DENVER (AP) – Decked out in dyed purple jeans, matching shirt and a grape-colored shower curtain serving as a makeshift cape, John Buckland roamed around Coors Field on Monday morning trying to recharge a fan base that has grown increasingly disenchanted with the Colorado Rockies.
It may take more than the passion of this caped crusader to resuscitate the Rockies’ season, especially after they have fallen into an early season funk that’s seen them tumble 13 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West.
This definitely helped, though: A doubleheader sweep of the Houston Astros on Memorial Day that kept the Rockies (19-29) from plunging too far out of the race before the summer heat has even hit.
“Super purple!” shouted Buckland, a fan from Lakewood, Colo., who was handing out engraved medals and bracelets before the opener to galvanize followers. “Fans need something to smile about, so what the heck, right?”
More like, what the heck is going on?
Granted, the Rockies weren’t the trendy pick to win the division like they were a year ago. But even this sort of false start was more than the team could have imagined.
The starting pitching has been fickle at best and the clutch hitting flighty. They’re 8-18 this month, which is still sure to be one of their worst marks for May even with two games remaining against Houston.
And the supporters are growing restless.
“They’re boring,” said Douglas Dinsmoor, a season ticket holder from Denver who proudly proclaims he was born 12 blocks from the stadium. “They’re not playing inspired baseball.
“Look, there’s a lot of talent, but for whatever reason – and plenty of people are racking their brains trying to figure it out – they’re not very inspired.”
Owner Dick Monfort took in a game on a picturesque Monday afternoon, standing in line for a drink at the concession stand – yes, he had to wait in line – before heading to his seat.
He understands the feelings of the fans.
“I know they’re disappointed,” Monfort said. “I’m disappointed, too. We think we put together a good team. We’ve got to let it play out.”
Monfort recently caused a stir when he labeled his general manager Dan O’Dowd as one of the best in the business, “heads and shoulders” above anyone else, in an interview with the Denver Post.
The results of late May suggest otherwise. The Rockies finished 21 games behind first-place Arizona in 2011 after entering May with a 4 1/2 game lead.
This season, their biggest road block just may be their starting pitching, which has struggled to gain any sort of traction.
But Monfort stands by his assertion about O’Dowd.
“Dan’s real smart. He’s very smart,” Monfort said. “He understands things, watches a lot of games. He thinks things out. He’s on the job 24 hours a day, trying to figure out ways to make the team better. You have to sit with him and understand that.”
So, are O’Dowd and manager Jim Tracy safe?
“Yes,” Monfort said. “… The talent is there. Just have to play a little more consistently, get a little more confidence and we’ll be fine.
“I don’t think the answer is blowing up everybody. The answer is sticking with what we’re doing and continue to do it.”
Michael Cuddyer went through a stretch almost like this when he was with the Minnesota Twins in 2009. The team was treading water before catching fire in September and surging past the Detroit Tigers for the AL Central title.
“We believed in each other and kept playing hard. We remained positive,” Cuddyer said. “We didn’t start turning on each other and things like that.
“We’re not playing terrible. We’re just not winning games.”
As for turning things around, well, Troy Tulowitzki said there’s no magical potion.
“Just try to play clean baseball, which we haven’t done a very good job of,” the All-Star shortstop said. “Try to get the fans back on our side. It’s obviously been tough – heard some boos and all the critics say the things they need to say. It’s time to put up or shut up.”
Some fans remain fed up.
Robert Harmon of Aurora has stopped wearing Rockies garb in a silent protest. He’s upset over some of the moves made by the team in recent seasons and was especially perturbed by the way in which Ubaldo Jimenez was treated before being dealt to Cleveland last summer.
These days, Harmon sits in the left-field stands and wears a Twins cap.
“If the Rockies don’t want me to be a fan, hey, fair enough,” he said. “I used to watch Rod Carew and Harmon Killebrew. I’ll always love baseball.”
Even though the Rockies have fallen on hard times, Mike Sheets, a partial season ticket holder and avid baseball blogger, is reticent to write them off.
Not after what the Rockies accomplished in 2007, when they won 14 of their final 15 regular season games – including a play-in contest against San Diego – to make it to the postseason, where they won their only NL pennant before losing to Boston in the World Series.
“It’s hard right now, but as a baseball fan, you go with it,” Sheets said. “If you were a fan before 2007, you know that this right here is Rockies baseball – the ups and the downs.
“They have to get their stuff together. On paper, they’re a good team.”
On the field, though, it just has yet to translate.
“There’s still plenty of time,” Cuddyer said. “At the same time, we can’t keep saying that. We have to go and turn our fortunes around.”
– By Pat Graham, AP Sports Writer
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