Peanuts and Cracker Jack #5: The Mysterious Case of Mile High Baseball


Peter Philpott

Coors Field, on 20th and Blake Street in Denver, has seen every twist and turn and loop-de-loop of the roller coaster that is the Colorado Rockies. But the Rockies are a mystery. They always seem to be acquiring free agents that have had successful careers, but those acquisitions seem to constantly fail to maintain their past prowess.

Peter Philpott, Assistant News Editor

The Colorado Rockies are a seesaw team. Sometimes they play games with only a couple of runs scored, and sometimes they fight and persist, ending a game with an epic walk-off homerun.

But it’s a simple fact that the Rockies are not capable of taking on the modern MLB. Their division is filled with league-wide powerhouses, and, in 2022, they had an abysmal 68-94 record. They lost many games because of bullpen breakdowns, where relievers would come into the game during stressful situations and allow the opposition to blow the game wide open.

The mindset often fostered by the Rockies administration is that of buying veteran: free agents that have had long success at previous teams. But those deals never really work out in the long run.

Reliever Bryan Shaw was an integral cog in the Cleveland Guardians machine that drove them to the 2016 World Series. Shaw finished the season with a solid 3.24 ERA.

He wasn’t the best reliever ever, but he was reliable. Plus, reliever ERA is unreliable because a one or two run outing could throw it off by many points.

The following year, he came to the Rockies and proceeded to build himself a 5.93 ERA. Everytime Shaw came in for the Rockies, he would allow hits and runs for the other team. In a stressful game situation, calling Shaw from the bullpen was a death wish.

In 2018, the Rockies beat the Chicago Cubs in the NL Wild Card Game, then they took away the Cubs second baseman, Daniel Murphy. Murphy wielded the bat with talent in Chicago, with a .297 batting average in 2018. Then Murphy came to Denver. In 2019, his average sank to .279. In 2020, it crumbled down to .236.

The other way the Rockies continue to baffle fans is by signing players who destroyed them in the past. Outfielder Matt Kemp, whenever he came to Coors Field, would wreak havoc against the Rockies, hitting .314 in Denver.

However, when the Rockies administration made a purchase that had the ability to redeem his reputation in Denver, it backfired. Colorado fans rejoiced at the acquisition of Kemp. The tables had turned. Kemp, once a nemesis, was now an ally.

But Kemp failed. He was abysmal with the Rockies. In his 2020 season on the Rockies, he hit a saddening .239, a cringe-worthy fall from his previous prowess at Mile High.

Part of the mystery can be solved with one man. He came to the Rockies in 2015 after winning the World Series with the Kansas City Royals. Over the next few years, he devastated the Rockies, handing off stars such as Troy Tulowitzki, DJ Lemahieu, and Nolan Arenado. That man is Jeff Bridich, the former General Manager for Colorado.

After Bridich resigned, the Rockies signed some players that turned out to be a ray of sunshine for the struggling team.

One of those players, signed in 2021, was veteran first baseman CJ Cron. Cron hit an average .257 with Colorado, but that statistic doesn’t tell the full story of his 2022 season. He hit in the clutch, he hit exciting home runs, he was an All Star. He capped off a solid season with a 504 foot mammoth moonshot at Coors Field.

In 2022, the Rox signed José Iglesias, who turned out to be one of the most successful free agent deals in Rockies history.

Iglesias not only hit a decent .292, but he played with enthusiasm and speed and showed a true love to the game that brought a breath of life to a team with little. He was the kind of player who would hit an ill-fated double-play-bound ground ball, then beat out the throw every time.

But Bridich’s impact on the team doesn’t solve the mile-high mystery. In 2022, after he was gone, they failed to reach any type of mark to success. Part of it can be solved by the bullpen, but pitching in Colorado is a difficult task.

The Rockies won’t win a Commissioner’s Trophy for a while. And while other teams are in their golden generation right now, I can accept that we might have to wait a bit longer to lose our tarnish.

I will be a follower of the Rockies through the ups and downs of the team. I’m never going to leave the Colorado strong fanbase in search of a better team to bandwagon.

That said, it’s difficult having hope of “next year is our year” when every season turns up like this.