Colorado Rockies: Coors Field, Ghosts, and Altitude Pitching
Throughout the offseason, we’ve heard rumors of the Colorado Rockies looking to bring a starting pitcher to Coors Field to boost the rotation. We talked in this article about the Rockies rotation being in solid shape heading into 2017, but Colorado is always looking to improve when it comes to pitching. Heading into the 2017 campaign is no exception.
However, any time the words “pitching” and “free agency” are thrown out in Colorado circles, two names come to mind – Darryl Kile and Mike Hampton. To this day, their effect on the Colorado franchise still casts a shadow on potential pitchers being scared away by Coors Field.
As has been well documented, both pitchers were signed with high hopes. Both were disappointments.
Kile went 112-89 in his 10 years outside Colorado. During his two years (1998-99) with the Rockies, he went 21-30. An ERA that was under 4.00 in St. Louis and Houston ballooned to 5.84 in Denver. This after he signed a three-year deal worth $24 million, making him at the time the fourth-highest paid pitcher in Major League Baseball.
Sports Illustrated roasted Coors Field and the effect it had on Kile and other pitchers in this article. Warning, the article can make Colorado fans shake their head.
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Ironically, Hampton was brought to Denver in a way to prove that Kile’s problems were an isolated situation. At the time of his signing, Hampton was made the highest-paid pitcher in Major League Baseball history prior to the 2001 season with an eight-year, $121 million contract. It set the bar high for what Hampton could bring to Colorado. And why shouldn’t it? After all, he was coming off back-to-back seasons where he logged a 22-4 record with a 2.90 ERA and a 15-10 mark with a 3.14 ERA.
For the first part of the season, Hampton looked to be worth the money. An Opening Day debut of 8.1 shutout innings against St. Louis set the table for a 9-5 mark and 4.02 ERA at the All-Star break. And then the season imploded on Colorado’s free agent prize.
Hampton spun a 5-8 record and 7.46 ERA in the second half. The 2002 season didn’t bring much better results with a 7-15 mark and 6.15 ERA. It was enough to show the Rockies that Hampton wasn’t going to succeed in Denver. By the time the 2003 season was underway, Hampton had been moved from Colorado to Florida to Atlanta. The experiment was over and another big free agent pitcher had been supposedly victimized by Colorado’s thin air.
We won’t even talk about Denny Neagle, but you can read about how bad the contracts he and Hampton signed here.