I’m not much of a basketball fan. Despite this fact, I spent as much time as I could following the Denver Nuggets' journey through the playoffs en route to their first NBA Championship in their 47-year history.
I jumped up and down like a spring in celebration in the living room with my 38-year-old brother and my 13-year-old nephew as we watched Nikola Jokić and Jamal Murray hoist their trophy into the air. I grinned from ear to ear as I watched the greatest player in the NBA humbly state that he just wants to go home to his horses. After watching the Nuggets and the city of Denver personify want it means to summit the top of the mountain, two things became abundantly clear:
I want to be more of a basketball fan and the pressure should be on the Colorado Rockies to evolve into champions.
Following the Nuggets' championship, three of Colorado’s major professional sports teams now have at least one title to their name, which leaves the purple-headed middle child that is the Rockies as the odd one out. As the team celebrates its 30th anniversary this season, an era of elite competitiveness seems so far off that it’s difficult to assess if the Rockies will ever claim the crown as their fellow teams did.
So how did the Nuggets do it?
Sure, it took 47 years for the Nuggets to finally claim a title, but that doesn’t mean they were in the doldrums of the NBA that entire time. Since 1977, the Nuggets have missed the playoffs 17 times with their worst stretch coming from 1996-2003. They have had many talented teams and players but as it always happens in sports, they weren’t able to put it all together once they made the playoffs, but hey, at least they were regular contenders.
Looking at their track record in comparison to the Rockies, the Nuggets have had 14 seasons with a winning record since 1993, while the Rockies have had just nine. Granted, there are a lot more games that go into the grind of an MLB season, but the point is that the philosophy of the Nuggets has typically been to try and reach the playoffs every year, and when they couldn’t, rebuilding the team and mold it into something that could. Just look at the current group of Nuggets.
Nikola Jokić and Jamal Murray are the stars of the Nuggets. During the playoffs, they put up numbers as a duo that haven’t ever been seen before. They are humble, likable, and extremely talented players that carried the team to victory. Yet, they weren’t the only ones to do it. With their foundational stars in place, the Nuggets meticulously tried to bring in the right supporting cast of pieces through drafting, trades, and free-agent signings. They found plenty of playoff success since 2019, but it finally clicked during the 2022-23 season.
The philosophy and structure of the Rockies' roster construction is what is lacking and so infuriating. Despite having a decent window of contention following the 2018 season, the Rockies decided to keep the status quo and not try to evolve on the roster to fix their weaknesses. They hinged their hopes on simply “playing better” instead of bringing in players that could play better. They began to rely on bargain bin veterans while ignoring the problems that ail the team and keeping them in mediocrity. The baseball decision-makers alienated their foundational stars, driving them into the arms of other suitors. They lost all possibilities of identity and can’t decide what they want to be in 2023 and beyond.
If I was Dick Monfort, I would be setting up some sort of meeting with Stan Kroenke to get some pointers on what it means to be an owner that builds champions. The Rockies have faced scrutiny for their entire history due to the reality that they have never won their division, let alone a World Series. They have reached the playoffs just five times in their history. As attendance numbers continue to decrease for the Rockies and apathy sets in, the fans of the Rockies deserve better.
The longer it takes the Rockies to turn things around, the greater the pressure will be for them from the fanbase. We aren’t expecting a title right away, but we are expecting the team to take the necessary steps toward that goal. The city of Denver erupted in joy to celebrate the Nuggets’ victory. The NBA playoffs this year had the best television numbers in the last five years while Ball Arena was packed night after night to witness a two-time MVP showcase his craft. The same can’t be said for the Rockies.
Denver and Colorado as a whole have baseball in their roots. I think back to the wonders of the 2007 season and what that did for Rockies baseball. I remember the excitement of the 2018 season as chants of “Beat L.A.” echoed from the stands. The potential to become a baseball town through and through is there still, but there is a lot Monfort and company must do to make that a reality and overcome the pressure.
For the time being, the Rockies will continue to be an afterthought to other sports in town, and for good reason. The city of Denver has the taste of victory in its mouth and they hunger for more and won’t stand for a lackluster product being peddled by the front office at 20th and Blake.
By some wonderful chance, a rain delay stopped the Rockies game on Monday night for 89 minutes. The delay just so happened near the end of the third quarter of the NBA Finals game in which the Denver Nuggets went on to win the title. Colorado native and huge Nuggets fan Kyle Freeland has been all in for his basketball team and the entire team had the chance to watch the entirety of the fourth quarter and celebrate the Nuggets victory.
Sticking with Thomas Harding at MLB.com, it was a special moment for Daniel Bard as he earned the victory at Fenway Park, 10 years after he last pitched for the Red Sox. There is beautiful poetry surrounding baseball and Monday night’s game was significant for Bard.
On the Farm
Luis Cessa turned in a solid performance on the mound. He pitched six-plus innings allowing two runs on five hits with eight strikeouts. Matt Koch entered after Cessa and couldn’t preserve the lead, taking the loss and suffering the blown save in the inning. Albuquerque couldn’t get much going offensively as they tallied eight hits, but managed just one extra-base hit, Michael Toglia’s 10th home run of the season. Jorge Alfaro continued his hot streak, registering the only multi-hit effort for the Isotopes.
Gabriel Hughes had one of his toughest games of the season. He was working well, allowing two runs through three innings of work, but things hit the fan in the fourth. Reading scored 10 runs in the fourth, including eight against Hughes. The bullpen tried to settle things down, but the offense couldn’t get anything going with just six hits.
Carson Palmquist turned in a quality start on the mound, allowing three runs on six hits with 10 strikeouts on the night. He was aided by an offense that scored five runs on 10 hits, including an AJ Lewis home run. Nic Kent also threw out two hits on the night and drove in a pair.
The Grizzlies tallied 10 hits as well and their six runs were more than enough to take down the Emeralds. Ryan Ritter belted his 14th home run of the season, a three-run shot in the seventh inning. Skyler Messinger tallied three hits and drove in a pair as well. On the mound, Caleb Franzen recorded a quality start, allowing one run on three hits in six innings of work with six strikeouts.
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