Final Manning Bowl Should Be About Sentimentality

The media has hyped up Manning Bowl III all week by calling this a grudge match.

They talked about Peyton Manning being undefeated against Eli Manning by going 2-0 against his brother. They talked about Eli having two championships while his older brother has only one. They mentioned how their respective teams would like to win it for Peyton and Eli.

Whatever gets people to watch the game I guess.

Let’s make this clear. Footballs fans couldn’t care less what this matchup means for the Mannings. Neither do the football teams that employ the Manning brothers. Most of all, Peyton and Eli couldn’t care less about bragging rights.

Peyton Manning is concerned about getting better each game. He is trying to get all of his receivers to be in a position to get receptions. His priority is to get the Broncos to improve to 2-0.

ElI Manning is more focused on doing all he can to prevent the Giants from being 0-2. This is a must win game for the Giants considering they don’t want to fall behind in the NFC East standings. Considering how bad the Giants are defensively, the Giants quarterback must have a great game for his team to beat the Broncos.

Both quarterbacks are more into team goals, not individual goals. That’s why they are a paragon of professionalism. It speaks well about how they were raised by their parents for them to not get caught up about beating each other. That’s the way it should be.

Peyton couldn’t care less about being 2-0 against his brother. He is worried about getting another championship before he retires. He knows his playing days are about to end soon. He is 37 years old. This could be his last opportunity of winning a championship. He doesn’t want to be known as one of the best quarterbacks that failed to win more than one championship.

Eli Manning is happy to win two championships just so he can cement his case of being in the NFL’s Hall of Fame. He wants to be known as one of the best quarterbacks to play in the NFL. Eli does not have his brother in mind when it comes to trying to achieve his goals.

It’s amazing why the media wants to use this angle about the Mannings trying to one-up each other. This is not a commercial, movie or a sitcom here. For the media to portray both quarterbacks that way, that’s wrong.

When both brothers face each other for what is likely the final time today, it’s going to be about both quarterbacks putting on a show at MetLife Stadium. That’s what the focus should be.

This is going to be memorable for the Mannings. The fact this could be the last time that both brothers face each other is appealing in itself. It’s rare brothers face each other in the most important position in sports, which is the quarterback. Odds are it will be a long time until brothers face each other again in that position.

Peyton and Eli want to make their parents proud along with their families. That’s why this game has meaning for them more than anything. This is going to be an emotional moment for their parents. This meeting is unlike the first two meetings which everyone knows the importance of what could be the final regular season matchup, and that’s why their parents are going to be emotional about this one.

This game is going to be a writer’s dream. It’s going to be fun chronicling what brother quarterbacks do in this contest. It will be interesting how they handle the moment.

This should be a good one. It’s hard to believe both quarterbacks are going to struggle today. They are too good for this to happen.

Today’s matchup should be a celebration of what the Mannings accomplished in the NFL. They want this game to be portrayed that way for good reason.

Today’s game will be about sentimentality for both quarterbacks more than anything. That should be the narrative of what this matchup is.

It would be neat if there is a rematch of both brothers in the Super Bowl this year. That’s what Peyton and Eli are hoping, but there’s no guarantee. The Giants have many deficiencies on defense , and the Broncos have to do well in the postseason.

This game could be the only one time that Mannings face each other, and they are going to use this game more for a show than bragging rights.

That’s just the way the Mannings like it.

Helton seeks happy ending

BY LESLIE MONTEIRO

This has been a year to forget for Todd Helton.

He will be the first to tell anyone that.

In what is likely his final year in Major League Baseball, this is not what he had in mind. He is hitting .255 with 11 home runs and 48 RBIs. Truth be told, he has been on a decline for several years now.

This shows Father Time does not stop for anyone.  This should be expected for a hitter that has played in his late 30s.

Last night had to feel so good for Helton after he hit two home runs and drove in six runs in the Rockies’ 9-6 victory over the Reds at Coors Field.  It was a blast from the past of what he used to do in his prime on an everyday basis.

It’s something he wants to keep doing in the final month of the season. It would be a great way to finish his career on a good note after a rough season.

Give Helton credit for not letting his woes get to him. It can’t be easy for a proud individual who accomplished so much in Major League Baseball.

The 40-year-old first baseman continues to be a paragon of professionalism by working on his hitting at batting practice with the idea everything will work out for him.

That’s why last night was rewarding for Helton. After watching him go down meekly at the plate for most of the season, he should savor this performance.

Helton is fortunate the Rockies are patient enough to deal with his struggles. Any other team would probably cut his playing time. It helps he has been the franchise’s best player ever, so he gets leeway from the franchise.

