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The Rockies' Lucky No. 7

How great was the '05 draft? Six teams passed on shortstop Troy Tulowitzki -- and even after he led Colorado to the World Series, only one of them regrets it

Posted: Tuesday March 25, 2008 1:25PM; Updated: Wednesday March 26, 2008 3:48PM
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Last season's NL Rookie of the Year runner-up, Tulowitzki had as much impact in the clubhouse as he did on the field.
Last season's NL Rookie of the Year runner-up, Tulowitzki had as much impact in the clubhouse as he did on the field.
Peter Read Miller/SI
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Some Octobers, as if with a wink and a grin, baseball grants a peek at its future, slipping the best of its coming attractions into the Sturm und Drang of the postseason. The 1951 World Series gave us the sweet synchronicity of rookies Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays facing each other. In 1995, Manny Ramirez and Chipper Jones, both 23 and playing in their first postseason, squared off in the Fall Classic. Last October the opening game of the National League Championship Series brought another clash of phenoms, though seeing was less revelatory than hearing, "Get your ass down to first base and shut up!"

Listen up, people. What's next for baseball, which is still trying to distance itself from the Steroid Era, was articulated last Oct. 11 in the middle of the diamond of Chase Field in Phoenix. There was Colorado Rockies rookie shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, a day after turning 23, giving an earful to Arizona Diamondbacks rookie rightfielder Justin Upton, two months removed from his 20th birthday.

A pitch from mild-mannered Rockies lefthander Jeff Francis had hit Upton with the Diamondbacks trailing 5-1, a runner on second and no outs in the seventh inning. Upton was slow to take his base, and his body language made clear he thought he'd been plunked on purpose. Tulowitzki directed Upton to quietly haul a certain body part of his as well as the rest of himself to first.

"Why would we hit you?" Tulowitzki barked. "You're a .200 hitter! We want you in the box! Shut up and go to the bag!"

At spring training Tulowitzki explained the outburst: "Upton should have been happy he got hit in that situation. Get a runner on base, and you can start something. He took too long to get to first, and I saw that Jeff didn't like it. But Jeff's not the kind of guy who's going to do anything to anybody, so I felt I needed to say something. I respect guys who play the game the right way, and I didn't feel [Upton] did the right thing in that situation. Does that mean I don't like him? No."

On the next batted ball Upton plowed into second baseman Kaz Matsui to prevent his turning a double play. Umpire Larry Vanover thought Upton went in too aggressively and ruled interference, giving Colorado the DP. The Rockies won the game 5-1 and swept the series.

"He had some adrenaline going," Tulowitzki says. "I have no problem with that. To me that's the way you play the game."

During BP before Game 2, Upton approached Tulowitzki behind the cage and asked, "Do you have a problem with me?"

"No," Tulowitzki recalls saying. "It's just that if I got hit in that situation, I'm going to be happy getting on first. I understand it might not feel great, but it's a team game and that's the way you play."

Game on. Era on.

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