Like any normal Rockies fan, sitting through an epic 14-inning Rockies game got me thinking about the Denver Nuggets.
It's the bottom of the 11th and the game is tied 1-1. Rockies third baseman Ian Stewart just struck out against the Giants relief pitcher Brian Wilson.
To be fair, I'm not thinking about the Nuggets yet. Right now I'm wondering why anyone with the last name "Wilson" born after 1980 would be given the first name "Brian." Not only are you being named after the lead singer of a famous band who had their heyday in the 60's, but it shows absolutely no creativity on the part of the parents whatsoever. Maybe they were just really big Beach Boys fans.
Yorvit Torrealba cranks a single through the infield, followed by Garret Atkins hitting a single that sends Torrealba to third. Wilson is on the ropes. Fox Sports Rocky Mountain's Drew Goodman serves up one of the biggest cliched statements in sports when he says: "the winning run is just 90 feet away!"
I'm thinking about just how close the Nuggets were to beating the Lakers last May in the Western Conference Finals. By my accounting, they were six quarters away from getting to their first NBA Finals. Had they not come out so flat in the second half of Game 5 at Staples Center, maybe they wouldn't have been so lifeless throughout all of Game 6.
Wilson strikes out the skinny, athletic, pleasant surprise of the season: Dexter Fowler.
Fowler reminds me of the recently arrested Renaldo Balkman. He doesn't do any one thing particularly well, but his hustle in unparalleled in the field. Let's hope that's all Fowler has in common with Balkman.
Wilson gets Clint Barmes to pop out. The Rockies squander a great opportunity to pull out this victory against their division rival.
Back to the Western Conference Finals. Do you realize that the Nuggets were just a few missed free throws and a few god awful inbounds "plays" away from beating the Lakers?!! Talk about being 90 feet away.
On to the top of the 12th, the Rockies trot out Matt Daley as the relief pitcher to face Aaron Rowand. Rowand flies out to Troy Tulowitzki. Goodman comments that the Rockies have an "interesting decision" to make regarding Carlos Gonzalez who has a "puncture wound" in his hand.
Has anyone heard anything about the status of Nene's broken arm from Game 6 of the conference finals? And how exactly does a 6'11", 250 pound guy get his arm broken in an NBA game? Seriously, I've never heard of an NBA player having his arm broken during a game. Further proof that the Nuggets need a true center so that Nene can move to his natural position of power forward.
Daley is duking it out with Edgar Renteria.
In 1997, Renteria had one of the great clutch hits in World Series history when his 11th inning, two out RBI single gave the Florida Marlins their series-ending victory over the Cleveland Indians. What should have been the Indians lone major sports championship in the past 60 years was instead won by a fraudulent franchise in the Marlins. But it's because of that series (and the Indians colossal choke job against the Red Sox 10 years later) that current Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert is doing anything and everything to bring Cleveland an NBA Championship. Including bringing in an aging superstar center who couldn't beat Ben Roethlisberger in H-O-R-S-E on ABC's "Shaq Versus" last week. And yes, I watched it and want that hour of my life back.
Daley strikes out Renteria with a slider.
The Giants are Renteria's sixth MLB team. He's got nothing on former Nugget Joe Smith who - by signing with the Atlanta Hawks this summer - will have played for 1/3 of the NBA's 30 teams.
Daley gets relieved by Rockies manager Jim Tracy and in comes Joe Beimel, whom I've never heard of. Goodman comments on Tracy having few "chess moves" left.
Speaking of chess moves, are the Nuggets going to use that trade exception from the Allen Iverson deal that expires on November 3rd? It's an unquestionably nice tool to have in the trade tool box, but I can't imagine Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke stomaching more luxury tax pain. I still believe if it can be used to acquire the Pacers Jeff Foster or the Grizzlies Marc Gasol, you have to seriously consider making that deal.
Beimel strikes out the Giants Travis Ishikawa and we move on to the bottom of the 12th. The injured Gonzalez is up to bat. He lays down an awful bunt and gets thrown out at first.
Like J.R. Smith, Gonzalez has been the Rockies "one man comeback" lately. I'm debating what will be more impactful for J.R. this summer: his one month in jail or his one month in Las Vegas with Chauncey Billups theoretically whipping him into shape mentally.
Tulowitzki gets thrown out at first followed by Omar Quintanilla striking out. The Rockies are moving on to the 13th.