Helton is trying all he can to justify the Rockies’ decision to play him every game. He gets hits occasionally, and he has played well defensively at first all season.

Still, no one wants to hear it. It’s about what you have done for me lately. That comes with the territory of playing in professional sports. Helton has been around the game forever to know this.

Helton knows what’s going on. He knows people have been calling for him to be benched. There’s no question he read Denver Post’s sports columnist Mark Kiszla’s column about how he should be a platoon player.

He knows fans are not wrong, but he is a proud individual that don’t like to hear negativity about him in his final stage of his career. That goes with other great athletes in baseball.

All Helton can do is continue to keep working on his hitting.

Maybe last night is a start of a great finish for Helton. It’s what he is seeking at this point. That’s the only consolation he could have in a tough season.

The Rockies would love to see it, too. They like to cap off the season with Helton finishing on a good note. They want to see his work pay off.

The fans want something to remember from the longtime Rockie.

Helton can only hope last night is not a fluke thing.

The end is near for Helton with a month to go. He knows it. He is going to savor his at-bats and plate appearances in September.

There will be many testimonials of what a great player Helton is. There will be many platitudes of what a great teammate he is. There will be a campaign of him being in the Hall Of Fame. There is going to be so much to talk about with the longtime Rockie.

It will be an emotional time. It always is when the player is about to finish his career.

Helton will soak all of this in. But what he really wants is a great finish to cap off a great run. He wants to show he still has it even though his stats speak otherwise.

What Helton wants to show is he can work out his struggles through perseverance.  It’s a lesson he wants to show to his young teammates.

That’s why Helton is still playing.

Baseball is something he takes seriously, and he wants to show that he is not in this for the money. He takes pride of being a baseball player.

If life is fair, Helton will have more nights like last night to finish the season.

Contact me or follow me on Twitter: @TalkinRockies

Rockies finally have starting rotation that sticks

BY LESLIE MONTEIRO

The Rockies celebrated their 20th season of playing Major League Baseball this season.

This season is significant not only because of the milestone, but they finally found a starting rotation to build around.

It’s hard to believe, but that’s the case when the Rockies could have four starters achieving 10 victories this season.

Jhoulys Chacin earned his 13th win of the season last night after the Rockies’ 5-4 victory over the Giants at Coors Field. He pitched well again by giving up a run and a hit in seven innings.  He struck out nine, and this was the fourth start in a row he threw over 100 pitches.

With the way Chacin pitched since June, he is on pace to win 17 games. That’s impressive when a starter reaches that mark. That’s where he enters elite territory.

Jorge De La Rosa has 14 wins this season, and he is on pace to get 18 wins. If he had run support this season, he could have had 16 wins with a chance to have a 20-win season.

The Rockies knew Chacin and De La Rosa had the stuff to be effective. They were banking on them to anchor the staff. Still, no one knew they could pitch like elite pitchers. They certainly have by overpowering hitters.

For couple of Rockies to reach that number of wins, that is an accomplishment. It’s rare that the team has a pitcher having 15 or more wins. It’s something to be proud of for a franchise that has had a hard time developing pitchers.

It’s not only De La Rosa and Chacin that are doing well.

Juan Nicasio is on pace to win 12 games if he continues to throw quality starts as he has done since his start against the Dodgers on July 12. It would be surprising if he does not win at least 10 games when the season is over. He is good enough to get it done.

He always had the talent to pitch well. He can get hitters out by throwing fastball, but he is now throwing sliders, curveballs and breaking balls to get outs. He has been consistent in throwing secondary pitches since his start against the Dodgers.

He has been a great story, and if he keeps it up, he could be a mainstay in the rotation for the next few years along with De La Rosa and Chacin.

Tyler Chatwood has 7 wins, and with him being activated from the disabled list on Sunday, he has a chance to get to 10 wins as long as he is not affected from the injuries he had this season.

He was on track to get 13 wins this season before he was on the 15-day disabled list with right elbow inflammation several weeks ago.

Ever since Chatwood was called up from Triple-A Colorado Springs on May 18, he allowed two earned runs or less in 12 of his 14 starts. He also has won six starts during that period.

Like Nicasio, Chatwood figured out how to throw secondary pitches such as curveballs, breaking balls and sliders to get guys outs. That’s why both starters have been consistently good.

As good as those guys are, it’s about maintaining consistency for the next few years. That’s something the Rockies have to find out. It’s a challenge those guys have to deal with. Plus, those guys need to avoid having arm problems.

De La Rosa has been good for awhile. For him, it’s about staying healthy.

Chacin always had good stuff, but this is the first time he has taken the next step of being an elite starter after being inconsistent in recent years.

