The Rockies’ season ended long ago, but there have been glimmers of hope in these last weeks. I’m not predicting a championship next year. I am, however, willing to say that there is reason to believe things will be better. They’d have to be, since they can’t get much worse. So for my final top 10 list of 2011, I present the things we can get excited about for 2012.
10. Coors Field Takes Its Place in Modern History
With the closing of whatever the heck the Florida/Miami Marlins’ stadium is called, Coors Field will officially be the oldest ballpark in the National League apart from Dodger Stadium and Wrigley. That’s pretty staggering when you think about it. Sometimes other fans think less of our team because it’s so young, but our gorgeous ballpark and its growing history are worthy of pride.
9. Coaching Changes
It’s unclear at this point who Jim Tracy will or will not pick to be a part of his coaching staff in 2012, but we can hope that there will be at least some turnover. I’m a believer in the old adage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and I think the converse is just as true. This is a broken team, and so going into the next season with the same exact look is a mistake. The Rockies may or may not be good enough to make a postseason run in ’12, but it can’t hurt to mix things up. In my humble opinion, Carney Lansford needs to stay and Bob Apodaca needs to go. But we’ll find out whether Tracy agrees when he announces his decision tomorrow.
8. The Beginning of the End of Jim Tracy
Speaking of Tracy, if I had my druthers he’d be the one on the chopping block for this season. I am not for one second absolving the players of blame; certainly most of them played more like whiny divas than like hard-working teammates. But Tracy has lost his ability to motivate these guys. I’m not saying that means he’s a terrible manager. He motivated them plenty in 2009. It’s not 2009 anymore, however. And the changing of the guard needs to happen ASAP. Luckily, Tracy is entering the final year of his contract and no extension was offered. I can only hope that means the brass are starting to notice what we’ve all seen for months now.
7. Third Base Black Hole Fills In
If Dan O’Dowd has one project at the top of his list this off-season, it had better be figuring out third base. Of all the men who visited the hot corner this season, they only managed a collective .218 batting average, second worst in the NL. Only the pitchers had a worse average overall. Granted, Ian Stewart‘s struggles have contributed heavily to this issue, but the acquisitions of Ty Wigginton and Kevin Kouzmanoff have exacerbated it. Some are calling for Stew’s head; sentimentalist that I am, I’d prefer to give him another chance after he works in the Instructional League this fall. But Wiggy and Kouz have to go, and DOD has to find somebody who can give us 130 starts and a .260 average at 3rd.
6. The Bullpen Is Awesome
For all the issues that our team had this season, the bullpen really wasn’t one of them. It certainly has room for improvement, but pound-for-pound we are getting great work out of those guys. Who would have thought Rafael Betancourt would morph into one of the game’s best closers? Or that Rex Brothers would have such a strong start? Or that Edgmer Escalona and Josh Roenicke would inexplicably finish the season with a sub-2.00 ERA? As a group, the pen’s ERA is still almost 4.00, but I believe in what we have. I think they will be a key factor in a resurgence if the team has one next season.
5. Toddfather Gets Better With Age
Get your Rockies tickets now, because you only have so many more chances to see Todd Helton play. I grew up in the mid-’90s with the Blake Street Bombers, and my love for them runs deep, but nobody comes close to the legendary status the Toddfather will always have with this team. His back problems will continue to make him less than an everyday player, but when he does play, we can continue to expect greatness. Not every franchise has a guy like him that they can point to, and I’m so proud that ours does.
4. Return of the Younguns
While the injuries to Helton, Troy Tulowitzki, and Carlos Gonzalez have made winning tough this month, how about those kids we called up? There really isn’t a bad one in the bunch. Wilin Rosario and Jordan Pacheco have attacked this opportunity with gusto, making a convincing argument for why they should be considered for next year’s big-league roster. Tommy Field came out of nowhere and has been both a good shortstop and an offensive contributor. Jim Miller has been a perfectly satisfying relief option. Eric Young Jr. and Dexter Fowler both did time in the minors this season, and both seem to have substantially improved. Obviously, I hope the opening day lineup looks very different from the ones we’ve had these past couple weeks, but I wouldn’t be sad at all to have some of these youngsters in the clubhouse on that day.
3. Cargo/Tulo Resurgence (Knock on Wood)
Cargo and Tulo’s inability to play recently have really made it clear how badly we need them. I think most of us already knew that they were essential to the team’s success, but it now appears that games actually cannot be won without them. They both badly need to stay healthy in 2012 though. The recurring injuries they both suffer must be dealt with by less aggressive fielding (Cargo) and more off-days earlier in the season (Tulo). When they’re on, they’re unstoppable, but they can’t be on if they’re sidelined with aches and pains.
2. A Consistent Rotation (Knock on Wood)
Would you rather begin the season with 5 good starters and end it with complete chaos, or the other way around? I prefer the latter. The beginning of the 2012 season will likely be a continuation of the end of 2011, with Alex White and Drew Pomeranz still getting their feet wet and Jason Hammel and Jhoulys Chacin still inconsistent. BUT, Jorge de la Rosa and Juan Nicasio are expected to return before the All-Star break, and while they’ll both need time to get back to their old selves, I foresee a late summer and fall full of good starting pitching appearances. The spring might be nutty, but by the end we could see things taking solid shape and giving us a real sense for how successful 2013 will be. Best case scenario, the rotation forming will be championship-caliber.
1. A Fresh Start
I just want the Rockies to start over with no stats and no losses. That’s all.