Tag: baseball

A Study in Hope & Expectations: Diary of a Rockies Fan

 

(Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

(Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

 

Hope and expectations. Two things that can be so fleeting and volatile.

Coming into the 2013 season, the Rockies had no expectations, and any Rockies fan who told you he or she had hope for this season would be lying. The best case scenario predicted by all the experts was flirting with .500 if everything went right.

Basically, the best we could hope for was “not sucking.”

Funny how quickly hope and expectations can change.

The Rockies started the year off on a tear, winning five-of-their-first-six before winning eight straight and leading the NL West with a 13-4 record. There was hope for this team. The pitching was actually decent, and the offense was killing the ball.  

Since then, the Rockies have gone 11-17 and fallen back to the pack, undone by faltering pitching and a stagnant offense.

Before the season started, if you had told any Colorado fan that the Rox would be 2 games back of the division lead and above .500, they’d have taken that in a heartbeat. Yet, frame that after such a wonderful start, and the team becomes a disappointment.  

You know what they say, timing is everything.

The one thing that this team has shown consistently, however, is the confidence and ability to bounce back. Time after time, they have refused to spiral, something that was frequent a year ago.  

After their sterling start, the Rockies were swept in San Francisco. Rather than going into a tailspin, they reeled off eight straight wins. Another big series loomed against the Giants, and after blowing a 6-0 lead and losing 8-6, the Rockies rebounded to win the next three and end a ten-game losing streak to San Francisco.

It’s a start.

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A Study in Sadn–Wait, We’re in WHAT Place?!: Diary of a Rockies Fan

Colorado, Rockies, baseball, Dodgers, victory, winning, celebration

There’s a saying in baseball that “you can’t win the World Series in April but you can lose it” and that certainly applies to the Colorado Rockies.

April has not been kind to Colorado over the years. In the franchise’s 20 years of existence, they have only had three playoff berths. Most of the time, the season was over after a dismal April with the Rockies buried at the bottom of the standings.

Even the best Rockies teams, the 2007 and 2009 squads, struggled in April. Both units struggled out of the gate and had to go on ridiculous winning streaks and catch fire in the second-half to claim a wild card berth.

This year was supposed to be more of the same. The Rox were universally picked to be one of the worst teams in baseball, yet they woke up on May 1 leading the NL West.

What’s even more surprising is how they’ve done it. Colorado has always been known for a prolific offense at home that sputters on the road away from the friendly confines of Coors Field, but that’s not the case thus far this season.

Despite playing 14 of their first 27 games on the road, the Rockies entered May tied the Major League lead in road home runs with 21, third in the NL in on-base percentage, third in hits, fourth in average, and fourth in runs. Combine those numbers with a pitching staff that has been surprisingly stout, and it adds up to first in the NL West.

The big question is, can the Rockies keep this up? It’s hard to tell–after all, every team gets hot–but years of misery and mediocrity make even the most ardent fan take pause.

The rotation is fragile with Jhoulys Chacin already on the DL and Juan Nicasio and Jeff Francis struggling. The team recently signed Roy Oswalt, but he’s 35 and injury prone. Can he hold up over the course of the season?

It’s still early, but the most promising sign thus far is the competitive fire and bounce-back ability the Rockies have shown under rookie manager Walt Weiss. After every stumble so far, whether it’s blowing a late lead on Opening Day or getting swept on the road by San Francisco, the team has shrugged it off and rebounded nicely. Last year, they would have spiraled out of control and let one loss turn into many.

This team can hit with anyone, that’s for certain, but the key is the pitching staff. If the Rockies can keep getting quality starts out their starters, they’ll make things interesting.

Of course, right as I say that, Francis can’t make an early 3-0 lead over Tampa Bay hold up, and the Rockies lose 7-4 in extra innings.

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A Study in Sadness: Diary of a Rockies Fan

Troy Tulowitzki

Well, that didn’t last long.

Obviously inspired by my last post, the Rockies roared out to a 5-1 start. After dropping a game they should have won in the season opener, the Rox reeled off five straight wins, matching their season-high from a year ago. They took two-of-three from Milwaukee before sweeping San Diego at home.

The offense pummeled the ball, but the most surprising, and hope-inspiring, aspect of the start was the performance of the rotation. In their first six games, Rockies starters turned in five quality starts, and the one game that wasn’t turned out to be a Colorado victory.

Clearly the team’s biggest question mark heading into the season, the rotation provided a glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, this season wouldn’t be another lost cause. All spring long, we’ve heard that they didn’t need to be great, merely good because of the tremendous lineup. We kept hearing that this year would be better because it simply couldn’t be any worse. After the first week, maybe the organization was right.

And then the Rockies had to go to San Francisco.

AT&T Park has long been a house of horrors for the Rockies. The only certain things in life are death, taxes, and the Rockies getting owned out by the bay. Obviously the Giants are good, having won two-of-the-last three World Series, but it has always been this way. Even the playoff teams of 2007 and 2009 sucked against the Giants.

Dating back to last season, the Rockies have lost nine straight games to their division rivals. That’s just sad. So while the start to the season was very encouraging, this series would be a serious test and go a long way towards determining whether this year’s team was going to be different.

The early returns were promising. The Rockies dropped the opener 4-2, but they were competitive and probably should have won the game. Jorge de la Rosa turned in a quality start, and the Rockies had their chances.

Game 2 was even better. Colorado rocked two-time Cy Young-winner Tim Lincecum for six runs and jumped out to a 6-2 lead. They were on the verge of getting yet another quality start from the rotation, and things were looking good.