Nicasio and Chatwood need to sustain their success.

If Chacin, Nicasio and Chatwood can duplicate this season’s success, the Rockies are in good shape with their starting rotation for years to come.

Finding starters have been a challenge for the Rockies since they were born in 1993. Most of them never panned out. Free agents flopped, and young starters never had the confidence to pitch at Coors Field.

The Rockies finally found guys who know how to pitch at Coors Field. If nothing else, this should end the myth that it’s hard to pitch at Coors Field.

From watching De La Rosa, Chacin, Chatwood and Nicasio, they showed a pitcher can get hitters out by being crafty out on the mound. They don’t need to overpower hitters or bank on a call to get hitters out. They don’t need to overthink. They have to pitch.

It’s refreshing what these guys can do after years of watching pitchers fail for the Rockies since they did not have the confidence to pitch.

It’s safe to say the Rockies solve their riddle of fielding a good rotation.

It only took 20 years.

Contact me or follow me on Twitter: @TalkinRockies

Credit Nicasio for making improvements

BY LESLIE MONTEIRO

Juan Nicasio throwing on the mound (AP Photo/Barry Gutierrez)

Juan Nicasio throwing on the mound (AP Photo/Barry Gutierrez)

No one figured Juan Nicasio would be in the rotation for extended amount of time after he filled in for Roy Oswalt by making a start against the Dodgers on July 12.

Nicasio used that start as an audition to be the starter the rest of the season, and he made the most of it by pitching a 3-0 shutout against the Dodgers. He used that performance as a springboard to his success in his next few outings, and the rest is history. This is why he has established himself as the fourth starter in the rotation.

Nicasio continued his good run of quality starts by allowing no runs and four hits in six innings in the Rockies’ 6-1 victory over the Giants last night at Coors Field.  He matched his season-high nine strikeouts in that outing.

This is a different pitcher than the one the Rockies saw from Nicasio earlier this year. He knows how to pitch out of jams as he demonstrated in the first inning last night with the bases loaded. His command is much better. He is using secondary pitches such as throwing curveballs, sliders and breaking balls to get hitters out rather than relying solely on the fastball.

His improvement has created confidence for him as a result. It shows when he has a 3.38 ERA in nine starts since his start against the Dodgers.

There’s no question Nicasio can pitch. He’s a battler, and he knows how to throw strikeouts. Those are two important attributes for a starter to be effective.

The problem with Nicasio in the first few months was he never had any secondary pitches to get hitters outs. He relied on the fastball too often, and hitters figured him out. It was a recipe for disaster, and that’s why he struggled to get hitters out when he faced them for the second straight time.

Now, it’s a different story. Hitters don’t know if he is going to throw a fastball or curveball.

The Rockies sent him to Triple-A Colorado Springs several months ago to work on another pitch to get hitters out, and it has paid off for him.

Nicasio was confident he figured out how to throw curveballs, sliders and breaking balls before he made his start against the Dodgers, and he backed it up by getting the Dodgers out by using all of those pitches. From there, the Rockies realized he finally knew how to pitch.

It took a long time for Nicasio to figure it out, but give him credit for finding a way.

This speaks well of his work ethic, and this speaks well about pushing himself to be a better pitcher. There’s no question he has the talent. It’s about how bad he wanted it, and he answered that question by his work in the minors.

Nicasio’s performance should help him solidify a spot in the starting rotation next year. He is good enough to be a fourth starter. He is an innings eater, and he will battle often times than not. The Rockies can do much worse than him.

With his stuff, he is good enough to win 10 games. That’s good for a fourth starter, and it’s something any team would be happy to accept.

The Rockies are happy he figured it out. This lessens the pressure on them to make a trade for a starter this offseason.

The Rockies are in good shape when it comes to their starting rotation in 2014. They have a good starting rotation in Jorge De La Rosa, Jhoulys Chacin, Tyler Chatwood and Nicasio.

It was imperative they developed a rotation this season, so they can build around their rotation for the next few years. It’s hard to make trades when it comes to getting a starter. Even if they do get a starter, there’s no guarantee he would pan out at Coors Field. It takes a special pitcher to pitch at Coors with the altitude.

Free agency is not the answer. If a pitcher is available as a free agent, it means he is not good enough for his previous team to keep.

Winning with castoffs does not work out in the long-term. He could have one good year, and that’s it.

That’s why Nicasio doing well is important for the Rockies moving forward. It changes the Rockies’ plans of what they want to do to improve in the offseason. They can focus on getting hitters rather than finding a starter, which they tried to do with futile results.

