It’s Royce Clayton’s worst nightmare… who does he root for? With the NLCS looming, it’s important to understand that what we have here are two teams with long, rich histories in the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies. Histories of all-stars, playoff appearances, humidor scandals, desert heat, Rocky Mountain thin air, and even a World Series championship. Combined, the two teams are almost as old as my sister at the ripe old age of 25. Put away your calculators, because I already figured it out for you; that’s 175-years-old in dog years!In Rover’s 175 years, we’ve seen some fantastic baseball out of these two teams. Let’s start with the early success of the Diamondbacks. The first game in Diamondbacks history was played on March 31, 1998 against, who else, but the Colorado Rockies (ah, the foreshadowing…). The Diamondbacks lost that game, moving the all-time Rocks-D’Backs series to 1-0. However, the tides would turn for the rookie Diamondbacks.
After a dismal first season under Buck Showalter, Arizona came back in 1999 to make the playoffs, where they promptly lost in the first round to the New York Mets. Not surprisingly, Clint Hurdle, Rockies manager, played 3 seasons with the Mets in the late 80’s. Now you can’t tell me Bobby V didn’t get Mike Piazza, Robin Ventura and company fired up with the classic, “Win one for Clint!” chant.
After another poor season in 2000, Showalter was given the boot and Bob Brenly took over as manager. Yes, the same Bob Brenly who won the Willie Mac Award, given to a San Francisco Giant who best shows strong leadership abilities every year… the VERY SAME AWARD won by ex-Rockies great Ellis Burks. Believe it folks, I can’t make this stuff up.
Anyway, Brenly found the key to success in 2001 and rode the backs of Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, Luis Gonzalez, Craig Counsell, Tony Womack, and Byung-Hyun Kim (more to come on Womack and BK) all the way to the promise land. They took down the Evil Empire, New York Yankees whose bullpen was coincidently (?) led by potential HOFer, Jay Witasick, who would go on to make 32 magical appearances in half a season for the Rockies in 2005.
The D’Backs went on to a first round elimination in 2002, then followed that by missing the playoffs for the next 5 years. During that time, the great Bob Melvin took over as manager and now gets ready to face off against the Colorado Rockies in this year’s NLCS; the same Rockies of Colorado who have seen their own good times and bad times.
It all started on April 5th, 1993 when the Rockies were born with a loss to the Mets. The Rocks went on to become the best expansion franchise in history, putting up a big 67 wins in their inaugural season on the back of Andres Galarraga and his .370 batting average.
After the strike shortened season in 1994, the Rockies came out swinging in 1995, literally. They made it to the playoffs for the first (and only, until ’07) time on the backs of the Blake Street Bombers, made up of Galarraga, Larry Walker, Dante Bichette, and Vinny Castilla (ex-Tampa Bay Devil Rays star, the team that will forever be linked with the D’Backs as their AL counterpart). Unfortunately, the Bombers bombed in the playoffs and lost to the Braves, who went on to win the World Series over the Cleveland Indians, led by Carlos Baerga (former D’Backs great) and Jose Mesa (former Rockies stud closer). Oh my connections…
Unfortunately, the Rockies have been wretched since that 1995 strip tease. They’ve seen great players like Sandy Alomar Jr., Jeff Cirillo, Darren Bragg, Jeff Frye, Charles Johnson, but perhaps the most intriguing former Rockies are BK Kim and Tony Womack. They both made the improbable leap from one of these bitter rivals to the other. Both were aboard the Diamondbacks’ ship in 2001, but both jumped ship to play for the other side. Daring, career threatening perhaps, but unfortunately neither man hung on long enough to witness the ultimate faceoff that will be the 2007 NLCS.
These are two storied franchises whose histories have intertwined throughout the years, but now we will finally find out the answer to the question we’ve been wondering for years; Rockies or D’Backs? Certainly friends and family of Travis Lee, Vinny Castilla, Matt Williams, Dante Bichette, Luis Gonzalez and Preston Wilson will be gathered around the TV sets, tuned into the action. I can barely contain myself with excitement… imagine how Mike Hampton and Miguel Batista must feel.