Monday, October 1, 2007

Rocky Mountain, No Way!

Bottom of the 13th. Down by two. The greatest closer in baseball history is on the mound. A double to lead off, things are looking bright. Another double, down by one! A triple, the game is tied! Next runner is intentionally walked. Next pitch: a fly ball to right, caught... the runner tags up... there's going to be a play at the plate... he might not make it... here it comes... the catcher drops it! But wait. No signal yet from the umpire... SAFE! The Rockies win! Unbelievable! THE ROCKIES WIN! But wait, the runner never touched home plate...

... and it doesn't matter. The playoffs are set, and the Rockies won their fourteenth of their last fifteen games to get in. It's pretty clear that Matt Holliday didn't get his hand on the plate at the end of last night's thrilling 9-8 win over the Padres. Umpire Tim McClelland seemed as if he knew Holliday was out, but after a short pause declared him safe. Was it a makeup call from an earlier play, where Garrett Atkins had a home run called back in the seventh inning? Or perhaps revenge from the fraternity of umpires for the suspension of colleague Mike Winters, who was suspended for the season after the Milton Bradley incident? Holliday may have never actually scored that winning run, but it doesn't matter, and here's why: Colorado was going to win anyways.

I know that doesn't heal the Grand Canyon sized wound Padres fans received late Monday night, but it's the truth. Trevor Hoffman, the game's only player ever to record 500 saves, was getting rocked. Two runners would have still been on, and there is nothing - nothing - that would have kept the Rockies from winning this one. In the 163rd game of a 162 game season, San Diego came out with the best pitcher in the NL and the most successful closer ever, and could not get it done. While the next 24 hours will be a debate on the controversial call at home plate, it changes nothing. By Wednesday, we will be gearing up for the playoffs, and everybody whose horse is not in the race will be cheering on the boys from Colorado.

This is why we watch, folks. This is what sports are all about. Sudden death, a classic battle, an amazing comeback, controversial calls - everything we love about athletics. It makes you forget about work for a while. Your debt is gone if only for a little bit. Call in sick, crack open a beer, put on ESPN, and relive this moment as long as you can. Not only if you're a Rockies fan, but if you are a sports fan at all.


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