The end was ugly.
There’s no other way to put it. It just was. The obnoxious lady wearing the Ryan Braun jersey and holding the broom somehow had the last laugh. The guy in the Green Bay Packers No. 69 David Bakhtiari jersey wouldn’t sit down, nor would he shut up – and nobody wearing purple could make him. Even Drunk Rick, the guy whose sole purpose for staying past the sixth inning was to score the digits of the pretty girl sitting just one section over, threw in the towel sometime around the top of the rain-soaked eighth. There was no reason for anyone to stay, other than to simply see it all the way through.
After a regular season to remember, the Rockies had no answer. No answers. For three – realistically five – postseason games, they just couldn’t hit. The only thing colder than the temperature at Coors Field on Sunday was the lumber held by Rockies hitters. In the game that put an abrupt end to Rocktober, the Rockies managed just four measly hits and no runs.
Colorado, a franchise carrying a heavy, burdensome reputation for not being able to pitch, got solid postseason starts from its starters, but couldn’t keep things in check with the most expensive bullpen in the history of Major League Baseball. It was a team built on pitching – probably the first one in Rockies history – but ironically, good pitching wasn’t enough considering the lack of punch at the plate.
Baseball is funny that way. In 2007, the Rockies caught fire, an inferno that was only doused by a late October snow storm and the Boston Red Sox. In 2018, the Rockies were nearly as red hot, but following game No. 162, it was as if the baseball gods decided, “Hey, that was fun, but that’ll do…” The Rockies one-through-eight hitting lineup on a game-by-game basis in 2018 was phenomenal; in the postseason, it might have hit a-buck-fifty at Williamsport.
It was an opportunity wasted, and those who care about the Rockies will – and should – be critical. What went wrong? Who stays? Who goes? How can a team with two legitimate MVP candidates come up so short? How does the game’s most pricey bullpen get any better?
If the Broncos were to lose like this – unexpectedly, in dramatic fashion – in the postseason, Denver would be abuzz. People would be mad. Talk show callers would be irrational. The number of folks whose names were followed by “on the hot seat” would be numerous.
But the Rockies will not receive that kind of treatment. It’s a fact, the Broncos and Rockies are held to different standards. If the Broncos don’t win, Denver gets dark. When the Rockies win – even just a little – the skies open up and all is right with the world. If they lose, hey, there’s still the party deck, we can all still go hiking or fishing or micro-brew-drinking tomorrow. The Rockies haven’t been close enough, often enough, for the anger tied with losing to truly surface.
I’m okay with that. A baseball season and a football season are different, and that’s what makes them both great.
I’m okay with the season that just took place at Coors Field. And you know what? So are most of the folks who claim to be Rockies fans, whether you like it or not.
Perhaps that’s setting a low bar. Perhaps that’s how mediocrity becomes the norm, and excellence never breaks through. Perhaps after 25 years, expectations still have never really been established. Perhaps that’s the inherent difference between the Yankees and Rockies.
But perhaps a meaningful baseball season that doesn’t end with the pennant, the National League Championship or the World Series, still has meaning.
Meaningful baseball is a summer-long conversation. Meaningful baseball keeps us occupied well past preseason football. Meaningful baseball creates opportunities that last-place baseball doesn’t afford. Besides, baseball is the romantic of games; there’s magic in baseball. Can you really say that about football or basketball or hockey?
A meaningful baseball season provides opportunities and memories that last an entire summer. Actually, they last forever. Only in a meaningful baseball season does your phone blow up with texts from your “baseball buddies” after Trevor story hits his first-ever walk-off homerun in the game leading into the all-star break – where he hits one there, too, becoming the first shortstop to hit a game-tying home run in the All-Star Game and the first Rockies All-Star to hit a home run since Matt Holliday in 2008.
Only in a meaningful baseball season does a rookie’s early August walk-off home run spark a 9-2 run that includes three walk-off wins.
Only in a meaningful baseball season does a guy’s first baseball game with his future wife ironically coincide with Charlie Blackmon’s first-ever walk-off home run (against the defending World Series champs, no less); perhaps not so ironically she was wearing Blackmon’s No. 19 jersey to the game.
Only in a meaningful baseball season do fathers and sons pick the last game of the season during the season-ticket holder group lottery in March, only because they optimistically hope that game No. 162 might mean something. As luck would have it, it did. In that game, the NL West crown was on the line. Paired with five home runs hit by the good guys, a Charlie Blackmon cycle and a trip to L.A. for the NL West tiebreaker, it turned out to be a game unquestionably worth watching.
There’s no doubt, it was a season to remember at Coors Field. And maybe it was spoiled by an ending that sounded a lot more like a thud than the crack of a homerun coming off the bat. “Meaningful” – by its very definition – means something different to everyone.
Did I want the Rockies to win on Sunday? Absolutely – if for nothing else than to give us all just one more game to watch. Do I want the team to do some tough and honest offseason self-evaluation? Definitely, all the good teams do. Should the bar be raised after every season of not quite getting it done? It better be, otherwise Denver should be relieved of its “good sports town” moniker.
But even after through a damp, cold nine innings that sent the Rockies packing for winter, I have no complaints.
The 2018 Rockies owe us nothing.