Whenever any sporting event runs abnormally long like this one, I harken back to Nuggets vs. Pistons in 1983; the triple overtime thriller that became the highest scoring game in NBA history. Four players had over 40 points, led by the Nuggets Kiki Vandeweghe who put up 51 (note that this was 21 years before Vandeweghe would screw the Nuggets by giving away three number one picks to New Jersey for Kenyon Martin and then signing the mercurial, undersized, oft-injured power forward to a max contract). The final score was 186-184 and, fittingly, the Nuggets lost.
Randy Winn hits a single off Adam Eaton and now Juan Uribe is up to bat.
Uribe, like the man he replaced in the game (Pablo Sandoval) has one of those "fat guy" builds that you can only get away with in baseball and golf and still be considered a professional athlete. If I had to field an all-time "fat guy" Nuggets team, I'd start Danny Fortson at power forward, Jerome Lane at "small" forward, Denver Stiffs Hall of Fame Nominee Tim Kempton at center, Chris "I haven't gone off the deep end with my faith yet" Jackson circa 1991 at shooting guard and Lafayette "Fat" Lever at point guard. Guess which one of those guys wasn't really fat in real life? Oh, the irony.
Eaton throws a wild pitch and Winn takes second.
Anytime I see anything "wild" in sports, I naturally think of J.R.
Kicking off the bottom of the 13th, Ryan Spillborghs pops out. Up next is Stewart, who's had his clutch moments for the Rockies but they're few and far between. Stewart pops out, too.
Seeing Stewart gets me thinking of Linas Kleiza, who had some big time clutch moments for the Nuggets but many more absentee performances. That being said, I still think Kleiza will be missed and I'm not convinced that Wally Szczerbiak - or anyone off the NBA free agent scrap heap - will ably replace him.
Goodman comments that the "Dodgers must be loving this" seeing the Rockies getting worn out into extra innings.
A few thoughts here. First, as an NBA fan first and foremost I'll never believe that baseball is all that tiring, even in an extra innings affair. So you have to bat a few more times and stand in the outfield a bit longer. Big deal. Secondly, I'm sure the Dodgers kindred franchise in Los Angeles, the Lakers, were definitely "loving" it when they saw that the Nuggets drew a Western Conference high 22 back-to-back games for the upcoming 2009-10 season.
After Torrealba cranks another single, Atkins gets thrown out at first and we're on to the 14th inning. Eaton is still in the game for Colorado and will be facing the bottom half of the Giants lineup.
I'm a little worried about "the bottom half" of the Nuggets lineup. With J.R. presumably becoming a starter, the Nuggets "second five" will consist of Chris Andersen, Renaldo Balkman, Arron Afflalo, Ty Lawson, Anthony Carter and Malik Allen. Good citizens all (well, except Balkman perhaps...TBD) but each has major flaws in their game. I suppose that's to be expected from your bench players, but what made last year's bench so potent was that on any given night J.R. or Kleiza could go for 20-plus points. Not one of the Nuggets current bench players is a threat to score 20 points.
After mowing down Aaron Rowand, Eaton gives up a weird triple to Renteria, who still has that clutch hitting ability apparently.
Now for a positive take on the Nuggets: we might have one of the greatest active clutch regular season players in the NBA in Carmelo Anthony. Anthony was third among all NBA players in "clutch scoring average" and among his clutch shooting peers (LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul and Brandon Roy) his 56.5% shooting is the best. And we certainly fondly remember Melo's Game 4 game-ending dagger at Dallas and his steller play in Games 1 and 2 of the WCF. That being said, I sincerely hope Melo takes time away from suing his former business manager this summer to remember how poorly he played in Games 3, 4, 5 and 6 of the WCF. I don't buy the "he was sick" story and am convinced he, like his teammates and even us fans, just ran out of gas. Maybe we'll all be more clutch this season as the Nuggets hopefully march deep into the postseason again.
Eugenio Velez (who?!) cranks the second triple of the inning against Eaton and the Giants go up 3-1 in the top of the 14th. Oy.
Tracy is leaving Eaton in too long, kind of like how Nuggets head coach George Karl leaves the newly re-signed A.C. in games too long with regularity. What are the chances that Karl gives Lawson a fair hearing and some real playing time this upcoming season and in doing so alleviates some of A.C.'s playing time? Doubtful.
Tracy intentionally walks Winn to bring up Uribe for a potential double play to get out of the inning.
