2016 Colorado Rockies: About that quest for pitching

On deck: The Rockies circled a Troy Tulowitzki trade for years before finally making one, so it’s only fitting it continues to echo. Jose Reyes came to play shortstop, but his legal troubles will prevent him from doing so. That means Trevor Story will man the position. He’s 23 and has proved he can hit in hitters’ environments: he hit .332 with a 1.017 OPS in 2014 in the California League, and he hit 20 homers last year in Class AA-AAA, but the latter was in Albuquerque. Which, like so many of the Rockies, begs the question: was that power Story’s or the park he played in?

2015 Stat: The Rockies had two 40-home run hitters in 2015: Nolan Arenado with 42 and Carlos Gonzalez with 40. It’s the first time since 2001 (Todd Helton, 49) any Rockie has hit 40 homers. The Rockies had three 40-home run hitters in 1997 (Larry Walker, 49; Andres Galarraga, 41; and Vinny Castilla, 40) and 1996 (Galarraga, 47; Castilla, 40; and Ellis Burks, 40). They finished 83-79 both seasons.

What he said: Rockies manager Walt Weiss on naming Jorge De La Rosa to pitch on opening day: “We’re just going with our guy. He’s been our guy for a long time now.” What he meant: “You were expecting Kyle Kendrick? It’s not like we have anyone better.”

Outlook: In the movie Airplane, a passenger asks for something “light” to read.  “How about this leaflet, ‘Famous Jewish Sports Legends?’ ” says the flight attendant.

Here’s something lighter: Rockies’ pitching success stories.

The former  would be remiss if it did not include Sandy Koufax, who at age 80, might yet be able to help the Rockies.

The Rockies have played 23 seasons and only once have they given up fewer than 700 runs, and that was their second season, 1994, when they played only 117 games because of a strike.

In nearly a quarter of a century, that’s the Rockies’ legacy: the only success they’ve had at run prevention is to not play the games.

The Rockies have a team ERA for their history of 5.00, and if that seems low, remember that Kyle Kendrick  only pitched one season for them. In retrospect, his 6.32 ERA doesn’t seem so bad.

Among others, here are three searches throughout history that have gone unfulfilled: peace in the Mideast, humility in Donald Trump and quality pitching in Colorado.

The Rockies have had just six winning seasons and three playoff berths — all wild cards — in their history. They’ve finished last or next-to-last 18 times, yet have drawn two million fans every season but one. Of course, they drew three million or more for their first nine. Even a dog looks up quizzically from his bowl every so often.

The Rockies hired Jeff Bridich as GM after the 2014 season, on the presumption it will take a Harvard man to find pitchers who can succeed in Colorado. Or maybe it will take a Harvard man to figure out how much of it is the pitchers, and how much is the altitude, and how many of those hitters with lofty numbers aren’t as good as their stats say they are.

A decade in Colorado hasn’t helped Larry Walker’s Hall of Fame case, despite a .334 average and 1.044 career OPS with the Rockies, and leading the NL in home runs, RBIs and slugging percentage didn’t win Dante Bichette the 1995 NL MVP.

It’s Bridich’s mission to put the Rockies’ stats in context. How many Rockies pitchers have been dismissed over the years because their ERAs made them seem worse than they were? And how many Rockies’ hitters have been elevated to a status they didn’t deserve because of the grade inflation at Coors?

Corey Dickerson for one, if you believe Bridich’s offseason trade of the outfielder with an .879 career OPS — 1.085 of that at Coors, .695 on the road. The Rockies got reliever Jake McGee in return, and it seemed curious, given that McGee only pitched 37.1 innings last year and can be a free agent two years before Dickerson.

But like last summer’s Tulowitzki trade — which also returned three minor-league pitchers, including former No. 1 pick Jeff Huffman and reliever Miguel Castro — it’s evidence of how Bridich will operate.

The 2016 Rockies won’t be very good, which is nothing new. The franchise hasn’t won more than 74 games since 2010, when they won 83, a year after they won 92 and made the playoffs most recently.

The 2009 Rockies had a 4.22 ERA, 10th in MLB, the best they’ve ever been.

Maybe Aaron Cook and Jason Marquis (the only man to be in both Jewish Sports Legends and Rockies Pitching success stories) weren’t so bad.

Team Song: Hunters and Collectors: Holy Grail

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