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Paul Klee: Credit GM Jeff Bridich for Rockies' return to postseason — ahead of schedule

By: Paul Klee
September 30, 2017 Updated: October 1, 2017 at 1:26 pm
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Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado, let, and center fielder Charlie Blackmon celebrate with teammates after securing a National League Wild Card berth after a baseball game Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, in Denver. The Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Rockies 5-3. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

DENVER — If the Rockies continue to play like they’re playing, they can reach the World Series.

It’s Rocktober, and Colorado belongs.

“To have it come together this early with this group, it’s obviously a great feeling,” general manager Jeff Bridich said late Saturday under champagne showers, mariachi music and party vibes in the Rockies clubhouse.

The Rockies didn’t need water goggles and Coors Light in Charlie Blackmon's fantastic beard to validate the fact they were a playoff-caliber team. They held a playoff spot for all 162 games. It was confirmed Saturday evening when the Cardinals eliminated the Brewers and the Rockies clubhouse jumped like a kid on a hotel bed. The Rockies secured a postseason berth for the fourth time in franchise history and will open the playoffs at the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Wild Card game at Chase Field on Wednesday. 

It’s a road game. Good. The visiting team is 4-1 in the National League Wild Card game. The Rox won 41 road games, tying the club record, and 42 games against the NL West, one behind the club record. Also good. The Rockies must go through the NL West again — first, in Phoenix, later in Los Angeles.

Dodgers Rockies Baseball
Colorado Rockies right fielder Carlos Gonzalez celebrates with teammates after securing a National League Wild Card berth after a baseball game Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, in Denver. The Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Rockies 5-3. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) 

"I don't think we're an underdog in any series we're playing in," All-Star closer Greg Holland said.

They won’t say it aloud, but the Rockies are a year ahead of schedule. Credit Bridich, the 40-year-old general manager with a vision that Saturday night became clouded with champagne.

The Tulo trade. Eating the Jose Reyes contract. Believing in Bettis.

Three years in, Bridich Ball is money.

The Rox rise took forever and happened quickly, all at the same time.

After performing most of the season with the youngest starting pitching in baseball, are the Rockies ahead of schedule?

“It doesn’t really matter, does it? Whose schedule? In the wintertime and especially at the beginning of spring training when we had this group together, what did we say? We felt like we could be playing meaningful games, postseason games, this year,” Bridich told me as an I-told-you-so smile flashed across his face. “That’s exactly what these guys went out and achieved. I don’t really care about any schedule, to be honest with you. I care that we’re doing what we’re supposed to, which is win games and win a lot of them and try to win the whole darn thing.”

It’s a steady team, not a flashy team. The Rockies don’t hold bullpen dance parties or wear funny suits on the team plane. Tyler Chatwood and Kyle Freeland plan their off-days around the quiet of a golf course, while Blackmon sets a 6 a.m. alarm to fly fish the Trico hatch on the South Platte. Aside from the manager, Buddy Black, who could carry a half-hour conversation with Dinger, they aren’t a talkative bunch at all. I guess you could say Gerardo Parra is a bit of a socialite. That’s about it.

They are mostly businessmen — except Saturday night, when they clinched, and the players took the party from the clubhouse to the diamond, sprinting across the outfield, scaling the centerfield wall and leaping into the pool that shoots waterfalls into the sky. Then, they were kids.

“I’ve been in their shoes both as a player and a coach,” said Black, whose veteran leadership was pitch perfect as he guided the Rockies to the postseason in his first season at Coors Field. “I’m so happy for them, because I know this feeling will never leave them.”

It was in Arizona, at spring training, the Rockies saw the young, dynamic arms scattered around the clubhouse and believed they would reach the postseason. They’ll go back, for one game.

Twitter: @bypaulklee

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