Welcome to Football Friday (Season Two). The wildly popular weekly column has returned for a second year of diving into the theories, analysis, and fun of baseball. Every week we here at Football Friday will use all of our integrity and other things that sound impressive to deliver the best baseball column you’ve ever seen or ever will see. We at Football Friday, Inc. are honest, truthful, and most of all we’re serious journalists. Every single one of us.
The Rockies are 23-13, 10 games over .500 for the first time since 2010. By total wins, they have the best record in the National League and this is the best start in team history.
Any way you look at it, this is good. The Rockies are playing the best they ever have to start the season. These ain’t your mom’s April Rockies. This is a team that’s 19-0 when leading after six innings. The bullpen is good (even when it isn’t), the rotation is a ragtag group of rookies who don’t understand they aren’t supposed to be this good, and the lineup is finding production from places it didn’t expect. These Rockies are good, man.
But, with any good team in any sport we watch, the idea of optimism is shunned. Feeling excitement or hope is frowned upon by not only society, but also our internal monologue. The idea of reconciling with our own optimism is a bigger step than convincing anyone else to reconcile with theirs.
The internal pessimist that lives in all of us usually rests on the idea that the Rockies have done this before. In 2014, they started 22-14, only one game below where they are now. They collapsed under injury and pitching woes that season to a 66-96 year.
Anyone with reasonable logic skills will argue that 2017 and 2014 are not the same. The 2017 team isn’t relying on such ridiculous what ifs as “If Jordan Lyles and Franklin Morales can carry the backend of the rotation...” or “If Yohan Flande and Christian Bergman can be viable depth starters...”. There is real talent on this roster beyond the starting nine. There is legitimate depth that has already shown it can give the Rockies wins on nights when maybe they should’ve lost.
But, what really sunk 2014 wasn’t just Lyles and Morales, it wasn’t just a bullpen relying on Tommy Kahnle and Brooks Brown.
It was injuries.
That season started to lose gas when Nolan Arenado hit the DL, then Carlos Gonzalez, then Troy Tulowitzki.
The Rockies spent 92 games without CarGo, 71 without Tulowitzki, and 51 without Arenado. Josh Rutledge and Brandon Barnes saw 600-plus plate appearances. Charlie Culberson played in 95 games with a sub .200 batting average.
These injuries aren’t something special to the 2014 Rockies or the Rockies as a franchise. These types of seasons happen all the time. They’re unavoidable, even the best teams lack the depth to survive that.
So as you’re reconciling with your optimism about the 2017 Rockies, about the Rockies in general, the most pressing concern should be injuries. It always will be. The Rockies’ injury history is like a Josh Hartnett IMDB page. You look at it, there’s a couple good moments, but overall it’s just unavoidable disappointments. What could Josh have done differently?
The same is true for the Rockies. Really, truly, what could they have done differently? Not sign someone like Ty Wigginton, sure, but when you anticipate season long production from your superstars you aren’t thinking about losing them. Could the Rockies have done more to anticipate Tulo and CarGo’s bad luck injury history? Could the 2014 Rockies have tried harder to get real, tangible depth? Absolutely. Would it have mattered that much if you lose 150-plus games from the best bats in the lineup? Probably not.
That’s where the internal pessimist wins. “There are always injuries,” it will say. It’s right.
Reconciling with your optimism isn’t about not letting the pessimist win some arguments though. It’s about, forgive my Jaden Smith voice here, but it’s about believing.
Injuries happen or they don’t. We see David Dahl this year or we don’t. Jon Gray returns to form or he doesn’t. Nolan gives us 150 games or he doesn’t. We can’t worry about these things the same way we can’t worry about whether this drive to work is the one during which the overpass collapses on top of us. We’d be riddled with anxiety if we worried about every little way the world could kill us or destroy us. Why do we do it with the Rockies? Why not admit to ourselves the beauty of the moment?
Two weeks ago, I talked about those who enter PANIC WATCH at the first sign of trouble. They abandon ship and declare the Monforts to be robber barons from 1871.
This, though, is different. These are reasonable, rational people. That’s all we are, reasonable and rational. We are trapped in our rational thinking. We are stuck in worrying about the risks instead of believing in the possibilities.
Reconciling with optimism isn’t about being rational or winning every single argument. It isn’t about debating Dodger fans online when they tell you this Rockies team isn’t going to win the division. It’s simply about enjoying what you have. You have a good team, enjoy it. Whether they finish 96-66 or 84-78, the Rockies are good right now. Even if they all get in a terrible leg-losing accident and the Rockies are forced to forfeit the rest of the season. Even if there is a giant invasion of mole people and the MLB season is cancelled three days before the Rockies clinch the division.
No matter what, just remember, the risks are always going to be there. Being optimistic isn’t about removing those risks, it’s about coexisting in a world and believing that they don’t dominate the conversation.
This isn’t the 2014 Rockies, these aren’t the April Rockies. Welcome to the New World. We’re all optimists here. Send a postcard.
★ ★ ★
The Good Tweet of the Week
Every week I’m prowling the timeline looking for good tweets from Rockies fans, Rockies players, and Rockies minor leaguers. I will highlight my favorite tweet of each week in this section. This week, the Good Tweet (TM) comes from Rockies Tweeter Jack Heyer, who tweets this beautiful thing:
It’s a Fly the W of Wombats.
The Win Wombat has become a staple of Rockies Twitter. It’s tweeted and retweeted, it’s a creative entity now. It has its own shirt (which you should’ve bought).
Now it has co-opted the Chicago Cubs’ win celebration and covers the W on the flag for all to see that Wombats>Ws.
Keep the wombat creative pieces coming folks, I want this thing to be bigger than Coca-Cola!
★ ★ ★
Are the Rockies Going to Win the World Series?
Yes, they are.