PART 1 of 2: Colorado Rockies and Denver Nuggets
There has been an awakening in the Force. Have you felt it?
Okay, welcome to the Mile High City! Some might say I’m writing this because I feel a debt is owed to the three friends who read my sports articles and I’m churning them at a rate of one per year. (Big shout, grad school.) A nice sentiment, but you know we’ve reached this point. We’re here. After the Nuggets squad counted down the days to the offseason, we acted like they were just hyped on Sesame Street’s “The Count-athon”. When shootarounds were cancelled because players were hungover, we took solace in the fact they ever practiced shooting. When beat writers wrote “Trade CarGo and Tulo and Faried and Lawson” articles because it’s the humane thing to do, per U.N. mandates, we decried the death of journalism. When something something Colorado Avalanche – you may not even remember them, why use more words life is short we’re dead.
THE COLORADO ROCKIES
CURRENT RECORD: 27-34
To the uninitiated (probably American League) eye for sucking, it might look like the Rockies are a mere seven games under .500; it might look like this obit is premature. Oh, sweet thing. We haven’t even reached the All-Star Break. If there is one thing the Rockies know how to do, barring the still-inexplicable 2007 miracle run, it is plummet. You can bet on a 5-18 September stretch as surely as you can bet on the Lovely Native American Grounds at Blackhawk – or Blackhawk for short. Fans boycotted Dan O’Dowd’s leadership like he reinstated the draft (which didn’t happen because lol drafting amirite?) and he finally left, but not until he threatened to move the team and denounced poor fan support in a very bizarre string of emails.
SHINING MOMENT: Tyler Matzek pitching the least efficient MLB game in 15 years, during the eleven game losing streak, with 20 strikes out of 58 pitches and 6 walks in two innings. (Fun Matzek note: in 2014 he also pitched the Rockies first complete game shutout since 2011. Three years without a complete game shutout.)
CONSENSUS: It’s the overall flair with which we suck that worries me: in the 2015 season, we have one loss separated from another loss by more than one win (before and after, May 26 vs Cincinnati). While for many other teams losing is a routine part of the game, the Rockies are that pitcher who can’t mentally get past his 9.00 ERA game. Part of it seems symptomatic of the Denver baseball culture, where fans adore the team, insofar as you can adore a team that never had Patrick Roy, Peter Forsberg, John Elway, Terelle Davis, or Peyton Manning. Our zenith was getting swept by the Red Sox, the players know it, and the club officially has a dead-end label attached to it. It seems insane (as a batter) to dread playing in Coors Field, where the ball flies on airoids, or to not relish living in Colorado. We don’t not care about baseball; and if ever there were a time for baseball’s resurgence, it was in the 15 years under O’Dowd that saw just two visits to a non-MLB championship and one win. Alas.
CORPSIFICATION: 15 years of hell. On a moonless night, the bodies of Tulo and CarGo lie sandwiched between a dearly departed Helton and one Charlie Blackmon scrambling for air. But soft, a rumbling! TuGo is stirred awake, Charlie does make it to surface, and Todd remains still because he’s earned his rest. It’s… yes! Galaragga and Bichette hoist their fallen brothers to the cool earth.
“And so the putrid stench blows toward the East,” says Dante Bichette.
“What?” asks CarGo.
“O’Dowd. He joined the MLB Network, right? In Secaucus.”
“The immortal fool casts his insights yond the plains, though none can hear but cable subscribers.”
“Does he always talk like that?” asks Blackmon.
“Larry tried to kill him, but we’re already dead,” replies Galaragga. “Now, this year, we ride to glory! We—how’s our pitching?”
“We’ve given up 9+ runs eleven times.”
“Huh, next year,” says Andres, and crawls back into the soil.
