It's a story that has been written a hundred times. However, it has been written so many times because this bunch of baseball players seems to play their best when they are seemingly out of the race. In 2010, it seemed like a breath of fresh air to Rockies fans when the club went 11-12 in April.
11-12 is not very good for a team looking to make a statement, but compared to the previous years it seemed like a hot start. In 2007, the Rockies finished April at 10-16, in 2008, the year they were trying to prove that their run to the World Series was no fluke, they stumbled to an 11-17 April. In 2009, with Clint Hurdle's job on the line, the club went 8-12.
Needless to say, April has not been friendly to the Rockies.
There is a prevailing thought that the move from Tucson to Scottsdale will help the team's legs be more rested. On top of that, the everyday starters are seeing more top-shelf pitchers instead of the Double-A guys that were routinely shipped down to Tucson in previous years. Whether that tips the scales will remain to be seen.
One factor that many people forget is the cold weather that often plagues Colorado in the early spring. Just when the grass starts to turn green and the trees start to bud leaves, it seems that winter gives one last reminder that it isn't dead yet, often making fans at Coors Field think they are watching the Broncos in December rather than the boys of summer.
Baseball in the cold often results in a flip of the coin as to who is going to win. Pitchers can't grip the ball well, hitters can look forward to a sting when they connect with a pitch, and overall the game is played at a much slower pace. Winning games in cold weather is often more about luck than skill.
Taking a quick look at the Rockies early season schedule may make fans want to break out the parka rather than the shorts and flip flops. After playing five early games at Coors Field, which will almost certainly feature at least one or two frigid nights, the club will head to Pittsburgh and New York for eight games. Obviously both of those cities have the potential to feature games below 40 degrees.
After those eight games, the Rockies head home for six more games at Coors Field. After that, they get a reprieve from the cold by playing a three-game set in Miami, their final stop in south Florida before the Marlins move into a new ballpark that might actually attract more than 10,000 fans per night. After Florida, the Rockies head north to Chicago, where they play the Cubs early on once again. The last two seasons the Rockies have played the Cubs at Wrigley before May 1st and have found themselves playing in very cold games.
While the cold is certainly not an excuse to not do well, it is something that has to be factored in. It does not present the teams on the field the perfect opportunity to win based on talent.
The reality is, games in April count exactly the same as the games in September do. The Rockies have proven in the past that they are a talented enough team to overcome a slow start in April, but playing catchup for five months because of a slow start is not the ideal way to stay mentally and physically fresh throughout the season.
The Rockies may not have the ideal schedule for April, but they must find a way to come out of the gate quickly. There are no excuses for a team as talented as this Rockies bunch is. A winning April will go a long way for the Rockies 2011 postseason prospects.
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