Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Colorado Rockies find out what it is going to take to be a complete team

Jeff Francis might be pitching for his job in May.
Much like the month of April in Colorado, the Rockies are getting a dose of cold and snow, something much different than the sun and heat they got to open the season.

The Colorado Rockies got off to the best start in franchise history.

Following a season in which the team lost 98 games, the quick start helped to revive a deprived fan base. The winning was fun, but it came with a cautious optimism. Fans had long been eager for some sign of hope from a franchise that looked like it still had a ways to go before hitting rock bottom after a terrible 2012 season.

Many fans were basking in the glow of a fast start, knowing that reality would set in at some point. Others believed whole-heartedly that this team had turned the corner and was on their way to the playoffs. Many others, however, brushed off the quick start and allowed their bitterness to take root.

Acting like a mosquito at a barbecue, these fans were quick to remind the Rockies fans of many things. They liked to point out that the Rockies starting pitchers wouldn't hold up, that the offense wouldn't continue to score at the rate they were scoring and that the bullpen had a few flaws. The biggest argument for the nay-sayers was that the teams the Rockies were playing were bad teams. Wait until they faced a good team, they said, and the Rockies would get obliterated.

The fact is, for the most part, the bitter fans were right. However, it doesn't make them any less annoying. Sure, everyone watching the Rockies roll the Padres knew this team wasn't going to steam roll their way to 100 wins. Everyone knew they weren't going to hit three home runs a game and allow the opposing offense to only score a run or two every night. That was a given.

The annoying part was that these fans refused to simply enjoy the wins.

On a day that didn't get above freezing, the Rockies were shown what a good team looks like. The Atlanta Braves brought their bats to the ice box that was Coors Field and played pepper with the fans doubling as popsicles in the outfield seats. Jeff Francis continued to struggle in game one, then Jon Garland showed his flaws in game two.

The Braves looked like the superior team in both games.

News flash: The Braves are a better team than the Rockies. They are much better. That doesn't mean that the Rockies aren't good. It doesn't mean that they haven't made progress, and it doesn't mean that they are suddenly back on the road to 100 losses.

When the negative Rockies fan points out that this team has only beaten bad teams, they lose credibility. Of course they have only beaten bad teams (even though Milwaukee is 10-8). Why should the Rockies apologize for only beating bad teams, and on top of that, what would make anyone think that they should be competing with the cream of the crop right now?

It is important to bear in mind that this team lost 98 games one year ago. This was a team that shut it down before the All-Star break. This is a team that wasn't worth watching after May. The only thing the Rockies piled up more than losses in 2012 was excuses. Why should they suddenly be beating teams like the Braves?

Make no mistake, what the Rockies did on Tuesday was not what they had in mind. Jeff Francis showed that his days might be numbered, and Garland looked like he was aiming his pitches. The cold probably didn't help the situation, but they both looked bad.

On top of bad starting pitching, the fact is, the Rockies offense, for as hot as it started the season, has suddenly gone ice cold. They haven't scored more than four runs in almost a week.

The reality is, the Rockies are going to be better than most expected them to be. However, they are still very flawed. In order for them to compete, every facet of the team must be working at the same time for them to experience success. If the hitters aren't hitting, the starting pitching isn't good enough to consistently keep the team in games. If the starting pitching isn't good, even six or seven runs a night won't be enough on many nights. Make no mistake, this Rockies team is talented, but they just ran into a team that is complete in nearly every aspect of the game.

For fans, this is a year that the expectations shouldn't be set that they should be winning series against the likes of Atlanta. This is a year in which the Rockies need to re-establish an identity. That identity is that they are going to be tough outs. They are going to be a team that no lead is safe against, and as a team that won't quit. If they are able to reconnect with those team values, they will get their fair share of wins. However, this is a work in progress, getting extremely upset over losses to better teams is putting the cart in front of the horse.

The Rockies look to avoid a sweep on Wednesday afternoon with better weather in forecast. Tyler Chatwood takes the ball in place of the injured Jhoulys Chacin against Tim Hudson of the Braves.

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  1. A well written article.

    1. Very well stated opinions and observations. It was too easy to get overly excited about this team after the fast start. But as you said, why not bask in the glow while it lasts? In baseball, that's really all any fan has is the moment. We just would like the moment to last a little longer.