Watching Nicasio become a different pitcher has to be up there when it comes to positives in this 2013 Rockies’ campaign.

Anytime a player can improve, it shows how good a team is in developing players.

The Rockies have taken hits for not developing pitchers, but Nicasio’s success should make the organization feel good about themselves.

For Nicasio, he has to feel good about himself for figuring out how to be an effective starter.

It’s safe to say the Rockies found a keeper in Nicasio.

Contact me or follow me on Twitter: @TalkinRockies

Stress plays role in sports

BY LESLIE MONTEIRO

We like to think of sports as fun and games, but that’s not reality these days.

The pressure to win and produce in professional sports has caused stress for players, managers, head coaches and general managers. They know if they don’t get it done, they will be replaced. It wears them down to the point it affects their health.

Mariners manager Eric Wedge experienced it on July 22 when he fainted during batting practice. He was sent to the hospital for a checkup, and he was diagnosed with a minor stroke.

Wedge makes his return to the dugout at Safeco Field tonight after taking a leave of absence for several weeks due to health issues.

The Mariners manager will relish the moment of returning to work. He missed being around the players, and he missed having an impact in games such as making managerial moves, creating game planning and motivating guys. Baseball has been life for him going back to his playing days.

It would have been devastating for him to not manage anymore due to his health issues. Managing is his dream. It’s all he lives for. He is always in the office in the afternoon before the game starts, and he stays up late after the game is over.

His work ethic may have caused him to lose sight of his health, and that’s why he was checked out. It’s admirable, but on the other hand, he knows he has to pace himself and realize being in the office is not healthy.

That’s easier said than done, though. Managers and coaches are wired to be in the office and analyze everything after a game. They want to make sure the same mistakes don’t happen.  One can say they are perfectionists.

No one can blame them. They are being paid to win games. They know how it’s a bottom line business, which owners and fans are impatient more than ever if the results are not there.

There have been so many coaches and managers that have gone through health issues over the years, so what Wedge went through is common. It’s a harsh reality of the lifestyle they choose. They know it’s the best way to make a living, and they wouldn’t trade it for anything else.

Wedge will have to make adjustments on how to go about his business as a manager. It won’t be easy. If he starts changing, he could lose his edge altogether. He goes all in when it comes to working as a manager. He works with the players at batting practice. He engages in conversations with his team during the game. He is involved with what goes on.

For the Mariners manager to change his habits, that’s going to be tough. This is where he has to entrust his coaching staff to carry out what he wants to do.

Wedge will give it a try. He has no choice, but if it doesn’t work, he will revert to what makes him successful as a manager.  It’s the only way he can do well.

The Mariners manager will receive a standing ovation at Safeco Field tonight after what he has gone through. It’s the least the fans can do. They should show compassion after what he has done as a manager in doing whatever he can to put the Mariners in a position to win.

Fans like to rag on managers and head coaches if they don’t get the results they want. That’s fair, but they should appreciate what these guys do on a day-to-day basis. Managing is a grind. One would think fans would relate since they have to go through the grind when they go to work.

That’s not what the fans think, though. They feel they are paying a lot of money to get results from teams, so coaches will overwork to give fans results.

After what Wedge experienced, it’s safe to say working in sports is not what’s cracked up to be. There is fame, but that comes only when a team wins a championship. It’s misery most of the time with all the pressure that is going on with these guys.

With the money everyone is making, accountability is a must from players to coaches to general managers.

That’s why working in sports has become stressful more than ever.

It won’t end just because someone is sick or dead as result of the grind.

Contact me or follow me on Twitter: @TalkinRockies

Random thoughts on sports and anything

BY LESLIE MONTEIRO

Writer’s Note: Rather than write about another Rockies’ loss last night, I decided to write about what’s on my mind in the world of sports along with Colorado sports.

What makes this season tough to take is the Rockies received efficient performance from their starting pitching this year.

Jorge De La Rosa, Jhoulys Chacin Nolan Arenado, Rex Brothers, Juan Nicasio, Matt Belisle and Tyler Chatwood are positives when it comes to assessing the Rockies’ 2013 season.

How about Juan Nicasio? He has pitched well since his callup from Triple-A Colorado Springs. One thing about him is that he is a battler. He will give the Rockies everything he got. He finds a way to get out of jams, and his command is much better. He gave up two runs and seven hits in 5 2/3 innings in the Rockies’ 4-3 lost to the Phillies last night.

Does anyone get the impression Drew Pomeranz pitched his last game as a Rockie?

Nolan Arenado has had a good rookie season. His performance at third base has been exemplary, and he finds a way to step up in situational hitting like last night when he hit a RBI single to give the Rockies a 3-2 lead in the eighth inning last night.

