The All-Star break has ended, and it’s back to baseball. And thank goodness for that. For the Colorado Rockies, a tale of two seasons has never been more apparent than this year. At this time last year, the Rockies were on their way to a franchise worst 98 losses. That dismal season would end with them 30 games out of first place. Fast forward one year and Colorado is in a position to contend for an NL Division title. With largely the same roster, the Rockies have been a big surprise in baseball. And if it weren’t for the Pirates, or a couple historic sluggers back East, the Rox would be garnering the attention they deserve.
No one questions what has the Rockies positioned in the West. Their offense, starring the now healthy Troy Tulowitzki, NL MVP contender Carlos Gonzalez, and the future Comeback Player of the Year Michael Cuddyer has held up a team that has fought off injuries and sub-par pitching. Just how much has their offense improved this year? In 2012, the Rockies best batting average was .309 from Jordan Pacheco; Wilin Rosario led them with 28 home runs and Carlos Gonzalez provided 85 RBI. Here we are at the midway point of 2013 and the Rockies have two guys hitting .330 or better (“Tulo” and “Cuddy”). Carlos Gonzalez has already hit 25 bombs, 3 less than Rosario’s 2012 team best, as well as 64 RBI, only 21 shy of his season total from the year prior.
A thousand miles to the East, the baseball spotlight has yet to leave the likes of Miguel Cabrera, Chris Davis, and the Pittsburgh Pirates. For the first time in a long time, the Colorado Rockies being a small market after thought will play to their advantage. Despite putting three players on the field in the All-Star Game, the talk surrounded Mariano Rivera and Yoenis Cespedes. The lack of attention anyone is paying to the Rockies is one of the best things they could ask for.
In a division that houses the World Series Champion Giants and the Billion-Dollar Dodgers, the Rockies go unrecognized. This allows them to avoid acquiring any media or coverage that could potentially add unwanted pressure. Instead of having to go out and have Baseball Tonight, MLBTV, and the Buster Olney’s of the business evaluating and commenting on every pitch or swing, the Rox can quietly go about their business.
Colorado starts the second half of its season 4.5 games out of first place in the NL West and 7.5 games out of Wild Card contention. With Pittsburgh and Cincinnati looking like solid playoff potentials, the Rockies best chance at earning a ticket to the Fall Classic will come from a divisional title. To round out the month of July, the Rockies have series against the Cubs, the Marlins, the Brewers, and the Braves. The Marlins and Brewers are the bottom of the MLB barrel, and the Rockies have a strong opportunity to take eight or nine of their next ten games. More importantly, they have a chance to set the tone for August; a much more difficult month for Colorado.
Tulowitzki, Gonzalez, and Cuddyer must continue to shoulder the load should the Rockies hope to contend for the division. There is little talk of Colorado going out and acquiring much needed pitching. Their lack of action places any playoff hopes on the Colorado offense. An offense that finds itself in the top 10 of pretty much every batting statistic kept; an offense that has over shadowed a starting rotation that is in the bottom 10 of pretty much every pitching statistic kept; an offense led by three unsung All-Stars.
The spotlight won’t find its way to Denver anytime soon. The historic displays in Detroit and Baltimore aren’t going anywhere. The Dodgers seem poised to make a run for division leading Arizona. For the Rockies, that’s just fine. Quietly battling for an NL West crown, quietly keeping within a few games of first, and quietly going about their business in the shadows of the Rockies is just how they want it. A year ago they were in a free fall. No one paid them any attention. This year, with a little luck, they can push for October, and they’ll catch people’s eyes. More importantly, they can put Denver back on the baseball map.