Special to woodypaige.com
OK, all together now. Follow the bouncing cursor
(sung to the tune of “How do you Solve a Problem Like Maria?”, from the Sound of Music. With apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein)
How do you solve a problem like the Rockies?
How do you explain this year’s early success?
How do you find a word that means the Rockies?
Overachieving? A will of the wisp? It’s anybody’s guess…
Ooooh, how do you solve a problem like the Rockies..
Don’t….Just enjoy the ride..
Good advice, I think. At least that last line is.
The Rockies are an enigma wrapped in a conundrum. Here it is, May, and in Colorado, we’re not talking about golf or Bronco OTA’s. The Rockies are in first place, (that’s NOT a typo) and are playing like a ballclub that has its sights set on significant games in August and September.
Now Rockies clubs in the past have looked good up to this point too – then comes the heat of June and July and we all sit back and watch them melt away. So too, could this team – and then again, many not.
You really can’t tell what a ballclub is all about until after about 40 games—then you get a feel for them. Well, depending on when you read this, we’re hovering at that point. Some days, the Rockies look like world beaters. And then, just as fast, they can look like, well— the Rockies.
I’m not going to grade this team or go though position by position —that’s self serving and ridiculous. Suffice it to say, two things really stand out about this club right now that should give you hope for better days, as early as, yes, this year.
First is middle relief / closing. The ability to protect leads, and to allow the team, when it trails even deep in a game, to have a reasonable chance for a comeback, has to be a source of major satisfaction for GM Jeff Bridich, after 2016 saw him try to cobble together a unit that—well, let’s be kind and just say, it didn’t happen. This year, it’s a strength of the team that offers you to imagine wild and wonderful possibilities.
Second is the play of Mark Reynolds, and the clutch hitting he’s provided. Yes, there are success stories throughout the order, but Reynolds stands out because—no one expected this. Reynolds leads the Rockies in HR’s, RBI, slugging percentage and is second to Tony Wolters in batting average. He has injected energy, while Ian Desmond healed.
There’s one other important element here. Don’t think for a minute I’ve overlooked first year skipper Bud Black. Yes. a new manager with a different approach to the players is making an early difference. What will be the key factor for me with Black will be, how he handles his pitching staff at altitude, in say, August. But it’s not August yet, and this staff is worth a look, by the numbers.
As of May 16th, the team ranked ninth overall in ERA, a far cry from the ownership of dead last previous teams have had. They are second in the National League with three shutouts, and lead the league with 18 saves. They also lead the NL with just two blown saves in 20 opportunities. And despite playing half their games at altitude, the staff is fourth overall in home runs yielded. What this all does is help to shape a .615 winning percentage, good for fourth best overall in the majors. A lot of that is due to the talent level now on the roster—but it also has to do with Black, because of who he decided to bring north from spring training and how he’s managing those guys.
So, understand, these are not the Walt Weiss, Buddy Bell, Jim Leyland (remember him?) Rockies. For at least the first part of the season, they’ve allowed us to dream just a little. And with expanded playoff coverage, those dreams could be more realistic than not, given the struggles of the San Francisco Giants, and underwhelming performance of the Dodgers..
So how do you solve a problem like the Rockies? You wait, you watch, you hope. For now, until Bud Black proves he deserves to be in the upper echelon of current major leagues managers, it’s all we have. As I’ve said, the Rockies are an enigma wrapped in a conundrum. Maybe Bud Black’s the guy who can finally figure it out. And if he has, we’ll be singing his praises for some time to come.
bradley is his pen name — like O. Henry, Dr. Seuss and Mark Twain. And he is the Masked Columnist. He actually has a real name and a real job, and would rather keep them separate from his new column for woodypaige.com. He’s been a professional writer involved in sports media for many years, is a successful businessman, and a published fiction author. He’s a great hitter and horrifying fielder, hard nosed but soft headed, eats too much and picks up the check wayyyyy too little. He’s based in parts unknown and most people think he should stay there..