They are the defending National League Champs, just as the Baseball Observer predicted before the season last year. In fact, the Observer has been uncannily accurate with Rockies predictions for all 15 years of the Colorado team’s existence. That puts the pressure on for 2008. Virtually every media outlet outside of Denver is predicting that the Rockies will return to form in 2008, and finish fourth in the West, ahead of only the woeful Giants of San Francisco. The pundits feel that the “Rocktober Streak”, when Clint’s cadre won an amazing 20 of 21 games, was a class A, lead-pipe fluke. They say most of the team had career years on the mound, at the plate, and in the field. They don’t have any respect for Hurdle as a manager, and they don’t think the team can escape major injuries to key players as they did in 2007. On the other hand, the Denver media outlets all predict the Rockies will easily advance to the World Series and will win it in 2008.
As usual, they are both wrong. The Rockies did perform as a 4th place team up until the last three weeks of the season, and the stretch run was not so much a fluke as a series of fortunate events. As a result of the streak and the visit to the Fall Classic, the Rockies have finally moved to the next level. They have progressed beyond the perennial last or next to the last place team into the land of solid mediocrity. Last year, we compared them to the Montreal Expos of the 1980′s who had good teams because they recruited great young talent, but never moved into greatness because they couldn’t afford to sign their stars to long term contracts. The Rockies are in the same boat. They have managed to sign the current group of stars, but they won’t be able to sign the next group to fill up the holes they need to plug to move into the dynasty role. So, the Rockies are will remain mediocre. They had their moment in the sun, and now they will settle into the annoying Chicago Cubs syndrome, coming close year after year, but never approaching the dizzying heights of 2007.
We believe Colorado will finish 2nd in the Western Division in 2008, and probably won’t be good enough to be the Wild Card. Furthermore, 2008 will be a prototype year for many to come. Colorado fans will remain entranced by the team, and remembering 2007, they will spend the end of each season breathlessly waiting for another streak that will never come. What certainly will come are higher prices. They may even get to the playoffs one of these years, but probably won’t make it back to the World Series in any of our lifetimes.