We have developed a theory about the Colorado Rockies: they are at their best when they have no expectations of success. They rise up when they are overlooked by national media and fans alike. More than once they have been one of the best “Nobody believes in us!” teams in all of professional sports. So we should be excited entering Spring Training, right? They are coming off of the most disappointing season in franchise history and did not make moves this offseason that will generate any predictions for division titles or playoff runs.
But don’t we have to ask the question: why are they flying under the radar in the first place? After all they still have the dynamic duo of Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, among the best 3-4 combos in the league and both outstanding defenders. Can a team built around those two still find itself outside of most experts’ playoff predictions? Is the supporting cast that underwhelming?
That brings us to the crux of the problem: the front office is hardly receiving glowing reviews for their myriad moves over the winter. The Michael Cuddyer signing continues to appear on lists of the worst contracts handed out this offseason. Many of the new pitchers on the roster tend to give up more flyballs than groundballs, a trend that goes against any and all conventional wisdom about pitching in Coors Field. They got significantly older, an idea that will rarely garner praise no matter how important it was to improve a team’s clubhouse culture.
This is the time of year when many fans look for reasons to be excited about their team. Either way we are forced to temper our enthusiasm with the Rockies. If they are projected to be successful, we can only enjoy that to a certain extent until we remember their tendency in the past to absolutely collapse when they are the favorites. If they are “flying under the radar,” we can bask in the memories of their success in that situation in the past, but not without acknowledging the implied criticism of the front office. The experts and analysts are wrong plenty of times, but it is still unsettling if there is a consensus that your team has not improved.
As Spring Training approaches, the problem with flying under the radar is the fact that this means most writers, commentators, and analysts will give the organization a poor grade on their moves this offseason. Is it possible to be excited about their lack of expectations and be openly critical of Dan O’Dowd and company at the same time? Probably not, but I bet a lot of people will try anyway.