Then the bullpen entered the fray.

Adam Ottavino entered the game and promptly gave up a three-run home run to Brendan freakin’ Crawford, of all people. Did I mention that it was his first of the season? No? Oh, and it was opposite field, too.  

By the time the inning was mercifully over, it was all tied up at 6. Okay, the game’s not over boys. We can still win this.

[Cue up three-run San Francisco 8th inning]

Okay, maybe not.

Wednesday’s game was never in doubt. Jeff Francis proved he has a career throwing BP after he hangs ‘em up, giving up 7 runs in just 1.2 innings, the shortest outing of his career. Colorado’s hitters made Barry Zito look like the Zito of old, allowing the embattled left-hander to toss seven shutout innings. He also went 2-for-3 at the plate. Need I mention he only had four hits all of last season?

The bullpen was supposed to be one of the strengths of this team, yet they’ve already blown two games. Offseason acquisition Wilton Lopez has struggled mightily, and Ottavino is the early leader for Please God, Don’t Let This Guy Enter the Game.  

On the bright side, the organization just traded newly-acquired Aaron Harang—deemed unnecessary because the team is SO rich in quality pitching—to the Mariners for an unnamed minor league reliever.

That should take care of everything.  

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A Study in Sadness: Diary of a Rockies Fan

rox_crop_exact

It’s always fun to support teams that are successful and competent. They win and do all they can in pursuit for a championship. Goals are clear, and failure is not tolerated.

Must be nice.

Throughout the 2013 MLB season, Adam Stevinson will show you what it’s like to live in a world without hope or chance of success, where even the strongest hallucinogens couldn’t produce dreams of a championship. A world where you know the season is over before it starts yet can’t stop yourself from watching and believing.

The world of a Colorado Rockies fan.

Spring. A time of hope and optimism.

For baseball fans, spring means the slate is clean. Hopes are high, and every team is in first place. Every prospect looks like a potential all-star. Every veteran who had a rough year comes back in the best shape he’s ever been in. Pitchers have added new weapons to their arsenals, and the balls explode off of bats in spring training. Fans are full of hope and thinking, “You know, if we catch a few breaks and these guys pan out, we can make a run at it!”

Except for Rockies fans.

We have no hope.

The Rockies are by far the most inept organization in baseball, and to make it worse, the ownership doesn’t have a clue. The marketing tagline for last season was “Year of the Fan”, and how were we shown thanks? With the worst season in team history as the Rockies lost a franchise-record 98 games behind the most atrocious starting rotation in baseball.

General Manager Dan O’Dowd thought that signing 50-year-old Jamie Moyer would boost the rotation. He traded away the staff ace, Ubaldo Jimenez, for prized prospects Alex White and Drew Pomeranz. White has since been traded while Pomeranz is in AAA. Partway through the season, O’Dowd’s brilliant solution was to institute a “piggyback” system and a pitch count Little Leaguers routinely surpass. Starters were yanked after 75 pitches, and the ball was handed to a designated “piggyback” reliever. The result was an overtaxed bullpen that threw over 650 innings.

O’Dowd’s solution? Basically use the exact same rotation and hope they suck less.

The Rockies went into spring training counting on a quintet of guys who combined to go 13-26 with a 5.23 ERA last year. Jhoulys Chacin, the Opening Day starter, posted a spring ERA of 8.44. Jeff Francis was 6-7 with a 5.58 ERA last year yet led the team in starts and innings pitched (113) despite not joining the team until June. He’s the rotation’s most reliable starter. Jorge De La Rosa had elbow surgery in May of 2011 and missed almost all of last year.

Luckily, O’Dowd signed some reinforcements in the form of Chris Volstad, who couldn’t stick with the pitching-poor Cubs, and Jon Garland, who sat out all of last year with an arm injury yet still replaced Pomeranz in the rotation.

O’Dowd has been at the helm since September of 1999. Under his watch, the Rockies have only had three winning seasons and two playoff appearances. They have never won the NL West.

Despite this lackluster showing, team owner Dick Monfort said, “I think he’s a tremendous asset. I can’t think of a general manager in baseball that’s as good as him. Granted, I don’t know all of them, but I just think he’s heads and shoulders above everybody else.”

Uhhhh…. I can think of a few. How about Brian Cashman? Theo Epstein? Kevin Towers? Andrew Friedman? Former Rockies pitcher Jerry DiPoto? Brian Sabean? Jon Daniels?

Hell, even Roger Dorn would be a better option.

Pretty much everyone is picking the Rockies to be abysmal this year. ESPN’s Keith Law predicted 109 losses. Even the most optimistic of prognosticators still think the Rockies will finish last in the division.

Yet the power of Opening Day provided a glimmer of hope. Chacin worked into the 7th inning, Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez homered, and the Rockies took a 3-1 lead into the 8th before handing the ball over to the back end of the bullpen, considered one of the team’s strengths.

Reliever Wilton Lopez, O’Dowd’s big offseason acquisition, promptly gave up three runs. Rising star Dexter Fowler tied it in the 9th with a home run, but the bullpen faltered again in the 10th, resulting in a 5-4 loss.

It’s going to be a long year.

 

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Baseball’s Back! National League Preview

Unlike the American League, which has a clear tier of teams at the top, the National League looks like a real free for all this season, with up and coming teams looking to break through, recent arrivals looking to hold fast, and once-removed contenders looking to regain past glory.

How does this soup work itself out?  Keep reading to see our picks for the NL Playoffs.

Hit the title/continue reading to read more. . .

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