by Larry Patrick
The 2007 Rockies season looked like another gone by opportunity until their big winning streak in September propelled them to their first ever World Series appearance. I was in the press box at Coors Field the night the Rockies clinched the pennant with their exciting 13-inning win over San Diego. I was in the locker room that night with all of the champagne being sprayed. It was an event to behold. Again, the locker room was full of fun and celebration when the Rockies swept the Phillies 5 days later to get to the championship series. All Rockies fans would love to have seen them play Boston without the 8-day layoff. Somehow, many believe the World Series might have had different results. We can only speculate because we’ll never know.
With all of the excitement the Rockies generated late last year, they are back to being picked to finish in the bottom part of their division. How can that be? Didn’t the Rockies go out and sign some of their young players to long contracts? Didn’t they show everyone how good they can be? The answer is “Yes” to both questions but it goes much deeper than that.
I, for one, will not count the Rockies out but I have ideas as to why many of the experts think they won’t repeat a trip to the World Series. The Rockies brass rewarded the fans for their support late last year. They want to see those stands filled to capacity. So they went out and signed Aaron Cook, Manny Corpas, Brad Hawpe and Troy Tulowitzki to long term contracts. The Rockies have made a commitment to their young players but the experts are looking beyond that. The fans will come out in droves beginning on opening day and will continue as long as the Rockies are in the race, which should take them into August or maybe September. That means the owners will make lots of money again as Rockies baseball is a “hot” commodity. The Rockies all believe they can repeat. To do so will mean that the core players must deliver again plus the new ones must do the same.
There are several big holes the Rockies must deal with. Will Jayson Nix make it at second base and be an adequate replacement for the speed and ability of Kaz Matsui? Will the 2 young pitchers, Umbaldo Jiminez and Franklin Morales develop further to help the likes of Cook and Francis? Will the loss of some key relief pitchers be replaceable? Those are some “big” questions to answer. The so-called experts are taking a look at what the Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Padres did in the off-season. They all kept many of their core players too but added some big name ones that have a history of performing. The Rockies are hedging on new young players developing further to compete. Time will tell. But right now the “experts” are looking at Arizona getting a top-notch pitcher in Dan Haren from Oakland and having Randy Johnson back. The Dodgers have a new manager in Joe Torre of the Yankees and brought in players like Andruw Jones from Atlanta. The Padres also addressed some needs and look even stronger. Only the Giants didn’t do anything to improve themselves and look like a lock to finish just behind Colorado.
The Rockies have to come out fast and convince people they are for real. I know I am looking forward to Rockies baseball with Coors Field filled to capacity like the good ole days when Gallaraga, Bichette, Castilla, Walker and Burks were making games exciting year after year as the Blake Street Bombers, even when they didn’t win. The Rockies brass has given fans, especially the young ones, something cohesive to root for. The Hollidays, Atkins, Hawpes, Heltons and Tulowitzkis will be around for a few years. They will give us exciting baseball and hopefully another chance at a trip to the World Series. But the experts are looking at the veteran help the other teams in the division have secured as being more realistic than hoping some of the new Rockies rookies will offset experience. Time will tell but for now, hope springs eternal and the Boys of Summer are almost back. Play ball!!!