Rex Brothers is going to be fun to watch in the ninth inning next season. He overpowers hitters when he faces them, which is why he will be a great closer for the Rockies.

Troy Tulowitzki and Michael Cuddyer have been disappointing since the post-All-Star break.

Good for Todd Helton for his longevity as he is still playing Major League Baseball at 40 years old, but he stayed too long as a Major Leaguer.

The problem with the Rockies is they know how to lose. Last night illustrated that.

Why Dan O’Dowd will be Rockies general manager for life? Rockies owner Dick Monfort does not have any confidence in himself in getting it right when it comes to a new general manager.

Wilin Rosario has swung well in the last few weeks. He did it again last night by hitting his 19th home run off Cliff Lee in the second inning. That home run tied the game at 1.

With the exception of Arenado, Brothers and Wilin Rosario, Rockies should consider trading anyone. No one is untouchable when the Rockies are going to miss the playoffs along with having another losing season.

Best part of watching the Rockies this season is interacting with Rockies fans on Twitter. They are passionate when it comes to baseball, and they know the game well. They deserve better than the product they are seeing right now.

For my money, David Martin is a must read when it comes to reading about the Rockies. He writes at RockiesReview.com

The Rockies will finish in third place this season.

It’s hard to root against the Dodgers. They are a likable team.

Don Mattingly should win the NL Manager of the Year. He survived after almost being fired, and he was able to manage egos well.

It’s going to be neat to see the Pirates play in the playoffs this season. PNC Park is a gorgeous park, and that park should be where postseason baseball take place every year.

Clayton Kershaw is my choice to win the NL Cy Young. He is on an excellent run, and his ERA is an impressive 1.80. He could win 17 games this season.

Miguel Cabrera and Chris Davis are toss-ups when it comes to winning the AL MVP. I would go with Cabrera since he could have another Triple Crown season.

I could see the Red Sox pull another collapse like 2011. Their pitching is a question mark.

The Broncos will be in the Super Bowl since there are not many great AFC teams. That said, they will lose in the Super Bowl. Does anyone trust Peyton and John Fox in a big spot?

It will be interesting how Patrick Roy does as the Avalanche head coach. Does he have the temperament to deal with the players?

Colorado State football will make great strides this year.

The Nuggets are good, but they are not good enough to win a championship.

Fox Sports Live is the real deal. It’s easy to understand why Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole were beloved in Canada when they worked on TSN SportsCentre for years. Both are entertaining, and most importantly, both present the information well to the viewers. The big boards and graphics are fun to watch.

The only drawback is the panel on Fox Sports Live. It’s a waste of time and waste of discussion.

Charissa Thompson is incompetent at her role, and she should have not been hired at all. She was awful on Fox Sports Rocky Mountain and ESPN. She has no idea what she is doing as a point person on Fox Sports Live. If she was not pretty, would she even be hired?

Chris Rose should have been hired on Fox Sports Live. He would have fared better than Thompson.

So glad for another sports highlights show. It’s good to watch another option than watching the crap called SportsCenter.

SportsCenter used to be so good, but the problem is the show lost its way by focusing on what’s trending and creating artificial debates that never made sense. What’s galling about SportsCenter is they ignore hockey and they only show highlights on popular teams.

Only thing worth watching on ESPN is Skip Bayless, and that is only to hear what stupid comment he will say next.

Contact me or follow me on Twitter: @TalkinRockies

Solving Rockies’ road woes can be feasible

This road trip serves as a litmus test for the Rockies.

It would answer whether or not the Rockies can sustain their excellent 5-1 homestand. That hasn’t been the case for them so far.

The Rockies are 1-3 on this road trip after taking a 5-4 loss to the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park last night. From watching the last three games, it appears the Rockies have reverted to doing things that have made them a bad team this season.

It’s four games already, but the Rockies have been so bad on the road that it’s hard to give them a benefit of the doubt. They are 22-41 on the road for a reason. They are not good enough to win away from Coors Field.

Intelligence and attitude are why the Rockies struggle on the road, and that has to change if they want to be a contending team on a yearly basis.

The Rockies have to get smarter with their hitting approach. They strike out often on the road, and they don’t get the big hit when they need to. They take poor at-bats at the plate.

Last night illustrated what’s wrong with the Rockies. They made Ethan Martin look like Cliff Lee as they mustered two runs and four hits off him in 6 1/3 innings he pitched.  Keep in mind the Phillies starter has been mediocre at best prior to last night’s start.

The Rockies guessed by swinging at every pitch rather than make Martin work by fouling off pitches or knowing what pitch was a ball.

