Ten years ago, something magical happened in Denver, and it’s something that may never happen again in our lifetimes. That said, the 2007 Colorado Rockies see the potential for something big from the 2017 club… and Matt Holliday definitely touched home plate.
During a 22-game period in September 2007, the Colorado Rockies went on to win 21 of them, a feat that the franchise had never seen before and has yet to see since. That streak — rivaled of late only by the Cleveland Indians’ recent 22-game win streak — included the Rockies’ crazy Wild Card game (against none other than current Rockies manager Bud Black and the San Diego Padres) and a subsequent sweep of each opponent in the playoffs up and until the World Series, where the Red Sox swept the Rockies in turn.
“When they called and told me about the reunion, I couldn’t believe it had been 10 years,” legendary Rockies first baseman Todd Helton said Friday night at Coors Field. “Thinking back, it was a great time in all of our lives. To see the guys’ faces, it’s always good to see them again. We were such a tight-knit group. We see them and it’s like we don’t skip a beat. It’s like when we were playing 10 years ago.”
Former center fielder and current Rockies broadcaster Ryan Spilborghs remembers it well.
“When you’re in [that September and October run], it’s really hard to see out of it,” Spilborghs recalled. “You don’t know exactly what’s going on. You just know that you’re coming to the field and you’re here to play, and that night, you’re going to win. When we got to [game] 163, it took us a little help. We had to get a triple from Tony Gwynn Jr., when he was with the Brewers, to beat the Padres to give us a chance at 163.
“Once it was 163, we just knew we were winning that game. You ride that wave. It happens so very few times in your whole career, anything in life really, where you feel like a wave that you know that you can ride it; no matter what you do, you’re going to come out on top of it. That’s legitimately what happened,” said the man they call ‘Spilly’. The fact that we went to the World Series — still, we were kind of reflecting on it today — we don’t remember it. Honestly, we can’t tell you pitch sequences. All we remember is certain moments with the group and how it felt to be part of that group is what really stands out.”
Of course, that was a decade ago. It’s in the past, no matter how glorious that past was.
That’s not to say this year’s Rockies team doesn’t draw some similarities with that ’07 team, especially as they chase that second Wild Card spot in the National League behind the supremely-talented Dodgers and Diamondbacks, in hot contention with the Brewers and Cardinals.
“It’s refreshing [watching these guys],” former Rockies center fielder Brad Hawpe said. “It brings back memories for us.”
Hawpe, one of the top athletes from the ’07 team, said that he’s been keeping up with this year’s squad, and is a true fan of the outfielders’ work.
“Obviously, they’re very good,” Hawpe said of this year’s outfielders. “Charlie Blackmon is incredible. Watching him grow over the years — I mean he’s a leader, he’s come from a complementary piece to a good piece to one of the best players in the game, in my opinion. I’m a big fan of [Blackmon] and his work ethic. ‘CarGo’ [Carlos Gonzalez] was the ‘Little Pony’, and my friend that I played with for years. I love him to death.”
Despite this year’s incredibly young rotation, the Rockies’ star starting pitcher in 2007, Jeff Francis, believes they have what it takes to make some serious noise down the stretch of the regular season.
“I watch from afar; I have no experience with most of these guys, but I can tell the talent level is through the roof,” Francis said. “They can all throw harder than I ever dreamed of.”
He believes that inexperience in the postseason, however, can be a great boon to the rookie flamethrowers, not a bane.
“I think it helps you, making a playoff push so young. It helped me,” Francis said. “What we did here in ’07, it happened so fast. That helped me. I didn’t even get the chance to stop and think how important it was, what we were doing. I think, as a young player, it’s the same thing. If you’ve never been through a pennant race and lost, then you don’t understand how hard it is, and how much it hurts when you lose.”
Spilborghs, who’s been on both sides of the field as a player and as a journalist, sees much of what he saw in his 2007 teammates that he does in the young players he now covers on the other side of the camera.
“There’s a lot of talent,” Spilborghs said. “The obvious similarities are you have a group of guys that have played together for a long time – like Charlie, D.J. [LeMahieu], Nolan [Arenado], ‘CarGo’ — which was very similar to the 2007 team. I think the upside, when you look at the current team right now, is probably greater than what we had back in ’07.”
There are, of course, some differences, but Spilborghs believes that once the Rockies discover just how talented they are this year, they can make waves as the season winds down and into a possible postseason run.
“I just think that if you look at what happened in ’07, you can only look at hindsight, because the group, as we moved toward the playoffs, there was a level of confidence that this team, the 2017 team, doesn’t have quite yet,” Spilborghs said. “That just comes with trusting in each other. I think that they have that, and if they realize that, they can be as good, if not better, than our group was.
“You know you’re a good team, and then once you realize that you’re better than every team that you play, then you play to that potential. We always knew we had a good team. Once that team actually plays to the level that they know they’re better than everybody, that was when it took off.”