There’s a secret in Scottsdale.
You ready? The Colorado Rockies are damn good.
I said it. In fact, I’m saying it for them. They’re not going to tell you that (nor should they — that wouldn’t be very “baseball” of them), but it’s true. I’ve been to my fair share of Spring Trainings at the coolest preseason facility in all of baseball, Salt Rivers Fields at Talking Stick. And while I haven’t been as much as, oh, let’s say Tracy Ringolsby, Patrick Saunders or Drew Goodman, I believe I’m qualified to make this simple assessment: Something is different.
Scratch that; something special is brewing.
I’ve spent all of seven hours at Rockies Spring Training so far and it’s as plain and obvious as the xeriscaped front yards in Scottsdale.
I wanted it to be true in 2008. I thought, on the heels of Rocktober, that the Local 9 had finally figured it out; that the young core could keep the Rockies within MLB’s upper crust for years to come.
I sort of believed the Rockies last season — almost — when the group that assembled in Scottsdale seemed to have an unusual (call it “unwarranted”) belief that they could be really, really good in 2017. Sure, they’d just inked Greg Holland — largely a question mark at the time — and were about to trot out ascending stars Nolan Arenado (quietly regarded as one of if not the best third basemen in the game), Charlie Blackmon, who was good but known more for his beard than his baseball acumen, and Bud Black, a celebrated managerial hire who came from outside the organization.
Still, this was the Colorado Rockies. A team that could flub up expectations before May. A team that was merely a product of their ballpark, nothing more, nothing less. A team that still – still! – needed a bona fide pitching staff.
Who knew then that those young pitchers would be so good? Who knew that Holland was fully recovered and unafraid of pitching at altitude? Who knew that Arenado, Blackmon and DJ LeMahieu would all be All-Stars?
I did not.
As much as I wanted to believe it, I’d been down that road before. I’d seen the expectation come and go. I’d seen promising beginnings fade to nothing before the need to mow a Colorado lawn.
So, I say again, with what I believe to be a reasonable pedigree: This season is and will be different.
Those stars are still in line. That’s the first step. The pitching staff? Damn near too deep. (I’d hate to be Buddy Black trying to figure out how to juggle “too many” worthy hurlers.)
What about the depth? Wednesday’s spring training lineup showcased the Rockies top reserves in positions you might not expect — especially, and not limited to, pitchers. Yet, they’ve got more pitchers than they know what to do with at the moment. Same with position fielders. A wise man was heard saying yesterday that there are two ways to become a longtime member of the Rockies: Be an All-Star, or be good at more than one position.
“No one is afraid to pitch at Coors anymore,” Chad Bettis told me yesterday. “We just have the right guys right now.”
But are you afraid for them?
Don’t be. This is not the same Colorado Rockies. GM Jeff Bridich has put together a dandy in the desert. His relatively silent, numbers-crunching personnel will never accept the credit, but they’ve put together a roster that can compete — even the dreaded NL West.
Don’t tell anyone though. This is between you and I. This is the least-kept secret in Scottsdale (for now — they’ll be back at Coors Field in roughly three weeks). The Rockies are good, and that’s a fact. They won’t say; they’d prefer to keep that on the down low.