Hello, it's the resident optimistic masochist again. Every year I post usually optimistic predictions or posts about reasons to be optimistic or even excited for a coming season. It's a personal pastime that I've enjoyed even as I have been wrong pretty much every time. It's how I've enjoyed my fandom. But I am not gonna lie...
This offseason almost broke me. I almost quit optimism altogether.
But I have had some time to think about it. To stew on it. To wonder why I watch the team. To think about how fans of other teams with historically losing ways have approached it all and I have come to a conclusion. I can still be optimistic and hope for the best regardless. Cubs fans had to wait a century. Rangers fans 5 decades. Mariners fans are still waiting. I can wait a bit longer.
BUT... that does not mean that the Rockies' front office should be immune to criticism. Far from it. If you want to do that, have at it. Have fun.
But, I have chosen optimism yet again and have decided to see if there was a way I could spread my optimism to other fans no matter their outlook. So, I won't have one optimistic outlook. I will have three.
Optimistic Outlook Number 1: The Rebuild
For those who feel like the best thing that could happen for the team is an abysmal season, this one is for you. The Rockies are absolutely awful. I mean, Pirates-saying-at-least-we-ain't-the-worst bad. Pitching goes nowhere, hitting is lost, fielding noticibly dipped, etcetera, etcetera. But wait, how could this be optimism? I'LL TELL YOU WHY.
Because it's just so darn bad the front office takes notice. Fan attendence plummets and the first 100 loss season in club history wakes them from their waking dream and kickstarts the rebuild. They focus hard on the draft and international talent, sell high at the deadline and offseason on everyone that they can. It starts a few years of truly abysmal baseball but each year the next step is taken, leading up to that promised land of sustained success by 2025 or so.
Optimistic Outlook Number 2: The Mild Hope
The Rockies... do okay? Like, not great, they miss the playoffs, but they aren't awful either. Players take incremental steps forward. Hilliard, Tapia, Rogers, McMahon and others take measured increases in their progress. Maybe even Story is convinced to stay a bit longer. The pitching core finds two or three settle into solid roles, and the bullpen starts it's way up from the bottom-out of 2020. But doesn't that just sound like mediocrity? Why is that optimism? LISTEN.
Finishing around .500 and even being in the playoff hunt into September shows we aren't as hopeless as we thought. Spurred by this and some major contracts coming off the books along with a full season without COVID-19 mucking it up lets the front office decide that it's finally time to work the market in 2021's offseason, setting up for another run in 2022 sustained by continually progressing young talent and saavy veteran pick ups.
Optimistic Outlook Number 3: Screw it, Shock the World
Let's not kid ourselves, it's the least likely of the three. We are not projected to be very good like... at all. PECOTA among others don't even see us in the 70's in wins. Jiminny Christmas that's not good. There are more question marks in the Rockies roster than there are on Jim Carrey's riddler. But, you know what? Despite that...
What if. What if Story explodes into a mighty superstar without any parallel. What if the absence of Arenado spurs others to step up literally and figuratively to the plate. Blackmon returns with a vengeance. Marquez, Freeland, Gray, and Senzatela turn in good years simultaneously, even Cy Young worthy levels maybe. The bullpen, cut of dead weight, finds itself, maybe even by accident. Rogers, McMahon, Hilliard, Tapia, and litany of young, unproven talent have breakout years of varying levels. Maybe Tapia hits .340 with 20 HR for a batting title, while Hilliard bashes 35. Maybe McMahon finally reaches his potential and Fuentes finally anchors 1B into a position we don't need to worry about all while veteran castoffs like Cron, Joe, and Bird provide pop and experience off the bench. Maybe it's too much to chase a division or even the first wild card spot but...
What if... What if they stroll into San Diego with nobody picking them and they do it anways in a game wilder than the 2007 tiebreaker of legend and this time, nobody misses a plate. Then they stun Los Angeles ala 2019 Nationals in game 5 on a McMahon single in the 10th driving in Story to take the lead, before going up against St. Louis. It's a painful, high-low series with a familiar face in the wrong dugout. He has an amazing series too, crushing 5 home runs, 3 of them back in his old stomping grounds. It's not enough to stop a gutty game 6 performance by Senzatela and a game 7 masterpiece by Marquez. Then, it's the Yankees. They destroyed the White Sox in the ALCS. They're confident. They're powerful. They win games 1 and 2 with ease and nobody on the east coast is worried when the Rox take game 3 or even when they somehow steal game 4. The Yanks will get 28 in New York, big deal. But they... don't. The miracles pile up. A balk at the right time. An absolute missile launched to the third deck by Story in game 6. A no outs, based loaded jam in the 8th escaped by Oberg with no damage done. When that last out settles into Fuentes glove, nobody can believe it... not even us.
Yeah, it's a fantasy. I don't blame anyone for being angry, depressed, hurt, and so on. But, perhaps we can all be optimistic in our own way. Regardless, have fun out there Rockies fans. There is still baseball to watch and GM's to fire. What a good day.
Editor's Note: Originally published March 4, 2021