Notes: GM marks seventh anniversary

Notes: GM marks seventh anniversary

DENVER -- Dan O'Dowd celebrated the seventh anniversary of his joining the Rockies as general manager Wednesday, though to call it a "celebration" is something of an overstatement.

O'Dowd downplayed the anniversary, but after what he called a challenging "hump game" against the Giants, he took the opportunity to reflect on his years with the Rockies and the organization's ongoing journey in search of a return to postseason baseball.

It is no exaggeration to note that O'Dowd has gone through something of a metamorphosis over his seven years steering the Rockies. He quickly earned the moniker of "Dealin' Dan" when he first arrived in Colorado amidst a flurry of offseason moves, even quipping in his first Hot Stove season of 1999-2000 that he'd trade his wife for a starting pitcher.

Seven years later, however, O'Dowd's legacy with the Rockies has evolved into a more palatable role as the chief architect of the Rockies' revamped farm system. The Rockies have run out four homegrown starting pitchers in their last four games, and Wednesday's starting lineup featured seven homegrown Rockies, emblematic of an organization newly flush with farmhand prospects.

"He's very creative as far as thoughts, possibilities, scenarios," said manager Clint Hurdle, O'Dowd's partner on the field for the last five seasons. "He has a very good eye for strengths and weaknesses in players that you don't always see."

Economic realities have dictated that the Rockies have had no choice but to be creative, and O'Dowd cites the trade of Larry Walker and the subsequent signing of 14th-round draft pick Dexter Fowler in 2004 as an example of that imaginative thinking, promising fans will see the dividends "two or three years from now when Fowler begins to emerge at the Major League level."

The Rockies have also been adept at what O'Dowd calls "the movement of assets," re-envisioning how a player can fit in the team's long-term vision.

"Taking Brad Hawpe and making him what I think might be the best defensive right fielder in the National League," O'Dowd says, citing an example. "We've had to look at every asset that we've had on the field and be creative in how we might be able to use them, because we're probably not going to be able to go on the market and buy those types of players."

Ultimately, O'Dowd remains focused on that vision of a destination, developing a culture of winning by mixing core players from their system with smart trades and free agency dabbling.

"A culture of winning, that's the next step for us," O'Dowd said. "We've got to figure out how to win. We've got to learn how to get over the hump. We've had a lot of 'hump games' in the course of a season and very rarely have we won a hump game this year. Those are the games for me that take an organization from being competitive to being a winning organization."

Pressure drop: After a season of low offensive numbers at home, Coors Field has returned to form in September, with the Rockies averaging 12 runs a game over their last seven home games entering Wednesday's contest.

"This place is kind of playing like it used to," noted Jason Jennings after the Rockies put up 32 runs in the first two games against the Giants. "It seems like the balls are jumping more. Maybe the cool air is coming back in and it's making a difference. The ball still feels good. I don't think there's a humidor conspiracy going on."

Jennings and the pitching staff found their strong seasons overshadowed by claims that their low numbers were a reflection of the humidor, the Rockies' climate-control chamber that restores balls to their proper weight and texture, countering Denver's dry mile-high climate. But with the Rockies offense suddenly waking up, there is no reason to deny credit where it's due.

Part of the late-season offensive surge can be attributed to hungry callups eager to make a splash. But there may also be something to the theory of heightened production after the Rockies played themselves out of the playoffs with a 5-16 stretch beginning Aug. 15.

"That can always be pointed to," Hurdle conceded. "Pressure affects you one way or the other. Either you get a little better or you get a little worse. Hopefully there comes a time in your career where you say, 'I need to embrace this.' Because bottom line, the biggest thing we dealt with was the pressure offensively in scoring runs in key situations. The key theme for me that our players kept missing was that the pressure was on the pitcher. We never found a way to really grasp that until September."

The current series has been a perfect case in point, with the Giants arriving in Denver pressing hard to stay in the postseason hunt while the Rockies were finally able to relax and play their game to the tune of a 32-12 scoring imbalance in the first two games.

Century man: Matt Holliday's two RBIs Tuesday night earned him entry into the 100-RBI club for the first time in his career, joining Garrett Atkins for a tandem double threat.

"It's a sign of the team," Holliday said about the accomplishment. "You can't get 100 RBIs without people getting on base. Shoot, Garrett's on base almost every time I hit now. Between him, Jamey Carroll, [Kaz] Matsui, [Todd] Helton -- those guys deserve a lot of credit, because if they're not on base, you can't drive them in. It is a nice milestone, but at the same time it's a team milestone."

Only five other teams currently have more than one player with 100 RBIs, and with the exception of last season, the Rockies have had at least two 100-RBI men every season since their first two seasons, when they had none.

On tap: Byung-Hyun Kim (8-11, 5.30 ERA) opens a four-game series with the Braves on Thursday, facing right-hander John Smoltz (13-9, 3.71) at 6:35 p.m. MT.

Owen Perkins is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.