THE DENVER NUGGETS
2015 RECORD: 30-52
The season could only go one way. It involved a lot of soul searching for Nuggets fans, once the now Finals MVP, Coach of the Year, and GM of the Year found a way out of Denver. “Is that the right phrasing?” we asked. “Left? Or fired?” For me, personally, it was an unsatisfying middle. The feelings stirred were not dissimilar to those from ending a mutually awful relationship. Did you really take action, or were you conned into being the bad guy? Remember the regular seasons, those eternal seeds of striking distance? Ooh, but remember those playoffs, with the striking distance of a Super Soaker? It doesn’t matter. It does matter. They’re gone; but in what ways? At times I swore I could see the players ready to burst into the up-tempo assembly of parts far worse than the whole, ready to baffle fans whose casual knowledge of strategy amounted to “pace-and-space”, “the Triangle”, and “probably not the Triangle but maybe?” Fans like me.
The only thing about the season that I enjoyed was thinking of calling the team Shawtank Redemption toward the lifeless end. But even that happened a week into the playoffs. Put it this way: now living in California, I only got to go to one Nuggets home game. We were courtside against a fully healthy Clippers team, right under the hoop. The tickets were $30 each. My friend, knowing this, told me he would cover the tix if I bought the beer. Son of a bitch.
SHINING MOMENT: The 2015 NBA Finals were decided by J.R., Mozgov, and Iguodala. *single party horn*
CONSENSUS: So are we dead? Well, we swapped coaches with the Kings. We signed their GM. We are about to ship them Lawson for sixth overall. If you had told me that would be the outcome of the Karl era, I’d assume we sold the team to Sacramento. I mean, that’s preposterous, and yet… not? Malone isn’t toiling under the Maloofs and Vivek anymore, just an owner who’s running the company so his dad can legally own the Rams. Ujiri was decidedly unprogressive at the deadline and saw his Playoff Raps getting blitzed on both ends by strategies they never practiced and, you had to figure, rarely even watched out for.
That leaves Nurkic and Faried and assets. I can’t stand to watch Faried go the Helton route in his prime. We’ll never even get swept by the Cavs with this roster. Oh, wait. I left out respect. We have a coach that the players might actually respect. Given the
Cavs LeBron’s heroic performance, David Blatt retroactively loses the David Blatt Award for Most Ignored. Congrats, Shaw. Assets in the draft tend to be nailed, overlooked, or missed horribly terribly badly. There has to be an “average” for assets, yet the great players are playing at such a level that “average” assets are almost like wasted assets. Is J.R. Smith an asset? Yeah, probably, on a good night, aka average. What was fun about the Karl Era was the “try anything” nucleus. You never got the sense that we were doomed, just “figuring things out”. Now I get the sense we are going to stay in our lane and add/drop conventionally, basically relying on random chance algorithms to return us to the future glory we’ve never really had. (Sorry not sorry, Melo.)
CORPSIFICATION: Ty Lawson wakes up in the back of a private jet. The blue skies tell him nothing of his whereabouts or destination; it appears to be noon-ish. A little perturbed, he laces up a Jordan and peers around an upright seatback. “Diddy?” he calls. “…J.R.?”
Through the intercom: “Don’t worry, Mr. Ty. You are safe. We land soon.”
Ty now panics. “Man, take me back to Denver. I’m missing shootaround!”
A guffaw. “Nice try.”
Ty looks down: he’s wearing only briefs. Next to him are silver and purple warmups embroidered TY LAWSON. And a litter of shot glasses that say SHOTS ARE LIKE THREES: YOU TAKE THEM, BITCH.
“Now I know you’re up there.”
“Ha. Yeah, it’s chill,” says J.R.
“You should thank us, Mr. Ty,” says the other voice, “we got you out before the Event.”
Pause for effect. Ty says nothing.
“The Event was most catastrophic event in baller history. Stockpile of Denver assets make Boston and Philadelphia nervous. Become asset race. Soon no one play basketball, only acquire assets. Assets get angry, demand trades. Players get angry, demand trades. GM start killing assets to make cap space, have players kill assets instead of playing the basketball. Arenas return from China, make All-Star three years straight. I take you and J.R. to safety.”
“Why me? Where are we going? And why him???”
“You are player-asset limbo, exist in both states. No one know what else to do. So we go to Other Bay Area, where no one look for basketball player.”
“And I’m gonna get mine, dead bodies or not,” sayeth the Smith.
“What about my friends? What became of Denver?”
“They wait for new era of basketball. Then use assets.”