Mark Knudson’s Three Strikes Blog
BY MARK KNUDSON @MarkKnudson41
Back for another edition of the Three Strikes Blog. Actually supposed to be ‘out’ after the third strike, right? Let’s just say I fouled it off.
STRIKE ONE: The Colorado Sports Hall of Fame comes out with the names of their yearly honorees about this time of year, and some are met with a yawn (unfortunately) others with some level of excitement or even astonishment.
The one that caught my eye this year is the naming of Denver Broncos running back Phillip Lindsey as the “Colorado Professional Athlete of the Year.”
The committee got it wrong. Really wrong.
This is not a knock on Lindsey – a talented, local kid with a great story who had a marvelous rookie season – rushing for 1,000 yards and earning a spot on the AFC Pro-Bowl roster (he can’t play due to wrist surgery.) As good as he was, he should be about fourth or even fifth on this list. Remember, his team went 6-10…and that should matter, too.
It’s an amazing time for our major sports franchises. There are excellent candidates in multiple sports who had better seasons for better teams. Start with Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche. He was among the very best players in the NHL, and had a spectacular 2017-2018 season where he was close to winning the league’s MVP award and led the Avs to the play-offs. This season he’s off to another sensational start and was named a captain for the NHL All-Star games. Clearly HE’S more deserving than Lindsey.
Then there’s Nikola Jokic, the Denver Nuggets center who will be a no-brainer All-Star selection this season after having a great 2017-18. He’s also among the best players in the NBA. HE’S more deserving than Lindsey.
Yet the winner should have been Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Kyle Freeland, hands down. The local product won 17 games in leading Colorado to a second straight play-off berth last season – all while dominating at Coors Field where pitchers aren’t supposed to stand a chance. A 2.85 ERA? For the season? As a Rockies starting pitcher? The national media types probably still don’t believe that actually happened. He finished fourth in the NL Cy Young voting and could have been higher. Might be this season.
My theory is that since the vote was taken at the end of football season, those doing the selecting were in “football” mindset. Too much emotion involved. Take that same vote right after Freeland shut out the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field over 6 2/3 innings in the National League Wild Card game in early October and you’d have had a different outcome in the voting. Regardless, it should have turned out in Freeland’s favor.
Then there’s the wild card in this voting thing: What about super skier Mikaela Shiffrin? The Vail native is the two-time defending Olympic gold medalist and World Cup alpine skier. She’s the current two-time reigning Overall World Cup champion, and may very well be the best in the world at her sport. She’s undoubtedly deserving of recognition.
Nowhere in the rules does it say the Pro Athlete of the Year has to be representing a team from Colorado. But it definitely should. Denver’s Chauncey Billups won the award in 2004 as a member of the Detroit Pistons. Minnesota native/Vail transplant super skier Lindsey Vaughn won it in 2009 (even though Arvada’s Roy Halladay, then with the Philadelphia Phillies threw TWO no-hitters that season) so there is precedent.
Shiffrin and others in her situation (she actually competes for “Team USA” right?) should be able to garner some recognition for their achievements, but the Colorado Professional Athlete of the Year should go to someone wearing a uniform that says ‘Denver’ or ‘Colorado’ on it. Maybe have two different categories/awards. “Native Son/Daughter Athlete of the Year?”
STRIKE TWO: New Head Coach. Check. New Offensive Coordinator…on the way. New quarterback? Perhaps.
The Broncos won’t look the same (thankfully) next season, at least on offense. But will the changes include the departure of quarterback Case Keenum? Keenum was average…ordinary…meh in his first season in predominantly orange.
He was so uninspiring that a Denver media personality actually – seriously – wondered on twitter if Denver might not be better off bring back…wait for it…Trevor Siemian.
Holy crud…NO. NO NO NO. Never. Ever. No way.
Siemian is nowhere close to even being as good (average) as Keenum. Siemian stinks and the very notion of him returning to the Broncos needs to be blanked out of our minds by the dudes form Men in Black.
The only guy who liked (likes) Siemian is his former head coach, Gary Kubiak who General Manager John Elway correctly did NOT make the Broncos new OC. For whatever reason – some say Siemian reminds Kubiak of Kubiak the player – the coach looked at film and saw a mirage. The rest of us saw that the former Northwestern back-up QB is going to make one heckuva accountant someday. Soon.
This same media person – who actually knows his stuff well – actually wants Denver to take a strong look at Joe Flacco of the Baltimore Ravens. Hmm. I can see that. That would be an upgrade. Can Elway make it works financially?
That would be a move most Broncos fans would applaud. I would. Let’s see if it happens. In the meantime, if Siemian ever sets foot in Dove Valley wearing anything orange and dark blue, then the entire place needs to be burned to the ground immediately.
STRIKE THREE: The Las Vegas Sportsbooks aren’t populated by losers. But they can and have been wrong. They were really wrong about the Rockies in 2018.
Vegas, reacting to a) the long held belief that the Rockies franchise can’t sustain success and b) that teams like the San Francisco Giants, having just acquired Andrew McCutcheon and Evan Longoria, would obviously surpass the small-time, overachieving Rockies and reclaim a play-off spot while Colorado slipped back to the .500 neighborhood.
They were spectacularly wrong on both fronts.
Now they’re at it again.
This time around, they’re acknowledging that the Giants, and the Arizona Diamondback for that matter, are not close to contending status. The Giants seem to have given up on the patch job and are embracing a full rebuild, and the DBacks have moved or not resigned a whole bunch of their play-off contending roster from the year before last. Vegas is acknowledging that the National League West, which came down to a one-game play-off last season, is a two-team race.
But not really. They don’t think it will be a race at all. Once again, they think the Rockies are heading for a .500 season, while the Los Angeles Dodgers – who to this point in the off season have done nothing to add to their roster and make them better than they were a season ago – are a 95-win team.
See, Vegas relies on the baseball nerds, who crunch numbers like “run differential” to make projections on what teams will finish where in the standings. The nerds think the Dodgers underachieved last season, and that they will bounce back this year without All-Star Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig and Yasmani Grandal in their line-up. Because, well, because they’re the Dodgers, that’s why.
The most amazing thing about this over analysis is it’s relying on last year’s stats to tell us what will happen this year. This is why guys like me and most of my brethren who once wore a uniform like to rely on our eyes more than our calculators, and often times dismiss the baseball nerds.
This is not to say that the new metrics and analytics don’t have merit, because many of the new measurements/stats do. Things like WHIP and OPS are good additions to the old statistical measurements. But to make evaluations and projections solely on things like “run differential” is ridiculous, and gives guys like me reason to continue to slam the baseball nerds.
Every game, every season, every pitch is different. Last year was an offensive aberration for the Rockies and we all know that. They’ll hit better this season. And they now possess a starting rotation that is among the best in the National League, behind probably only the Nationals, Mets and maybe the Cubs. Say this with me: The Rockies have the best starting rotation in the NL West. And that’s not a projection.
Will they win the West? Perhaps. There’s still some off season to go. LA still has a chance to land a player like JT Realmuto who would be a big difference maker for them. The Rockies have to stay health(ish.) Ian Desmond has to hit. In fact, the line-up 5-8 needs to get A LOT better. But it can.
For the nerds and Vegas to proclaim that because the Rockies lost DJ LeMahieu and the Dodgers added aging Russell Martin that LA goes from being one game better than Colorado to 13 games better than Colorado makes a mockery of what they’re trying to do.
Have a comment or counter argument? Fire back at me on Twitter @MarkKnudson41.