|Do you know this man? He's the starting pitcher for Colorado in Game 1 of the World Series. Give up? It's Jeff Francis. (JIM DAVIS/GLOBE STAFF)|
A low profile in that high altitude
No tradition this time. No storied rival that dates to the beginning of the 20th century. No ghosts of Christy Mathewson, Rube Marquard, or Enos Slaughter. Not even a Ray Knight in sight.
This is not going to be a World Series steeped in tradition. No Pirates, Giants, Phillies, Dodgers, Cardinals, or even Mets. The team the Sox are playing is younger than Michelle Wie and Freddy Adu.
Think of it this way: If the Rockies had Old-Timers' Day at Coors Field, they'd have to trot out Dante Bichette and Ellis Burks. Not exactly like bringing back Johnny Pesky, Dominic DiMaggio, Jim Lonborg, and Yaz.
There's abject anonymity attached to the Colorado Rockies, and it has created an air of dismissiveness around this World Series. The Red Sox are a brand name. The Rockies are a fad. Television and commissioner Bud Selig love the Red Sox. Nobody outside of Colorado loves the Rockies. "Rockies" is an ice cream name. I would bet that 80 percent of folks at Fenway tonight (remember, the Series crowd is peppered with high-rolling, front-running "event" people) do not know the name of Colorado's starting pitcher.
For the record, it's Jeff Francis (I looked it up). And if you know that he's lefthanded you probably subscribe to Baseball America or live next door to Peter Gammons. You get bonus points if you can name tomorrow's starter (it's the immortal Ubaldo Jimenez).
Be certain that the Red Sox' uniformed personnel respect the Rockies. Know that Theo and the minions have compiled dossiers on each Colorado player - thick profiles of every strength and weakness. Curt Schilling and Jason Varitek will prepare as maniacally as ever. Just as they would for the Yankees, Dodgers, or Mets.
It's the fans, media, and oddsmakers who are taking the Rockies lightly. If you go to Vegas and want the Rockies in a four-game sweep, you can get 25-1 odds. You'll only get 5-1 if you pick the Sox in four.
Watch the local news and listen to fans in your neighborhood. They're not taking the Rockies seriously. The Red Sox' championship in 2004, coupled with the decimation of the once-vaunted Indians over the last three games of the American League Championship Series (aggregate score 30-5), has created a climate of arrogance and entitlement in Red Sox Nation.
Folks in Denver are used to it.
"It's a way of life in our part of the country," said Tracy Ringolsby, Hall of Fame scribe for the Rocky Mountain News since 1992. "Curt Gowdy [Wyoming native] always said ours was the forgotten time zone. And he was right. Watch TV and you'll never hear 'Mountain Time' mentioned. It's always East Coast, West Coast, maybe Central."
The editorial page of this newspaper yesterday stated, "The Chicago Cubs, a team with a longer, hard-luck history than the Red Sox, should have been the National League entrant in the World Series this year."
The Rockies had three regular-season games scheduled for Fox this year and all three were canceled by the network. When TBS ran postseason promos urging fans to watch young baseball stars, the network featured images of young stars from the Mets and Padres, but no Rockies.
"We're fine with it," said Francis. "I think we just go out and try to win games, and if people take notice, people will be coming out to watch and TV stations will be coming out to watch and TV stations will be coming out to broadcast and the next thing you notice we find ourselves in the World Series. People will take notice, that's great, but we're here to win games."
Their team leader is rookie shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. Their MVP candidate is left fielder Matt Holliday. Their closer is the imposing Manny Corpas. They were nine games under .500 at one point this season. They finished tied for last place in the NL West in 2006. They play in a league that is clearly inferior and they haven't played a real game in nine days.
But they're 7-0 in playoff competition this season. They have won 10 consecutive games and 21 of their last 22. They have not lost a game away from home in almost six weeks. They also took two of three from the Red Sox at Fenway this season, outscoring the Sox, 20-5. They routed Josh Beckett and Curt Schilling.
"We didn't get here to get close, not to finish second," said manager Clint Hurdle.
"That's a remarkable team," added Sox owner John W. Henry. "I haven't heard anyone say it was going to be easy at all. I don't think it will be an advantage just because we've played in more important games. They've earned their spot in the World Series and I don't feel there's a better team in baseball now than the Colorado Rockies."
Henry has seen this from both sides. He was an expansion owner with the Marlins. But he grew up in St. Louis and has reverence for tradition.
After Boston won the World Series in 2004, Sox CEO Larry Lucchino acknowledged, "There was something appealing about playing St. Louis, one of the great old-fashioned franchises in baseball. If we were going to do this, it was nice to do this against someone other than an expansion team, against one of the traditional powerhouses."
Not this time. The Colorado Rockies are here in the 103d World Series with their purple pinstripes. Get used to it.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.