When you think of rivalries, often a few big ones probably come to mind—Yankees/Red Sox, Dodgers/Giants, Michigan/Ohio State, Broncos/Raiders, and the list goes on. Thomas Harding of MLB.com told me that rivalries in professional sports usually come about for one of two reasons—either because two teams are playing well together at the same time or they are going through very similar circumstances at the same time, since there aren’t a lot of geographical rivals within their divisions in most cases.
He cited the Cincinnati Reds and Los Angeles Dodgers when both were World Series contenders in the NL West (sound familiar?) from 1969-1994, and the New York Yankees and Kansas City Royals when they were “in a collision course for the American League title” from 1976-1980. None of those teams are particularly close geographically, but they were all close competitively and were therefore always playing heated games against each other.
The Diamondbacks and Rockies are relatively close geographically—it’s only about an hour and a half flight or a 12 hour drive, depending on your preference—but they are closer competitively. Let’s take a look at how this rivalry has been growing, and see where it could be headed in the near future.
This rivalry has been quietly brewing for quite some time, according to Mark Knudson of the Coloradoan. For starters, both of these teams are expansion franchises from the 1990’s—the Rockies began playing in 1993 and the Diamondbacks in 1998. They are both relatively young teams in the NL West, so they haven’t established themselves among the heavy hitting Dodgers and Giants. However, they still have a lot of history together in their short existence.
The Rockies made the playoffs in 1995—their third year of existence—but the Diamondbacks one-upped them by winning the World Series in 2001—their fourth year of existence. This rivalry has been under the radar for many years and came to a head in 2007, when the Diamondbacks won the NL West division title but ultimately were swept by the red hot Rockies in the NLCS.
After a quiet few years in the early 2010’s in which each team went through some growing pains (see: Rockies 2012 and Diamondbacks 2016), everything resurfaced during the 2017 season. Both teams were under new managers—Bud Black for the Rockies and Torey Lovullo for the Diamondbacks—and really turned themselves around to make a postseason run.
Before that, each team had made it back to the playoffs once—the Rockies in 2009 and the Diamondbacks in 2011—before meeting each other again in the 2017 Wild Card game. They were incredibly competitive all season, and it showed when three teams from the NL West made the playoffs instead of just the Dodgers.
The Diamondbacks and Rockies are definitely becoming a textbook example of Harding’s first definition of rivals—playing well together at the same time. This trend started in 2017 and has continued into 2018. Trevor Story acknowledged that, saying that the rivalry is there with all teams in the division since they play each other a lot, but “especially with the Diamondbacks, I think because we played them last year in the Wild Card game and we’ll never forget that.” Kyle Freeland added to that, citing the 2007 team and also citing last year’s Wild Card game.
“You look back in history, in ‘07” Freeland said, “Back then started it a little bit I would say and last year with the Wild Card game. It’s starting to grow a rivalry where they’ve kinda beaten up on us a little bit and now we’re kinda getting back on them so yeah, it’s progressing.”
In the midst of this current season, circumstances are very similar but also very different than 2017. Both teams are in contention for postseason exactly like last year and they are both currently slated to play in the Wild Card rather than take the division title (although that could change). However, unlike 2017, they have the Milwaukee Brewers, Atlanta Braves, Chicago Cubs, and Philadelphia Phillies to contend with more closely for that Wild Card right now.
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It’s apparent when these two teams play how they seem to play with a little bit more urgency than when they play, say, the Dodgers. Take the night of Friday, July 20th for example. In what Charlie Blackmon called, “the Rockies-est game ever,” the game went back and forth for four hours and two minutes. “‘Oh you guys are all nice and fresh? Here’s four hours of baseball.’” Blackmon said, the fatigue of the long and crazy game evident on his face.
Friday’s game was eerily reminiscent of that game last October, except that the Rockies came out victorious with a score of 11-10, punctuated by a pinch hit grand slam by Raimel Tapia (fittingly off of Archie Bradley, who hit a big two RBI triple in the the Wild Card game). It went back and forth all game, with each team clawing its way back into the lead before one big play seemed to seal the deal. However, the other team came up to bat and started chipping away at the lead only to ultimately come up short of the victory.
Many games seem to be like this between those two teams, maybe because they have similar roster constructions or they play in very similar ballpark conditions, but don’t expect the games to get any less dramatic in the future.
What to Expect Coming Up
The argument could be made that the Diamondbacks are a great rival of the Rockies, and maybe one day that rivalry could be up there with that of the Dodgers and Giants or the Red Sox and Yankees. Nolan Arenado said, “I think every game we play with them is extremely close...and that’s just the way it goes but yeah there’s definitely a rivalry there and it’s fun, it’s fun games. I mean, it’s stressful but they’re good baseball games.” He’s right. They are good games and they’re fun to watch, despite how stressful they can be. Here are the scores from this year’s series so far:
Rockies/Diamondbacks Series Scores 2018
|March 29, 2018||2-8|
|March 30, 2018||8-9|
|March 31, 2018||2-1|
|June 8, 2018||4-9|
|June 9, 2018||7-12|
|June 10, 2018||3-8|
|July 10, 2018||3-5|
|July 11, 2018||19-2|
|July 12, 2018||5-1|
|July 20, 2018||11-10|
|July 21, 2018||6-5|
|July 22, 2018||1-6|
They play each other seven more times in 2018—four times at Coors Field and three times at Chase Field. It can be expected to be another set of heated matchups between two teams vying for a return to the postseason, and barring any major shake ups, these two teams could be exciting to watch for years to come.