Spring. We’re starting to see signs of it here in Colorado. The grass is turning green . We’re seeing days now in the mid to high 70’s and so far have even had a couple of days that hit 80. Unlike some of major league baseball’s more historic hometowns, Denver is already delivering ideal days for the great American pastime. So what if April may just drop a blizzard or two on an evening game at Coors Field? If it’s not Opening Day, there won’t be a lot of fans in ski coats in the stands anyway. People in Colorado know what to expect and know better – wait until May or June.
Opening day is just 1 week away and so far there is no expectation buzz going around Denver just yet other than the same old stuff: No pitching. Hurdle won’t last 25 games. No name players. The owners are only interested in the bottom line. The Rockies won’t even end up at .500 again this year ; they’ll be lucky to win 65 or 70 games. They won’t get near the playoffs. Who cares anyway, by August the Broncos will be back and maybe by then we‘ll know who’s going to replace the banished Cutler.
As a fan, I’m not going to get hung up on the fact that Colorado is a small market team adrift in a sea of multi-billion dollar franchises laden with multi-million dollar superstars. No, the Rockies won’t be fielding an A-Rod or a Man Ram this year and probably won’t in my lifetime. I’m OK that the Rockies’ lineup may be made up of players never heard of by fans in New York, Chicago, Texas, Philadelphia, or Los Angeles. I doubt many fans around the country will be naming the Rockies pitching rotation let alone a single middle reliever on the depth chart – that too is OK by me.
The Rockies are my team – a team made up of a bunch of guys who on any given day are worth the price of a seat in the Rock Pile; Atkins, Jiminez, Tulowitski, Hawpe, Helton, Barmes – oh yeah, and how’s this for a real baseball name? Seth Smith.
Number of wins – number of losses? There’s a lot more game going on than just that. How about the pure entertainment of Troy Tulowitski turning an unassisted triple play? Will Atkins hit 30 again? Don’t forget the arm that Hawpe has in right field. Best in the majors in my opinion. And, the Rockies have the Great Ubaldo, just about the fastest wild thing with 3 solid pitches in the West. Will he chalk up 18 or 20 W’s this year? Can Jason Marquis be a steady 3rd man in the rotation or is Hurdle just looking for a 200 inning performance from the ex-Cub? Will the return of Don Baylor as hitting coach be enough to bring back the power lineup of the Blake Street Bombers?
That’s my take with the season just a week away – it doesn’t look as bad on paper going into opening day as some would have us believe, but then again, every team is undefeated on Opening Day. That’s baseball -correction, that’s Rockies’ baseball. And that’s why I keep coming back every year.
What I’m going to watch for in the next few weeks:
1.) HELTON: Will Todd Helton play more than 80 games this year after his off season back surgery? Has he turned the corner towards retirement now that he hit 36?
2.) ATKINS: Can Atkins play every day at 3rd and spell Helton at 1st? Can he get his average back up over .300 after ending the season last year at .286?
3.) STEWART: Is there a spot in the lineup for Stewart to play every day or is he on the roster to fill in on Helton‘s off days? Can Stewart replace the big bat of departed Matt Holiday?
4.) FOWLER: Will Spillborghs be enough in the wastelands of Coors’ center field or will Fowler be the answer. Will the rookie Fowler stick with Hurdle’s 25 man roster or is he a season opening gamble?
5.) STREET: Is Huston Street the Rockies’ answer to the departed Brian Fuentes? Can Street come through day after day even though his numbers didn’t quite add up this spring in exhibition? Will Corpas be happy as the set up guy?
6.) IANNETTA: Will Iannetta’s bat stay hot after a pretty decent spring? Can the Rockies overcome the lack of arm at Catcher with solid offense and a big bat at the position?
7.) HAWPE: Will this be the year Hawpe keeps the K’s down under a 100 and step up as one of the premier offensive right fielders in the game?
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Written by Denni Secline