February 14, 2011
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Baseball fans have their own version of Christmas. It is called Opening Day. However, Christmas wouldn't be the same without the holiday season. That is called Spring Training for the baseball fan.
On Monday, Colorado Rockies pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to their new Scottsdale home. As far as baseball action, that doesn't mean much. As far as excitement levels, it means everything.
The Rockies are coming off of a shocking offseason. One in which they defied the stereotypical viewpoint of the team by signing Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez to long-term deals, something that nearly everyone thought would be impossible. Especially in the case of Gonzalez, who is represented by Scott Boras.
The club also was able to re-sign lefty starter Jorge De La Rosa, lure free agent infielder Ty Wiggington to Denver, and trade for second baseman Jose Lopez.
Most fans in Denver are ecstatic with the club's offseason. They believe that with the core of the team intact for years to come, the club will gel and play a high caliber of baseball.
As always, however, there are skeptics.
The skeptics say that this club is, for the most part, the same club that could only muster 83 wins in 2010. This is the same club that looked lost at the plate with runners in scoring position.
This is the same team that could really use more quality starters in the rotation. This is the team that lost Miguel Olivo and will start a catcher who seems to be watching his career in a tail-spin.
While the skeptics have valid points, there are things about the 2010 season that they are forgetting.
The Rockies finished nine games behind the Giants in the NL West race, but cashed it in during the final two weeks, losing 13-of-14 to end the season.
Skeptics are also quick to forget how badly the Rockies were bitten by the injury bug in 2010. De La Rosa missed nearly eight weeks with a finger injury. Tulowitzki missed 33 games with a broken wrist.
Injuries are an easy excuse to point to, and could easily happen again, but how much different would things have looked had those two players been with the team the whole year?
In addition to injuries, the Rockies also had a rash of players underwhelming with their performance. Ian Stewart, Seth Smith and Chris Iannetta, Todd Helton and Dexter Fowler had years that they hope will end up as the worst of their careers.
Stewart forgot how to hit the opposite way, and forgot how to swing the bat at all in many cases. Iannetta looked too frustrated to think straight.
Smith often looked tired, and admitted that he lost his focus when he felt that he should be playing more; Helton struggled through nagging injuries; and Fowler showed growing pains, perhaps because the club rushed his development.
Will all of those players have better seasons? There is no guarantee of that. However, will a couple of them have bounce-back years? Odds would say that they should.
Couple that with the development of Jhoulys Chacin on the mound and the Rockies suddenly look like a far better team than the one who was looking to sneak into the playoffs as late as Sept. 20.
While all of that happening seems far-fetched, and it is very possible that the club will deal with many key injuries again, it shows why the Rockies still have a very good chance at winning their first-ever division crown.
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