Game 3: Should we talk about the weather?

coorsDENVER—A few years ago a friend moved from the harsh cold of New England to San Francisco. Needless to say this was quite a change for the guy. Instead of shoveling snow and dressing up to fend off the bitterly cold winters, all he had to do was layer up for summer nights.

Easy.

That was until he felt his first earthquake. Actually, by California standards it was a pretty tame one, but unnerving for an easterner, nonetheless. Worse, the quake came at 2 a.m. when he was sitting at home and ready to call it a night. All of a sudden he heard a loud noise that sounded like a truck backfiring in the next room and some wobbling that sent a dish flying off a counter.

In all, it was no big deal. There was hardly any damage to the city other than a few cracked glasses and plates and most folks seemed to sleep right through it, he said.

But 3,000 miles away, the entire eastern seaboard was gripped by a deathly cold snap from Ol’ Man Winter. Apparently, when folks even considered going outside they moved quickly and stealthy like alligators. They did what they had to and went straight back indoors and spread Vaseline all over themselves as if they were about to swim across the English Channel.

Yes, it was that cold.

Interestingly, my friend got a few phone calls from his friends back east asking questions about San Francisco and the earthquake. Really, easterners just don’t know despite the fact that earthquakes are quite common throughout parts of New England and even Pennsylvania. In fact, a few months ago we even had a little rumbler of about 4.2 magnitude in Lancaster, Pa.

It sounded like a truck backfiring.

Anyway, the best question my friend was asked compared the earthquakes to the cold snap. Having been through both at different points, my friend was an expert.

“Which is worse,” he was asked. “The earthquake in California or the below-zero temperatures in the east?”

The answer was pretty comical.

“Well,” my friend said. “I never had to run screaming at 3 a.m. in my underwear looking for a doorway for protection because it was cold. I’m going to say the earthquake is worse.”

Here in Denver a bunch of us are acting as if we’re running around in our underwear looking for a doorway. It’s cold. It’s damn cold. And it’s certainly too cold to be out running around in your underwear.

But that’s it—it’s just cold. Sure, there is snow on the ground and the nighttime temperature for tonight’s scheduled Game 3 is forecast to be in the single digits. Remember how it was playing baseball when it was freezing cold and you hit a ball with an aluminum bat? That’s stinging sensation in your hands happens with wood bats, too. That’s especially the case when the pitcher purposely throws it in on the hitters’ hands with the intent on causing that feeling.

coldStill, it’s just cold. Cold happens sometimes. Football players layer up when it’s cold, golfers have certain clothes and precautions for when it’s chilly and distance runners, the toughest of the lot, just go run. They might put on some mittens.

Though the extra weight of the mittens might not be worth it.

Baseball is different. A summer rain sends players scurrying for the clubhouse because rain causes grass to get slick and then someone could fall down.

Really… someone could fall down.

Publically, the players on the Rockies and Phillies said all the right things about the prospect of playing Game 3 in record-low temps on Saturday night. Pedro Martinez, who is from the Dominican Republic, said he couldn’t wait to get out there and have fun. Cold? Whatever. Pedro even talked about the very first time he saw snow.

“When I saw snow, I actually stopped to grab a little bit and put it in my mouth and see if it felt like ice,” Pedro said. “But it’s something you get accustomed to.”

Yes, because it never got cold when Pedro was pitching in Boston. What would he do?

Pedro doesn’t have to worry about it now. Apparently, all it took was a cold day in Denver to get him off the mound. Instead, J.A. Happ, a kid from the Chicago suburbs, will pitch in Game 3 in the relatively mild climes of Sunday night. Better yet, Happ, Pedro and their teammates can breathe a faux sigh at the prospect of not going out there on Saturday night.

The funny part was that the only guy who went on record to say it would be silly to play baseball in single-digit weather with snow flurries at mid-level altitude was the dude from Canada.

“When it’s cold, you look for that sweet little spot so you can hit it on the nose every time,” Stairs said. “It’s uncomfortable for fans to sit there and watch a game. For me, I’m warm up here watching the game on TV till I have to pinch hit. I feel bad for the guys who have to play every day. There’s no advantage to either team in cold weather. You’re more patient as a hitter. It might knock down a run game a little bit with the tight muscles.”

