The Rockies and DU Hockey

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April 9, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Colorado Rockies first baseman Connor Joe (9) reacts after his solo home run in the ninth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Hit a: What does the Rockies’ season-opening series win over the Big Bad Los Angeles Dodgers really mean in the long run?

That’s all to be determined, of course, but early feedback is, to say the least, promising. It’s the way the Rockies won two of the three World Series favorites that warrants some optimism.

First, they did it without great performances from two of their top three starting pitchers. Both Kyle Freeland and Antonio Senzatela were sharp early on but weren’t built enough during shortened spring training to maintain their level of mid-inning performance, which is what Colorado is counting on to be successful this season. The Rockies suspect the bullpen will be under a microscope year-round, and getting length from the starters — the goal would be six quality innings each night — is imperative…and will go a long way to relieving some of the pain. pressure on the lifters.

They failed to get quality starts twice in three games (Germany Marquez’s seven innings, the one-run performance in Game 2 being the exception) and still won the series. And the much-maligned bullpen intensified. Pen pitched 5 1/3 scoreless innings in the 5-3 opening day loss. After Daniel Bard picked up a biting 3-2 win in Game 2, southpaw Ty Blach came on as a relief in the rubber game of the series and all he did was throw four scoreless innings for finish LA and record his first Major League stoppage. . Graduate Regis Jesuit has retired the last 12 batters he has faced.

On offense, it wasn’t newcomer Kris Bryant who provided the big weight, nor fellow rookie Randall Grichuk. It was Connor Joe’s big homer in Game 2, and the remains CJ Cron and Elias Diaz who hit big flies on Sunday (while Charlie Blackmon had the day off) to help manager Bud Black win his 1 000th career victory.

Yes, it’s a big deal that the Rockies won their first home series against the Big Bad since August 2018. However, perhaps it’s more important how they did it.

Strike two: Before the start of what was to be the 2020 high school baseball season (COVID of course erased it), the Colorado High School Activities Association introduced a new rule called “The Player-DH Rule”. It was designed to allow a high school coach to remove a position player (presumably a starting pitcher) from the field while allowing him to remain in the game as a designated hitter.

Three years later, Major League Baseball has caught up.

Starting this season, MLB adopts its version, dubbed the “Shohei Ohtani rule.” This allows teams to leave a starting pitcher in the game as a DH even after he’s been taken off the mound for the day. The dual-position Anaheim Angels star — the reigning American League MVP — is the only MLB player currently benefiting from the new rule. For obvious reasons.

It’s reasonable to wonder if other teams – like Colorado for example – would consider taking advantage of the rule? The Rockies send Marquez, winner of the Silver Slugger, to the mound every five days. Under what circumstances might the Rockies captain consider making Marquez the team’s pitcher AND the designated hitter for a game?

“We should have been bumped…and hurt, but not to the point of putting guys on the IL,” Black surmised. “Maybe a day or two so-and-so went out with a turned ankle, but that’s not an IL thing, so-and-so has the flu and he’s not here today. This would be those kinds of circumstances. But even now, German hasn’t taken a bat since the rule came into effect and you’d be afraid he hadn’t swung.

So no, that’s not happening anytime soon with the Rox. But the Rockies boss isn’t ruling him out forever.

“Yeah, I’m okay with that,” Black said of the new rule. “When you have that special talent, it works for the betterment of baseball.” He noted that recent baseball history has been dotted with a player or two who have hit the field and pitched, most recently Tampa’s Brendan McKay, who is starting this season as a minor while recovering from surgery. . In 2019, McKay made 13 appearances on the mound (11 starts) and also one as the team’s DH. The former University of Louisville two-position standout hit .222 with a homer that season.

So could a future Rockies draft pick, perhaps a guy who pitched and played a college job like McKay did, be groomed to be the next Shohei?

“It would have to be a special talent,” Black concluded. “Because you wouldn’t want a split time to affect his development or his performance because he has to work on both. Ohtani is so good.

And so far, it’s rare.

Strike three: Winning a national championship is never something to take for granted, but for the University of Denver hockey program, you could almost excuse them if they saw it as some kind of “been there, done that” thing. .

The 2022 Pioneers captured the school’s ninth NCAA hockey championship over the weekend, adding to an incredible history that is among the most impressive in all of collegiate sports.

It’s even more impressive when you consider DU’s position in the pecking order of college sports. They’re about as far from “Power Five” status as any program can get.

In winning this year’s Frozen Four, the Pios beat Big Ten powerhouse Michigan before eliminating top-ranked Minnesota State, which toppled another perennial Big Ten powerhouse at the University of Minnesota. . So record a win, or wins, for hockey’s equivalent of “Five Five”.

Compare that with other sports. The last time a powerless conference team won the national football title was the 1984 BYU Cougars, then a member of the Western Athletic Conference. They haven’t even made it to a New Year’s Bowl game. And while the Big East was once considered a “powerhouse” conference a decade ago, Villanova’s recent pair of national titles still goes against the grain.

College sports are for grown-ups now. The money, the visibility, the best recruits. They’re all about power conferences.

Except in college hockey. Not just Minnesota State (not the same fictional outfit that Hayden Fox trained in the TV series Coach all those years ago) top-ranked, but it’s only in college hockey that Quinnipiac (who finished the regular season one spot ahead of Notre Dame) and Bemidji State can be formidable foes. St. Cloud State is one of the top ten programs. Clarkson is nationally ranked.

Imagine if things were this open in football? Does Quinnipiac have a football team?

It’s unlikely we’ll ever see a non-Power Five football program win a national title. This year, Cinderella, University of Cincinnati (which made it to the college football playoffs) had already been admitted to the club and will be a power five program very soon. It’s as if the Bearcats had been called up to the major leagues. Ditto for BYU, Houston and the University of Central Florida. The big football conferences simply absorb any programs that show the ability to compete on the pitch and can bring them additional viewers.

Hockey is different again. For now, anyway. Wondering if the Big Ten – which currently has seven hockey teams (including, oddly enough, Notre Dame) were allowed to expand (only for ice hockey) if they were considering taking on Denver, maybe Minnesota State and a few others? If you can’t beat them, sign them up. To the right?

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