Colorado Rockies in Basement of Cactus League: Who Cares?

David MartinAnalyst IMarch 3, 2009

The Colorado Rockies blogs are going crazy. The people who comment on articles in the newspaper are freaking out. Woody Paige has already written two articles declaring the end of the season. The Rockies are off to an 0-6 start in Cactus League play. 

Stop freaking out.

This time last year was a good time to be a Rockies fan, maybe the best time ever.  It was a time full of excitement about defending a brand new, shiny National League pennant.

That excitement quickly turned to embarrassment as the Rockies had a horrible April and a far worse May.

The team never turned the corner in 2008, finishing with a mere 74 wins and a third place finish in a lackluster National League West. 

Rockies apologists everywhere turned into pessimists, complaining that the previous year was a fluke and that the perfect storm hit. After all, there had to be an explanation for the World Series run, and there was no way that it was simply because the team was good.

That pessimism reached its pinnacle in November, when the Rockies traded off their best and least signable player, Matt Holliday, to the Oakland A's in exchange for three players—two pitchers and a highly touted prospect.

The pessimists vowed to turn their backs on the team until general manager Dan O'Dowd and manager Clint Hurdle were fired, or co-owners Dick and Charlie Monfort sold the team. They said the Rockies were a one-hit wonder and would lurk as the bottom feeder of the NL West until the Apocalypse.

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Those fans who vowed to follow only the Broncos have found their way back. They are off and running with the news of the Rockies being 0-6 in Cactus League play. They swear that this team will lose 110 games. They say this is the worst team since the 1961 Mets.

This is exactly what they were hoping for. These fans could hardly wait for the Rockies to stumble out of the gate and fall flat on their faces.

The only problem is...this is spring training. 

Sure, some of the Rockies performances have left more to be desired. Greg Smith's debut was terrible. Huston Street gave up three hits and an earned run in his debut.  Franklin Morales was lit up for three home runs in his second go around, and Aaron Cook looked bad in his second outing.

February baseball does have it's importance. There are several players duking it out for the final spot in the rotation. There are two pitchers battling for the closer's role. There are young players trying to show that they belong. There are two middle relievers with no options fighting for one spot.

All of these battles will take place in the arid atmosphere of the Cactus League this March. Some of these games will determine the future of many of these young men's lives. They will not, however, determine the fate of the Rockies 2009 season.

That is the beauty of spring training. When the team takes the field in Phoenix on April 6 for the opener, the batting averages and ERA's will all have one thing in common. They will all have three zero's on them. 

The numbers that are posted in Spring Training will be wiped away and quickly forgotten. If that is hard to believe, remember who won the Rockies award last season for best spring player? Yep, none other than Jayson Nix. 

Nix's hot spring landed him as the everyday second baseman, at least for a month. Nix played in 22 games for the Rockies, collecting all of seven hits and had a lowly .125 batting average. He was sent back to the minors after no team picked him up on waivers.

Three short years ago, the Kansas City Royals were the champions of the Cactus League. Does anyone remember that? Does anyone remember how those same Royals fared in the regular season? They finished the 2006 regular season 62-100.

Spring Training is good for the manager and the front office to get a good look at some of their up and coming prospects. It is a chance for these players to show that they are worthy of the big leagues.

It is a chance for those players who are getting into their 20s and starring at their third straight season at AAA to show that they are ready for the next step—that they can hit a Major League curveball.

Spring Training is for the pitcher coming off of shoulder surgery to prove to himself that he can still pitch—that he can still face Major League hitters and get them out.

And as we are finding out, it is a time for the pessimistic fans to show that their arm-chair quarterbacking offseason moves were correct and that the current front office and management has no business being where they are at.

If the Rockies are 0-6 on April 12, start getting nervous. If Aaron Cook is giving up three runs every two innings in his second regular season start, panic. If the player with the highest batting average after three series is Matt Murton, forget about the playoffs.  But if the Rockies are 0-6 in Cactus League play after March 2, just relax.

In four weeks, a great majority of these players will be strapping on their Sky Sox or Drillers jerseys and will be nothing more than a name mentioned as a potential September call up.

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