Hello, Purple Row readers! My name is Nick (yes, another one), and by now you may recognize me as one of the new Rockpile contributors. I hope I have filled some of your weekends with lively Rockies discussions and interesting content to chew on, debate, or feel the warm and fuzzies when you read it. I thought I might introduce myself here and provide some unique commentary on the upcoming season so we can get to know each other a little better. Consider this my Purple Row coming out party, and hopefully we’ll have some fun together in 2018.
Like many of you, I’ve been a reader of Purple Row for years. There is always a high degree of professionalism, intelligence, and passion from its writers that has become anticipated by Colorado Rockies fans and unmatched by their peers. From in-depth prospect analysis and mic-drop Hall of Fame arguments, to seriously high-brow art criticism and straight-up awesome team coverage, readers have come to expect the best, unique Rockies coverage from Purple Row. Now, I’m hoping to find my niche and ask myself, “what do I have to offer?”
Well, I’m a family man with a toddler who has become intimately aware of the gripping entertainment of children’s television. (I have to work with what I got.)
I am going to break down some storylines for the 2018 season, in a language I have become an expert at, by using the following four songs and themes from my good friend and star of PBS—Daniel Tiger. His show teaches valuable morals, social skills, and emotional growth to kids ages 2 - 6... so it’s perfect for #RockiesTwitter.
Let’s do this. Ugga mugga, Purple Row.
1. When you’re upset, you can find a way to feel better
There’s no doubt about it, the 2017 season ended in disappointment for the Rockies and their fans. It was a thrilling roller-coaster ride, and we saw some of the best baseball played in the first half followed by a mediocre display in the second half. Contrary to most early projections, though, the Rockies got the job done and secured their first postseason trip in eight years. After a heartbreaking loss to the Diamondbacks in the Wild Card game, you were probably feeling a little sad, gloomy, or even mad. Let me start by saying, this is normal and you’re not alone—it can help to name these feelings so we can overcome them.
It took me weeks—weeks—before I could talk about the 2017 season and not feel angry. The Rockies were only supposed to be on the cusp of competing for the postseason, but after such an incredible year, it was hard to not feel disappointed in how it ended. I was fully emotionally invested and left with the temperament of a two year old who wanted chocolate cake for dessert but got flan instead.
It wasn’t until after the Astros won the World Series and the Winter Meetings began that I could start to remind myself: the Rockies made the playoffs before they were supposed to contend, we have freakin’ Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon on our team, prospects ready to contribute, and a great young pitching staff—things are looking up, and it’s okay to be happy and excited for what we’re about to see at 20th and Blake this year.
Plus booze. Lots of crying, tears, and booze helps you feel better. (Daniel Tiger fails to mention that for some reason.)
2. Sometimes you feel two feelings at the same time, and that’s okay
Speaking of feelings, they can be pretty confusing little buggers. Like the butterflies in your stomach when you catch a glimpse of the sparkle in David Dahl’s eyes as he slowly turns and smiles at you, when you’re not angry, just disappointed, that DJ LeMahieu grounded into a double-play, or confusion when Scott Oberg looked like one of the best bullpen arms on the team during the final month of the season in a critical playoff push.
The point is, feelings can be hard enough on their own, but what happens when they start blending together?! For example, it’s difficult to come to terms with my love of Carlos González, my heart telling me he needs to stay with the Rockies, the sadness of saying goodbye, and those emotions mingling with my logical brain telling me his tenure at Coors Field is over, he’s an over-priced aging outfielder, and to get over him and move on. There’s no easy answer. Sigh.
Similarly, it’s now exciting to look forward to the 2018 season with high expectations that the Rockies should make the playoffs and have all the talent necessary for a run at an NL West title. This is a major change of pace compared to the past seven years when the Rockies have consistently been projected to finish 4th or 5th in the division. How do we cope with this newfound hope and respect? It makes me feel happy, but also scared and nervous. Now that the Rockies are getting more national attention as contenders, what if they fall flat on their faces? The Coors takes might send me into a spiral of bitter madness.
It was easy flying under the radar and just being pleasantly surprised if the Rockies did well, the media writing it off as an aberration. These feelings of fear and joy will likely mix all season, but honestly, the anxiety feels a lot better than months of apathetic Party Deck and “Monfart” jokes.
3. Things can change and, that’s okay, today we can do things a different way
This team will look different than it did last year in a lot of ways. I know, change can be overwhelming and fill you with uncertainty. But don’t worry, neighbors, because change is also good! As you’ll see in the link above, the starting rotation should have five familiar faces, even if it’s not the same five in the same order as 2017.
We know Chatwood is gone, but beyond that, the starting five will likely be fluid over the course of the season, and this depth is another reason the Rockies can stay competitive all year. It may start as Jon Gray, Tyler Anderson, Chad Bettis, Germán Márquez, and Kyle Freeland, but the injury bug is always biting, and guys like Antonio Senzatela and Jeff Hoffman both have the stuff, talent, and track-record to succeed. It would not surprise me to see either of them in the rotation by the All-Star break, and it wouldn’t be a bad thing, either.
Spring Training will be revealing, and the Rockies’ outfield will likely be a fluid rotation. The only certainty is Charlie Blackmon, who played his way into the MVP conversation last year. After him, Gerardo Parra looks to continue his resurgence following a strong 2017, but he’s aging and far from a sure thing. Likewise, Ian Desmond hopes to follow in Parra’s footsteps and rebound from a terrible 2017 campaign, but it would take an All-Star level turnaround to even begin to wash the sour taste from Rockies fans’ mouths regarding his contract and value to this team. At the very least, he is a RHB with a career .340 BABIP vs. lefty starters who can platoon well in a sea of LH outfield options.
I suspect the Rockies won’t settle on a “starting three” for the outfield the whole year. It is far more likely that David Dahl and Raimel Tapia will compete for the 4th OF spot on the depth chart, and they will all rotate frequently based on match-ups or Desmond being needed at 1B. As a result, we may see very different lineup cards throughout the season, but a lack of consistency doesn’t have to scare us. Like their pitching staff, strong OF depth will be an advantage for the Rockies in 2018.
4. Grr, Grr, Grr out loud, keep on trying, and you’ll feel proud
Lastly, this is my advice to Desmond and Bettis, two veteran cogs for the Rockies’ hitting and pitching this season. Could the Rockies succeed if one or both of them fail to rebound? Absolutely. As outlined above, The Rockies’ depth can quickly cover their poor performances. What’s important to remember is how much better the team could be if they contribute at a reasonable league-average level. The chance that Desmond and Bettis could bring veteran stability to the lineup and rotation outweighs the negative of them failing.
That’s why I say to them, keep on trying. Both have had flashes of greatness in their careers. Whether or not they can regain that form is yet to be seen, and time is against them. But if anyone can look adversity in the eye, laugh, and get to work, it’s Chad Bettis. It’s a contagious attitude that would benefit a young clubhouse on the verge of greatness. There will be losing streaks, injuries, and many I-told-you-so’s when the Rockies show a single sign of weakness. We’ve been there, seen that, and have the power to rise above it now.
Last year, the Rockies had to play a one-game win-or-go-home battle with a tough division rival to begin their latest postseason era, due in large part to a second-half regular season collapse. It is exactly this never-give-up attitude that could help push this team over the hump and toward a division title. I, for one, would love to not go through an anxiety-attack-inducing one-game playoff again. If the Rockies battle for a full 162 and compete for a pennant, regardless of the outcome, I know I’ll certainly be proud—and they should be, too.
Atta boy, Daniel, give it your best shot. Now can I please watch some HGTV?