Colorado Rockies

Introduction

The Colorado Rockies earned their name due to their home location in Denver, Colorado which is situated west of The Rocky Mountains. They have never had a steady place within in the league, but have managed to maintain a large fan base throughout their history. In recent years their performance has improved, with 2007 being their best season to date.

The Formative Years

Before The Rockies were formed, there had been several unsuccessful attempts to bring an existing baseball team to Colorado, namely the Pittsburgh Pirates. But it was Larry Varnell, a successful banking executive who lived in Denver, who managed to convince other residents to agree to a 0.1% rise in their tax, to pay for the formation of a new baseball stadium.

It was then left to Roy Romer to recruit an ownership group which was led by Michael I. Monus, the head of the Phar-Mor chain, and John Antonucci, an Ohio beverage distributor. In 1991, the National League gave Denver the all-clear for an expansion group to begin playing in 1993.

The first game that the Colorado Rockies ever played was against the New York Mets, on 5th April 1993. Unfortunately they lost this first away game, played at the Shea Stadium, 3-0. However, their first home game, which they played four days later against Montreal Expos, also happened to be their first win, 11-4.

Although it was only their second game, the team managed to pull a crowd of 80,000 which is still the largest audience that has watched a single regular-season Major League Baseball Game. Apart from this win, the team struggled during their first year, and did not see a winning month until September, but they still managed to finish the first year with 67 wins, which was a record for the National League expansion franchise.

Monetary scandals within their own companies meant Antonucci and Monus were forced to sell their shares of the franchise, which were bought by Jerry McMorris, who became head of the ownership group. He did not have a particularly good relationship with other members of the franchise, however, and so his leadership waned over time, until he was bought out in 2005 by Charlie and Dick Monfort.

The Blake Street Bombers

Things began to improve towards the start of the following year, when the Rockies achieved their first winning record of 6-5 when they beat Montreal. But this was the only time that season they would have a record over 0.500, and they finished last in the National West League at 53-64.

This did not stop the crowds coming to watch them though, and by the end of the season they had totalled a grand sum of 3,281,511 fans. It was after this season and before the 1995 one, that the Rockies acquired outfielder, Larry Walker.

Walker had previously played for the Montreal Expos, and would come to form the group known as “The Blake Street Bombers”, along with Andre Galarraga, Vinny Castella and Dante Bichette. These four formed a dynamite group within the team, managing to hit 139 homeruns in the 1995 season, with 40 of these due to Bichette.

Although these power-hitters dominated much of the attention, the team also had a strong bullpen, made up of Bruce Ruffin, Darren Holmes, Steve Reed and Curt Leskanic. With these members on the team it is no surprise that, once again, the Rockies took the league lead in attendance for the season, even though they lost the NLDS to the Atlanta Braves, 3-1.

Walker suffered an injury in the 1996 season, which cost the team one of its leading players. His star-play was, however, substituted by Ellis Birks, an outfielder who managed an All-Star season with 40 homeruns, making him one of only three Rockies to do so.

Walker did manage to recover for part of the season and was given the first Gold Glove in franchise history. Even though the team was one of the best, they did not manage to improve on their finish from the following season.

The Helton Era

Galarranga left the Rockies and moved to the Atlanta Braves in 1997, devastating the team. This seemed to have an effect on their play and they lost the next eight games of the season. Jim Leyland, who had twice been awarded NL Manger of the Year, was brought in to manage the Rockies in 1999 and to try and improve their performance.

This did not have the desired effect, and they actually dropped further down the league, finishing last in the West. However, Todd Helton had been brought into the team to replace Galarranga, and, in the 1999 season, he began to develop into an excellent hitter, scoring 35 homeruns.

The remaining members of the Blake Street Bombers had also improved their form with this new member, and scored over 30 homeruns each. Leyland only stayed with the team for one year, after which he grew frustrated and retired, not returning to the game until 2006 when he signed with the Detroit Tigers.

The same season, the team also made history by playing the Opening Game against San Diego Padres in Mexico, being the first time an MLB team had opened its regular-season schedule outside the USA or Canada.

