For rested Rockies, a series of disadvantages awaits

Commentary

October 24, 2007|By PETER SCHMUCK

BOSTON -- There is a lot to like about the Colorado Rockies, but don't get too attached to them.

They are the darlings of the major league parity movement. The ultimate wild card team. The nice guys who somehow finished first, at least in the National League.

They are also ripe for the picking - a pendulum that has swung so far in one direction it can't help but swing back. When you win 21 of 22 games and then take eight days off, do you think it just hangs up there?

The Boston Red Sox will be a solid favorite when the 103rd World Series begins tonight at Fenway Park. The oddsmakers think that David is going to get his sling handed to him. They are probably right.

Don't get me wrong. I wish it weren't so. I wish that with every ounce of my softer side, because the Rockies deserve to continue their miraculous run and make all of our hearts glad. If nothing else, they are about to go from small-market phenomenon to national human interest story.

"This doesn't have to be a Dr. Phil show," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said during yesterday's pre-workout news conference - right before he got glassy-eyed talking about his young daughter, Madison, who has a rare genetic disease (Prader-Willi syndrome).

It's OK to be emotional, as any good shrink would tell you, especially when you've got a handle on real perspective. Hurdle's story - of fame, of fall and of the kind of redemption that transcends the World Series - should be an inspiration to all of us.

"One of the best things I was ever told as a young player that I never understood until I was an older player, there's two kinds of people that play this game: those that are humble and those that are about to be," Hurdle said. "At the age of 18, I laughed. `Yeah, that's cute.' Well, by the age of 38, I was wearing it."

He went from Sports Illustrated cover boy to major league flash in the pan and, ultimately, back to baseball's biggest stage, and that's just one of the touching subplots that have accompanied the Rockies into this Fall Classic.

Hurdle works hard for the foundation that is developing effective treatments for the disease that struck his daughter. He has put "64" at the top of each lineup card for the past two months to draw inspiration from a football player he got to know before the young man died of cancer in August.

"It's not magic," Hurdle said. "It's meaningful is what it is for me. It's very meaningful."

Perhaps you've heard of Mike Coolbaugh, the Rockies' Double-A first base coach who was killed by a foul ball earlier this year. The Rockies voted Coolbaugh's family a full postseason share, which could come to as much as $400,000 if they go all the way.

Who are you going to root for now?

If you're not from Boston and you have a heart - which rules out all the TV executives who were rooting for the Yankees to play Game 1 against the Cubs tonight - you've got to be hoping this really is Rocktober, but you're probably going to be disappointed.

The Rockies may have tapped into the Power of Nice, but the Red Sox appear to have just about every competitive advantage going into their second World Series in four years.

They are coming off an intense seven-game American League Championship Series, while the Rockies are coming back from a long layoff. The Red Sox have the home-field advantage, which should be magnified in the quirky confines of their antique ballpark. And they open with right-hander Josh Beckett, the most dominating pitcher of the postseason.

True, the Rockies have won 10 in a row on the way to their unlikely National League pennant, but it had to be hard to maintain that intensity through more than a week of side sessions and simulated games.

"We didn't get here to get close, to finish second," Hurdle said.

Maybe not, but that's probably the way it's going to turn out.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

Listen to Peter Schmuck on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on most Saturdays and Sundays.

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