Monday, March 17, 2008
30 Teams in 30 Days: Colorado Rockies
A look back: Somehow, the Colorado Rockies won 21 of 22 games to finish the year as the 2007 National League champions. This leads to an interesting stat: The Rockies did not lose a playoff game to a National League team. By the same token, though, they have never won a playoff game against an American League team, a distinction shared with the Houston Astros. Can Colorado avoid the sophomore slump after breakout years from several young stars?
Positives on the field: The Rockies finally figured out how to put a complete team together last season, building homegrown talent at the major positions and watching it develop. Matt Holliday and Troy Tulowitzki were the team's brightest stars last season, with Holliday, who should have been the MVP, and Tulowitzki coming close to nosing out Ryan Braun for the Rookie of the Year award. Todd Helton had enough left to get the Rockies to the playoffs after spending his career watching other stars flourish in other locations. Garrett Atkins developed into a fine third baseman, and the Rockies had a good year from Brad Hawpe. Colorado returns a lot from last year.
On the pitching side, the humidor is working to combat Denver's thin air. For the first time in recent memory, Coors Field was not a graveyard for promising pitchers. Brian Fuentes came apart, but Manny Corpas proved capable of filling the role as the Rockies' closer. Outside of Jeff Francis, there isn't a ton of talent on the Rockies' staff, but there's enough to get by.
Negatives on the field: How will Colorado handle success? The 2007 season was the first time since 1995 the Rockies were in the playoffs, and other than those two seasons, the Rockies had never been relevant at all outside of Denver. Can Clint Hurdle keep the team hungry after last year? Also, can the team avoid burying itself? Remember, this was a team left for dead that somehow managed to pull it all together when it mattered. If the Rockies don't play contending ball all year long, they might not be so lucky this year.
On the field itself, how will the loss of Kaz Matsui impact the Rockies? Clint Barmes is trying to win the job among a list of contenders that includes Marcus Giles, but Matsui was key for the Rockies last season, and how they replace him makes a lot of difference.
Outlook: We'll never know if Colorado was a truly great team, a good team that was developing, or just a lucky team that caught lightning in a bottle over the course of 3 1/2 weeks. But the 2008 season should provide some insight into that. The feeling here is that Colorado was a combination of the last two. The Rockies were good, no question about it, but not quite as good as they were in the final stretch. This is when they either prove themselves as a true contender or simply become another team.
Projected finish: 2nd in NL West, no postseason. Season opener is March 31 against St. Louis at Busch Stadium. Rockies home opener is April 4 against Arizona at Coors Field.
Spring base: Hi Corbett Field, Tucson, Ariz. The team plays its games in Phoenix and Tucson.
Fan of the team?: Check out Purple Row, the Rockies fan community.
Come back tomorrow: The road trip heads to the desert southwest, taking a look at the young NL West champions of a year ago, the Arizona Diamondbacks.
My time is up. You've all been great. Enjoy Steven Chaitman.
Editor's note: As Tim Kanak pointed out, Matt Holliday was NOT the MVP. The award went to Jimmy Rollins. I meant he SHOULD have been the MVP, and the change has been made. Apologies. I need to get out of the NL West, that's two errors in one division.
Edit the second: The Rockies have lost a playoff series before. I completely forgot that the Rockies ran into the Braves in 1995 and if they didn't reach the series, obviously lost to a National League team. The NL West is not the problem for me, the problem is the thin air of Denver.