I don’t believe the Colorado Rockies can break our hearts anymore. This team has disappointed its fans for too long to truly break anyone’s heart. If the Rockies lose 100 games this year, we’ll relish those last losses because the Rockies will have turned back into the pumpkin we knew they were. If this team barely misses the playoffs or loses a wildcard game, they’ll have exceeded all expectations.
It seems that even the greatest anguish in sports wouldn’t be disheartening for Rockies fans at this point. The Rockies blowing a lead in Game 7 of the World Series wouldn’t be shattering. The surprise of the previous success would exceed the distress of the late loss. It’s sad to have so little real emotion invested in this team right now—I’m numb.
The lack of emotion for the Rockies is the franchise’s own fault. The Rockies have offered more varieties of hope than they have winning seasons. Each time we begin to get excited as fans of this team, we are disappointed again.
This year, the optimism revolves around a roster with offensive strength that looks as deep as any in the baseball. The team looks like they have a legitimate set of starting pitchers at the top of the lineup. There’s a chance the bullpen won’t be a pigsty. They have an MVP candidate in Nolan Arenado. They have a batting champ in D.J. LeMahieu. The have the Natural in Carlos Gonzalez. They have a beard in Charlie Blackmon. They have a manager whose previous experience was not as a high school manager in Bud Black. There is a lot of potential.
However, we’re talking about a franchise that excels at serving false optimism. For several years, every spring the Rockies peddle some new theory. They even built a new spring training facility to serve as the curtain behind which they hid.
Here’s a brief and non-exhaustive list of Rockies ’promises’ over the past decade. Their owner guaranteed 90 wins. They tried new systems of playing baseball—including the dreaded piggyback system where starting pitchers innings and pitches were unnecessarily limited. They hired unique hitting coaches. They moved their AAA team. They banned all pessimism. They added veterans way past their primes. They added a tooth, a toothbrush and toothpaste to the in-game entertainment at Coors Field. They traded stars for prospects with no track record.
Then there were the marvelous results from the 2007 and 2009 seasons. Those improbable runs fed much of the false optimism that followed. When they couldn’t recapture the magic, they built the Rooftop bar. Now fans have a place to soothe their numbed feelings about this team.
As 104.3 The Fan’s Sandy Clough says about the Rockies, “hope is not a strategy”. Even after watching a much improved team last year, I know this script too well. The only way for the Rockies to lose their baggage is to provide tangible results.
The best part of the Rockies offseason has been a quieter confidence. There have been no big pronouncements from new manager Bud Black or the rest of the Rockies. The most they’ve said is that they think the team can compete.
These understated expectations give them more room to experiment. They won’t fold early when they don’t meet some lofty goal. Their prospects feel more grounded and ready to hold up to the grind. In a 162-game season, fans can’t have their heart in every game, but maybe the Rockies will play the full season with heart.
Of course, I’ve fallen into this trap before. Black could be nothing more than a distraction before another fall during the season. If that’s the case, I won’t be crushed. You can’t expect more than a chance of a good season from the Rockies.
Despite what I’ve said, a good early season may get me hooked again. Even the Rockies breaking my heart, at this point, would be a successful season. They would have finally offered more than hope on the field again.
This post originally appeared on 5280 Sports Network, now a part of Mile High Sports