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Rusty Rockies?

by Keith Glab, BaseballEvolution.com
October 29, 2007

Everyone saw this coming.  The Rockies get handled in the World Series, and everybody goes on about how rusty they are.  Just like how if the Rockies had beaten up on Boston during the series, everyone would have talked about how well-rested they were.

I had hoped that Game 4 would have debunked this theory of rust, but apparently that's not the case.  Never mind that Aaron Cook performed better than any of the Rockies' other three starters despite having a much, much longer layoff than any of them.  Never mind that Jon Lester outperformed any of the Red Sox' other starters, also coming on far more rest than any of those three did.  No, no.  Clearly, the Rockies were just rusty, and those two pitchers got lucky somehow.

Or maybe it's that Aaron Cook pitched three simulated games against the Rockies lineup after pitching a rehab start in the Instructional League.  Hey, wait a minute.  If the Rockies hitters were batting in simulated games against a quality pitcher like Cook, then why would they be rusty but not Aaron Cook?  

"I'm not sure right now there's anything different we can do," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle declared before Game 4 when asked about how the team could have prepared differently during their extended layoff.  "I don't know how you recreate a World Series environment. I don't know how you recreate a playoff environment in practice."

So according to Hurdle, the problem wasn't the lack of swings against live pitching that hurt the Rockies, it was the lack of a pressure-packed environment.  In which case, we might have expected the Rockies' rust to have peeled off as soon as Game 1 finished.

Granted, no team had ever swept both the Division Series and the League Championship Series before these Rockies did.  In fact, the only other instance of an LCS being swept in the current playoff format occurred the very first year of this expanded playoff bracket, 1995.  The Braves won their only World Series out of 14 chances under Bobby Cox that year.  It seems to me that sweeping the LCS was more of a boon than a benefit for those Braves.

There have been three other instances of a team going 7-1 in the playoffs entering World Series play: the 2000 Mets, the 2001 Diamondbacks, and the 2005 White Sox.  The White Sox and Diamondbacks won their series, while the Mets lost theirs.  If a lack of a competitive atmosphere puts teams at such a disadvantage in the World Series, then maybe those Braves, White Sox, and Diamondbacks squads are simply among the best of all time.

But more likely, this is just a case of sportswriters trying to make a story out of nothing, of casual fans trying to appear knowledgeable about the game, and about National League fans reluctant to admit that the junior circuit is the far superior league at this point in time.       

So unless your last name is Staub, Greer, or Meacham, please don't tell me that you're rusty.  Or if you do, please don't use it as an excuse for failure.  If rustiness does exist in baseball, enough other teams have overcome it to render such an excuse quite lame.




Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Keith resides in Chicago, Illinois and can be reached at keith@baseballevolution.com.

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