2023 Rockies feel like ’05 Rockies, except Rocktober not around corner
In the summer of 2005, I was demoted — there’s no other word for it — from my job as a Broncos beat writer and assigned to cover the Rockies.
At the time, it felt like I was being banished to Siberia.
I’ve always loved baseball, and I came to love my new beat, but the Rockies were bottoming out at the time, and interest in the team was waning. The Rocky Mountain region finally got its major league team in 1993 but the euphoria from that had worn off. Coors Field opened in 1995, but 10 years later the buzz was gone.
In 2005, the Rockies averaged 23,634 fans per game, the worst in franchise history, not counting the pandemic seasons of 2020-21. The Rockies counted 1.4 million fans through the turnstiles at Coors, the only time they have failed to draw 2 million fans in a season.
Those ’05 Rockies opened the season 6-21 en route to a 67-95 record.
I certainly didn’t know it at the time — did anyone? — but small hints of 2007’s Rocktober miracle were beginning to show up during that dismal 2005 season. Though Todd Helton was no longer in his prime, he was still a force. The lineup featured Matt Holliday, Brad Hawpe, Garrett Atkins, Clint Barmes and Cory Sullivan. Ryan Spilborghs made his debut that season. The rotation included Jeff Francis and Aaron Cook, and the bullpen was led by closer Brian Fuentes.
The 2007 World Series team included key players who were not part of the ’05 club, chiefly, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, catcher Yorvit Torrealba, second baseman Kazuo Matsui, right-hander Josh “The Dragon Slayer” Fogg, and a young fireballer named Ubaldo Jimenez.
I bring up this history now because the current Rockies remind me, in a general way, of the ’05 team. This team has stumbled out of the gate with an 8-19 record and fans seem to be increasingly apathetic about the team.
There are, however, some big differences between ’05 and ’23. That’s disconcerting. The ’05 team was all in with its youth movement. If the current Rockies have a clear vision of the future, one that will lead them back to the postseason, I’m not seeing it.
In 2005, Rockies pitchers had a 5.13 ERA, but in 2007 it was down to 4.32, a dramatic improvement. But now, especially with right-hander German Marquez’s future in doubt with an elbow injury, the future does not look bright for Colorado’s pitching. The Rockies made the playoffs five times in their first 30 years, and in each of those seasons, the team ERA was under 5.00. It’s currently at 5.24, fourth-worst in the majors, and the weather hasn’t heated up yet.
Colorado’s offense has been subpar thus far, mimicking the 2021-22 teams that lacked a powerful punch. Owner Dick Monfort gave outfielder Kris Bryant $182 million to be a dynamic player but Bryant has not played the part.
There is some good, young talent on the club and in the pipeline. Ezequiel Tovar is struggling out of the gate, but I still think he’s going to turn out to be a solid big-league shortstop. Though I don’t think he’ll ever be the impact player that “Tulo” was for five all-star seasons.
Outfield prospects Brenton Doyle (who now has four big-league games under his belt) and Zac Veen (currently struggling at Double-A) show promise but I don’t see either player rivaling Holliday as an impact player. Drew Romo has a chance to be the best homegrown catcher in Rockies history, but that’s a big leap of faith at this point.
The Rockies are on their way to their fifth consecutive losing season and the first 100-loss season in franchise history is a real possibility. The 2005 season was one of the lowest points in Rockies history, rivaling the 2012 “piggyback team” that went 64-98.
But Rocktober, and the entertaining 2009 playoff team, rescued the Rockies and brought the fans back in droves.
I sure don’t see another miracle on the horizon. It’s past time for the team to redefine itself and figure out an identity.
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