On April 6 of last year -- opening day for the Colorado Rockies -- I fearlessly predicted that the team would end the 2009 campaign with a meager 72 victories.
Early on, I looked like Nostradamus. But on May 29, after a dismal start, the team belatedly sacked manager Clint Hurdle, handing over the clubhouse keys to bench coach Jim Tracy -- who proceeded to pilot the team to an astonishing 92 wins and a wild-card berth.
Cut to opening day 2010, with the first pitch in today's game between the Rockies and the Milwaukee Brewers slated to get underway in twenty minutes. Which raises the question: Can Tracy do it again, avoiding the disappointment of 2008, when the Rockies underperformed after shocking the baseball world and reaching the previous World Series? In a word, "yes."
There's a reason why so many experts think the Rockies will make a run deep into the 2010 postseason.
The roster is loaded with young players who seem to be coming into their own, including Carlos Gonzalez, Seth Smith, Ryan Spilborghs, Ian Stewart and, yes, Troy Tulowitzki, balanced by still-productive vets such as Todd Helton. They not only provide offense aplenty, but they're among one of the more impressive defensive squads in the MLB.
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Moreover, even without the services of Jeff Francis, who's starting the season on the DL and may not return to his 2007 form for a while, the team's pitching lineup, highlighted by Ubaldo Jimenez, is impressive. If the Colorado hurlers aren't quite as daunting as those in the San Francisco Giants' bullpen, they're skilled enough to keep the Rockies in the vast majority of games. And from there, the bats should do the rest.
Having Tracy in charge from the start should add at least six wins to last year's total, adding up to 98 victories. And if I'm wrong? Like last year, I hope my number will be low.