This is the same old story when they are hitting. It’s tough to watch.

It’s hard to create offense when guys are striking out rather than figuring out how to make a pitcher work by fouling off pitches. This has been a problem all year. It’s even worse when veterans such as Dexter Fowler and Michael Cuddyer are doing it.

There’s no question Rockies hitting coach Dante Bichette has spent time telling guys to be patient at the plate. With that said, it’s easy to wonder if he is getting through to them by the way they are playing.

Their plate discipline has to get better. It can’t be hard to foul off pitches. If those guys can’t figure it out, they shouldn’t be playing everyday.

Part of being in the majors is to know plate discipline. That has to be taught in the minors before hitters are called up. If a hitter is hacking, it’s easy to get him out. The Rockies can’t have this. These guys should know how to have good at-bats when they enter the majors. There is no excuse to not make a pitcher work.

The Rockies have had trouble hitting on the road by hitting .247 and scoring 219 runs (third worst output in the NL) on the road. There is a reason to it. They have not done what they should be doing in being effective at the plate.

Until the Rockies figure out how to take proper at-bats, the results will continue to be same on the road.

Attitude is another problem with the Rockies. It seems like they are always flat when they play on the road.  They seemed to be defeated when the home team takes a lead on them.

Their attitude on the road has to change.

It comes down to confidence. The Rockies have to expect to do well on the road. They can’t let their struggles wear them down.  They can’t let deficits make it a lost cause for them. They need to know how to be aggressive such as stealing bases or extending single into a double.

The talent is there, but it means nothing if the attitude is not there.

The Rockies have had good hitting teams over the years, but for whatever reason, it has not translated well on the road. Then-Rockies manager Don Baylor did all he could to get his hitters to believe they can be effective on the road.

The problem is the Rockies expect to lose on the road. They don’t have enough leaders that can show how it’s done, so this will continue until the mindset changes.

The Rockies have to figure out how to do well on the road if they want to be a playoff team or have a winning season.

They need to find players who can get it done. That will be the key.

It would also be nice if guys like Nolan Arenado, Corey Dickerson, Charlie Blackmon and Charlie Culberson can figure out plate discipline.

If the Rockies can figure out how to have a better approach and develop a better attitude, they can improve on the road.

They need to find players that know what to do for that to happen.

Contact me or follow me on Twitter: @TalkinRockies

Improvement on offense come from Rockies’ sparkplugs

(Nick Wass/Associated Press)

(Nick Wass/Associated Press)

BY LESLIE MONTEIRO

The Rockies have been driving in runs since the homestand last weekend.

It has not been a coincidence they have won six of seven games as a result after the Rockies took a 6-3 victory over the Orioles last night at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

It shows there is a correlation between scoring and winning games. The Rockies are scoring many runs, and their offensive output has given them many wins.

 Charlie Culberson, D.J. LeMahieu and Corey Dickerson have given the Rockies a spark on offense. They are driving in runs, and they have been aggressive in creating offense such as stealing bases or extending a single into a double.

Based on their success so far, they will be getting playing time. They are hoping they can be in the Rockies’ plans for 2014.

Culberson hit his first major league home run last night in tying the game at 2 in the sixth inning. In 15 games, he has eight hits and five RBIs in 33 at-bats. He has been coming through in key hits so far.

It is a small sample size, but he is getting it done so far. It will be interesting how he does as he gets playing time. He is a guy who provides pop in the lineup.  He hit .310 with 14 home runs, 27 doubles, eight triples and 64 RBIs for Triple-A Colorado Springs.

Culberson also reads the ball well when he plays the outfield. He demonstrated his athleticism last night when he made a nice run to deny Adam Jones of a hit in the fifth inning. That play prevented the Orioles from creating a big inning in that inning as Chris Davis was stranded at first.

Reading where the ball goes is an important skill for an outfielder. It helps prevent base hits. Nelson Cruz learned it the hard way in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series when he failed to read the ball, and that set the Cardinals to score two runs that helped them tie the game at 7 in the ninth inning. From there, the Cardinals had the momentum as they won the game along with winning Game 7 of the World Series.

Reading where the ball goes has an impact on the scoreboard, and Culberson is one guy that can make a difference with his good eye and athleticism. That’s why he will get consideration to be an everyday outfielder if he produces as a hitter and a fielder.

LeMahieu has taken the job from Josh Rutledge this season as the everyday second baseman, and that should make him the favorite to be playing in that position next year.

LeMahieu has 75 hits and 15 doubles along with driving in 18 runs in 278 at-bats. He is a guy that can make things happen on the base such as extending a single into a double or finding a way to steal a base as he has 14 stolen bases to show for it.

