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Mitchell: Success, frustration intertwine this baseball season

Jon Mitchell
jmitchell@postindependent.com
Jon Mitchell
Staff Photo |

I don’t usually muse much about things on the national sports scene. Events from late Monday night made me switch gears for once.

I get the best of both worlds when it comes to the baseball teams I root for, primarily because of how I grew up. And when I grew up in Colorado Springs, Denver did not have a Major League Baseball team.

Hence, because of that and because my mom grew up in St. Louis, I grew up rooting for the Cardinals. I gladly soaked in — and still retell — the stories my mom told me about watching the likes of Dizzy and Daffy Dean, Pepper Martin, Ducky Medwick, Frankie Fritch, etc., when the Gashouse Gang won the World Series in 1934. She told me about Ladies Day at old Sportsman’s Park when, each Thursday home game, admission for females of all ages was 25 cents.

She also told me about how, during that Series against the Detroit Tigers, the family hauled the safe-sized radio onto the patio so everyone could listen to the game. That’s when her Grandma Hermann, being the die-hard Catholic she was, brought the “holy candle” out, set it down in front of the radio and lit it so the Cardinals would win.

Obviously, it must have worked.

Those stories lit the fan flame in me — maybe even signaling the start of my fandom frustration.

I clearly remember crying myself to sleep as a 7-year-old following the ninth-inning Don Denkinger call in Game 6 of the 1985 Series, not understanding how a grown man could miss something that the instant-replay tape caught.

I grew even more frustrated five years later in 1990 — the last time the Cardinals managed a last-place finish (they went 70-92 that year). Manager Whitey Herzog quit at the halfway point of the season because he was so frustrated. At one point, outfielder Willie McGee, who was having a banner year at the plate (he led the NL with a .335 batting average despite being traded to Oakland in August), was having such a bad year in the field that he once chucked his glove into the stands in his own frustration following one of his many dropped fly balls.

Then Joe Torre was named manager, and things slowly began to turn around. Then Tony La Russa was named manager and, as such, Series championships in 2006 and 2011 followed. Now, at this moment, the Cardinals have baseball’s best record.

Life is supposed to be good at this point, right?

That’s where more frustration comes in. I also root for the Rockies.

There’s an obvious difference in the two franchises, and it’s not just because one of them existed prior to the 20th century.

When I was the assistant sports editor at the Greeley Tribune from 2008 to 2009, I got a chance to sit down and talk with Greeley natives and Rockies owners Dick and Charlie Monfort. They were both very nice and courteous to me, answered all of my questions and were candid with me throughout the interview.

I came away with two things from it. First, even years after it happened, the Monfort brothers were still miffed about signing pitchers Denny Neagle and Mike Hampton to deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars before, for various reasons, those deals blew up in their faces and both pitchers were gone within two years.

“I’ll never do that again,” Charlie Monfort quipped in that 2009 interview.

The next point that was driven home came from Dick, who basically said it’s not a good season unless the year-end dollar figures wind up in the black.

Both are valid points.

The problem with that, however, is that the Rockies just traded away one of the most recognizable and marketable players on their roster when they sent five-time All-Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki north of the border to the Toronto Blue Jays. That obviously sends a message that the Rockies have mailed it in for this season, leaving many Rockies fans to wonder when another World Series season like 2007 will come.

The truth is, however, it won’t be for a long time. As great as that 22-day, end-of-the-season run to the World Series was, you have to admit that it was a fluky run when nothing went wrong for Colorado. Even members of the Boston Red Sox team that swept the Rockies in the Series that year have said the Indians and Angels were better teams than the Rockies were.

It’s pretty frustrating hearing that.

Then, I’m pulled the other way by people who say the Cardinals are the best-run organization in baseball — save a recent hacking scandal that was in the news recently.

That’s the big difference, though. The Cardinals have had their dry spells without success, but they’ve eventually pulled out of them to contend again.

The Rockies have made the postseason just three times in 23 seasons. Patience is wearing thin.

Jon Mitchell is the sports editor of the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. He can be reached at 970-384-9123, or by email at jmitchell@postindependent.com.


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