It wasn't but nine days ago that the Colorado Rockies were sputtering along in the National League West. They had lost 18 of their first 24 games in the month of May and fallen to 14 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers. Fans were waiting anxiously to learn which coach was about to become the scapegoat.
After all, desperate times call for desperate measures and knee-jerk reactions, and with the Rockies about to join San Diego in the basement, a move of some sort seemed inevitable.
But that's not how the Rockies operate under their current ownership. The brother duo of Dick and Charlie Monfort pride themselves on providing a stable atmosphere for their players and coaches. Some fans applaud their patience, others label it ignorance, and then there's the third party that cries incompetence. All three actually make a pretty sound case, but the bottom line is, the Monfort's philosophy puts the onus on the players to create their own spark and fuel their own turnaround.
One time it worked out very well for the Rockies. They were able to pick themselves off the deck and make an unprecedented run deep into October. Then you have several seasons of completely opposite results, where the ship hits the iceberg head on, backs up, and rams into it again. Rarely is there a result that falls in between.
Under which category will the 2012 Rockies fall?
It's still too early to tell on that, but we can at least tell you the source for which the players are currently drawing their motivation.
Their new motto is simply "swag," which most of you recognize as an outdated term used to describe a confident or stylish appearance.
The inspiration is ... well, a cardboard cutout of Justin Bieber with a talk bubble that emphasizes their new rally cry. And yes, this cutout sits in their clubhouse much the same way Lou Brown's cardboard cutout of evil owner Rachel Phelps sat in the Cleveland Indians clubhouse in the movie "Major League." Only, thankfully, it has no removable pieces. Well, aside from the cap and the eye black strips that bear Rockies logos.
So who's behind the Bieber cutout? It's only natural to speculate, much like the Fox Sports Arizona broadcast crew did on Monday night, that it's Troy Tulowitzki, who used Bieber's "Baby, Baby, Baby" as his walk-up song during the 2011 season. The closest thing we have to a confirmation of that is this video of Rockies reliever Matt Belisle. But we know by now that Tulowitzki isn't all that concerned with how he's perceived outside of Denver, so it would be a huge upset if he didn't have some hand in it.
Of course Tulowitzki was a big part of beginning the on-field turnaround before landing on the 15-day DL last Thursday with a strained left groin, but the Rockies have managed to continue playing well in his absence, taking two of three from the Dodgers over the weekend to wrap up a 6-1 homestand. They followed that up on Monday night with a 4-0 win over Arizona behind Christian Friedrich's seven shutout innings.
So perhaps there is something to this whole "swag" deal catching on in their clubhouse, even if it really only exists in their minds. Or maybe they're just catching opponents at the right time. Whatever the case is, the Rockies are playing much crisper baseball, which means their newfound cardboard friend won't be designated for incineration anytime soon.
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