The last day of the ski season is upon us. Days are getting longer. Spring is in the air. The 2013 Major League Baseball season is underway. It’s usually around this time of year that I offer you a load of B.S. and tell you that the Colorado Rockies are going to be really good this year, that they are contenders for the National League pennant.
Call me crazy, an eternal optimist or just plain stupid, but this year is no different. The Colorado Rockies are going to finish the season as the National League’s best team and once again have a shot at winning a World Series. Things are different this year, and I like our chances.
Perhaps the biggest difference this year, in comparison to the past few years, is that the Rockies are picked to be dead last in the National League West, maybe even the entire National League. There is absolutely no hype about a successful Rockies season. Everybody in the sports talk world has already thrown the Rockies in the National League cellar. And who can blame them?
Last year’s pitching rotation was baseball’s worst, and the way things are lining up this year, there seem to be few changes. The lack of offseason improvements to the Rockies pitching staff doesn’t evoke a feeling of confidence. Hell, even Rockies owner Dick Monfort isn’t very optimistic about the upcoming season.
“I'm always optimistic, so that's scary,” Monfort told The Denver Post. “But, you know, our starting pitching is going to be a work in progress. I feel good with our bullpen and I think we are going to be good offensively. I was good with it last year, too, and we lost 98 games. So we'll see.”
So here we are once again, back in that all-too-familiar rut of having great hitting and no pitching. It’s been the Rockies mantra for 17 out of its 20 seasons of existence. Once again the question will be, can the Rockies’ offense keep up with the blunders of the Rockies’ pitching?
So far the starting rotation looks like it’s right-hander Jhoulys Chacin, who had an effective Opening Day start on Monday, lefty Jorge De La Rosa, righty Juan Nicasio and lefty Jeff Francis. The Rockies biggest hopes lie in Nicasio and Francis, who had impressive spring trainings. If they can get out of innings one and two without giving up too many runs, they can find a groove to finish strong – pretty much like any pitcher working the mound in the majors.
If the starting rotation doesn’t garner much positive attention, maybe the Rockies’ bullpen will? Rafael Betancourt will be the closer alongside situational relievers Wilton Lopez, Matt Belisle and Rex Brothers. Manager Walt Weiss told The Post that those guys can match up with anyone in baseball, but when it comes to middle relief, that’s where a huge question mark lies. It remains to be seen if Edgmer Escalona, Wilton Lopez, Adam Ottavino and Chris Volstad will get the outs needed to keep a game close.
If it isn’t the starting rotation that will hurt the Rockies, it will be the bullpen that will hurt the Rockies. That was apparent in the Opening Day, extra inning loss against the Brewers.
Surprisingly, Chacin provided a solid start for the Rockies by pitching into the seventh inning and allowing only one run on three hits. He had control of the game. When he left it to the bullpen, everything went wrong. In the eighth inning, Lopez surrendered the Rockies’ 3-1 advantage, giving the Brewers a 4-3 lead. Later in the game, Dexter Fowler was able to tie the game in the ninth with a solo homerun to right field.
In the 10th inning, though, the Rockies couldn’t produce any offense and Ottavino ended up hitting a batter. That combined with two walks and a sacrifice fly, gave the game to the Brewers.
It was exciting baseball. Great Opening Day theatrics. Unfortunately, the Rockies came up short. What’s more unfortunate is that the game represents the kind of loss the Rockies will probably see time and time again this year. Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez led an impressive Rockies offensive charge but in the end, the offense could not keep up with the shortfalls of the pitching.
Of course, another Rockies season in the cellar will be a bummer for us fans. Perhaps the worst scenario that could come of that is that either Tulowitzki or Gonzalez or both could look to move to other teams because, well, they aren’t getting any younger. Another losing season could mean the Rockies could lose the one positive thing they have, a great lineup with great bats.
So there seems to be a lot riding on this season. The Rockies have to find a way to win in a division that has the San Francisco Giants, who have won two World Series in the past three years, and the Los Angeles Dodgers. And the Dodgers, with the way its ownership group is throwing money around, is the new New York Yankees.
Things are tough all over for the Colorado Rockies. Who knows how Weiss, who is in his first year ever as a manager and has only a one-year contract, will handle the pressure. All of this could be the perfect storm leading to another 100-loss season.
So that’s why I am so excited about the Rockies this year. They have no hope. And that gives me hope. In the past, we’ve expected great things out of the Rockies and in most instances we’ve been left disappointed. This year there are no expectations for the Rockies to be good.
Maybe, just maybe, surprise is on the horizon.