Nevertheless, Stairs, from New Brunswick, isn’t impressed with the forecast though he says it makes for bad baseball.

“That’s short-sleeve weather,” he said. “I’ve played in games when it was 30 below.”

Maybe so, but not this time.

Game 3: Bundle up!

dawkinsLet’s just call it a brief diversion from the Broncos for a couple of hours. That’s the way it is with the folks in Colorado even when the Rockies are making a run in the playoffs. The truth is the entire state of Colorado pretty much shuts down whenever the Broncos play, and they are known to take hardcore sports participation to a degree that Philadelphians… well, don’t. But that’s just the way it is when the county due north of Denver is home to more than 60 people who were in the last Olympics.

Hell, Brian Dawkins and the Broncos play the Patriots here on Sunday afternoon to give folks time to get over to the ballpark in relative warmer weather.

That’s because a “front,” as they like to say out there, is moving in quickly and that means temperatures are going to drop to a high of 30 degrees as quickly as it takes for a room to get dark after flipping a switch. Saturday night’s game should be breezy, and snowy and bone-chilling cold, though OK for a ballgame. After all, if they deemed the weather good enough to start Game 5 of last October’s World Series, a little cold shouldn’t bother anyone.

But that happens out here all year round. In fact, I remember a time a few years ago when it was a comfortable and sunny August day with temperatures in Estes Park in the mid-80s. But after a short drive up Trail Ridge Road we had to pull over because it was snowing and hailing too hard to negotiate those tricky mountain roads.

That was August.

This was July of 2007 in the relative low altitude of Denver:

So if you’re going to Denver and can’t get tickets for the game (it’s sold out, I presume), go check out the El Chapultepec, a bar a block or two away from Coors on 1962 Market Street. It’s one of those holdovers from the pre-gentrification Denver where Kerouac and Cassady along with Sinatra and Bono have been seen having a few while eating authentic Mexican food from paper plates and listening to jazz from the stage. The music is what really drives folks in, they say.

El Chapultepec is a little trendier than it used to be, but it doesn’t look like it from the outside.

See how close it is to Coors:

map to El Chapultepec

Other than that, my wife has stopped in the Chop House for a pre-Coors lunch. She still talks about the salad she ate there four years ago.

For those looking for the old Denver of the Beats, there are tours to take.

Or, if you want to really see the mountains, drive the 60 miles up to Estes Park to the Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s a Swiss-inspired little town where the elk out-number the people. Plus, Stephen King stayed at the stately Stanley Hotel for inspiration for The Shining.

Better yet, stay indoors out of the cold weather and find a warm spot and watch Pedro dial it up. That’s what I’m going to do.

Game 1: Cold wind and snow

windJust got word on a rather ominous weather report for this weekend in Denver. Apparently, Game 3 very well could be snowed out, which would push the series back a whole day and eliminate the travel day back to Philadelphia if a Game 5 is needed.

It also means the Phillies could get by with just a three-man pitching rotation and perhaps could throw three lefties at the Rockies in Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and J.A. Happ.

But before we all go changing our flight schedules and get caught making snow angels in Denver, let it be known that predicting the weather in Colorado is a fool’s game. Sure, some folks are calling for a big snowstorm this weekend, but others, like the most-reputable Accuweather have nighttime snow showers and cold, cold temperatures for Saturday.

In other words, not Pedro weather.

Besides, there is no sense predicting the weather in Colorado. I remember a time a few years ago when my wife and I went for a drive in the mountains in which we passed through patterns ranging from 85-degrees and sunshine to sleet and hail and snow all within 30 minutes.

So it might snow in Denver this weekend, but then again, it might not snow that badly. Either way, it’s going to much colder than folks are used to in early October. Better yet, it won’t be baseball weather—that’s for sure.

I’m not sure if we’re getting ready for baseball weather here in Philadelphia, either. It’s damn near gale force winds pushing straight out to right field here at the Bank. In fact, the flags are standing straight up with clichéd waves as if direct from a movie set.

However, Phils’ right fielder Raul Ibanez reported that he did not have any difficulty tracking fly balls during batting practice. From this vantage point, the wind does not appear to be swirling. It’s just headed straight out to right field.

If someone like Ryan Howard gets ahold of one and puts it in that air pocket, it might crash down in Fishtown.

Who turned on the heat?

