The Colorado Rockies are a Major League Baseball team based in Denver, Colorado. Established in 1993, the Rockies play in the West Division of the National League. The team is named after the Rocky Mountains, which pass through Colorado, just west of Denver. The Rockies play their home games at Coors Field in downtown Denver.
The Rockies joined the National League in 1993, along with the Southern Florida franchise, the Florida Marlins. The Rockies' first pick in the expansion draft was pitcher David Nied from the Atlanta Braves organization. Nied pitched 4 seasons for the Rockies.
As is the case with many expansion teams, the Rockies struggled in their first year. During one stretch in May, the team went 2-17. The team did not experience its first winning month until September, when they went 17-9. Still, the team finished the season with 67 wins, setting a record for a National League expansion franchise. In addition, despite the losses, the club saw a home attendance of 4,483,350 for the season, setting a Major League record that stands to this day. Rockies first baseman Andrés Galarraga won the batting title after hitting .370 for the season after Manager Don Baylor persuaded Galarraga to change from a standard batting stance into an open one in which he squarely faced the pitcher, allowing him to see incoming pitches properly.
The team is currently controlled by chief executive officer Charlie Monfort (a former executive with his family's beef-exporting firm and also with ConAgra), and his brother Dick Monfort, who both bought out McMorris' stake.
On April 17, 1994, the Rockies beat Montreal 6-5, moving the team's record to 6-5—the first time in franchise history that the club had a winning record. However, that would be the only time during that season that the club would have a record over .500, finishing at 53-64 and in last place in the National League West in the strike-shortened season. Despite the club's poor record, several Rockies hitters gained notoriety for their exploits at the plate, assisted by the thin and dry air of Denver, which allows balls to carry farther than they would at sea-level ballparks. Andres Galarraga, a year after winning the batting title, hit 31 homers, and teammate Dante Bichette hit 27; projected over a 162-game season, the two would have hit 43 and 37 homers, respectively. The park's characteristics did not affect just home runs either: 33-year-old outfielder Mike Kingery, a career .252 hitter who did not play in the majors in 1993, batted .349 in 301 at-bats. The club once again led the majors in attendance, drawing 3,281,511 fans for the season.
A healthy Walker became the first player in club history to win the NL Most Valuable Player award in 1997, batting .366 with 49 homers and 130 RBI. Walker came very close to winning the Triple Crown that year, leading the league in home runs but finishing second to Tony Gwynn in batting average and third in RBI (teammate Galarraga led the league.) Once again, three Rockies (Walker, Galarraga, and Castilla) hit 40 or more homers; Walker also won the first Gold Glove in franchise history. As in 1996, though, the team's pitchers struggled in the high elevation and had a 5.25 ERA, and the Rockies could not improve upon their finish from the previous season.
The Rockies were broken up after the 1997 season when an aging Galarraga signed with the Atlanta Braves as a free agent. His replacement was Todd Helton, who had been the club's first-round draft pick in 1995 out of the University of Tennessee. After a 4-1 start, the club lost its next eight games and struggled to a 77-85 record, finishing only ahead of the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL West. Pitcher Darryl Kile, signed as a free agent in the offseason, struggled in Colorado, going 13-17 with a 5.20 ERA—a far cry from his numbers the prior year as a member of the Houston Astros, when he went 19-7 with a 2.57 ERA. Kile would become one of a long line of free-agent pitchers who struggled after signing with the Rockies. The team's struggles led to the firing of manager Don Baylor, the only manager in franchise history, following the season.
Jim Leyland, a two-time NL Manager of the Year who had won the World Series with the Florida Marlins two years earlier, was expected to bring the Rockies back into contention in 1999. Instead, the Rockies dropped even further, finishing 72-90 and in last place in the West as the Diamondbacks won the division in just their second year of existence. Helton was blossoming into a young developed hitter, batting .320 with 35 homers and 113 RBI; Castilla, Walker, and Bichette also hit more than 30 homers each. Once again, though, the team's pitching was a glaring weakness, as the staff had an ERA of 6.02. Kile, who was being paid over $8 million for the season, struggled mightily, going 8-13 with a 6.61 ERA, and he wound up being traded to the St. Louis Cardinals following the season. Interestingly, Kile would go on to finish fifth in voting for the Cy Young Award the following year, as he had in 1997 (the year before he joined the Rockies), and was later found dead in a Chicago hotel room in 2002. The Leyland era lasted just one year, as a frustrated Leyland retired following the season, not to manage in the majors again until 2006, when he won an AL Pennant with the Detroit Tigers.
