Saunders: Are the Rockies’ too uptight? And a tribute to Tom Seaver

Quick hits from my beat writer’s notebook:

* It’s been my supposition that the 2020 Rockies, led by the nose-to-the-grindstone trio of Charlie Blackmon, Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story, are a very serious bunch. Too serious, and perhaps that hurts the Rockies when times get tough.

Blackmon, however, doesn’t buy my theory.

“I think we have a really good mix of focus and intensity, and then we have some fun with it,” he told me. “We enjoy winning and I think we do a good job of keeping it in perspective.

“I don’t think we need to be more relaxed. I don’t think we need more funny jokes. I don’t think that’s the case.”

* Tributes to ballplayers are always special, but the New York Mets’ tribute to the late Tom Seaver was terrific. On Thursday, every member of the Mets put dirt on his right knee to symbolize Seaver’s timeless drop-and-drive delivery. As each player took the field, he stopped at his position and tipped his cap to Seaver’s No. 41, which hangs in the upper deck in left field at Citi Field.

Seaver, who became known in New York as simply “The Franchise,” died Monday at the age of 75 due to complications from Lewy body dementia and COVID-19. His death was announced Wednesday night, just a few hours after the Mets beat the Baltimore Orioles, the team the Miracle Mets upset in the 1969 World Series.

Add Seaver. Check out this elegant passage from the New York Times’ obituary of “Tom Terrific:”

“At 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, give or take a few, with a thick waist and tree-trunk legs that helped generate the velocity on his fastball and hard slider and the spin on his curveball, Seaver at work was a picture of kinetic grace. He had a smooth windup, a leg kick with his left knee raised high, and a stride so long after pushing off the mound that his right knee often grazed the dirt.”

“… He was also a cerebral sort, a thinker who studied opposing hitters and pored over the details of each pitch  — its break, its speed, its location. As he aged and his arm strength diminished, it was his strategic thinking and experience that extended his career.”

* Rockies manager Bud Black, who faced Seaver twice toward the end of Seaver’s Hall of Fame career, said he was “in awe” of the right-hander.

“Check out those complete games for Seaver in his career, I mean incredible,” Black said.

How incredible? Seaver started 647 games in his 20-year career and tossed 231 complete games. That was another era — before specialization — when pitchers took pride in battling through to the ninth inning. No wonder games used to take only 2 1/2 hours.

* Lost in the haze of the Rockies’ overall poor offensive performance has been the maturation of outfielder Raimel Tapia. As I write this, he just led off Friday night’s game against the Dodgers with a home run, his first dinger of the year.

Tapia was batting .125 (2-for-16) through his first eight games this season, but entering Friday night’s game he was hitting .342 (25-for-73) by hitting safely in 15 of his past 20 games. But it’s not just that Tapia is learning to be an effective leadoff hitter. He’s matured as an outfielder and as a baserunner. Some of his mistakes — overthrowing the cutoff man, taking bad angles on line drives, swinging at pitches well outside the strike zone — made me wonder if he would ever turn the corner.

It sure looks like he has.