The Rockies have won one playoff game in the last 12 years. That one game came against the Chicago Cubs on Oct. 3 in 2018 in a Wild Card matchup that went 13 innings. The Rockies advanced to the NLDS that season thanks to gritty pitching and a game-winning single by Tony Wolters that will live on forever in Rockies lore.
It’s all the more historic now that MLB has eliminated the one-game Wild Card series. That game will never happen again and it set the Rockies and Cubs in different directions just to wind up practically in the same place four years later. Entering today’s three-game series at Wrigley Field between Rockies and Cubs, Colorado is 62-81 and Chicago is 61-82.
Since the 2018 playoffs, the Rockies have posted four-straight losing seasons. After a public feud of disrespect between former general manager Jeff Bridich and Nolan Arenado, the Rockies traded the star third baseman. Bridich resigned and the Rockies named Bill Schmidt the new GM — of course, promoting from within. They let Trevor Story and Jon Gray walk into free agency, but continue to remain quiet at trade deadlines.
All the while, the Colorado front office has maintained the core is good and that adding a piece here or there can get the Rockies back in contention. This season, the answer was Kris Bryant, but the former MVP has only played 42 games, sidelined by various injuries. There is no rebuild and the organization has chosen to stay the course, even if they aren’t transparent when explaining what the course is.
Rockies & Cubs Records 2018-22
|* Made Playoffs|
The Cubs, even under new leadership and managers, are currently in their second “rebuild” in 10 years. With the president of operations, Theo Epstein, at the helm, the Cubs rebuilt and won their first World Series in over 100 years in 2016. They punched tickets to the postseason in 2017, 2018, and 2020, before blowing it up and trading stars like Bryant (now a Rockie after a short stint with San Francisco), Anthony Rizzo, and Javy Báez.
Epstein left after 2020 and former GM Jed Hoyer took over as new president of operations, while Carter Hawkins took over as GM after many years with Cleveland. David Ross took over in 2020 after manager Joe Maddon was fired following the 2019 season.
If you look at the lineups for the one-game Wild Card in 2018 and now, there aren’t many similarities to each team’s roster today. Cubs catcher Willson Contreras (who is currently on the 10-day IL), third baseman David Bote, outfielders Ian Happ and Jason Heyward, and pitcher Kyle Hendricks (60-day IL) are holdovers. For the Rockies, only three players remain who played in that game: Charlie Blackmon (started at CF), Kyle Freeland (starting pitcher), and Ryan McMahon (pinch hit). Germán Márquez, Antonio Senzatela, and Garret Hampson were on the roster in 2018, but didn’t play in the Wild card game. RHP Alec Mills (currently on 60-day IL) is the only other remaining Cub from the 2018 roster.
The Cubs have embraced everything large swaths of the Rockies faithful have been calling for: big moves at the trade deadline and changes in the front office — some from within and one new face. Change is possible and winning is now the expectation, but just down the road. The Cubs have history and Wrigley Field and rank No. 7 in attendance this season with 2,344,404 fans through 72 games.
The Rockies have made only small changes in the front office and hired within. They don’t do trade deadlines (in major ways like the Cubs do). They insist they are a “draft and develop” team, despite struggling to develop some prospects that seem to linger in mediocrity. They often rely on bringing in cheap veterans like C.J. Cron, Chad Kuhl, and José Ureña. Change is rare and Colorado hasn’t built an expectation of winning. But the Rockies have Coors Field and, with one more home game in the books than the Cubs, have seen 2,366,662, fans come through the gates (a difference of 22,258), which is good enough to rank No. 6 in baseball.
Both headed toward seasons with at least 90 losses, the Cubs and Rockies are clearly looking to the future for better days.
In the 2020 midseason farm system rankings, the Cubs came in at No. 26 and the Rockies sat at No. 28. In the latest rankings released by MLB Pipeline in August, the Rockies have climbed to No. 9 with four prospects in the top 100: outfielder Zac Veen (No. 24), shortstop Ezequiel Tovar (No. 28), shortstop Adael Amador (No. 64), and catcher Drew Romo, C (No. 66). The Cubs have improved to No. 10 with three top-100 prospects: outfielders Pete Crow-Armstrong (No. 31), Brennen Davis (No. 51), and Kevin Alcantara (No. 91).
Different approaches from two different teams have led to very similar outcomes as the Rockies and Cubs face each other today. While this could give Rockies fans hope that inaction and status quo maybe haven’t been as bad as first thought, and we can look at the Cubs and see that possibly the grass isn’t greener on the other side, there is a notable difference that could be the key indicator of which team is more successful moving forward: pitching.