Big Elk @ StanleyESTES PARK, Colo. – So I’m sitting at the tables closest to the door in Kind Coffee – my favorite coffee shop ever – with a view of the burbling Big Thompson River and the bundled up locals traipsing up Elkhorn Avenue for the October sidewalk sale with all sorts of thoughts running wild:

“Is the baseball season really over?”

“Man, I can’t believe I made that drive from Denver at 1 a.m.”

“This coffee is so #$&*@% good!”

“I can’t believe I’m in Estes Park in October and it’s 35 degrees… it’s 90 degrees in Lancaster and Philly.”

“It’s hard to believe that Colorado is on the same planet as Philadelphia.”

“Hey! Look… elk!

“That guy is wearing a funny hat. I wonder where he got it?”

You get the idea. It goes on and on and on like this – sometimes for days.

Anyway, if I had to guess, I’d say that I slept for seven hours since waking up on Saturday morning to go to the airport in Philadelphia. That part stinks because sleep is vital. If one gets the proper amount of sleep (and a little bit extra just for fun), there is no need to inject silliness like HGH into one’s bloodstream.

Be that as it may, I’ve been infused with a steady stream of coffee since arriving out here at noon (local time) on Saturday. From the airport I went to the ballpark and watched the Phillies’ season come to an end. When that ended and I turned the ignition on my car at 1:01 a.m., I drove to Estes Park.

On the way to Estes, I saw exactly four cars on the final 36 miles of the drive after exiting I-25. I was convinced an elk or coyote was going to jump out of the thick, inky blackness of the night and into the path of my car.

Instead it was just cold and windy.

Get this: when I left Philadelphia it was 90 degrees and foggy, but when I woke up on Sunday morning it was 35 degrees and windy with a few snow flurries dancing about. By 1 p.m. it was 55 degrees with a gentle breeze and the sunniest and bluest skies anyone will ever see.

ANYWAY, one of my goals in Estes Park was to spend the morning at Kind Coffee, which is where I started writing this, as well as Sunday’s (or Monday’s… I lost track) reprisal of the Phillies’ season. Check it out by clicking here.

Another goal was to see if there were more elk meandering about town than during the summertime.

Here’s how it worked out:

As far as the coffee joint went, I made it to Kind Coffee three times in less than 16 hours of which four were spent sleeping. As mentioned above, I started writing this post from the table nearest the door with a full view of the Big Thompson River flowing within spitting distance. To the table to my right sat a bearded, 27-year old seasonal employee of the National Park Service, who was discussing his existential crisis with an attentive and patient young lady. I know all of this because I heard the conversation as if I had snapped on the TV and was just listening to it as background noise. As I tap-tap-tapped away, waxing on about Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Jamie Moyer, the young man described how he was ready to retire and was sick of seasonal jobs, though he was not at all interested in working in an office where he might have to sit in a cubicle all day under set, rigid hours.

He also didn’t want to have to spend the rest of his life working only to retire and find out that he didn’t make enough money or invest properly.

Join the club, buddy. And save as much of your fire watching money as possible now – sell that top-of-the-line iMac on eBay… better yet, stay away from anything that has a small letter in front of a capital letter. That type of [stuff] is expensive. Better yet, start buying Folgers at the Safeway up the hill. Buying that Kind Coffee every day adds up.

Trust me.

Famous last words, huh?

The StanleyAs far as the elk meandering about goes, I thought there would be more, though there were a bunch just chillaxing near the Lake Estes trail as well as a big ol’ buck and his brood hanging out behind the Stanley Hotel.

Oh yeah, I also bought a weird hat that no one else likes. In fact, my sister doesn’t even like it and she’s a bit odd (eccentric?).

To shorten this up a bit, the trip was too short. All of it. Time in Colorado is always much too short, and the Phillies’ run in the playoffs was almost criminally short. I realized this as I drove past Coors Field on Sunday night and saw that it was all dark. I said out loud: “Hey, this would be about the time the first pitch would be thrown.”

I’m going to dig into the off-season this afternoon, where I’ll attempt to offer what we could expect from the club this winter. Stay tuned for that. In the meantime, here’s what I was writing for this site when Jeff Baker singled off J.C. Romero with two outs in the eighth inning on Saturday night at Coors:

Game 3 of the NLDS has really heated up and, yes, we mean that metaphorically. Heading into the eighth, the Rockies have turned it over to funky lefty Brian Fuentes, who whiffed Jimmy Rollins, got Chase Utley to fly out harmlessly to left, and then struck out Pat Burrell to end the inning.