He is a classic tablesetter that puts himself in a position to score with Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki and Michael Cuddyer hitting after him.

He has been steady as a hitter, and that’s why he established himself as an everyday player.

LeMahieu’s defense has been good. He knows how to make double plays, and he can make a nice grab as he displayed last night by making a leaping catch to rob Matt Wieters of a hit in the third inning. That play was huge since the bases were loaded with two outs. If  he does not make that catch, the Orioles would have scored couple of more runs with them taking a 2-0 lead.

LeMahieu’s play was the turning point of the game. He was able to get Juan Nicasio out of a jam there in that third inning.

Rutledge lost his job at second base since he could not do what LeMahieu has done at that position.

Dickerson has been a revelation with 25 hits and eight RBIs in 33 games for the Rockies. All he does is hit when he is batting.  He is so good that the Rockies expect him to get a base hit when he makes a plate appearance.

He has given the Rockies a spark since filling in for Gonzalez, who is on the disabled list with a finger injury. The team knew he could hit after hitting .371 with 11 homers, 14 triples, 21 doubles and 50 RBIs in 75 games for Triple-A Colorado Springs, so what he’s doing is not surprising.

Dickerson has a chance to be an everyday player next year with Cuddyer likely moving to first base as Todd Helton’s replacement. It is not only his defense that will help him, but it’s his offense.

Culberson, LeMahieu and Dickerson have upgraded the offense for the Rockies. They have made the lineup better with their presence. They bring energy and aggressiveness that has been lacking before they arrived. They are being effective as catalysts. Their play has given the Rockies a much-needed spark.

Teams need those types of players to complement sluggers in the lineup. There has to be a balance for a lineup to be effective.

The offense has been better with the emergence of the Rockies’ sparkplugs.

Contact me or follow me on Twitter: @TalkinRockies

No fairy tale ending for Manuel

(AP/Joseph Kaczmarek)

(AP/Joseph Kaczmarek)

BY LESLIE MONTEIRO

Managers and coaches have an expiration date in sports.

Charlie Manuel found out he was not immune from it Friday afternoon when the Phillies fired him as their manager.

Everyone knew he would not be back next season, but to fire him now is surprising. The thought was he would finish out his final year of his contract by managing the rest of the season after the great work he has done in his tenure with the Phillies.

It must have been so bad for Manuel to be fired now. It’s hard to believe the Phillies would fire him despite losing 19 out of their 24 games since the post-All-Star break. That team wasn’t good enough. They don’t have many good hitters, and their pitching isn’t good, either.

The successful Phillies manager wanted to manage for a few more years. He likes being around the players, and he enjoys managing. He was not ready to retire despite the fact he is 69 years old.

The Phillies did not think Manuel was the guy moving forward. They are going to be rebuilding on the fly, and they don’t think he is the guy to be part of the rebuilding project at his age.

It’s too bad Manuel’s tenure has to end that way, but that’s professional sports. It’s  rare managers or coaches retire on their own without being fired. It does not work that way. The Phillies manager knows this being that he has been in Major League Baseball for a long time.

Not even Joe Torre had that magic ending. The Yankees decided not to retain him by lowballing him to a contract that he would refuse in 2007. They gave him a one-year deal with incentives. It was an insult to a manager who won many championships for that proud franchise, and they knew it. They knew what they were doing in giving an insulting offer. They wanted to hire a young manager that can get better results out of their roster in Joe Girardi by citing how he is a good tactician.

If Torre was winning championships for the Yankees after 2000, he would not have gotten an insulting offer after the 2007 season.

The Phillies shouldn’t apologize for firing Manuel. There comes a time change is needed.  That said, they should have fired Ruben Amaro Jr. as their general manager, too. He hasn’t built a great team in recent years, and the farm system is in shambles. He failed to get value for his players during this year’s trade deadline.

IF they think firing Manuel will change their fortunes, they are kidding themselves. They will still be bad as long as Amaro is running the show. He is not the right guy to build a team from scratch. He shouldn’t have been hired in the first place when Mike Arbuckle was a better choice after drafting well and building a great farm system as a scouting director.

The firing of Manuel means nothing lasts forever when it comes to winning. Sports is cyclical. There comes a time where everything changes. The Phillies reached that point.

Once everything settles down, the Phillies will honor their longtime manager by having a night for him. They should after he made them a better team by leading them to five straight NL East titles. He had them in the World Series couple of times, and he won a World Series. He was the winningest manager in Phillies history by winning 780 games. That’s why he is going to be remembered fondly in Philadelphia.

