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Series Eight: Marlins at Rockies Preview

The Marlins are in Denver, Colorado today where they'll start a three game set against the Rockies. Today also nearly marked an historic day in the history of Fish Stripes as it nearly marked the end of the spectacular mascot interview series.

Despite my better judgment though, the mascot series will go on. Why would the series end you ask? Well, the Rockies - in addition to being a horrible organization at the present time - also have some pretty bad mascots.

At first the plan was to, of course, talk to Dinger, the Rockies mascot.  But, as much as I like triceratops, Dinger looks a little too much like Barney for my taste (yes, I know that Dinger and Barney are entirely different kinds of dinosaurs - it's the color I'm referring to here, so spare me your emails; and also spare me your emails about how I'm anti-mascot - I've done more than most folks to champion the cause of mascots around the country, including the unfortunate phone incident with Mr. Met).

After Dinger, we thought about going to the minors - since that's where so many of the Rockies current players were last year anyway.  But it only got worse when we did that.  The Rockies AAA affiliate, the Colorado Sky Sox, employ a mascot who is as confusingly named (Sox the Fox) as the team is nicknamed (do they realize they're the Rockies affiliate and not the Red Sox or White Sox? And what is a Sky Sox anyway?).  In AA, the Tulsa Drillers employ Hornsby.  Rather than attempt to explain what Hornsby is/might be, we're just not going to talk to him (is he Oklahoma's interpretation of a Texas Longhorn?).  (And yes, I realize he's probably named after Rogers, but I don't care)

The Rockies' high-A affiliate, the Modesto Nuts, has better mascots (Wally, Peanut, and Al - respectively), but they were recently renamed (and thus new mascots were brought in) - so they don't know very much about the current Rockies or their high-level prospects (although talking to them about the arrest of some of their high profile prospects who were recently arrested would have been interesting).

So after all that, we settled on talking to Dinger. Yippee!

Here's what the series looks like:

Game 1 (tonight): Beckett vs. Wright

Game 2 (tomorrow): Leiter vs. Kennedy

Game 3 (Thursday afternoon): Burnett vs. Jennings

Now, on to the interview:

: Hi, Dinger.  Thanks for joining us today.  

: Thanks for having me, Grover.

: Tell us a little bit about the Rockies. On paper this is a series that the Marlins should probably win.  But it's in Denver and it's always scary to send a team into the high altitude.

: That's true. But the impact of the altitude is as much mental as it is real - at least in the sense that it affects both teams equally. Teams that handle the elevation better mentally tend to perform better.

That's one of the things that we're trying to instill in this young team. And that's probably the main story with this Rockies team - at least at this point: youth. Other than Todd Helton and a handful of other guys - like former Marlin Preston Wilson, this is a young team with a lot of potential.

: Yeah, to Marlins fans this years Rockies are kind of reminiscent of the 1998 Marlins. Without the fire sale, and more importantly, without the World Series title, of course.

: Ouch.

: So Dinger, what's been more painful this year - the uniforms that the Rockies have inflicted on everyone, or the team's actual on field performance? (Ed. Note: the Rockies enter the series with a 6 - 12 record on the year)

: I don't think I can answer that question in any positive way.

: Ok, I'll give you an easy one then: Although the Marlins won't get to see him this series, Jeff Francis is one of the top prospects in all of baseball. What can you tell us about him?

: Francis is a future star in the making. The only question about him is whether he'll be able to withstand the pressures of pitching at Coors' Field. He's 24 and he won't overpower you with his fastball - he tops out in the low 90s, but he has four quality major league pitches: a fastball, slider, curve, and change. He was a physics major in college, so he's pretty smart - he's really a pitcher, not just a thrower. So far this year though he hasn't gotten off to a great start.

: Speaking of being a pitcher, and as we've already alluded to, pitching is tough at Coors Field. Many feel - and Jeff Francis could probably write a paper about it - that the elevation has a significant effect - negatively - on breaking balls at Coors Field. Do you think that's true?

: Absolutely - and the numbers bear that out. Most folks think of home runs when they think of the Rockies and Coors Field. But it's actually much more than that. Coors Field is a tremendous park for hits of all kinds - particularly doubles and triples. Last year Coors was the best park in the NL for doubles. There are also considerably fewer strikeouts at Coors than at other parks - the fewest in the league actually, once you adjust for park factors - not just the absolute count of strikeouts.

For power, lefties tend to do a little better than righties, so I fear this could be the series that Carlos Delgado breaks out.  You'll all just have to hope that he doesn't change his swing in an effort to put on a show.

I'm particularly looking forward to Wednesday night's game - with Leiter and Kennedy on the mound. I've been dusting off crooked numbers for the scoreboard - I think we'll be needing a lot of them.

: Thanks for your time Dinger. We'll talk again next week before the Rockies visit the Marlins in Miami.