While the Rockies rotation has been the core and key to any chances at winning, it has regressed with key arms like Márquez and Freeland struggling and Senzatela out with a torn ACL. The Rockies have the worst ERA in MLB at 5.07 and any draft-and-develop help is not on the way any time soon. The Rockies don’t have any pitchers in MLB Pipeline’s top 100 and the top three they do have in their farm system — No. 5 Gabriel Hughes, No. 10 Jaden Hill, No. 11 Jackson Cox — aren’t expected to reach the big leagues until 2025 at the soonest.
The Cubs have the 22nd worst ERA in baseball at 4.24 and have much more help coming sooner. As reported in the newest Pipeline report, Jim Callis, Jonathan Mayo, and Sam Dykstra said, “Though all three of their Top 100 Prospects are outfielders, their pitching depth is also notable. Most of their best arms have been acquired in the last 13 months, including Cade Horton, Jordan Wicks, Ben Brown, Jackson Ferris, Hayden Wesneski and Caleb Kilian.”
While the different approaches to building a team and running an organization have both teams at 61 or 62 wins right now, only time will tell which teams’ moves will equate to more wins in 2023 and beyond.
★ ★ ★
A radio host, Ken Griffey Jr. and a prospect’s 10-year trek to the majors | The Athletic ($)
The Wynton Bernard story has been one of the best, if not in baseball this year, then definitely for the Rockies. We’ve all seen the video when Bernard told his mom he was getting called up, but this in-depth feature by Nick Groke brings even more of Bernard’s story to light. During his junior year at Niagra University, Bernard’s brother told him about a “guy on the radio” who seemed like he had a good grasp of baseball. Bernard contacted him, they met, and it changed Bernard’s life. He got better at baseball and the radio voice, aka “the Coach,” and Bernard still talk regularly to this day. This is like a treasure hunt of a story where you get to find out about Bernard’s encounters with David Justice, Ken Griffey Jr., and Dave Roberts, his appearance on Family Feud, and more. It’s a long one, but worth the read.
★ ★ ★
On The Farm
Triple-A: Oklahoma City Dodgers 6, Albuquerque Isotopes 2
Held only to seven hits in the game, the Isotopes offense couldn’t keep pace with the Dodgers, who put up four runs on eight hits over six innings against Alburquerque starter Zach Neal for a victory on Thursday. Sam Hilliard hit his 10th homer of the season, Wynton Bernard went 2-for-4 and drove in the other run, and Carlos Pérez doubled to make up the majority of the Isotopes hitting. Alburquerque went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position, while the Dodgers hit two homers, one triple, and three doubles on a 13-hit night.
Double-A: Binghamton Rumble Ponies 10, Hartford Yard Goats 9 (11)
Despite his 36th homer of the season, Hunter Goodman’s MiLB-leading shot wasn’t enough for a win on Thursday as the Yard Goats blew two leads (5-0 and 9-6) and snapped their three-game winning streak. Goodman went 3-for-5 with two RBI, Zac Veen doubled and scored two runs, Julio Carreras doubled and drove in two runs, and Kyle Datres went 2-for-5 with two RBI for Hartford. With the game tied at 6-6 in after 10, Veen’s double, an RBI single from Datres, and a Hunter Stovall fielder’s choice grounder put the Yard Goats up 9-6. Boby Johnson came out to pitch in the 11th, giving up a single to cut the lead to 9-7 before Binghampton’s Luke Ritter hit a bases-loaded, walk-off double.
Low-A: Fresno Grizzlies 7, San Jose Giants 3
By the end of the first inning, the Grizzlies were already up 2-0 and just kept piling on, totaling 12 hits and holding the Giants to four to win the best-of-three California League Northern Divisional Series on Thursday night.
YOUR FRESNO GRIZZLIES ARE THE 2022 CALIFORNIA LEAGUE NORTHERN DIVISION CHAMPIONS!!! pic.twitter.com/CPjxAlvOUm— Fresno Grizzlies (@FresnoGrizzlies) September 16, 2022
After a 12-3 win on Tuesday, the Grizzlies will now face the winner of the Southern Divisional Series for the championship. Adael Amador homered and scored another run on a two-hit night, Benny Montgomery went 2-for-5 with a triple and scored two runs, and Yanquiel Fernandez, Jordan Beck, and Juan Guerrero also posted two-hit nights. After taking a 3-0 lead, the Grizzlies found the game tied in the middle of the fifth before scoring four runs to seal the win. The bullpen locked it down from the sixth on as Gabriel Barbosa threw three scoreless innings and Angel Chivilli was perfect in the ninth. Fresno will now face Lake Elsinore or Inland Empire
★ ★ ★
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