths.
And the Colorado Rockies were hunting their first NL West title. The Rox awoke that warm Sunday morning in third place, but were just one game out of first place. Think about that. It was late September and the Rockies had a "1 GB" next to their name in the standings. The Padres were 83-65. The Giants were one half-game back of the Padres at 82-65. The Rockies were one half-game back of the Giants at 82-66. Three teams separated by one game atop the division.
Still, those numbers don't tell the whole story here. If we travel just 16 days further back in time, the standings look a whole lot different. On Sept. 3, the Rockies were just five games over .500 at 69-64. They were in third place on that day too, but were 7½ games out with just 29 to play.
But then, powered by Troy Tulowitzki's historic, jaw-dropping, 15-homer, 40-RBI month, the Rockies turned on their patented late-season magic and won 10 straight games. After dropping a pair, they won three more. That made for a stretch of 13 wins in 15 games. They had cut 6½ games off the Giants' lead in the division in just over two weeks.
The Rockies entered play on Sept. 19 as the hottest team in baseball. They seemed destined to ride their hot streak into the postseason for the third time in four years. Jason Hammel took the mound that Sunday afternoon opposite a young Clayton Kershaw as the Rockies looked to sweep the fourth-place Dodgers in Los Angeles.
In the top of the first inning, Jason Giambi's bases-loaded double put the Rockies ahead 3-0. By the top of the second inning it was 6-1 and the Rockies looked primed to win their 14th game in 16 tries. You know that feeling when it seems like the team you're rooting for can do no wrong? That was in full force as the Rockies were beating down the Dodgers early. Assuredly, scores of Rockies' fans could be caught thinking, "Another win. Damn, this team is incredible!" as we checked the scoreboards to see if the Rockies would be in first place by Sunday evening.
But the Rockies' offense went stagnant and the Dodgers chipped away. They scored three runs off Hammel in the fourth to make it 6-4. Matt Belisle gave up a solo homer to Matt Kemp in seventh to make it a one-run game.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, Huston Street gave up a one-out double to Rafael Furcal. After a wild pitch, Kemp doubled him in and the game was tied. Street would get out of the ninth with no further damage and the game headed into extra innings.
The Rockies couldn't score in the 10th or 11th, going without a run for eight straight innings. In the bottom of the 11th, Manny Delcarmen came on and went single/groundout/single/intentional walk/single. AJ Ellis won the game for the Dodgers with a walk-off in the 11th inning.
(screenshot via Baseball Reference)
The Rockies lost that day.
The losing has not stopped since.
Instead of waking up on Sept. 20 tied for second place and just a half game out of first, the Rockies were in third place and 1½ games back. No big deal right? Well...
The Rockies also lost their next game. And the one after that. And the one after that. And the one after that. Then they won one. Then they lost their next EIGHT. Then the season was over.
Indeed, that walk-off loss to the Dodgers on "Black Sunday" was the beginning of a five-game losing streak and the first of 13 losses in the team's final 14 games. They finished the year 83-79 and nine games out of first place. The franchise hasn't been the same since.
It's feels odd to be able to look back and pinpoint the exact moment a franchise went from good to bad, but we sure can.
In 2011 the Rockies went 73-89 and finished in fourth place. The 2012 Rockies stumbled to the worst record in franchise history at 64-98. 2013 saw a 10-game improvement, but 74-88 meant another last-place finish. Last year's team was almost as bad as the 2012 squad at 66-96. This year's team is headed for another last-place finish. They're currently 63-87.
It seems odd to say now, but all that losing was a new phenomena for the Rockies. From the beginning of the 2007 season through the moment the Rockies entered play on that September Sunday in 2010 the Rockies were 338-297 (.532), and that includes a bad 2008 season. Forty-one games over .500! If you take out that '08 season (and looking back, it really does feel like an anomaly), the Rockies' record in that stretch was 264-209 (.558). Fifty-five games over .500 in fewer than three seasons.
Like I said, the franchise hasn't been the same since. After another loss last night, the Rockies are 341-471 (.420) since beating the Dodgers on Sept. 18, 2010.
In the last five years we have seen a manager walk away, a general manager reassigned to a weird co-GM thing, that GM resign, multiple star players traded, and a Hall-of-Famer retire. We've seen pitch count limits and piggybacks and prospects. We've seen countless "day-to-day" injuries turn into prolonged trips to the disabled list. And we've seen 130 more losses than wins.
It all started on Sept. 19, 2010. It seemed like a tough, but fairly inconsequential, loss. It turned out to be the day everything went to crap.
No real weekly departments this week, but here's a bunch of stuff I enjoyed from around the sports world and internet...
Yesterday I returned from my lunch break and opened Twitter. I saw countless tweets about something called #PizzaRat. If you missed it, here is the aptly-named #PizzaRat.
Thirty seconds of Vin Scully talking about smiling babies farting will probably be the best 30 seconds of your day.
Gorgeous sports photography from Sports Illustrated on a Julian Edelman touchdown. (via SportsIllustrated on Instagram.)
I also love this unique shot of the coin toss before the Broncos game on Thursday night.
Also from Thursday night: Von Miller's semi-NFSW sack dance
VON MILLER HUMPTY pic.twitter.com/L9tPdFAEub— SB Nation GIF (@SBNationGIF) September 18, 2015
Remember Joe Beimel? He was a little antsy to enter this game. I don't know why this makes me laugh so hard, but it does.
This poor guy in charge of setting off the fireworks in Cleveland did so after the wrong team's home run. I feel so bad for this dude.
And finally, I'd be interested to hear what some of you think of this exchange.