In recent memory, dating back to the 2007 season in which the Colorado Rockies defeated the San Diego Padres in the Wild Card play-in game, the two teams have paralleled each other, both in their success around that season and in their unfortunate descent into the basement of the NL West in the last couple years. This creates an interesting situation where, for all the things that are different for the Rockies these days, one element remains the same.
It is of the utmost importance that they defeat and ultimately finish ahead of the San Diego Padres.
Of course the reasons this season are far different than those in seasons past, when words like “playoffs” and “contender” did not leave Rockies fans cringing in disappointment and longing.
First of all, gunning for the Padres and a 4th place finish in the NL West this season gives the Rockies a target. In other words, it gives them something to play for in addition to the familiar and often overstated reasons such as playing “spoiler” or getting to watch young talent shine. Those latter factors are also important, but why not give the exciting young talent another goal, a tangible mark, an actual spot in the standings to pursue? Furthermore, the Rockies are a whopping 6.5 games back of the Padres, making this goal extraordinarily difficult. That means if they do pull it off, it will actually be something to hang their hats on as they look forward to 2013 with the most cautious optimism.
The second motivating factor ought to be simple: avoid last place. Somehow the Rockies finished two games ahead of the Padres last season to secure 4th place in the sneaky-good NL West. This year, it could potentially mean something like this from the Rockies’ perspective: “Hey, this season was a complete and total disaster, but….it could have been worse! It actually could have been worse! What do you know about that?”