I imagine that most Rockies fans cut their teeth rooting for the team in the mid 90’s, when it was led by a cartoonish squad of power hitters who became known as The Blake Street Bombers. In those days, there was no humidor to help ground potential home run balls that were sent soaring through the thin air. Coors Field was still a place of unreality back then, a place that served up 40 home runs seasons for any player willing to swing his bat hard enough and cruelly afflicted pitchers with its own brand of altitude sickness.
Take, for example, the Rockies’ 1997 season. That year the team led the National League in runs scored, runs per game, home runs (by a margin of 65!), hits, batting average, and practically any other offensive statistic you can think of. Larry Walker, Andres Galarraga, Vinny Castilla, and Ellis Burks(!) hit 49, 41, 40, and 32 home runs, respectively. Dante Bichette added 26 home runs of his own, and even part-time catcher Jeff Reed clubbed 17 dingers in 298 plate appearances.
On the flip side, the Rockies also sported the worst pitching staff in the league that year. No Rockies pitcher finished with more than nine wins or a winning record that season, and the staff led the league in earned runs, runs allowed per game, hits allowed, ERA, and home runs allowed.
That team was an objectively grotesque construction. It was a baseball team in its most brutal form, but more importantly, it was incredibly fun to watch. The team was mediocre at best, and yet there were no other teams in the league that could play the game in such a delightfully punishing and entertaining fashion. Rockies fans were consistently treated to roller coaster ride games and shootouts that saw scores balloon to double digits. It’s no wonder that the Rockies led the league in attendance during those years, because everyone knew that if you went to Coors Field to see a baseball game, you were likely to see a few baseballs get hit really, really far. Wins and losses often became secondary to the thrill of watching a team play the game so recklessly.
So, why bring all of this up now? Through the first month of this season, I can’t help but wonder if the Rockies might be making a return to those heady days of home runs and carnage.
This current Rockies team will certainly never match the raw power of teams past, the humidor assures that, but they are sporting one of the most potent offenses in the National League, along with one of the most dismal pitching staffs.
The Rockies’ offense is currently second in the National League in runs scored, runs scored per game, slugging percentage, and OPS. They are also third in the N.L. in home runs. Meanwhile, the pitching staff ranks first in runs per game and home runs allowed, and second in ERA, runs allowed, and WHIP.
All of this has added up to the Rockies having already played quite a few games this season that are reminiscent of the ones that were being played almost two decades ago. So far this year the Rockies have played a slew of games that have featured terrible pitching, home runs in bunches, and a tendency for leaving fans with their hearts jammed up into their throats.
On April 11th, the Rockies led the Giants 6-0 heading into the fourth inning, at which point they surrendered seven runs. The Rockies came back to score three runs in the bottom half of the fourth and seven in the fifth, going on to eventually win the game by a score of 17-8. They tallied 22 hits in that game, including eight doubles and three triples.
On April 13th, the Rockies headed into the bottom of the eighth inning tied 6-6 with the Diamondbacks. After reaching on a single, Carlos Gonzalez was picked off at first base, but advanced all the way to third on a throwing error. Todd Helton then doubled him home for the winning run.
The next day, Todd Helton hit a walk-off two run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to defeat the Diamondbacks 8-7
On April 20th, Michael Cuddyer singled in the game winning run in the top of the ninth inning to defeat the Brewers 4-3.
On April 27th, the Rockies scored 11 runs in the fifth inning on their way to defeating the New York Mets 18-9. This game featured five total home runs, three triples, and Scott Freaking Hariston hitting for the cycle. Carlos Gonzalez also managed to accumulate five RBI’s in one inning.
On April 29th, Todd Helton hit a grand slam in the bottom of the eighth inning against the Mets to tie the game up at 4-4. The Rockies would go on to surrender another run in the top of the 10th inning, tie the game back up on a Carlos Gonzalez home run in the bottom of the 10th, and eventually lose by one run in 11 innings.
On May 1st, the Rockies found themselves down 7-0 to the Dodgers through five innings. They came roaring back to score six runs, four of which came in the seventh and eighth innings, and eventually lost the game when Carlos Gonzalez struck out with the game tying run on third base.
And then Wednesday’s game against the Dodgers happened. Carlos Gonzalez hit two more home runs, one of which broke a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the 8th and gave the Rockies a two run lead. Of course, Rafael Betancourt coughed up that lead in the top of the ninth inning, which simply allowed Jason Giambi to take the stage in the bottom half of the inning and launch a walk-off three run home run. Nice everything, Jason Giambi.
The Rockies have eight comeback wins, 2 walk-off wins, and have scored 34% of their runs in the seventh inning or later. Mind you, all of this has occurred in just 24 games played.
Predictably, the team has hovered around .500 all season and doesn’t seem poised to make a postseason run, and yet I have found this team to be terribly entertaining. Every game brings with it the possibility that something surprising and ridiculous will happen, and so I for one am glad to see some of the old black magic of the Blake Street Bombers return to Coors Field. It certainly makes for a more enjoyable experience than watching last year’s team did. The Rockies were destined to be a sub-par baseball team this year, which sucks, but if I had to choose a style for them to play with while being sub-par, this would be it. Let the other teams attempt to claw their way to the middle behind an array of capable starters and left handed specialists. I’ll take the madness and homers.
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