Only Coors Field spares the Rockies from humiliation of 100-loss seasons
Coors Field is a Colorado landmark; the centerpiece of Denver’s growth over the last three decades. It’s the third-oldest stadium in the National League, behind only Dodger Stadium and Wrigley Field. Now in it’s 28th season, the ol’ ballpark is still the best part of the Rockies’ game-day experience by a wide margin.
It’s also the greatest hitters’ park ever created — and it’s why the Blake Street Bombers may never suffer a 100-loss season. The Rockies’ come-from-behind, 10-7 home victory over the reeling Milwaukee Brewers provides further evidence — and the team’s Twitter account all but admitted it.
That’s it. That’s the tweet. pic.twitter.com/Esl6ugHIx9
— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) September 7, 2022
While this summer’s heat wave shows no sign of stopping, balls have been flying out of the park with their usual regularity. Milwaukee’s Christian Yelich led off the game with a 499-foot moonshot to the third deck in right field; following one of the longest home runs in Coors Field’s homer-happy history, the Brewers were off. However, after the Brew Crew took a 6-1 lead into the bottom of the eighth inning, the park’s propensity for crooked numbers put itself on display.
Elehuris Montero led off the inning with a double — statistically, Coors Field actually allows more doubles and triples over the league average, by percentage, than it does home runs — before Alan Trejo singled him home on the next at-bat. Ryan McMahon followed that with a single before Yonathan Daza hit a 422-foot, three-run homer to cut the lead to one before Milwaukee even retired a batter. Randal Grichuk would hit a 411-foot shot to left a few batters later to tie the game after eight frames.
Grichuk and McMahon are established major-leaguers, but no one would refer to them as stars besides the Rockies themselves. Trejo and Daza are platoon players and Montero — though a quality prospect — is still getting his feet wet in the bigs. Nobody’s confusing these guys for Aaron Judge.
The Rockies weren’t done yet. After the Brewers plated Yelich in the top half of the extra-inning 10th, Colorado had some work to do. Fortunately, the sport’s friendliest home park — for hitters, at least — was ready and waiting. After Daza doubled in McMahon to tie the game at 7-7, first baseman C.J. Cron drew a walk to put runners at first and third.
The stage was set. Grichuk scorched a Taylor Rogers pitch down the left-field line, the baseball traveling 457 feet in the blink of an eye to deliver the Rockies a stunning, 10-7 win.
“That’s the first ball that I’ve ever hit that I looked at the dugout and showed some emotion, and didn’t just sprint out of the box,” Grichuk said after the game. “It was pretty fun.”
“Pretty fun” describes Coors Field perfectly. The ballpark experience is top-notch, although it’s seen too many subpar teams traipse across its luxurious green surface in recent seasons as the Rockies’ hapless management continues to drive the team itself into the ground. Tuesday’s win matched the team’s biggest comeback of the season, Yelich’s leadoff bomb was the Major League’s longest of the season, and Grichuk became the first player in Rockies’ team history to tie a game with a homer in the eighth inning or later and a win the same game with a walk-off home run.
All in one night.
The Rockies are 59-79, dead last in the NL West and 16.5 games out of the wild-card following Wednesday’s, series-closing, 8-4 daytime matinee win. Don’t even ask about how many games behind the division-leading Los Angeles Dodgers they are (it’s 36.0).
Yet, they can still pull off games like this. The Rockies’ winning percentage on the road is an abysmal .313, and their 21 road wins mark the lowest total in all of baseball. Their best player this season, longtime prospect Brendan Rodgers, sports a 3.2 wins-above replacement (WAR) rating; that’s good for 61st among hitters in all of baseball. Only Cron (2.5) and McMahon (2.3) are even in the top 100, and that’s while playing half their games in the sport’s easiest place to hit. The Rockies’ best starting pitcher, Kyle Freeland, ranks 97th among hurlers with a 1.6.
At home, the Rockies are 38-33 (.535). If their season winning percentage was that high, they’d be only one spot out of the wild card in both the American and National Leagues. Obviously, judging by the eye test and raw talent alone, that’s not the caliber of team they are. Their differential of wins at home over wins on the road is plus-17. Only one NL team has a much as 12 — the St. Louis Cardinals, who are above .500 both home and on the road. This disparity has been a constant for the Rockies since their last postseason appearance.
The explanation for this is obvious: The very nature of Coors Field itself is conducive to bizarre games like the Rockies’ win on Tuesday, in which a group of mediocre-at-best players led an entirely anomalous comeback victory thanks to the doubles and home runs that Coors Field alone serves up with regularity. Every season, the Rockies can count on stealing at least a half-dozen or more games that they should have otherwise lost, thanks to the capricious and essentially random nature of their home park itself, and as a result, teams that should have been — and would have been — 100-loss clubs over-perform in Denver.
It’s not easy to lose 100-plus games in Major League Baseball; it takes a combination of poor roster management, questionable coaching and more than a little bad luck. The Rockies probably won’t ever reach that ignominious mark, not because their front office is smarter than everyone else’s. It certainly isn’t, and this Rockies team has all the hallmarks of a putrid, 100-game loser — the kind of thing that usually shakes a franchise to its core.
The Rockies, and their front office’s intransigent, unshakable faith in their own purported brilliance, won’t be tested this season, or likely any in particular, because they won’t lose 100. It’s entirely possible that no matter how bad they get, they never will.
Why not? Only one team in all of baseball resides in Coors Field, and its massive outfield pastures give the Rockies plenty of breathing room to dream — or continue to delude themselves — as they see fit.