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Tuesday Rockpile: They Call Them PURPLE Mountains' Majesty

Yesterday was a special day.  On a day reserved for roses, fancy dinners and "unexpected" wedding proposals, the Colorado Rockies officially opened for business in 2011 with pitchers and catchers reporting at the new Spring Training facility in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Optimism abounds for every team on this day, yet more so for the Rockies than most, as they believe (rightfully so) that 2011 can be yet another contending year for the franchise.  But it could be more than that.  2011 could be the year that the Rockies can take a large step into the primary spotlight in Colorado professional sports.

"Denver will always be a football town."  This has been held as an unchallengeable truth in Colorado, but even the most passionate loves have expiration dates if not maintained.  Yesterday, the Broncos began their final week in preparation for a pivotal NFL draft in which they have the 2nd overall pick by virtue of the 2nd worst NFL record.

In a league where 10 different franchises have represented the NFC in the Super Bowl in the last ten years, the Denver Broncos have one playoff win in just five playoff games in 13 seasons.  They just tallied twelve losses for the first time in franchise history.  The disarray at Dove Valley has turned a great many fans off.

The Denver Nuggets were in the Western Conference Finals not long ago.  But they have lost 7 of 10 after a brutal loss last night and are days away from launching a rebuild by trading their franchise player (probably).  They find themselves fourth in their division and just a game away from falling out of the playoff picture.

The Colorado Avalanche lost an iconic player yesterday, then proceeded to lose 9-1 to a division rival.   The Avs have not won in nearly three weeks (getting outscored 49-19 in those eight games) and have fallen to14th in the conference.

Meanwhile, the Rockies have locked up their two young stars in Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki while also bringing back Jorge de la Rosa.  There is plenty of optimism amongst Rockies fans, while the other three organizations are in various degrees of obvious turmoil.  

Never before have the Rockies been in such a perfect position to seize an opportunity to vault themselves into the state's consciousness, to take a huge step in making Colorado a baseball state.  It takes time, most certainly, but that journey isn't linear.  2011 could represent a huge kick in the right direction.  

Eleven days ago, a Denver sports radio personality (Mike Evans) said two things that stunned me.  

  • "The Rockies are the best run organization in this state.  There is no doubt about that."
  • "I just want the baseball season to start already."

This was two days before the Super Bowl.  Denver sports radio is notorious pushing Broncos conversations first and for slamming the Monforts and Dan O'Dowd.  Clearly, that has changed.  When radio personalities and other media control the type of sports coverage, that could be a big deal.  

We saw this state rally around the Rockies in the 2007 World Series.  If the NFL reaches a lockout, thousands of fans will look elsewhere for their sports entertainment.  If the Rockies start strongly in 2011, the Broncos' fanbase is ripe for attrition.  Denver doesn't always have to be a football town, and 2011 could be the year that starts changing.



  • Visa problems delay De La Rosa's arrival at Rockies camp - The Denver Post  Jorge de la Rosa lives in Scottsdale, but he can't get there due to visa issues in Mexico.  I would be more upset with his lack of foresight, but I once battled visa issues myself for nearly three months in a foreign country.  These things happen....Troy Tulowitzki, Eric Young Jr, Todd Helton, Dexter Fowler, Alfredo Amezaga and Willy Taveras all arrived yesterday, a day early....Matt Belisle's workhorse 2010 took on new meaning after it was revealed that he pitched the whole season with torn knee cartilage, surgically repaired this offseason.  Matt is going to need a bigger wheelbarrow.
  • Rockies' Cook looks to rebound with better mechanics - The Denver Post  Perhaps Aaron Cook being too hittable in 2010 was mechanics related?  In a correlation-but-not-necessarily-causation look, Troy Renck points out that Cook pitched spectacularly in two starts after fixing a mechanical flaw late in the season.  So many are expecting Cook to be nothing but an innings eater, but if the 2009 Opening Day starter regains form, the Rockies rotation will be fearsome.
  • Questions for spring: Where will Ty Wigginton play? | Inside the Colorado Rockies.  This is certainly an interesting question, especially considering that he will have over 400 PA in 2011.  Several will come on Todd Helton's off-days.  He figures to replace Ian Stewart vs tough lefties.  Might he get the nod over Ryan Spilborghs in the outfield on Opening Day if Joe Saunders is the opposing starter?