Luckily, baseball's raging peculiarities have a way of falling prey to its meandering sense of clock. A 162-game season is a lifetime, more or less: Almost anything can happen if you're willing to wait long enough. By the time Rupert Murdoch, the old cricketeer, is decked out in Dodger blue and has hired Arnold Schwarzenegger as his starting catcher, the Rockies' Bobby Jones (as opposed to the Mets' Bobby Jones) may have a 10-1 record and developed a curveball as nasty as Dwight Gooden's. By the time George Steinbrenner has got Bud Selig into a nice pair of Adidas sneakers and measured the jockey who rode his losing horse in the Travers Stakes for a little tiny coffin, maybe Larry Walker will have 57 home runs. Maybe Tom Glavine and Ken Griffey Jr. will have announced to Bob Gebhard that the Rockies are the only team for them.

Maybe the Rockies will win the pennant. Maybe the Giants and the Padres will sail off in pursuit of the Hale-Bopp comet. Maybe Murdoch will buy the Miami Dolphins instead. Maybe. Anyway, in baseball you can always hope.

Local puckheads who want to get their picture taken with the Stanley Cup better get a move on. Stan is a goner.

The department-store chain offering to shoot you and the Cup was still running ads to that effect over the dank, chill Memorial Day weekend. But the team that brought the thing to town is finished--for this year, maybe for a couple of years. At least until it makes a trade for Godzilla. Or drafts Frankenstein's monster, who's currently playing junior hockey in Saskatoon.

The Detroit Red Wings pelted Avalanche goalie Patrick Roy with 42 shots Monday night, and the two that got by were enough to put the hot Wings in the Stanley Cup final against Philadelphia. Meanwhile, Sakic, Lemieux and the rest of Colorado's world champions managed just 16 shots on goal, losing game six--and the Western Conference title--to the bigger, brawnier, better club.

So much for finesse versus violence. Coach Marc Crawford's foolish tantrum as his team was going down 6-0 in game four may have exposed the Avs' psychological cracks in this exciting series. The way the Wings tossed the Avs around like rag dolls exposed Colorado's physical inferiority. Say what you want for speed and beauty; if you want to go all the way in the NHL these days, you also need two or three ill-tempered goons who are built like Zambonis. The Avs didn't have 'em. Enforcer Chris Simon was traded away after last year's Stanley Cup season, and big Uwe Krupp missed the playoffs due to injury.

Actually, club officials recognized the problem long ago: Colorado's unsuccessful run at Chicago defenseman Chris Chelios in the off-season was a clear acknowledgement that the Avs needed to muscle up. When Chelios's tough Black Hawks very nearly knocked the reigning champs off in the first round of the playoffs, other teams took note, especially revenge-minded Detroit. Forget the Lemieux-Draper grudge or the bad blood between the teams. Wings coach Scotty Bowman and his players knew the way to beat the Avalanche was through sheer force, constant bombardment and bad attitude.

Eventually, it was the Avs who lost their heads, along with the series. With no bullies of their own to mete out punishment, they got beaten up, bruised and outplayed.

If you want to fall by the department store and get your picture taken with the Stanley Cup in 1998, better tell Avs management to go shopping for a couple of thugs--the meaner the better. There could be no prettier sight on the cover of next season's Avalanche game program than an ice-belching giant equipped with redwood arms, a nose like a sledgehammer and, say, one huge eye in the middle of his forehead. The Abominable Snowman.

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