The Colorado Rockies pride themselves on building from within. In 2010, their Opening Day starting lineup consisted of eight homegrown players. It was by far the most in baseball.
The club knows that to succeed, they must not miss with many draft picks, and scout very well in Latin America. They also must develop the talent that they do draft and sign quickly, or they will fall flat on their faces at the Major League level.
They have been very successful with this approach.
The club also prides themselves in high-character players. They like guys who have a "team-first" mentality. In a day-and-age in which players are paid more in one season than the average working man makes in a lifetime, finding a 20-something year old millionaire without an ego is incredibly difficult.
Usually this comes from the type of player who wasn't necessarily the most talented kid growing up. The guys with the big egos were usually the guys who were so far ahead of the pack at every level that they became full of themselves. The players who don't have an ego are usually the "lunch pail" type of guy.
What that means is that a player without a huge ego, despite the fact that he has made it to the big league level and is doing well at that level, is generally someone who appreciates the amount of work that it took to get to that level, and to maintain their status at that level. These are the perfect types of players for what the Rockies are looking for.
These types of players are used to being the underdog. No one expected them to succeed at their craft. They may have admired their work ethic, but in the end, there was usually someone else who commanded more attention due to their natural abilities.
This is one reason why the Rockies may have struggled in both 2008 and 2010.
For a bunch of guys who were used to being the underdog, suddenly being in the spotlight is not an easy thing. In 2007, the Rockies were a bunch of no-names to the national media. They were a team that might be competitive, if they were lucky, in a few years. When they suddenly stormed to the National League pennant that October, they may have even surprised themselves.
The following season they were in the spotlight. They had a target on their back. Suddenly, this club had the expectations that come along with defending a pennant. The results? The floundered.
In 2009, after the Rockies had been dismissed as a mediocre team that went on a once-in-a-lifetime run in '07, and had just traded their best player away, the expectations were at an all-time low. Everyone figured that they would be the Rockies of old, a fourth place team in the NL West, winning somewhere around 75 or 80 games. They were well on their way to that when Clint Hurdle was fired, and the club stormed back into the heat of the race, coming within a weekend of winning their first-ever National League West crown.
With two playoff appearances in three seasons, the 2010 Rockies were suddenly a trendy pick to not only make the playoffs, but to win the World Series. It wasn't local writers hurling praise on the club, it was the likes of Buster Olney and Peter Gammons picking the Rockies as the World Champs.
Once again, the expectations were high. By no means was 2010 as bad as 2008, but if the truth were told, the Rockies played the way they were capable for about two weeks in September. The rest of the season they were not firing on all cylinders. Was it the expectations that had gotten to them?
After finishing with 84 wins in 2010, the club is still viewed as one of the top teams in the National League. However, with the Phillies re-acquiring Cliff Lee thus constructing one of the best pitching staff's in baseball history, the focus isn't on Coors Field.
In addition to the Phillies, the reigning World Champs are in the Rockies division, creating even less buzz around the club. Many experts are expecting big things from the Rockies, but very few are suggesting that they will win the National League West, let alone the World Series.
The Rockies are a hard-working, no non-sense kind of team. There are no egos. However, that type of player is generally the underdog. No one expects them to win. So when those types of players have expectations put on them, they struggle. However, when they are able to lay in the weeds and strike when no one is paying attention, they suddenly become extremely dangerous.
The lack of expectation may be exactly what the 2011 Rockies need to be successful.
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