Surviving a Mediocre Summer of Baseball Doom Rick Langenberg


“The Boys of Summer” charade begins this week, with the Colorado Rockies kicking off their big opening baseball game Friday afternoon (April 8) against San Diego.

If you are preparing to see the Colorado Rockies this spring, summer and early fall, then save your seats at the Rooftop bar of Coors Field, secure a path for a quick exit to such nearby hot spots as Scruffy Murphy’s and the Celtic Tavern, or enjoy some other non-baseball festivities in the area.

The tunes of Celtic music and a few needed Harp drafts, or some off-track horse race wagering, may just drown the bombardment of home runs the Rocks’ pitchers will surrender and the familiar chatter of: when will we not become a last-place team again.

Well, folks, it won’t happen this year. Our Rockies Head Dictator, general manager Jeff Bridich, has already signed the doom and gloom papers for the Rockies this year, with his refusal to acquire a much needed starting pitcher. Instead, he wants to rely on the element of maturity in winning the arms’ race. Please, will someone give Dictator Jeff another Harp draft, or maybe a shot of Irish whisky. In fact, guys, be careful if you attend a Rockies game this summer, as you may find yourself on the mound. After all, this could be the worst starting pitching staff in America. They are looking for a fan miracle.

This will be the first season without shortstop ace Troy Tulowitzki, the commanding star of the franchise for years. And this is when reality strikes and the Rockies will have to fend off an invasion of Monday morning quarterbacking analysis that touts this trade with Toronto as one of the dumbest deals engineered by Colorado. Troy’s prime replacement, Jose Reyes, was arrested in the offseason for domestic violence. Charges were dropped last week, but Reyes’ future with the club is definitely uncertain. Head Rocks Skipper Walt Weiss has already announced plans for starting hot prospect Trevor Story in his place. Jose was extremely unimpressive in his debut last season, and he didn’t help his cause much by saying he didn’t want to play for the team.

So much for the wisdom of that trade, which even had Tulo, who was glad to land on the playoff-bound Blue Jays (that should have won the World Series), questioning the advantages for the Rockies. Why the Rocks didn’t move Reyes right away is the million dollar question, and one that baffles every baseball analyst in the country. With financial realities looming, the Rocks had to dispose of either Tulo or Carlos Gonzalez, who combined were soaking up nearly 50 percent of the team’s payroll. But not trading away Reyes, shortly after the acquisition for a much needed starter, made no sense. As a result, the controversial trade for Tulo was regarded as one of the dumbest baseball wagers of 2015.

There are some high points on the horizon. Even with all the dooms-day talk, the Rockies had an impressive spring training season in March by actually recording a winning record. The most impressive team in the spring was the Washington Nationals, who definitely have a chip on their shoulder after a dismal 2015 season.

Rockies Third Baseman Nolan Arenado continues to dazzle baseball fans across the country. He was slugging above the .500 mark in Scottsdale during much of spring training. Without question, he has emerged as the Rockies’ best player, almost filling the legacy shoes of Tulo. He won his third-consecutive Gold Glove last year, tied for the NL lead with 42 homers, and his 89 extra-base hits were the most ever by a third baseman. As long as Arenado stays healthy, that infield spot is a place sure hits will turn into outs and Nolan will become an absolute threat with the bat.

Also, the signing of veteran slugger Mark Reynolds will once again assure the Rockies’ status as an offensive powerhouse, even if they can’t pitch to save their life. And the decision not to trade Gonzalez could keep the fans coming back. Carlos, although, he is streaky at times, is a genuine fan favorite.

While Tulo always looked like he was having a terrible time in Colorado, Carlos appears to relish his legacy and popularity in Colorado. And when he is hot, look out. But the big problem with Carlos is his inability sometimes to just go back to being Carlos and relying on his incredible natural swing, when his timing is off.
A popular figure like Gonzalez, who is not afraid to sign a few autographs, is important.

Coors Field is probably one of the best places to watch professional baseball in America. But if the Rocks start slipping in May and June like they normally due, look for a big plummet in the attendance numbers.

One factor helping the 2016 season is the schedule, with a much more interesting lineup of home games than in 2015. After the Rockies play a few nonsense games in mid-April, the season hits high gear with an extended series against the Pittsburgh Pirates in late April. Pirate games are always entertaining, since they feature a head skipper, former Rockies manager Clint Hurdle–the guy the Rockies abruptly fired and threw under the bus, only a year after he led them to the World Series. Can someone please explain to me the rational logic of this move? Clint ended taking one of the worst teams in modern baseball, with the Pirates, to a playoff-bound squad for several consecutive years, a scenario that turned Pittsburgh into a baseball mania town with regular sellout games. Maybe some of the Rockies’ management figures should spend more time at Scruffy’s than analyzing statistics and watching too many reruns of Moneyball.

Then, the schedule gets real entertaining with a home series with the National League Champion New York Mets in mid-May. And in mid-June, the infamous bad boys of baseball, the New York Yankees, come to town. If you go to those games, open your wallet, as prices will triple for just about everything, from parking and purchasing merchandise, to buying tickets and beer. The Yankees are still an amazing cult show, even if they aren’t the powerhouse of earlier years. It’s almost like going to see the Rolling Stones or U-2. I can guarantee you the stands will be filled with way more Yankee nuts than Rockies’ fans.

Then, in June, the Toronto Blue Jays arrive, with Tulo and company. Actually, this is the team that should have won the World Series in 2015 and gave it away due to their playoff inexperience. It will be interesting to see how Troy fares, as he no longer is the ultimate star figure with Toronto. He is just another big hitter in a team not lacking in powerful bats. Even though he won’t admit it, I think Troy misses the adulation he received in Rockies-land.

The same month, the Rocks host the Chicago Cubs, still regarded as the most obnoxious fans in baseball. Talk is already circulating of a Cubs’ World Series showing in 2016 and ending the curse that has lasted since gold was discovered in Cripple Creek. With the Cubs, we can see the antics of outfielder Dexter Fowler, another former Rocky that management foolishly dispensed with. Is there a familiar theme here?

So, all in all, even though the Rocks will stink in 2016, it should be an entertaining couple of months. My advice to local fans is go see games in the early months, when the Rocks aren’t 15 games out of first place. And sometimes, the team at the outset of the season toys with the prospects of success. However, it will be hard for the Rockies to avoid another cellar finish in the ultra-competitive National League West. I hope I am wrong.

End of Sky Sox Baseball
In other local baseball happenings, the rumors were confirmed last week,. Unless some miracle transpires, the Triple-A Sky Sox will be leaving Colorado Springs and heading to San Antonio within the next couple of years. It won’t happen overnight, as San Antonio still needs to build a stadium.

Instead, Security Field will probably end up sporting a bogus professional rookie team from Montana for only a couple of months. Maybe Woodland Park Mayor Neil Levy, the baseball guru for Woodland Park, should start lobbying for bringing his team players down to Security Field for some exhibitions.

That’s bad news for our area, as Sky Sox games were always a popular attractions for many groups and for senior citizens. But after the team got dumped by the Rockies who signed a deal with Albuquerque a year and half ago, the writing was on the wall.

Anyone who has been to a Sky Sox game, or even played a round of golf at the adjacent Springs Ranch course, knows about the high winds in this tree-less section of town.

The evening temperatures may be listed at 60 degrees, but it takes two ski jackets to survive.

Attendance was awful last year due partially to the weather and the newness of having to serve as the Triple-A team for the Milwaukee Brewers.
So, if you want to see the Sox, don’t wait too long. Sky Sox management is not saying too much, other than, “Business is business.”