Got a text this morning from an old high school buddy and fellow Cub fan. The text:
“The Rockies are the Real Deal!!’’
Yes, they are. And the reason the Rockies are for real begins at the finish. The closer Greg Holland. When the 9th inning is secure, everything else about the team falls into place.
Should credit go to Nolan Arenado? Absolutely. His defense, power and RBI totals make him THE best player in baseball. He’s better than Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant and Bryant was the National League’s Rookie of the Year and MVP the previous two years.
But Arenado was great the previous two years, too, and the Rockies had a losing record. The difference has been Holland owns the 9th.
Are the rookie starting pitchers the difference? Yes. No big-league team has had a collection of rookie starting pitchers like Antonio Senzatela; Kyle Freeland, Jeff Hoffman and German Marquez since the Boston Bees. I know my baseball history -- Lou Gehrig had 23 grand slams; Hack Wilson had 191 RBIs; Roberto Clemente had exactly 3,000 hits, Christy Mathewson had 373 wins -- and I had never heard of the Boston Bees until Senzatela and Freeland came along.
But if those kids lose the 'W' because the closer blows it in the ninth – I’m tell ya, their confidence is not the same. Nothing demoralizes a team like a blown save in the ninth.
Does manager Bud Black deserve credit? Sure. He was the perfect personality and leader for the right team at the right time.
But Black had five straight losing seasons with the Padres before he was fired last year. He manages better knowing he doesn’t have to worry about the 9th.
I couldn’t believe the Rockies got Holland. He was incredible with the Royals a few years ago. Pitchers of Holland’s caliber don’t pass up the Cubs, Dodgers and Giants to pitch at Coors Field.
But he came here mainly because of his strong prior relationships with Rockies pitching coaches Steve Foster and Darren Holmes.
Holland is 23 of 23 in saves after he barely hung on Friday to preserve the Rockies’ 5-3 win against the Cubs at Wrigley. Holland's fastball command has started to betray him the past two games. But as the Rockies enter the second weekend of June, Holland has never brought that feeling of crushing dejection to the postgame clubhouse.
The Rockies have never been better in the 9th inning. And that’s why even Cub fans know the Rockies are for real.