To anyone who will listen,
As I sit here watching another MLB All-Star game with few Rockies players knowing that our beloved Rockies are once again in the cellar with little hope to make the playoffs, I am compelled to write to you, whoever will listen, on how I believe we can fix the Rockies forever.
When I was a kid and the Rockies became an expansion team in 1993, we had a record turn-out of fans, and times were good. But it didn’t take long for national writers and statisticians to take notice of how many long balls were flying at old Mile High. I don’t think much was thought about it at first but it eventually became a pretty big story -- How the baseball flies something like 8% further at Denver’s elevation. So, as planners and architects began designing the amazing new baseball stadium to be built and open just a few years later, the plan became to build a bigger field than normal teams had in order to contain all the big flies. A few years later Denver unveiled, in my opinion probably the best park in baseball, even to this day, our beloved Coors field. I couldn’t wait to check it out and when I first saw it I was awestruck. There was just one problem no one was talking about, that field size. But the homers kept coming, even in the new park, with the longer fences. A national stigma grew over Colorado and our lack of pitching success and the extremely lopsided offensive statistics. As a big fan of all of MLB, I noticed a lot of bad press short-changing and even bashing our park, our players, and even our city. This became a real problem no doubt. So the Rockies began looking into how they could solve this problem. They tried spending big on pitching in free agency, drafting top-tier pitchers in the draft, and trading for even more talent. But the results stayed the same. More losing, and more frustration. So the Rockies brought in some scientific minds and arrived at a very interesting solution, the humidor. This was a monumental breakthrough that would humidify the baseballs so that we could "normalize" them into only traveling as far as they do at sea level, in other words by reducing their travel distance by something like 8%. This was a huge accomplishment and caused heads to turn to see what would happen. Maybe Coors could finally be a "normal" baseball park and the Rox could finally start turning the tide and winning. But here is where the Rockies made one fatal mistake, they didn’t follow through all the way on this new development, the humidor. They forgot about that field size.
Things continued as they had, with a few improvements but the problems with bad pitching and over-inflated hitting stats persisted. The Rockies eventually raised the fences up in the outfield by a few feet to continue to try anything they could to resolve this issue but that hasn’t helped at all since. So here we are, still watching losing baseball, year after year. So what else can be done to try to figure this out? Remember that field size thing? Yeah, let’s talk about that…
Now I don’t know what all the dimensions are of all the other parks in baseball but I have looked up dimensions of other ballparks enough to know that Coors is big, really big. As far as square footage in fair territory, it has to be one of, if not the largest field in baseball. This might hold more home runs in but the problem is home runs are much more rare than everything else in baseball except maybe triples. If you look at the gaps in left-center and right-center, they are as wide and vast as the Mississippi. When a ball is hit to the gap, not only can a single turn into a double, and very frequently, but line drives and fly balls that are hard to get to can also become hits when they should have been outs. The same can be said of the foul lines. This problem also occurs depth-wise as well as width-wise; with outfielders having to play deeper due to the large field, singles drop in front of charging outfielders that should have been caught for outs in a normal size field. What I propose is, now that the humidor is standard at Coors, bring in the fences to a dimension consistent with perennially successful teams’ parks like St. Louis and New York for one, maybe two seasons as an experiment, just to see what happens. It can be done in a very temporary way at first and if it works, the park could be altered long-term. Now with AWS and the ball flight analytics, it should be easy to see the changes and measure them. We could also alter the park in a way that puts big walls up in the outfield like in Boston or Cleveland who have had recent success as well. The Rockies would still be a small market team with a small payroll and there is still the issue of not being able to throw a proper breaking ball at altitude (which is another conversation and also not something I am sure I buy either), but I believe this would work and possibly even save the franchise. As for the problem with breaking balls, if that is in fact really a thing, I have heard suggestions of misting the field to add humidity during the games. This could potentially make the ball break more.
If altering Coors field is too difficult, another idea is to simply shift the diamond forward directly out towards center field by 10 feet or so. This would be much easier than a major reconstruction and could be tried in a trial fashion for a season or two to see if it helps matters. It would also add more chances at foul ball outs being caught which would reduce the offense.
Now I know this is not easy, but let’s opine on what might happen if things continue down the road they have so far, what happens if we don’t try something? The Rockies may one day move, baseball lost forever for lack of interest, which would be awful for Denver and Colorado.
Thanks for reading and GO ROCKIES!