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KLEE: Mighty NL West adds to Rockies' difficulties

By Paul Klee Updated: February 16, 2013 at 12:00 am

DENVER — Hear that rumble coming from the National League West?

Batten down the hatches: The defending World Series champions and MLB’s biggest payroll are a baseball avalanche barreling toward Coors Field.

The Rockies appear to be equipped with garden shovels.

After a messy 64-98 season in 2012, the Rockies enter 2013’s spring training with a nemesis outside their control: An NL West that somehow got better.

Feel for Walt Weiss. The first-year manager arrives with a one-year contract in a division of doom. The champs (Giants) stayed pat; the free-spenders (Dodgers) beefed up.

The Giants won the division and the World Series and didn’t get worse. San Francisco won 94 games and retained the core of its roster — Angel Pagan, Buster Posey and Hunter Pence, among signees — prepping the champs for another run at October awesome.

The Dodgers spent money like it was sand on a Malibu beach. Their payroll hovers around $220 million. With free-agent signing Zack Grienke and a full year from Adrian Gonzalez, their potential hovers around 95 wins, unless the Lakers rub off on them.

Don’t tell the Dodgers money can’t buy happiness. L.A. bought 11 former All-Stars.

The Diamondbacks went .500 (81-81) and showed mediocre might be OK for others, but not for them, by blowing up their roster. Did they really trade 25-year-old Justin Upton? It’s tough to question management when it has produced five division titles in 15 years.

The Padres have a plan: Build on a 47-36 finish to ’12 and pray it continues into ’13.

The Rockies have a plan, as far as I can tell: Survive and advance (into 2014).

In the loaded NL West, the Rockies seem to be fighting a bonfire with a Super Soaker.

With an avalanche rumbling around it, Colorado kept as quiet as a light snowfall that doesn’t stick. The Rockies show three major acquisitions: manager (Weiss), reliever (Wilton Lopez), healthier (Troy Tulowitzki; Jorge De La Rosa; Todd Helton, hopefully).

The Rockies reported to spring training, in full, Saturday. Their schedule of practice games begins Feb. 23 against the Diamondbacks.

The Gazette will be in Scottsdale, Ariz., and is keeping an open mind. The home opener is April 5 and there will be plenty of time to open fire if the season goes badly.

That didn’t stop the division of doom, however.

Five times in the past 12 seasons, the West has represented the National League in the World Series. The Central (four) and East (three) don’t compare.

Twenty times in the past 20 seasons, the Rockies have participated in the NL West. Twenty times, the Rockies didn't win it. The Rockies haven't compared.

Will the Rockies compare to the Giants, Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Padres?

Batten down the hatches.

Paul Klee is the Denver sports columnist for The Gazette. He can be reached via email (paul.klee@gazette.com) or Twitter (@Klee_Gazette). He will be reporting from spring training Feb. 23-28.

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Rockies key dates

Saturday: Spring training opener — Rockies vs. Diamondbacks

April 1: Season opener — Rockies at Brewers

April 5: Home opener — Padres at Rockies

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