To punctuate the feat, Fuentes gave a strong fist pump with his left hand and a little leg kick.

But Burrell nearly had Fuentes hanging his head. His long, loud foul ball started its flight looking like it was going to land in the seats for a homer, but instead turned out just to be strike two.

The Rockies sent the meat of their order up against Tom Gordon in the eighth. Gordon started his second inning against Matt Holliday, Todd Helton and Garrett Atkins up.

I’m betting that J.C. Romero will face Helton…

And here comes Charlie with his lineup card to pull off a double-switch. Romeo to face Helton, Jayson Werth to left to replace Burrell. I imagine Charlie will use Brett Myers to face the righty Garrett Atkins even if Romero doesn’t retire Helton.

Uh… oops.

Do or die in Denver

Clint HurdleThe Coloradoans are having fun. As a brief diversion from the Broncos for a couple of hours, the folks in Colorado are chirping about how great their Rockies are. The entire state of Colorado pretty much shuts down whenever the Broncos play, and they are known to take hardcore sports participation to a degree that Philadelphians… well, don’t. But that’s just the way it is when the county due north of Denver is home to more than 60 people who were in the last Olympics.

And yes, they are chirping. They’re chirping like crickets near the lake on a hot summer night. In making some arrangements to pay some visits in Estes Park over the next couple of days, I informed folks that as long as the series was in full throttle I would be busy in Denver.

“So you will be around Saturday night and all day Sunday, huh?”

Yep, they’re really confident about the Rockies chances. Actually, so are the Rockies.

“We believe we’re going to win every game,” Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. “We’ve been playing in the loser’s bracket for a month.”

There is some hope for the Phillies fans, though. For instance, the Phillies are 8-2 in their last 10 road games and the Rockies are just 11-7 in games at Coors Field when the wind blows harder than 10 mph. According to the weather forecast,

Still, the Rockies have won 16 of their last 17 games and are 8-3 in the last 11 at Coors. A “front,” as they like to say out there, is moving in and that means temperatures are going to drop 30 degrees as quickly as it takes for a room to get dark after flipping a switch. Saturday night’s game should be breezy, though OK for a ballgame. But if there is a Game 4 on Sunday night it’s likely that the temperatures will be a touch warmer than freezing. There’s even a chance for a few snow flurries, too.

But that happens out there all year round. In fact, I remember a time a few years ago when it was a comfortable and sunny August day with temperatures in Estes in the mid-80s. But after a short drive up Trail Ridge Road we had to pull over because it was snowing and hailing too hard to negotiate those tricky mountain roads.

That was August.

This was July in the relative low altitude of Denver:

So if you’re going to Denver and can’t get tickets for the game (it’s sold out), go check out the El Chapultepec, a bar a block or two away from Coors on 1962 Market Street. It’s one of those holdovers from the pre-gentrification Denver where Kerouac and Cassady along with Sinatra and Bono have been seen having a few while eating authentic Mexican food from paper plates and listening to jazz from the stage. The music is what that really drives folks in, they say.

El Chapultepec is a little trendier than it used to be, but it doesn’t look like it from the outside.

See how close it is to Coors:

map to El Chapultepec

Other than that, my wife has stopped in the Chop House for a pre-Coors lunch. She still talks about the salad she ate there two years ago.

For those looking for the old Denver of the Beats, there are tours to take.

Or, if you want to really see the mountains, drive the 60 miles up to Estes to the Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s a Swiss-inspired little town where the elk out-number the people. Plus, Stephen King stayed at the stately Stanley Hotel for inspiration for The Shining.

***
Speaking of horror stories, did everyone see all those bugs swarm onto Joboa Chamberlain in last night’s Indians-Yankees game? Wow. That was almost like something out of Hunter Thompson, only in his case he was fighting off low-flying bats.

There is nothing in the world more helpless and irresponsible and depraved than a man in the depths of an ether binge.

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Oh yeah, Ian is ALIVE!

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I’m on the way to Denver and will make posts here during the game just like in Philly… I’ll check back from Coors.