On April 4, 1999, the Rockies made history as they played their Opening Day game against the defending National League champion San Diego Padres at Estadio de Beisbol Monterrey in Monterrey, Mexico - marking the first time Major League Baseball opened the regular season outside the United States or Canada. Colorado beat San Diego, 8–2, in front of a crowd of 27,104 people. Only a little over 2 weeks later, the Columbine High School massacre postponed a home game with the Montreal Expos (it was made up as part of a doubleheader in August).
On August 20, 1999, Bob Gebhard, the only general manager in franchise history, announced his resignation. A month later, the Rockies named Dan O'Dowd as his replacement. After hiring Buddy Bell as the club's third manager, O'Dowd proceeded to make a series of offseason deals that would change the face of the franchise. Popular outfielder Dante Bichette was traded to the Cincinnati Reds. Later, he traded Kile to the Cardinals and, in a four-team trade, sent Vinny Castilla to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. With those two deals, Larry Walker remained as the only player from the Blake Street Bombers still with the team. Walker wound up playing in only 87 games in 2000 due to injuries and hit just nine homers, as the Rockies had a completely different look from prior years. Perhaps not surprisingly given the injury to Walker and the trading of two of the team's most popular players, the Rockies finished third in the National League in attendance in 2000, marking the first time in club history that it did not lead the league in attendance.
Despite the major changes made to the team in the offseason, the team wound up with its first winning season since 1997. Helton, in his third full year in the majors, was becoming a bona fide superstar, winning the batting title with a .372 average and also leading the league with 147 RBI while hitting 42 homers. However, he finished just fifth in MVP voting, perhaps because the team finished fourth in the division and also possibly due to bias by voters because he played half of his games in hitter-friendly Coors Field. 2000 also marked the first of five consecutive All-Star Game appearances for Helton. The pitching staff also improved its ERA to 5.26, helping the team to an 82-80 record.
Although previous big-name pitchers, including Bill Swift, Bret Saberhagen, and Darryl Kile, had struggled in Colorado, following the 2000 season O'Dowd made two very splashy signings in the free-agent market, signing Denny Neagle to a five-year contract worth $51 million, followed five days later by signing Mike Hampton to an eight-year, $121 million contract. Two years earlier, Hampton had won 22 games and finished second in voting for the Cy Young Award as a member of the Houston Astros, while Neagle had been a 20-game winner in 1997 for the Atlanta Braves and had won fifteen games in 2000. The two star pitchers were expected by the Rockies to change the team's fortunes.
Instead, the two flopped, much as their predecessors had. Hampton, after a strong first half in 2001, completely fell apart in 2002, going 7-15 with a 6.15 ERA and demanding a trade following the season. Neagle went 19-23 in three years with the Rockies; he was injured in 2003 and never pitched in the majors again before the Rockies released him after the 2004 season. The Rockies went 73-89 in both years that Hampton and Neagle were in Colorado, and the amount of money owed them (the Rockies paid a sizable portion of Hampton's salary even after he was traded to the Atlanta Braves) crippled the team for the next several years.
Under previous general manager Gebhard, the Rockies had largely neglected their farm system and mostly relied on signing veteran free agents from other clubs; this was possible due to the high attendance numbers in the club's first few years of attendance. However, as attendance began to dwindle -- the Rockies fell to just sixth in the National League in attendance in 2002, and ninth in 2003 and 2004 -- the club could no longer afford to build through big-name free agents. In 1999, the Rockies spent their first-round draft pick on Baylor University pitcher Jason Jennings; three years later, Jennings went 16-8 with a 4.52 ERA. In the process, Jennings became the first Rockies player to win the National League Rookie of the Year award.
With Hampton out of town and Neagle injured much of the year, Jennings became the centerpiece of the Rockies' pitching staff in 2003. Despite a fourth straight All-Star season by Helton and 36 homers by outfielder Preston Wilson, the Rockies finished just 74-88. In addition to Jennings, though, young pitchers Shawn Chacon and Aaron Cook showed promise.
In 2004, the Rockies acquired Vinny Castilla, who had been with the club for its inaugural 1993 season, once again, and he hit 35 homers. However, Wilson and Larry Walker spent much of the season on the disabled list, forcing the Rockies to play Matt Holliday, who had been slated to start the season at Triple-A. While the Rockies struggled to a 68-94 record -- the second worst record in club history -- the club's Triple-A affiliate, the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, went 78-65. Declining attendance meant that the club's payroll could no longer support a franchise stocked largely with veterans from other clubs. In addition, Walker, who had been with the team since 1995 and was widely regarded as the best player in team history, was now 37 years old, and injuries prevented him from playing much of the time. Because he could still be useful to a contending team, the Rockies traded him to the St. Louis Cardinals in August for three minor-leaguers.