The Rockies may be having a tough night, but if Jim Tracy has proven anything it's that coaching matters in sports and he's objectively done an amazing job. The funny thing is I asked a bunch of die-hard Dodgers fans I know what they thought of Tracy when he was in Los Angeles, and they said he was average at best during his tenure there. Which means, according to my comic strip collaborator Justin here in Denver (and the biggest Rockies fan I know), that if even with an "average manager" the Rockies are this good, did Clint Hurdle's ineptitude cost us from going to three straight World Series?
Uribe brings Velez home. Giants 4, Rockies 1.
Watching the Rockies get knocked around against the pesky Giants gets me thinking about the Nuggets having to fend off the pesky Trail Blazers in 2009-10. Like this year's Giants, last season's Trail Blazers performed much better than expected and we mustn't forget that they tied the Nuggets in regular season wins at 54. And while the Nuggets lost Kleiza and Dahntay Jones, the Trail Blazers added former Nugget Andre Miller. Curiously, in the comments on this blog I've seen a lot of readers writing off the Blazers as a no-factor next season. While I believe the Nuggets will finish higher than the Blazers at the end of the season, it may be by only a game or two.
After racking up 50 pitches and giving up three runs, Eaton finally gets out of the inning. Entering the bottom of the 14th, Dexter Fowler bats first for the Rockies.
I'm hoping Afflalo will be a pleasant surprise for the Nuggets just as Fowler (who's an unfortunate 0-6 in this game) has been for the Rockies this season. In talking to a number of Pistons fans over the summer, the consensus is that Joe Dumars is a moron for letting Afflalo go this cheap to our Nuggets. Then again, we can thank Dumars for drafting Darko Milicic over Carmelo Anthony and trading us Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson. Maybe after this season Dumars will give us Tayshaun Prince in exchange for Malik Allen?
Fowler makes contact with the ball and ends up beaning himself in the knee. Ouch! After writhing in pain, Fowler refuses to get struck out, takes ball four and walks gingerly to first base.
A lot of Nuggets fans are justifiably concerned that the Nuggets are one big injury away from their season being derailed. While this generally true, it's basically the same for any team. The problem with the Nuggets, of course, is that two of their best five players (Nene and K-Mart) are injury prone where as only one of the Lakers (Andrew Bynum), one of the Spurs (Manu Ginobili) and one of the Blazers (Greg Oden) top five players are injury prone. Speaking of injury prone, I haven't given up on bringing back Marcus Camby for one last hurrah in a Nuggets uniform. I would just love to see a Camby/Nene/K-Mart frontline with a Melo/Chauncey backcourt going up against the Bynum/Gasol/Odom Lakers frontline with Artest/Kobe in the backcourt. We need more size damnit!
Chris Iannetta hits a clutch single and Fowler practically crawls to second base. Goodman - master of the obvious - notes how screwed the Rockies will be against the Dodgers this week with the injuries piling up and fatigue setting in. The good news is that Tulo is up to bat with only one out and two men on base.
Wouldn't it be great if the Rockies could exact some revenge on behalf of the Nuggets by overtaking the Dodgers in the division and/or the playoffs? Like their NBA counterparts, the Dodgers (because they can) grossly out spend our Rockies and yet the Rockies are keeping pace admirably with their West Coast rivals. I'm starting to hate the Dodgers as much as I hate the Lakers.
Tulo gets walked! The bases are loaded! And Adam Eaton is up to bat! Wait! What the @#$%?! Adam Eaton?!! The relief pitcher?!! Is up to bat?!!!! Oh, I just realized that the Rockies have no batters left. Yikes.
I'm reminded of December 22, 2006 when, two games after brawling with the New York Knicks, the Nuggets were forced to play undermanned in Allen Iverson's debut game in a Denver uniform. When four of your eight eligible players are Earl Boykins, Yakhouba Diawara, Reggie Evans and DerMarr Johnson, you're not going to win too many games. And the Nuggets didn't, losing six of their first eight games with Iverson on board.
Eaton smartly doesn't swing at a single pitched and gets walked! Giants 4, Rockies 2. Now Ryan Spillbourghs is up.
It's now almost midnight and I just figured out how the Nuggets can win the 2009-10 NBA Championship! It's so easy and obvious that I can't believe I hadn't thought of this before! All they have to do is...
SPILLBOURGHS JUST HIT A WALK-OFF GRAND SLAM!! HOLY @#$%& SHIT!!!!!!!! ROCKIES WIN!!!! ROCKIES WIN!!!!
(Photo courtesy of AP)