Sunday, September 27, 2009

Time For Rockies Fans To Step It Up

The Rockies entered Saturday night’s game with the Cardinals with a three game lead over the Braves in the National League Wild Card race. Atlanta had already won big over the Nationals earlier in the day, so the Rockies would need a win to keep the lead at 3-1/2 games. The Rockies mounted rallies, but ultimately fell short, losing 6-3.

Colorado has never been in this position before. Both times they have been to the playoffs they came from behind and clinched on the final day of the season. These are exciting times for the Rockies and their fans. The problem is, sitting in the stands, the excitement is nowhere to be found.

For years Rockies fans ripped on the Rockies ownership group. They accused them of being cheap, and not really wanting to put a winner on the field. Fans whined about never seeing meaningful games in September. They labeled the Rockies as a farm team for the rest of the league. They complained that Todd Helton’s contract was ridiculous and that he should be traded. They said that the reason that Coors Field went from being sold out every night in the early years, to whole sections being empty in the early 2000’s was because the team wasn’t a winner.

To be fair, Rockies fans had a point. The Rockies burst onto the scene with a playoff appearance in just their third season in the league. They wowed fans with long home runs and big scores in the mile high air of Denver. The pitching was bad, but no lead was safe, so a game at Coors Field in the early days was a guaranteed good time.

Then came the Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle era. That changed everything for the Rockies. They tied up way too much money in two players who ended up being huge busts. That changed the Rockies mentality, and many fans were not willing to except the shift.

Dick and Charlie Monfort begged for Rockies fans to have patience as they grew their players in the farm. Most fans said that they would care again when the team was competitive.

With seven games to go in the 2009 regular season, Rockies fans have everything that they could have ever asked for. Their team is in its second post season run in the past three years. They have a lineup that is solid from top to bottom, with a pitching staff that is capable of carrying a team to the World Series.

The only problem, the fans haven’t held up their end of the bargain.

Sure, Coors Field was overflowing with fans on Friday and Saturday night. The only problem? They were wearing Cardinal red, cheering for Albert Pujols and pleading for the Cardinals to clinch the Central division.

Sure, all of the fans were not Cardinals fans, there were plenty of Rockies fans. The only problem? The Rockies fans in attendance could care less about the game.

With the score tied at three in the fifth inning, Ubaldo Jimenez gave up a double to opposing pitcher Adam Wainwright with two outs. After working a full count to Cards leadoff hitter Skip Schumaker, Jimenez walked him, leaving two men on base for Colby Rasmus. The at-bat was the biggest of the night. Jimenez would have to give Rasmus good pitches to hit, walking him was not an option with Albert Pujols on deck.

As Jimenez embarked on the biggest at-bat of the game the crowd got loud. The cheering started all the way out in the Rockpile. The only problem? They weren’t cheering for Jimenez or for the Rockies. They were desperately trying to start the wave. Their attempts failed on three different occasions, but these Rockies fans are persistent. They eventually got the right field seats to comply and the wave, in all its sold out beauty, was off, heading around the seats at Coors Field.

As for the at-bat? Jimenez got Rasmus to ground out, getting out of the jam and keeping the Rockies tied.

The fact is, Rockies fans are have never been real fans. They are converted football fans. They love their Broncos and everything else comes after that. If the Rockies win, great, if they lose, oh well, no big deal. The Rockies hold all sorts of attendance records, but people were going to the games because it was something new in town, and it was fun to watch Andres Galarraga and Vinny Castilla hit a fastball 480 feet.

When the home runs became fewer and further between, Rockies fans said that they would be back when there was a winner on the field. Well, Denver, this is the second playoff race in the last three years.

It’s time to step it up.

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