The trade of Walker set in motion a series of moves that would lead to a complete overhaul of the club's roster. Castilla and Jeromy Burnitz, who led the team with 37 homers in 2004, were allowed to leave as free agents following the season. Catcher Charles Johnson, who had been acquired along with Wilson in the Hampton trade, was traded to the Boston Red Sox. Royce Clayton, the club's starting shortstop in 2004, also was allowed to leave. Along with Holliday, who had performed ably while Wilson and Walker were out, the club promoted Garrett Atkins, Brad Hawpe, Clint Barmes, and J.D. Closser, who spent most of 2004 in Triple-A. Jennings and Chacon combined with Joe Kennedy, Byung-Hyun Kim, and top prospect Jeff Francis to form the team's starting rotation. Other than Helton and Wilson, virtually all of the team's regular players were under the age of 30; the Rockies dubbed this group "Generation-R."
The result of all the moves was a 67-95 record in 2005, which tied for the worst record in franchise history, as the young players -- many of whom had never been everyday players in the majors prior to that season -- struggled. Helton and Wilson -- virtually the only experienced players on the team -- struggled as well; Helton hit just 20 homers, the fewest of his career, and missed the All-Star Game for the first time since 1999 and also went on the disabled list for the first time in his career. Wilson also spent time on the disabled list and, as the Rockies fell out of contention, was traded to the Washington Nationals. After starting the season 15-35, though, the team had some success later in the year, going a respectable 30-28 in August and September as the youngsters became more experienced. However, perhaps because of the trade of Walker and several consecutive losing seasons, the team fell all the way to fourteenth in the National League in attendance; for the first time in team history, the Rockies drew under 2 million fans for the season.
The 2006 season started with some promise; the Rockies were 44-43 in the first half of the season and were in contention in the NL West for much of the season. However, the team faded in the second half and wound up at 76-86, tied for fourth place in the division. Despite this, several of the young players showed promise. Matt Holliday hit 34 homers and was named to the All-Star Game; Garrett Atkins batted .329 and hit 29 homers. In addition, the pitching staff posted a 4.66 ERA -- the best in team history -- and starters Jason Jennings, Aaron Cook, and Jeff Francis had good seasons.
The Rockies trailed the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Arizona Diamondbacks and the San Diego Padres for most of 2007 Major League Baseball season season - however - by August, Colorado showed a steady series of wins, while the Division-leading Dodgers began to struggle.
By September, the Dodgers were eliminated by the Rockies from playoff contention, and the Diamondbacks were expected to clinch the National League West division title. The Padres held a steady lead on the National League wild card spot. The Diamondbacks eventually clinched the NL West division title, but the Rockies shot up with one of the greatest comebacks in baseball history. They were a major-league best 20–8 in September, after trailing 6 games on September 1st. They won their last 14 of 15 games, including 11 in a row, the most of any team in the 2007 season and an all-time franchise record. The only loss during that streak was to the Arizona Diamondbacks, a loss that clinched the Diamondbacks' playoff spot. Their 90-73 regular season mark set a franchise record. They also finished ahead of the Dodgers in the division for the first time in franchise history. Furthermore, Colorado set the single-season MLB record for fielding percentage by one team (.98925). Despite the Rockies record-setting performance, the National League coaches and players didn't vote in any of Colorado's players for the NL Gold Glove award. The two most puzzling omissions were first baseman Todd Helton and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. Both players had a better fielding percentage, more total chances, better zone rating, more putouts, more double plays turned, better range factor and more assists than their counterparts who won the award instead (Chicago Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee and Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins). Helton also had fewer errors (2) than Lee (7), while Tulowitzki had as many errors as Rollins (11), but did so on 834 total chances compared to Rollins' 717.
As a result of the Rockies' remarkable September run, the team finished the regular season tied with the Padres for the National League wild card spot in the playoffs. The two teams played a wild card tie-breaker game at Coors Field on October 1 to determine the wild card. The game lasted 13 innings, and although the Padres got two runs off of a Scott Hairston home run in the top of the 13th inning to break a 6–6 tie, the Rockies came back in the bottom of the 13th by scoring three runs off of closer Trevor Hoffman to win 9–8. Second baseman Kazuo Matsui started off the inning by hitting a double. Tulowitzki followed with a double of his own, thus, allowing Matsui to score. Left fielder Matt Holliday then came up to bat and hit a triple, scoring Tulowitzki. After an intentional walk to Helton, the Padres pitched to utility infielder Jamey Carroll, who then hit a sacrifice fly, allowing Holliday to score from third base. Holliday's winning run came off of a controversial slide in which home plate umpire Tim McClelland called Holliday safe, despite replays being inconclusive as to whether Holliday had actually touched the plate. The Rockies completed the fifth greatest regular season comeback in Major League Baseball history.
