Visitors confined but not feeling tight
They needed room to breathe - some space, if you will. The only thing is, major league ballparks built in 1912 never took into account what the media presence would be 95 years later, so the Colorado Rockies were going to have to make the best of their accommodations within the cozy confines of Fenway Park.
There was a chair and a locker, and as long as they turned their heads slowly, the risk of concussion was minimal.
Sardines in a can are afforded more space, but if on the eve of the 103d World Series the Rockies had a complaint, you'd never know it. Not a whisper of discontent was uttered. Maybe that's because the saga of the 2007 Colorado Rockies has been all about tight quarters.
In truth, there hasn't been room to breathe for a month now, every day a must-win situation for a postseason berth. So guess what? They did just that. Won every day, that is. OK, not every day, because on Sept. 28 the Rockies lost to the Diamondbacks, but that's it. Everything else since Sept. 16 has been a win, 13 of 14 to close out the regular season, a one-game tiebreaker with San Diego for the wild-card berth, then a three-game sweep of the Phillies and a four-game blitz of the Diamondbacks.
That's 21-1, folks.
Today's kids would say "that's sick," but Walt Weiss is from a generation that, although a little less hip, is armed with a lot more perspective. His assessment?
"They've pretty much defied logic for a while now," said the former major leaguer who works as an assistant to Colorado general manager Daniel O'Dowd. "They've been on a run . . . I've never seen anything like it."
So having no room to lose probably made it easier to deal with yesterday's situation in the visitors' locker room at Fenway Park, where there was no room to breathe. Player after player smiled, answered questions, and politely stepped aside to accommodate the credentialed interlopers. It was not, they insisted, that big a deal.
"Hey," said one of the Rockies, after realizing the crowd in front of Todd Helton's locker was precluding him from his desired route, "it could be worse. We could be at Wrigley. The locker room is half this size."
Having flown in from Denver the night before, the Rockies didn't arrive at Fenway Park until midday, but there is a comfort zone derived from a three-game series here in June.
"The big thing is the experience we have from playing here," said Helton, at 34 the unquestioned leader of this merry band of Rockies. A lefthanded power hitter with credentials that can be placed alongside the game's greats, Helton has worn the Rockies' purple and black for every one of his major league games.
His space was being squeezed, but he held his ground. Like everything else thrown his team's way, Fenway Park isn't going to confound the Rockies.
"We realize what the atmosphere is going to be like," he said. "It's a different style of baseball."
There was another theory to pursue, the one that suggested these red-hot and feel-good Rockies had lost their momentum. Having wrapped up the National League pennant Oct. 15, they have sat idle for eight days.
"We will not apologize for winning quickly," said manager Clint Hurdle, eliciting laughs. "That's the way it happened and we'll deal with the outcome like we have and we'll get ready to play."
It's the second-longest layoff a league champion has had, but for comparative instances you have to go back to 1910 and 1911, and that is unfair. These Rockies, after all, have scripted a story that is a historical entity all to itself, and if they seem loose and relaxed and ruffled not in the least by the layoff, there's a reason.
"As players," said outfielder Seth Smith, "we have a job to do. We come each day prepared to play each game. It's not something new. Every day we're trying to win a baseball game."
They've sort of cornered the market in that respect and to continue the magic, they'll turn the ball over to lefthander Jeff Francis, who went 17-9 with a 4.22 ERA in the regular season and is 2-0, 2.13 in two postseason starts. Considering that the Rockies themselves are a remarkable story, it should come as no surprise that Francis is, too, and not because he pitched five scoreless innings June 14 when the Rockies rolled, 7-1, at Fenway.
No, it's because of his birth certificate. After all, the history of Canadian-born players in the World Series isn't lengthy.
"I think I can speak for every [countryman], that we're proud to be Canadian," said the Vancouver native, who was the pitcher of record when Colorado last lost. "But I think more so than that, right now I'm proud to be a Rocky."
Squeezed for space that they were, his teammates would second that sentiment.
Jim McCabe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.