5 Reasons the Colorado Rockies Are Cursed
The Rockies won just their third road series of the season earlier this week against the division leading Los Angeles Dodgers. However, you were forced to dig deep into the sports section to find game recaps. The Denver sports scene spent the entire week gearing up to watch Peyton Manning participate in exactly one drive on Thursday night. The changing of the guard from Rockies to Broncos has occurred.
A weird conundrum is the Broncos opened preseason play in Chicago, home of the historically cursed Cubs. Wrigley Field regulars are quick to remind you of their misery, and have made numerous attempts to break their drought, which has turned the page into its second century. They have sacrificed goats, blown up baseballs, and drank the majority of liquor in the Midwest. Seemingly nothing can break the Cubs from their historic bad luck.
Now the Rockies are nowhere near the level of Harry Caray and Co., but many Rox fans are beginning to question when the tables will turn for the better. The “Year of the Fan” is also the franchise’s 20th anniversary, and there’s little to show for it. Since its inception in 1993, Colorado has never won the division, recorded three playoff appearances, and produced a winning record just six times.
Dare we say it… are the Rockies cursed?
No. 1: Troy Tulowitzki's Groin
Tulo is the leader of the Rockies and arguably the best player, so it's little surprise Colorado struggles when the shortstop is out of the lineup. Tulo has sat out 121 games in the past three seasons, and the total may reach 140 by this year’s end.
Many missed games are attributed to Troy’s chronic groin issues. The two-time Gold Glover has been hampered by the injury for several seasons, and had to wait until June before he was finally diagnosed correctly. Now that he’s undergone a surgical procedure, hopefully all problems have been solved for good. If not, you’d have to think some sort of higher power has it out for Troy Tulowitzki.
No. 2: Free Agent Pitching Failures
This is rather obvious. Every big-name free agent signing has had less of an impact than a go-cart in a demolition derby. Let’s review…
Mike Hampton, 8 year, $121 million contract.
Fresh off of garnering NLCS MVP honors in 2000, Hampton cashed in with the Rockies. Unfortunately, there was no return policy. In two years of action, Hampton went 21-28 with a 5.75 ERA. He was dealt promptly after the 2002 season ended.
Denny Neagle, 5 years, $51 million contract.
Rox fans were giddy at the thought of Hampton and Neagle in the fold, but Neagle suffered an even worse fate than his teammate. The first two years as a Rockie produced a 17-19 record, paling vastly to his 60-30 mark over the previous four seasons. Eventually, injuries took a toll on Neagle and the Rox released him after an infamous run-in with a prostitute in 2004.
Darryl Kile, 3 years, $24 million.
Kile, signed in 1998, was an All-Star the year before. The Rox endured the righty for two seasons as he compiled a 21-30 record and struggled immensely with his control. Colorado dealt him to the Cardinals for the 2000 season, where he resurrected his career with a twenty win season. He also received votes for the Cy Young, qualified for the playoffs, and returned to the All-Star Game.
Since the three headed free agent monster, the Rockies have never returned to the pitcher free agent pool. Even worse, Coors Field became a four-letter word among pitchers everywhere.
No. 3: One-Two Punch Charade
Ubaldo Jimenez had arrived. The flamethrower had been pegged by many as a potential No. 1 guy, and “U” hit his stride in 2010. He threw Colorado’s first no-hitter and won 11 of his first 12 starts, all while keeping an ERA under 1.00. Jimenez was without question as hot as any pitcher in the league.
Jorge de la Rosa was excellent in 2009, posting a 16-9 record. His ability made him a terrific No. 2 guy in any lineup, and the one-two Latin American duo appeared to have Colorado set at the starting position for years to come.
How times have changed.
Jimenez followed up his triumphant 2010 campaign with a dismal 2011. He was a mere shadow of his former self and at times looked completely disinterested. He lost more games by mid-July than he did all of the previous season, and his ERA increased by more than 1.5 runs. Jimenez’s fragile mentality had apparently crumbled. In a widely controversial move, the Rox dealt their “ace” to Cleveland at the trade deadline.
De la Rosa suffered an even worse fate. Just one month after opening day in 2011, DLR suffered a severe elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. He has not seen action in the majors since, and there’s no telling if he can keep pace in the MLB once he is finally cleared to return.
No. 4: Drafting Disasters
Even a blind squirrel can find an acorn every now and then. There’s a chance the squirrel could find it before the Rockies scouting department.
Colorado’s inadequacy on draft day is well-documented and has received plenty of attention this season. Drafting pitchers in particular has been a complete disaster. The front office continuously urged the fans to trust management and let the youngsters pan out, but most of the supposed blue-chip prospects have proved to be nothing more than fringe minor leaguers. Dan O’Dowd acknowledged the scarcity of talent in the minors when he dealt Jimenez, calling the move necessary to “restock the minor leagues”.
Drafting is definitely a fine art. Even some organizations with a lengthy history of drafting problems occasionally find a diamond in the rough. The Rockies have turned up almost none at all. Some allege Colorado’s scouting system is flat-out lousy, but there’s no way such evaluations could stoop this low without some serious bad luck.
No. 5: Coors Field
“There’s something different about Coors Field. It just doesn’t seem right.”
Jeromy Burnitz, ex-Rockies outfielder
Blasphemy? Yes, a little. The striking brick-laid stadium is often referred to as the jewel of LoDo. But maybe the Rockies’ home park carries a dark mystique. The Rockies qualified for the postseason in their first year at Coors, setting baseball fever at an all-time high.
However, playoff baseball didn’t return to Coors for over a decade. In similar fashion, we’ve entered the past few seasons with high hopes for the club, but by the fall, we are left with disappointment, excuses, and frustration.
Greg Hill of The Baseball Observer had an interesting take on the complexity of Coors Field, claiming the naming rights will plague the fan base for years to come. Whether it’s the altitude, the cavernous outfield, or the lingering sadness that accompanies ticket buyers, Coors Field is not just another ball park.