The Colorado Rockies find themselves in a three-team National League West Pennant Race with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers. This is how baseball reaches peak excitement.
We’re coming up on three straight months of good baseball in Colorado—all in the first half of the season. As the summer heat scorches the rising number of fans heading to Coors Field, we’re gearing up for an extended summer of Rockies baseball. Even better, the Rockies are finally finding out what makes regular season baseball great.
I had an idea of how fun a consistently good baseball team could be as a fan. When you root for the Rockies for two and a half decades it’s just a theory. Now, it’s taking shape. Through almost three months, it’s been more fun than I could have imagined. While the rest of the league is struggling with high home run/strike out numbers, the Rockies are thriving on situational hitting and fielding.
When you go to the ballpark every night and have a chance to win, it makes every game worth following. While part of me that wishes the Rockies could be in the Houston Astro’s position—in first place by a dozen games—the Rockies find themselves in the most exciting division in baseball. Three teams with great records are battling for the National League West crown.
Major League Baseball killed the pennant race in 1995 when they expanded from two divisions to three in each league and added the wild card, doubling the number of playoff teams from four to eight. If the initial wild card rules from 1995-2011 were in place today, the Rockies, Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks would be battling to secure two playoff spots. The Division winner and Wild Card team both advanced to the playoffs.
A second wild card spot in each league was added in 2012. Now, with the two-team play-in game for the wild card spot, only the division winner qualifies for an automatic playoff berth. What’s at stake for the Rockies as they try to win the division? Not having to win a single game against Clayton Kershaw or Zach Greinke (which is more threatening if the game is in Arizona).
Greater than just the race to not play in that wild card game is how this fits into the lore of baseball. From the inception of Major League Baseball until 1969, only the first place team in each league won the pennant and played in the World Series. From 1969-1993, the eastern and western division champions played in the playoffs for the right to go to the World Series. The pennant race used to be one of the highlights of the summer in cities with pennant-contending teams.
Great moments in pennant history included, in 1951, The Shot Heard ‘Round The World, also known as “The Giants Win the Pennant.” There was the 1967 four-team American League race won by the Red Sox. In 1949, both the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Yankees captured the pennant on the last day of the season. Check out this old Page 2 article for more info.
Based on the current standings, we could see a summer full of great moments between the Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Rockies. None of the teams currently show significant signs of weakness. If all three make it to September with similar records, it will be a race to remember.
The Rockies have never won the National League West division title—they’ve never even played well for a complete season. In 1995 they won the wild card with a shortened season record of 77-67. In 2007 and 2009 it took late season surges for them to make the playoffs. In 2010, they fell apart in September. This race means something to a city that hasn’t seen a playoff game since the Broncos February 2015 Super Bowl win.
In thinking of past good Rockies seasons, each had historic games. Arenado’s Father’s Day home run—cycle inducing, game-winning, blood-stained—is one of those games. It elevated the Rockies to national attention for the first time this season. It showed the Rockies toughness in winning a game after a blown save in the ninth inning. It reignited that old flame in Rockies fan. Some say that Denver became a baseball town in recent weeks, but those with a good memory remember the buzz of excitement of the 2009-10 summers. Coors Field has felt this way before—it’s a great feeling.
While the Dodgers may have the money talent and the Diamondbacks may have the World Series pedigree—the Rockies have the team to root for in this pennant race. They have a battalion of rookie pitchers. They have redeemed players in Greg Holland and Mark Reynolds. They have Blackmon’s beard and leadoff style. They have Arenado.
The Rockies are the underdog. They’re the feel good story of baseball—a team in a park meant for hitting that’s learning how to pitch. They’re ready to fight for that pennant to fly at Coors Field—or maybe they can paint one on the scoreboard.
This Post originally appeared on 5280 Sports Network, now a part of Mile High Sports