The Colorado Rockies get off to an excellent start in April, slump a bit in May and are out of contention in the National League West before the Fourth of July. It’s an annual rite of passage in lower downtown Denver. Just as the weather begins to improve, the Colorado Rockies suck us all in.
The Nuggets and Avalanche are now officially done for the season, and the Broncos are still a couple months from training camp, so the massive gap in the sporting calendar dictates that we seek comfort in our local nine. That warm-and-fuzzy group of ballplayers down at 20th and Blake usually fill that void.
By June, however, the happy thoughts and optimism are generally replaced by sarcasm and apathy. This year, however, things are going to be different.
This year, the Colorado Rockies should hold captive our collective competitive natures long into the summer months. This year, the Rockies will contend and could quite possibly even win an NL West crown.
Why, you ask? What is any different about this group than the list of teams that have followed the aforementioned recipe for organizational futility? Why will this team avoid the identical pattern of mediocre play that has been the franchise’s hallmark since the team first started playing games back at the old Mile High Stadium?
Simply put, this team is far better than those that came before. I know none of you are ready to fully commit to this sentiment, but maybe general manager Dan O’Dowd finally got something right.
This offseason, like most, Rockies fans took their turn complaining of an incompetent front office led by an ownership group that allegedly didn’t care about winning. They bemoaned the fact that the team did not bring in a pitching ace or an All-Star-caliber everyday player, spending money instead on transforming the right field stands into a rooftop watering hole.
This sentiment is not completely without merit, but looking closely, this past winter was actually the busiest the team has been in many years. In addition, this offseason was one of the most challenging for the Monfort family wallet. One year following an offseason that saw the Rockies spend just $1.5 million on new acquisitions, the team spent $31.5 million.
Yes, the Monforts spent $31.5 million on improving the team on the field.
As fans continued their chorus of “we didn’t do anything,” the team did quite a bit.
They got better from top to bottom in the pitching staff by bringing in guys like Jordan Lyles, Boone Logan, Brett Anderson, and familiar faces such as Franklin Morales and LaTroy Hawkins. Lyles has been far better than expected and may come back to earth sometime later this summer after his 3-0 start to go with an unheard of 2.70 ERA. Morales, Logan and Hawkins have all proven to have great value in different roles, whether in spot starts, middle relief or closing out games. And the best is still yet to come from this group, as the team’s biggest pitching acquisition, Anderson, has been on the shelf and may not see the mound until the middle of the summer.
An old face is making a bit of a revival, as well. Juan Nicasio is flashing the control and command that we have all hoped would materialize before his tragic on-mound injury. Nicasio not only has three wins already on the season, but his scoreless seven innings last night got the team off to a great start to a four-game home set with the New York Mets.
While the rotation looks to get completely healthy, this is a staff that has seen starters go longer into games (Lyles and Nicasio are both averaging more than six innings per start). If they are able to get all hands on deck with a healthy rotation, things will only solidify and provide stability as the season wears on.
Then, there are the bats.
Young players are developing and improving as hitters, while the veterans (especially newcomer Justin Morneau) are finding their spots to contribute.
Charlie Blackmon has been a revelation at the plate, while Brandon Barnes (a guy thought almost exclusively for defense) and Corey Dickerson have been great in their appearances, making few second-guess the Dexter Fowler trade.
Slick-fielding Nolan Arenado is more than just a glove as he is in the midst of 20-game hitting streak. If that bat can continue to hit around the .300 mark and the team’s biggest financial investment in veteran Morneau can keep his revival going, the team will have the offensive production needed from the corner infield spots. The Rockies dumped $12 million over the next two seasons into the former American League MVP and Morneau has paid them back with a .340 average to go with six home runs. His ability to play the position, as well, has few thinking the defense has suffered without the familiar face of Todd Helton at first.
Once again, it’s this kind of on-field results that have been glaringly absent since Helton last hit 20 home runs in a season (which was 2005, by the way). Even when Garrett Atkins had his back-to-back monster seasons in 2006 and ’07, Helton was already beginning to seriously decline at the plate.
The Rockies are soon to get a boost with the return of the team’s best arm in Jhoulys Chacin and last year’s NL batting champ, Michael Cuddyer.
Until now, I have been purposefully leaving out two names. The franchise’s cornerstone dynamic duo that receives most of the press and attention has not been mentioned for a reason.
The Rockies eventual success will not be about them, it will be about the rest of the team.