DENVER — For Rockies fans, this was always the fear.
If this doesn’t work, what will?
For one (mostly) glorious half of a season, the purple stars aligned: pitching shined, hitting was fine and, in particular, the defense was divine. But the baseball has 108 seams/stitches, and the Rox are coming apart at all of them. Losing eight straight games, as they’ve done, is a bad feeling. But seeing the deepest collection of talent in club history not be good enough for a playoff appearance, well, that would be disheartening. And that was always the fear.
At the same time this season has been a franchise awakening, it’s also served as an experiment: When the talent on the mound equals that at the plate, what happens? The results so far are so good: 47-34, the Rox's best mark at the midway point. But this — what’s happening now, losing their mojo, confidence and eight games by a combined score of 66-23 — kept the bandwagon from filling up to capacity. There was room then; there’s more now.
Pity the psyche of the Rockies fan if this doesn’t work. For a change, and for the fans, the Rockies now must be buyers, not sit-stillers. They need pitching help, and fast.
Yes, there have been no “free” tacos in 12 days. The Rox have failed to score seven runs in nine straight. Is Ian Desmond being paid by the ground out? But there is proof the bats will come around. Always have. And those footsteps are infielders Brendan Rodgers (the No. 10 overall prospect in baseball, according to MLB.com, and inching up the ladder to Double-A Hartford) and Ryan McMahon (batting .440 in Triple-A Albuquerque).
There’s no proof the young arms are ready for the long haul. Buddy Black, the manager who's being tested, should send an S.O.S.: Strengthen Our Staff.
Front Range baseball fans get a bad rap. They say we go for the quality beer selection and the sunsets. Well, we’re not dummies. Over the previous seven seasons the Rockies never finished above third in the NL West. The beer and sunsets usually were better than the baseball.
If anyone should know these kinds of opportunities don’t come around often, it’s the Rockies. There hasn’t been a pennant chase around these hills since Kyle Freeland scored his driver’s license, in 2009. To combat the perception the franchise is not in it to win it — and raise this sinking ship, the important thing here — the Rockies must make a move for another pair of arms — one in the rotation, one in the bullpen. In getting swept by the Giants in San Francisco, both appeared worn down.
The perception that Rockies ownership doesn’t want to win has always been there. It’s always been ridiculous, but it’s always been there. My belief then and now is that they didn’t know how to win. The first half shows they’re figuring it out.
After winning series after series, the Rox have lost three straight series. Over the first seven of their eight-game losing streak, Rox starters had the worst ERA in baseball (8.48) during that span. Since June 11 the opponent has averaged 6.6 runs per game. That’s taco territory, for the other team.
But all is not lost. Not hardly. The first 73 games of the season (47-26) are a better sample size than the last eight (0-8), and the Rockies were playoff-worthy over the first 73 games. There’s been far more good than bad. The Rox are on the right track.
This weekend’s series at Arizona is critical. Chase Field gives up more home runs than Coors Field, a good time for the bats to come alive. No. 1 starter Jon Gray returns to the mound Friday, without his golden locks, a good time to spark the pitching. And the rest? Be buyers, not sit-stillers.