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28 days until the Season Opener at Coors Field

Colorado Rockies news and links for Friday, March 11, 2021

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From darkness to hope, what a difference a day makes.

MLB went from further postponing the 2022 season by canceling two more series on Wednesday to announcing a deal Thursday afternoon. We went from a depressing lockout tally that reached 99 days to now starting a new countdown: 28 days until Opening Day for the Colorado Rockies.

And guess what? It’s at Coors Field instead of Dodger Stadium like originally scheduled.

Judging from Twitter, media reports, and the vast gulf between ideas and numbers from the MLBPA and MLB, this day was not expected. Plans for finding alternative entertainment options and coping mechanisms for missing baseball can go into the scrapheap that’s been this MLB offseason since Dec. 1.

There will be baseball in 2022. Hope does spring eternal. Not only that, but there will also be 162 games.

During this lockout, something magical happened. Thursday’s announcement of the deal made me so excited about the Rockies. I didn’t know I would feel this way because I hadn’t allowed myself to imagine what it would be like to have a deal. It was just better to set the bar low.

Now, it feels like when you win free tickets to a concert. Tickets for your favorite band sold out and you thought you couldn’t go. Then you win the tickets. It doesn’t matter that you are in the top row and have an obstructed view. You get to be there.

The season will happen and the Rockies will be there. Sure, they still have all the problems they had before – plus more as we now head toward the first season without Trevor Story and Jon Gray and a season without a Scott Van Lenten-led R&D department that only lasted 169 days, 98 of which were during a lockout. But, at least there will be baseball.

The feelings of optimism and baseball joy that have sprung up are opposite of those going into the 2021 season. On Feb. 1, 2021, we learned the Rockies had traded away franchise player Nolan Arenado and sent $51 million to the Cardinals. It was a major lowlight in Rockies history. I actually might have been OK with a lockout last year.

Now, time has passed. Nolan is still gone and the Rockies will still pay him over $5.5 million to be gone in 2022. But, after three months of thinking there would be a baseball-less spring, picturing Germán Márquez on the mound and Ryan McMahon at the plate at Coors Field in April is enough to fire up a fountain of happiness.

Specific details of the schedule are still being determined, but here’s a glimpse of the first version of the big dates:

  • Friday, March 11: Players can start reporting to spring training.
  • Sunday, March 13: Mandatory deadline for players to report to spring training (unless they require a visa).
  • Monday, March 14: Spring training starts (cut down from the usual 40 days to 24).
  • Friday, March 18: Tentative start of Rockies Cactus League games
  • Thursday, April 7: MLB Opening Day
  • Friday, April 8: Rockies Season Opener vs. Dodgers at Coors Field.

It will take time to unpack all the details of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. There will be changes on the money side of the game favoring young players, an expanded 12-team playoff, a draft lottery, the universal DH, and more. For now, here’s a quick breakdown of reasons to be excited and reasons to be anxious for the Rockies entering a quick-start 2022.

Three Things to Be Excited About

Opening Day at Home: For the second-straight year, the Rockies will open the season at home vs. the Dodgers. It will be the ninth season opener in team history in Denver (two at Mile High, seven at Coors Field). The Rockies are 5-3 in these games, including an 8-5 victory in 2021 when the Rockies scored six runs (five earned) on 10 hits against Clayton Kershaw.

Workers and LoDo businesses: Businesses are still recovering from COVID and dealing with supply chain issues. With inflation and increasing gas prices, it’s getting harder and harder to pay the bills. This deal not only gives us baseball, but also restores employment and paychecks for the staff at Coors Field. Rockies games also mean bar tabs and booming restaurants. The deal is a win for the baseball world, but for lots of people who depend on the baseball world for a living, this means everything.

Expanded Playoffs: Game 163 is gone. While the thrill of the one-game, tiebreaker playoff is eliminated, there are more postseason spots, which does benefit the Rockies. With six teams from each league making the postseason, including three Wild Cards, the Rockies have a better chance of squeaking into the playoffs despite playing in the same division as the Dodgers and Giants. The top two teams in each league will get a first-round bye, which will leave the No. 3 division winner and the Wild Card teams to play three-game series in the first round.

Three Things to Be Worried About

Missing pieces: Go back in time to Dec. 1 when the Rockies didn’t have a shortstop and were still looking to add some power to a lackluster offense. Those problems are now a lot more urgent and no closer to being solved.

Incomplete rotation: The Rockies have a solid core with Márquez, Kyle Freeland, Antonio Senzatela, and Austin Gomber. But the fifth starter is a blank spot on the roster. The spring training competition is on. Also, who’s the closer?

Fast and furious free agency: The Rockies are hesitant, to say it politely, when it comes to free agency (the last real free agency signing was on Dec. 21 2018 when Daniel Murphy inked a new deal). Bill Schmidt is in his first offseason as GM and still learning the ropes. There won’t be time to waste or make mistakes, or else players will be gone. Best to temper expectations and keep an eye out for more minor league deals.

Twenty-eight days. Here we go.

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Keeler: MLB lockout is over. Your Rockies are back. Hallelujah! But why did Game 163 have to die? | The Denver Post ($)

The playoffs will be different and more like the NFL. As Sean Keller points out, that means the elimination of Game 163. This is a magical number in Rockies history. Kelller also points out other pros and cons of the new deal.

What’s next for the Rockies now that the lockout is over? Potential signings, DH updates and more | The Athletic ($)

Nick Groke had this one ready to go as soon as the deal was announced to address a roster that “has more holes than a donut shop and needs retooling.” He also takes a look at possible answers to questions about the closer, the DH, the rotation, and what new rules could mean for the Rockies.

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