We didn’t know if this day would come. When it finally was scheduled, July 24 seemed like a far-fetched fantasy. But it’s here. The Rockies are playing a baseball game tonight. They will christen the new Globe Life Field in Arlington when they take on the Texas Rangers. Germán Márquez is getting his chance at an Opening Day start. Go Rockies.
This is good news for the Rockies.
While Rockies fans dreamed about expanded playoffs during talks between the MLB and the MLB Players Association, it seemed like the proposal had been squashed. But it came back to life and into the rulebooks on Thursday night before the 2020 season officially started.
Instead of five teams each from the American and National Leagues, there will be eight: the division winners, the second-place team in each division, and two Wild Card teams. That means that even if the Dodgers and Diamondbacks, and maybe Padres, have the kind of seasons we are fearing they might, the Rockies still have a chance. Teams on the bubble of postseason contention, or teams who can start hot and stay hot during the shortened season, all have a lot more to play for.
According to the Athletic, the deal is just for the 2020 season. All postseason games will be on ESPN and TBS, giving owners more money and the players will have $50 million to divide for those who make it to the postseason.
The regular season will end on Sept. 27 and the playoffs will begin two days later. No teams will have byes. Teams be seeded No. 1-3 for division winners, No. 4-6 for second place teams, and No. 7-8 for Wild Cards. The first round will be a three-game series and the higher seed will be the host for the entire series. The NLDS and ALDS will still be five-game series, while the Championship Series and World Series will obviously still be best-of-seven.
In their 27 years of existence, the Rockies have yet to win a NL West title, so as many other ways into the playoffs as possible is welcome news, especially with the Dodgers winning seven division crowns in a row. After signing Mookie Betts to a 12-year deal on Wednesday, the Dodgers could be the NL team to beat for years.
The Dodgers did reveal a crack in their armor on Thursday night when they announced that Clayton Kershaw wouldn’t be pitching Opening Day against the Giants because of a stiff back. The Dodgers retroactively placed Kershaw on the 10-day IL and he will be eligible to return on July 31 if he’s recovered.
The Rockies have made it to the postseason five times in their history with four of those appearances coming after finishing second in the NL West and getting the Wild Card (1995, 2007, 2009, and 2018). The other playoff appearance in 2017, came from a third-place NL West finish that gave the Rockies another Wild Card.
It’s a weird season and some will criticize this expansion as watering down the playoffs. Stats will be weird. Records will be weird. The 16 teams going to the playoffs will be weird. When Nolan Arenado was asked if the season should have an asterisk, he had a simple answer:
“This is what it is this year. If we have a chance to get to the World Series and playoffs I’m all about it. It counts and I want to win. The goal is always to win, and there’s a chance to win a World Series so that should always be the goal.”
So here comes the weird season with the odds stacked against it, but with the Rockies’ playoff chances increased. We can always look to Yogi Berra to put it best: “The future ain’t what it used to be.”
In this article, Patrick Saunders focuses on the urgency of a 60-game sprint, how there will be no room for error, and that a few key players could change the tides for their teams. Saunders emphasizes, “One game is now worth 2.7 times more than one game in a normal season.”
In an odd season highlighted by unknowns, there is an interesting nugget in this article about how just one player could improve the fortunes of his team. The best example Saunders gives is Joe DiMaggio in his 1941 56-game hitting streak (where he hit over .400, homered 15 times, and drove in 55 runs). Before the streak started, the Yankees were a .500 team and 5 ½ games out of first place. By the end, they were in first place with a six-game lead and had a winning percentage of .670 (55-27). The Yankees went on to win the World Series that year.
Saunders gives three historical Rockies examples of what could happen in 60 days. In a 60-game stretch, Carlos González smashed 27 homers in 2015. In 60 games in 1997, the Rockies’ only Hall of Famer, Larry Walker, posted a .423 batting average and Andrés Galarraga had 72 RBIs.
It’s not hard to imagine Arenado having a streak like that. Or Charlie Blackmon. Or Trevor Story. Many of the Rockies could step up and have memorable, season-altering streaks. Thanks to FanGraphs, we have more recent stats. In 2019, Arenado had a 60-game stretch where he hit .346/.409/.662 with 19 home runs and Story hit .322/.382/.637 with 15 homers in a different 60-game portion of the schedule last year. Blackmon’s best 60-game stretch of his career came in 2017 when he hit .376/.457/.678 with 17 home runs.
We will skip over the damage of slumps and losing streaks and how quickly they could derail a team’s season.
Forearm tightness turned out to be a painfully damaged ligament that needed Tommy John surgery, ending Peter Lambert’s 2020 season before it began. The 23-year-old right hander had the surgery on Tuesday in Los Angeles. Lambert made a splash with a nine-strikeout debut last season, but trailed off and was shut down after making 19 starts, finishing with a 3-7 record and 7.25 ERA. He was battling for an outside chance at the fifth spot in the rotation this year, but was forced to sit out spring training with the forearm tightness on March 10. He worked hard during the delay, but Bud Black said surgery, which was the last option, became the only option.
John Reidy needed to rant. That’s what this is. We are all frustrated with the state of the world in a pandemic right now, but Opening Day is the chance for a brief and welcomed distraction. Reidy does finally arrive at this conclusion after 11 paragraphs of “pure cynicism” about how the season is unnecessarily delayed because of stalled talks between owners and players, the awfulness of fake crowd noise, and the sentimental nature of baseball grossing him out. If you share these views, this could help validate your feelings. If you are overcome with the feeling of joy and hope that only a Rockies’ Opening Day can bring, then you should probably skip this one.
Part of the negotiations between the MLB and the Players Association in calculating a plan to play some kind of 2020 season also included an increased focus on social justice. In addition to health concerns in a pandemic, part of the reason Ian Desmond chose to opt out for the 2020 season was to focus on social justice, reinvest in youth baseball in his community, and to talk about these issues with his kids.
In addition to increased significance in partnerships with social justice non-profits, resources, and education, players are able to wear different patches, batting practice T-shirts, and wristbands stating Black Lives Matter or United for Change or somehow advocating for social justice. In Thursday night’s openers between the Nationals and Yankees and Dodgers and Giants, we saw that in action with some players kneeling and taking moments of silence. An MLB logo with BLM, honoring Black Lives Matter, will also be stenciled onto all pitching mounds on Thursday and Friday.
The Athletic’s Nick Groke tweeted on Thursday that the Rockies are “planning something for Opening Day as a way to show unity with Black Lives Matter.”
There is a baby Dahl on the way.
David Dahl and his wife Jacquelyn Davis are expecting their first child in January. This definitely made Dahl pause a bit more than just considering his own at-risk health status due to the fact that he had a splenectomy in 2015. Dahl said he wanted to see all the protocols of Summer Camp before making his decision, but was reassured by all of the policies so far.
“Me being high risk and with my wife, Jacquelyn, being pregnant, I wanted to make sure we’re taking care of being safe. So far, so good. Testing is going well. We’ve all been tested a good bit,” Dahl added. “We’re spaced out on the plane. We wear masks. I’m confident in all the protocols, “ Dahl told AP sports writer Pat Graham.
Congrats to the Dahl-Davis family!