Rocky Times

In 1999 Dan O’Dowd was signed as general manager, and he hired Buddy Bell as his co-manager. Together they made numerous deals that would dramatically change the structure of the team. The popular players, Bichette, Vile and Castilla were all traded to other teams, leaving Walker the only remaining member of The Blake Street Bombers.

However, Walker suffered an injury, and with the lack of other key players the team’s attendance dropped leaving them only third in the season. But this reduction in spectators did not influence the team’s performance, with 1999 being their first winning season. Although O’Dowd made two expensive signings, Denny Neagle and Mike Hampton, they did not turn out to be worth their money, with Neagle being released by the Rockies in 2004.

Their attendance levels continued to drop, with them being sixth in the National League in 2002, and ninth in 2003 and 2004. Vinny Castilla was brought back to the team in 2004, and managed to hit 35 homeruns in his first season, but Walker, who had become a veteran of the team at the age of 37, was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals.

This was the first in a series of changes in the team. Garrett Atkins, Clint Barnes, Brad Hawpe and J.D. Closser were promoted, spending most of their time in Triple-A in 2004. As most of the team’s players were now aged under 30 years old, the Rockies were dubbed ‘Generation-R’.

Initially this new team struggled, but, as they grew in experience, their game also improved, and for much of this first season they were in contention in the NL West. Matt Holliday and Garrett Atkins were particularly strong players, hitting over 30 homeruns each. The team also had a good pitching side, consisting of Jeff Francis, Jason Jennings and Aaron Cook.

Recent Years

In the 2007 season the Rockies began to have a consistent string of wins, including 11 in a row, which was an all-time franchise record and the best of all teams in that season. This meant they made the playoffs for the first time since 1995, playing the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLDS.

The Rockies managed to take the first game, but the Phillies won the second, making the final game the decider for the title. This was taken by the Rockies, giving them their first post-series win. They went on to have a post-season run of 20 wins with only one loss, making them the first in the National League to do this since 1936.

They also won their first ever National League Championship, making them the first team in baseball history to win both the League Championship Series and the Division Series in the same postseason. However, they lost the World Series that same year, after four games against the Boston Red Sox. Despite this setback they were still named ‘Organisation of the Year’ by Baseball America

2008 Line-up

Pitchers

  • 35 Taylor Buchholz
  • 41 Jose Capellan
  • 28 Aaron Cook
  • 60 Manny Corpas
  • 26 Jeff Francis
  • 40 Brian Fuentes
  • 34 Matt Herges
  • 48 Jason Hirsh
  • 38 Ubaldo Jimenez
  • 56 Franklin Morales
  • 52 Juan Morillo
  • 45 Josh Newman
  • 61 Ramon Ramirez
  • 55 Mark Redman
  • 37 Esmil Rogers
  • 23 Ryan Speier
  • 68 Pedro Strop
  • 7 Josh Towers
  • 51 Luis Vizcaino
  • 16 Kip Wells

Catchers

  • 15 Edwin Bellorin
  • 20 Chris Iannetta
  • 8 Yorvit Torrealba

Infielders
First Base

  • 17 Todd Helton
  • 10 Jeff Baker
  • 47 Joe Koshansky
  • 19 Ryan Spilborghs
  • 24 Ian Stewart

Second Base

  • 17 Clint Barmes
  • 1 Jayson Nix
  • 6 Omar Quintanilla
  • 24 Ian Stewart
  • 39 Marcus Giles

Third Base

  • 27 Garrett Atkins
  • 6 Omar Quintanilla
  • 10 Jeff Baker
  • 24 Ian Stewart

Short Stop

  • 2 Troy Tulowitzki
  • 6 Omar Quintanilla

Outfielders
Right Field

  • 11 Brad Hawpe
  • 10 Jeff Baker
  • 18 Cory Sullivan
  • 25 Seth Smith
  • 19 Ryan Spilborghs

Left Field

  • 5 Matt Holliday
  • 19 Ryan Spilborghs
  • 19 Jeff Baker
  • 18 Cory Sullivan
  • 25 Seth Smith

Centre Field

  • 19 Ryan Spilborghs
  • 18 Cory Sullivan
  • 3 Willy Taveras