The 2017 Colorado Rockies, from the perspective of almost everyone outside of BSN Denver, were a complete shocker.
The national and most local perception was that they were not expected to be contenders but a dazzling (and again surprising to some but not all) debut of Trevor Story and the emergence of a few young starters including Jon Gray and Kyle Freeland, meant that Colorado would find their way into the postseason for the first time since 2009.
They upped the ante for themselves in 2018, while still getting a fair share of skepticism. The eyes from farther away wondered if the club had gotten lucky and questioned whether or not the young players could sustain their production.
Early in the year, those pundits seemed like they would be proven right as a lackluster offense combined with some disastrous bullpen moments, leading to the team carrying a mediocre record and an awful run differential.
But, once more, the Rockies rallied behind the guys they’ve been developing for years and found their way to 91 wins, coming up just one victory short of securing their first ever division title.
Now, while the critics certainly haven’t gone away after a relatively quiet offseason and lingering concerns over the offense, the Rockies are setting their sights even higher.
Two years ago, it was fair for the goal to be just making the dance. Last year, winning 90 games (success) and the division (so close) were fair goals, as was Nolan Arenado’s stated preference for playing in a postseason series. They accomplished two of the three.
So what now? NLCS or bust? World Series?
With no slight meant to the myriad of teams with better chances on paper (Red Sox, Yankees, Astros, Dodgers) the Rockies can absolutely hold themselves to that standard for arguably the first time in franchise history.
This year is different. This time, Colorado should be a factor in the big picture and not just as a potential spoiler for those clubs.
“The thing that we’re talking about is the expectation of this team,” says Bud Black. “This organization based on what’s happened the last couple of years based on where we can go. And that’s a good thing.”
When it comes to the talk of who can compete to win it all?
“We feel as though we belong in the conversation,” he says.
He gathered everyone in camp before play was to begin and made it clear in no uncertain terms that simply hanging around and being a good baseball team is no longer enough. They need to start thinking of themselves as a powerhouse right now.
And they need to start playing like it in April.