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Monday Morning Rockpile:

Five years ago, Thomas Harding wrote this Rockies Spring Training preview at the Rockies official site. Our projected starting lineup:

2B Pablo Ozuna
LF Jay Payton
RF Larry Walker
1B Todd Helton
CF Preston Wilson
3B Jose Hernandez
C Charles Johnson
SS Juan Uribe

And our projected rotation:

  1. Denny Neagle
  2. Jason Jennings
  3. Denny Stark
  4. (and 5)Aaron Cook, Shawn Chacon or Scott Elarton

Harding's last paragraph, touting the "larger-than-usual group of prospects" indicates how everybody knew that the 2003 team was adrift before it even set sail. Even that large group of prospects we had weren't considered that promising  at the time outside of Aaron Cook and Chin-Hui Tsao (Petrick and Freeman's star had already fallen, Hawpe, Atkins and especially Holliday were underrated) and Tsao would obviously experience another setback that season.

So, obviously we've come a long way. Rather than five open positions in the lineup heading into Spring, we have one. That rotation wound up having all of our starters give only bottom of the rotation work, with the exception of Shawn Chacon who could have been considered #4 worthy in the limited innings he gave. This season we seem to be in vastly better shape with our starters. The aptitude of our bench and injury backups is superior, as is our bullpen.  What's similar to 2003 is that where we'll be five seasons from now seems to rest largely on the development of the young arms in camp, Jimenez/Hirsh/Morales/Reynolds seem to be a significant upgrade from Cook/Stark/Tsao/Young/Vance but I'd like 2008 to have a few more arms show high promise in the system to add to our chances.

It's interesting to note Harding's change of perspective on the matter of veteran leadership as well, this is what he had to say then:

C J.D. Closser -- An effective switch hitter, Closser's defensive development could accelerate during a camp around a veteran like Charles Johnson.

Whereas, here are his thoughts on the subject now:

The traditional story of the veteran serving as a mentor to younger players often is simply untrue. Sure, the veteran can give tips about the big league lifestyle. But to what degree is anyone in any business responsible for mentoring the person who could render him unemployed?

It seems we've all grown wiser with the team over the last five years. Let's hope the wisdom we gain over these next five doesn't require as many seasons like 2003 and has a few more like 2007 instead.