With the win, the Rockies made the playoffs for the first time since 1995, and went on to face the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLDS. Colorado won the first game in Philadelphia, 4-2. The Rockies also won the second game in Philadelphia, 10-5, with the help of Kazuo Matsui's 4th inning grand slam. On October 6, 2007, the Rockies completed a three-game sweep of the Phillies by winning 2-1 in Colorado. The three-game sweep was Colorado's first post-season series win in team history. The Rockies went on to play in the NLCS against the Arizona Diamondbacks, who swept their own NLDS against the Chicago Cubs. Colorado won the first two games of the NLCS against the Diamondbacks in Phoenix, then won their third game against the Diamondbacks in Denver on Sunday, October 14th. That pushed the Rockies' combined late-season (September 16 and after) and post-season run to 20 wins and just 1 loss, the single loss coming against Arizona on September 28, 2007 - the 160th game of the regular season. This made Colorado only the third team in the last half-century, and the first in the National League since the 1936 New York Giants, to have a 20-1 stretch at any point of a season. The fourth game of the NLCS was won by the Rockies by a score of 6–4, completing a four-game sweep of Arizona. Holliday was named the NLCS MVP, as he hit .333 with two home runs and four RBIs during the series. The NLCS sweep earned the Rockies their first National League pennant in franchise history. The Rockies became the first team ever to sweep both the division series and league championship series in the same postseason. The club moved to 21–1 over all games played after September 15. The Rockies faced the Boston Red Sox in the 2007 World Series, and were swept in four games; the first game was 13–1, the second game was 2–1, the third game was 10–5, and the fourth and final game was 4–3.
Baseball America named the Colorado Rockies the "Organization of the Year" for their accomplishments during the 2007 season. "We knew they were bringing great talent through their farm system, but we certainly didn't expect it to pay off with big-league success so quickly," said Will Lingo, editor of Baseball America. "They won with homegrown players, have more talent on the way and have maintained stability in their front office, so they had pretty much everything we look for in an organization."
The Colorado Rockies began the 2008 season after few offseason changes from the National League champion squad of 2007. Major losses were all to free agency (second baseman Kaz Matsui went to the Houston Astros and pitcher Josh Fogg went to the Cincinnati Reds). The Rockies season was scheduled to begin on March 31 against the St. Louis Cardinals at St. Louis, however, the game was rescheduled to the next day because of foul weather. Colorado began the season on a high note, winning their opener on April 1, in a 2-1 comeback victory over the Cardinals.
On April 17, 2008, Colorado beat the San Diego Padres, 2–1, in a 22-inning road game that spanned 6 hours and 16 minutes. It was the longest game in Rockies history, in terms of both total innings and total length of time. 659 total pitches were thrown in the game by 15 different pitchers (eight Rockies pitchers and seven Padres pitchers). The 22-inning affair was the longest since August 31, 1993, when the Minnesota Twins, at home, defeated the Cleveland Indians, 5-4, in 22 innings.
The article sparked controversy, including criticism in a column from The Nation, which stated:
Soon after the USA Today article appeared, The Denver Post published an article featuring many Rockies players contesting the claims made in the USA Today article. Former Rockies pitcher Jason Jennings said:
An official release from the baseball organization claimed that they were the victims of a denial of service attack. These claims, however, were unsubstantiated and neither the Rockies nor Paciolan have sought investigation into the matter. The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation started its own investigation into the claims. Ticket sales resumed the next day, with all three home games selling out within two and a half hours.
As a result of the decision to sell tickets solely online, local fans of the Rockies were placed at a disadvantage, forced to compete with ticket brokers and ticket scalpers from around the world. Also at a disadvantage were the disabled and those unable to access or afford an internet connection. It is widely accepted that agents and scalpers purchased a majority of the tickets made available to the general public. Within an hour of tickets selling out, the average price had inflated to over five times face value, and by the next day, soared to over 100 times face value.
|National League West Division|
|1995||77||67||.535||1||2||3,390,037||47,083||Lost NLDS (1-3) Braves|
|2007||90||73||.552||0.5||2||2,376,250||28,978|| Won NLDS (3-0) Phillies|
Won NLCS (4-0) Diamondbacks
Lost World Series (0-4) Red Sox
|National League Champions|
| Preceded by:|
St. Louis Cardinals
|2007|| Succeeded by:|
|National League Wild Card Winners|
| Preceded by:|
|1995|| Succeeded by:|
Los Angeles Dodgers
| Preceded by:|
Los Angeles Dodgers
|2007|| Succeeded by:|