Fowler's leap propels Rockies' big inning

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It was exactly the kind of move one might expect from a player who had a chance to play basketball at Harvard.
Fortunately, Dexter Fowler passed on that opportunity and took a $925,000 bonus to sign with the Rockies after being selected in the 14th round in 2004. On Monday, with the Phillies up 2-1 in the eighth, Fowler leapt over Chase Utley on a potential double-play ball, distracting the second baseman and causing a poor throw to second. The Phillies ended up with no outs on the play, and the Rockies went on to score three times and for a 4-2 lead.
In this case, it was probably more athleticism than smarts from Fowler that allowed him to avoid Utley, who had thrown himself into the baserunner’s path in an effort to field the ball. A collision seemed the likely result initially, but Fowler edged to the right and jumped over Utley’s back before sliding into second. Utley did get the throw away, but it wasn’t where Jimmy Rollins expected it and Rollins ended up being charged with an error after it rolled away.
Fowler had reached base on a walk versus Cliff Lee. He singled previously in the game. The rookie had to be disappointed because of the events of Sunday’s game, when he was removed in favor of Jason Giambi in the ninth despite already collecting two hits in the game. Giambi popped out against Brad Lidge with the tying run on, and the Rockies went on to lose by one.
The switch-hitting Fowler found himself on the bench frequently against righties down the stretch because of the play of Seth Smith and Carlos Gonzalez. However, he’s started every game of the NLDS with the Phillies throwing nothing but lefties and he’ll be in there again Tuesday against Cole Hamels, if the Rockies go on to win tonight. He should be locked in as the Rockies’ center fielder next year, with Gonzalez presumably playing regularly in left or right.

The Giants are winning but they’re still gonna sell

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The state of baseball in general, the state of the National League in particular and the state of the San Francisco Giants as a competitor are conspiring to create what seems like at least a mildly absurd situation.

The Giants, a veteran-laden team that, as recently as this past offseason but definitely within the past couple of years, were at least talking about being on a win-now footing, just swept a four-game series, have won five straight games and have won 12 of 14 to pull themselves to within two and a half games of a playoff spot.

Yet, that’s all for temporary show, because they’re about to sell off. At least according to Jeff Passan at ESPN. Giants president Farhan Zaidi tried to push back on that in a radio interview yesterday, denying that the club has foreclosed the possibility of a postseason push, but I’m not really buying that and I don’t think most people are.

On one level it makes sense to ignore the recent surge and forge on with a rebuild. Sure, the Giants are winning but they’re not exactly good. They’re two and a half out of the Wild Card, but there are many teams ahead of them. There’s a lot of reason to think that they’re playing in good fortune right now and that that, rather than finding some extra gear of sustainable better play, is what’s to credit. Hot streaks can happen at any time but the trade deadline only comes once a year. When you have the best starter available in Madison Bumgarner and the best reliever available in Will Smith, you gotta make those deals. That’s what I’d probably do if I ran the Giants and I think that that’s, wisely, what Zaidi will do.

Still, it’s an odd look, less for the Giants specifically than for baseball as a whole. We may in an era of cheap front offices who don’t like to contend if it means spending money, but it’s unfair to paint the Giants with that brush. They’ve spent money and acquired talent and have done whatever they can to extend their 2010-2014 mini-dynasty a few more years and in doing so they’ve made a lot of fans happy. That team has pretty much reached the end and, even in an earlier, more competitive era, they’d not be properly criticized for starting in on a rebuild. Heck, they’d be excused if they had done it a year or two earlier, frankly.

But, because so many teams have punted on improving themselves, these aging Giants are at least superficially competitive. As such, when they do sell off in the coming days, it’ll look to some like they’re waving a white flag or something when they’re not really doing that. I mean, the Rockies and the Pirates, among other teams, should be much better than they are but didn’t seem all that interested in improving, thereby helping the Giants look better, right? It’s less a knock on the Giants for rebuilding when they’re within striking distance of the playoffs than it is on the rest of the league for allowing a team like the Giants to be within striking distance of a playoff spot.

But that’s where we are right now. An insanely competitive Wild Card race from teams that, on the whole, are rather unconcerned with being competitive. What a time to be a baseball fan.