At the end of a year there is always an abundance of stories about the year that is coming to a close. Just because the Rockies have not played a game since the middle of October does not mean that they are exempt from a year in review article.
2009 was a roller coaster ride for the Rockies and their fans. The club had was coming off a disappointing 2008 in which they failed miserably in defending their first ever National League championship.
The culmination of the bad season happened in mid-November when the club shipped off their best player, Matt Holliday, to the Oakland A’s for a package that had most fans feeling as if the Rockies had become a farm team for the rest of the league.
Those fans were the ones laughing when the Rockies stumbled out of the gate, hanging on to the second worst record in the league at the end of May, the Rockies looked eerily familiar to fans who watched them in the early part of the decade.
However, the tables turned and the Rockies figured out how to win baseball games. They clinched their second playoff berth in three years, coming within two games of winning the National League West for the first time in their history.
Without further ado, I bring you the best 10 moments in 2009 for the Colorado Rockies.
10. On March 15th, Todd Helton, coming off what many believed to be a career ending back surgery, and following an injury plagued 2008 season, Helton showed that he would be the Helton of old in 2009, blasting a 450-foot home run on the first pitch that he saw in the spring. The blast was not off a minor league pitcher, but a Major League veteran in the Padres Chris Young. It was a breath of fresh air for the Rockies organization as a whole. They had their star back, and many of their perceived holes were filled with one swing of the bat.
9. On May 29th, a day that was a new beginning for the Rockies, Garrett Atkins, the Rockies struggling third baseman, provided a big hit off of the Padres Heath Bell. With runners at first and third, Atkins lined a single to center field that got past Tony Gwynn Jr., allowing the speedy Dexter Fowler to score from first base, giving the Rockies their first win in the Jim Tracy era.
8. On June 21st, with the Rockies down by a run, Seth Smith led off the ninth inning with a pinch hit to right field. Helton, once again looking like the 26 year-old version of himself, belted a fastball deep into the right field seats, giving the Rockies a victory and continuing what would become the best winning streak in the Majors in 2009.
7. January 6th- Dan O’Dowd, in a move that flew under the radar, traded embattled reliever Luis Vizcaino to the Cubs for Jason Marquis. Marquis had a few disagreements with Cubs manager Lou Piniella, and despite winning at least 11 games in five straight seasons, had worn out his welcome in Chicago. The Cubs not only agreed to the deal, they also threw in $5 million to help sweeten the pot for the Rockies. Vizcaino made three appearances with the Cubs before being cut. Marquis, despite fading down the stretch, won a career-high 15 games and made his first All-Star appearance. Without Marquis, who won eight games after a Rockies loss in the first two months of the season, was the saving grace for the struggling Rockies.
6. July 13th- Brad Hawpe hits a walk-off double to help the Rockies split a four game series from the Braves before heading into the All-Star break. The hit was big at the time, but was even bigger down the stretch as the Braves proved to be the most difficult team to bury in the chase for the Wild Card.
5. September 29th- After closer Huston Street had blown just his second save of the season, Chris Iannetta, the catcher with all the potential in the world, put his struggles behind him and launched a two run home run into the bullpen in right field to secure the victory for the Rockies. The Braves had won earlier in the day, putting pressure on the Rockies to continue winning.
4. September 27th- With the Rockies in the thick of a playoff race, the Cardinals were threatening to steal the third game of a three game series at Coors Field. With runners on first and third base and one out, a sacrifice fly would have tied the game for the Cardinals. With the outfield playing deep to avoid doubles, Ryan Ludwick looped a ball that was destined for shallow right field. Not a single person in the stadium thought that Clint Barmes had a shot at the catch, but Barmes put the stadium in awe, making a ridiculous over-the-shoulder catch that allowed him to double off Albert Pujols at first base and securing the 4-3 victory for the Rockies and keeping them 2-1/2 games up in the Wild Card race.
3. September 16th- With Huston Street on the disabled list, Franklin Morales was called upon to close out a huge game for the Rockies. With a 4-0 lead heading into the 9th inning, the Rockies looked well on their way to victory. Jorge De La Rosa had pitched the best game of his caRreer, shutting out the Giants for eight innings. Morales came in and could not find the strike zone. After giving up three runs and staring at runners at first and third with no outs, Jim Tracy turned to Rafael Betancourt who somehow wiggled out of the jam, giving the Rockies the victory. It was the biggest nailbiter in the history of the franchise.
2. August 24th- After a pitching duel went eight long innings, and five extra innings that were characterized by missed opportunities it looked as if the Rockies had blown the game and the Giants had inched closer to the Rockies in the standings. Adam Eaton had given up three runs in the 14th inning and many Rockies fans decided they would beat the traffic. Those fans will always regret trying to get home 1o minutes earlier, as they missed one of the craziest comebacks in Rockies history. With the Rockies out of position players, Dexter Fowler was forced to run the bases after fouling a pitch off of his shin that rendered him immobile. Chris Iannetta stroked a single to center field, then, out of position players, Eaton was forced to step to the plate for the first time in ‘09. Giants pitcher Justin Miller proceeded to walk the pitcher on four pitches, allowing Ryan Spilborghs to walk to the plate. Spilborghs took one swing and the most memorable sprint in team history commenced. It was the first walk off grand slam in franchise history, and the Rockies had won a huge game.
1. May 29th- For real Rockies fans, the day was bittersweet. Clint Hurdle was less than two years removed from leading a youthful Rockies squad to the World Series. His personality was invigorating. He seemed like a breath of fresh air compared to the typical Major League manager. However, with the Rockies struggling and not living up to their talent, a move needed to be made. In what Dan O’Dowd called a heart wrenching decision, the Rockies decided to place Jim Tracy in charge of the Rockies. The move made the difference for the Rockies, who climbed from 15-1/2 games out of the playoff race and ended with them winning the Wild Card by a four game margin. The club played as if a burden had been lifted from them and realized their full potential.
Agree? Disagree? What did I miss?