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Woody Paige: Colorado Rockies' 25th anniversary season could be special

February 26, 2017 Updated: February 27, 2017 at 6:49 am
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DENVER, CO - ARRIL 06: Assistant groundskeeper Adam Steward taking care of pitchers mound before the Colorado Rockies workout the day before their home opener at Coors Field. April 06, 2016 in Denver, CO. (Photo By Joe Amon/The Denver Post)

Could the Rockies' Silver Anniversary be the Year of the Purple Reign?

It's about time, in the franchise's 25th season, for the Rox to win their first division title.

But there are two major (league) roadblocks: The Dodgers and the Giants. The pair have won the National League West eight of the past nine seasons. The Diamondbacks finished first in 2011. Since the current division alignment originated in 1994, the Rockies' second season, the Dodgers have been No. 1 nine times (and the past four in a row), the Giants and the D-Backs five each and the Padres four (the last in 2006).

The Rockies were second in the NL West in the (strike-shortened) 1995 season, 2007 and 2009, and reached the postseason all three years, and the World Series 10 long years ago. They've had only six winning seasons.

But, the Rox baseball history is in the past.

Spring hopes are eternal.

The Rockies defeated those sly Snakes in Scottsdale 8-4 in the spring training opener Saturday, and their ambitious expectations are more sanguine, and logical, than usual.

- The Brothers Monfort, or The Bros. Grim, finally unlocked the company safe and pulled out hard cash to sign expensive position player Ian Desmond, even though he is playing out of position, and veteran relief pitchers Mike Dunn and Greg Holland, although you can never be sure about relievers in thin air.

- Shortstop Trevor Story, with the storied rookie season before he tore a thumb ligament, is healthy again. Superb pitcher Chad Bettis recovered from his frightening testicular cancer, and the Rockies didn't trade Carlos Gonzalez or Charlie Blackmon.

- The Rockies' starting rotation is the most promising since 2007, with Bettis, Jon Gray, the Twin Tylers (Chatwood and Anderson), Jordan Lyles and Jeff Hoffman.

- That blown-up bullpen will be improved with Adam Ottavino (past his Tommy John surgery), the addition of Dunn and Holland ("Done and Bad Street"?) and the anticipated revival of Jake McGee.

- The hirings of Bud "Paint It'' Black, the former Padres' manager and first former pitcher to manage the Rockies, and Mike Redmond, the former Marlins' manager and the first ex-catcher to be the Rockies' bench coach, are very encouraging.

- Jeff Bridich didn't get an offseason personality transplant operation, but he has matured into his general manager's role and made several solid personnel decisions, and Dick Monfort has settled into the background where he belongs.

So, there should be optimism. Some national genii claim the Rox will be the surprise National League team of '17, and the preseason power ratings place Colorado in the top half of baseball, not among the bottom-feeders.

Donning new predominantly purple jerseys, not blue, the Rockies will go Deep Purple. They led the league in batting average and runs scored last season, and possess one of the most potent offensive lineups in the game.

Pitching and catching, and performance on the road, will be the critical questions. Can Tom and Tony (Murphy and Wolters) handle the position and the staff? And can the Kiddie Korps rotation hold up for six innings and an entire season? The foursome of Black, Redmond, Steve Foster and Darren Holmes will be strong in helping Gray win 15-plus and the next four to reach double-digit victories.

The Rockies have to win at least 50 at home and more than 30 away, and they must be competitive in the division - with 26 of their final 29 against NL West opponents. (The other three are vs. the Marlins.)

But, of course, the Dodgers and the Giants are superior clubs - unless they suffer serious injuries on the mound. Los Angeles has Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill up front and Kenley Jansen as the closer again. San Francisco counters with Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto at the top of the rotation and fresh closer Mark Melancon, Colorado's own.

The Rockies look like third - and have to vie with another division team and the Cardinals, the Nationals and the Mets for the wild-card spots.

Cheerfully, there can be an 85-77 record, a Silver Lining and a Grape Crush to Rox25.

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