It isn’t easy managing in a demanding sports town. There are certain media members that get on coaches and managers, and fans expect winning. Manuel was able to deal with criticism and expectations, and that’s what stands out about him more than anything.

Manuel’s critics will talk about the Phillies manager being a poor tactician, but there are not many great tacticians in baseball. Great players make a manager better, and bad players make a manager awful. Managers make decisions by hoping everything works out more than anything.

A manager’s job is to get the most of his talented players, and Manuel did that.

It would have been nice if Manuel retired after winning a title in 2008, but that was unrealistic. No manager wants to retire when he has a lot to offer. There is a reason he said he was mad the Phillies took the best seat in the house by firing him in his final press conference as their manager. Working with players was his life. That’s all he knows.

He is going to have to find something better to do now, and that’s not going to be easy. For all intents and purposes, his managerial days are over. No one is going to hire him at his age, especially when teams are leaning towards hiring young managers in baseball.

Manuel knew this day was coming eventually. He did not want this to end.

His firing shows nothing lasts forever in sports.

Contact me or follow me on Twitter: @TalkinRockies

What’s not to like about Dickerson?

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Corey Dickerson has quickly become a fan favorite with his performance.

He is not only hitting, but he is making hustle plays such as stretching a single into a double or double into a triple. He is doing whatever he can to get on base.

Rockies manager Walt Weiss liked what he saw out of Dickerson to bat him third in the lineup in yesterday’s game, and the rookie outfielder made the rookie manager look like a genius by going 3-for-4 with a triple, two doubles and two RBIs.

Dickerson has played so well that the Rockies expect him to drive in runs or get a base hit when he is hitting. He demonstrated that couple of times in yesterday’s game. He hit a RBI triple that scored Dexter Fowler to give the Rockies a 2-1 lead over the Padres in the third inning, and he extended the Rockies’ lead to 4-2 in the eighth inning by hitting a double that scored Fowler.

It wasn’t the hitting that stood out. It was how he was able to stretch a double into a triple with his speed, and that’s what he did in the third inning. He tried to do it again in the eighth inning, but he was tagged out at third after he stretched a double into a triple.

Questioning his decision to go for the triple in the eighth is irrelevant. It’s about how aggressive he can be and how he trusts his speed to help him get extra bases. That’s what the Rockies like about him, and that’s why he will be getting playing time for the final seven weeks of the season.

For all intents and purposes, the Rockies are looking at guys who can play next year. Dickerson is one of them, and that’s why Weiss is giving him the opportunity. He has made the most of it.

Dickerson’s odds of being an everyday outfielder next year is good with Michael Cuddyer likely replacing Todd Helton at first base. He has this year’s experience to help him make his case to win the job in the 2014 season.

In 33 games he played this season, Dickerson is hitting .321 with 25 hits, eight doubles, two triples and eight RBIs.

He always had the talent to be great offensively. When he played at Triple-A Colorado Springs, he hit .371 with 11 homers and 50 RBIs in 75 games.

His defense has been better.  He has not made an error in 17 games prior to yesterday’s game. He knows where the ball is going as he positions himself to make a catch, and he has made good catches. That certainly goes a long way for Dickerson.

His attitude has served him well. He is eager to learn from others. He picks up valuable lessons from veterans such as Dexter Fowler and Carlos Gonzalez. He has a great work ethic. He likes to always get better. That goes a long way for a player to be good.

Dickerson’s track record as a hitter shows he is not a fluke. He is a guy the Rockies can build around along with Nolan Arenado and D.J. LeMahieu.

With young hitters, it comes down to consistency. Remember Josh Rutledge and Tyler Colvin played well last year and they weren’t the same players this year. Before the Rockies can get excited about Dickerson, they need to see more.

Right now, the rookie outfielder is enjoying this appearance. He knows he can’t think ahead. Baseball is a humbling sport where a player is as good as the next day. He does not have the talent like Carlos Gonzalez, which the game comes easily. He has to work for it.

Dickerson embraces the challenge. He is a go-getter. He listens to what people tell him. He is at it at the batting cage. His personality is contagious.

For him, this is the American dream. This is an opportunity for him to play a kid’s game in ballparks around the country. This is a privilege for him hanging out with the greatest players in the world.  This is where he is thankful where he can be on a chartered flight rather than be on a bus to a minor-league town.

Dickerson wants to see to it he does not go back to the minors. He did all he could there. It’s about him staying in the major leagues now.

He is having it good now, but he knows the hard part is keeping it up. His challenge is just the beginning.

Right now, he is riding a nice momentum.

He hopes it does not end anytime soon.

Contact me or follow me on Twitter: @TalkinRockies

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