ESPN's Tony Kornheiser has branded the Colorado Rockies a "fraud" even though the team is presently holding down first place in the National League West, partly because of the way the team choked in the World Series ten years ago. It's an indication that the national media doesn't believe in the squad, which has a history of hot starts and lousy finishes, despite indications that things may be different this year.
The comments came during the June 19 episode of Pardon the Interruption, the ESPN staple Kornheiser co-hosts with Michael Wilbon. In response to the toss-up question, "Is it time to make the Rockies the favorites in the National League?," Wilbon was adamant.
"No! No!" he exclaimed. "Every week now, there's a question about who should be the favorites."
In the background, footage showed the Rockies' Nolan Arenado hitting a home run to defeat the San Francisco Giants 7-5 in a victory that completed a sweep, and as Kornheiser pointed out, "It's a walk-off. It's a walk-off for the cycle" — meaning that Arenado had hit a single, double and triple prior to going yard.
"I don't care if there was a walk-off," Wilbon responded. He then named the starting rotation and a slew of position players for the Washington Nationals, who remain the NL favorites in his eyes despite having four fewer wins than Colorado at this writing. He added that "the GM is going to make a deal for a closer, and that's it. I don't want to hear about the Rockies."
At that point, the floor opened for Kornheiser, and he used it to further disparage Arenado and company in comparison with Washington.
The Nationals "went out to Colorado and they won three out of four in Colorado," he pointed out about a quartet of contests that took place back in late April.
Then, Kornheiser truly let loose on the Rockies. "Ever since I saw them in the 2007 World Series, when they went down four-love to Boston, I have this prejudice against them. That they're a fraud team — they're a fraud team propped up by altitude."
Wilbon objected to that characterization, saying, "They're more than that. They're a good team. They're not as good as the Nationals."
"They're not as good as the Dodgers," Kornheiser interjected, and Wilbon agreed: "They're not as good as the Dodgers in their own division."
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Actually, the Rockies are currently clinging to a half-game lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West. But most major-league pundits agree with Kornheiser and Wilbon. While the MLB power rankings at Bleacher Report currently place the Rockies at number one, the team finishes fifth, behind the Dodgers, in the ESPN power rankings, and fourth according to Sports Illustrated, which ranks the Dodgers and another NL West opponent, the Arizona Diamondbacks, at two and three, respectively, with the Houston Astros in the top slot.
Kornheiser can rightly be criticized for basing his opinion of the Colorado ballers on something that happened during the last decade — but frankly, the Rockies deserve plenty of the blame. Since that World Series appearance, the team has made the playoffs only once, in 2009. In the years that followed, the team has frequently raised expectations with strong Aprils and Mays, only to go into what has become for them an utterly stereotypical June swoon. And they tend not to recover. The Rockies haven't had a winning record since 2010, with the victory totals in succeeding years defining mediocrity: 73 in 2011, 64 in 2012, 74 in 2013, 66 in 2014, 68 in 2015 and 75 last year.
This June, of course, the Rockies have avoided the tank thus far, having won seven out of their last ten, including that dramatic triumph over the Giants. But as previously indicated, both the Dodgers and Diamondbacks are nearly as hot, and while the Diamondbacks are likely to fade as the season goes on, the Dodgers, with one of the major league's highest payrolls, are built to last. If the Rockies are to take the division this year, they'll have to do it against fierce competition.
Should they wind up with the pennant, or get into the post-season via the wild-card route, the Tony Kornheisers of the world may come around, at least to some degree. But until then, the Rockies will continue to prompt doubts on the national stage no matter how good their record says they are.