In honor of the Platte Canyon High School Yacht Club’s triumphant trip to the West Coast, let’s take a look at the Rockies and how their ship is currently holding up down on Blake Street.
The ship seems to have steadied somewhat in recent weeks, and the Rockies have settled into second place behind the Dodgers and maintained a better than .500 mark well into June with an overall mark of 33-31.
If the playoffs started today, the Rockies would probably be left out of the postseason picture. But thankfully, they haven’t even started the “dog days” of summer in earnest, and the team is back in the hunt after nearly sinking in the season’s early stages.
Hampered by starting pitching that appeared hopelessly out of sorts throughout April and May, the Rockies plummeted almost to the very bottom of the National League West Division. None too soon, though, the starting rotation finally seems to have charted a more familiar, more successful course lately. A 9-1 stretch to kick off June serves as testament to that. As of Monday, the Rockies had won 12 of there last 16 games.
Skipper Bud Black, who has made a name for himself as a brilliant manager of pitchers and pitching rotations, was pelted by a raging storm of criticism that lasted the entirety of two months. But quietly, calmly, Black appears to have weathered the storm and sailed safely through to the other side.
Rockies fans also got what they hope will be a taste of things to come recently when Peter Lambert struck out nine and scattered four hits and one walk in seven innings of work against the Cubs. The Rockies garnered a 1-0 victory at famed Wrigley Field, but more importantly, Lambert looked like a future superstar in his MLB pitching debut.
The 22-year-old Californian, whose brother Jimmy Lambert pitches for the White Sox, was selected in the second round of the 2015 draft with the 44th overall pick. Lambert’s nine strikeouts set a franchise record for strikeouts by a pitcher appearing in his Rockies major league debut.
The normally savvy Cubs offense offered little to counter the masterful mix of off-speed breaking pitches Lambert threw at them through seven complete innings, and a solid bet is that this high-profile prospect is on his way to an exceptional big league career.
Let’s hope Lambert sails the MLB waters with grace and ease for many years to come, and takes the Rockies, and Rockies fans, along for the ride.
Broncos supremely confident
Granted, none of the Broncos are going to say otherwise, but this year’s team has been especially vocal, and boldly optimistic, about the season ahead.
Von Miller says Joe Flacco can throw the ball 80 yards with ease, and that he looks like a potential Super Bowl MVP. Broncos receivers, to a man, are raving about Flacco’s ability to see the field and to capably spread the ball around to a plethora of talented targets.
New head coach Nic Fangio says he expects Von Miller to be significantly better, and publically challenged him to improve his game, under his defensive scheme. Miller, in turn, publically accepted the challenge and says Fangio is the type of coach he’s been waiting for in Denver.
Chris Harris Jr. is signed, and reportedly happy with his new deal. Along with what looks like a far better than average defensive backfield recently revamped through free agency, and hordes of depth at the linebacker position, Harris and the rest of this group do have the looks of a top five or better defense. A number of defensive players have gone on record saying that they expect to return that unit to “elite status” under Fangio.
With Fangio’s three decades of experience in building and coordinating defenses, that side of the ball could and should be a blast to watch. The emphasis will be back on defense under Fangio, and that just might be our ultimate ticket back to respectability and beyond.
Finally, athleticism and speed were desperately needed on the offensive side of the ball just two short years ago. Under the radar, with exceptional draft picks combined with free agency, John Elway and staff have apparently provided the goods. Four of this year’s six draft picks were devoted to the offensive side of the ball.
Flacco is obviously under center, with Phillip Lindsay being the featured running back. Emmanuel Sanders, Courtland Sutton, new first round pick Noah Fant and second-year receiver DaeSean Hamilton round out a legitimately explosive receiving core. New right guard Dalton Risner should start and excel immediately to bolster an offensive line that made amazing strides and graded out pretty well last season.
Sounds pretty good, don’t you think?
This is where I would normally insert a joke about how every team gets to be a Super Bowl contender, or at least a pretender, before the season starts. Optimism is easy until actually boarding a jet some time in mid-December to face Kansas City or San Diego, right?
With all that being said, however, I’m more inclined to slurp down the orange Kool-aid for the moment. I predicted a nine-win season a week ago on these same pages, and by golly I’m sticking with it. There are just too many indicators that this team is ripe for a turnaround season not to be overtly encouraged.
As a rule, rosters don’t lie. Either you have the talent and depth to survive a 16-game gauntlet, or you don’t. Either you have the horses to hang tough amongst a brutal cast of AFC West companions, or you will be embarrassingly outclassed, easily defeated and unceremoniously eliminated, much as the Broncos have been during each of the past two seasons.
But as I glance through the names and credentials on the 2020 Denver Broncos roster, I see a team that should be pretty darn competitive even by AFC West standards. On paper, at least, this team looks sufficiently loaded for bear on both sides of the ball.
In all likelihood, Kansas City and San Diego will be top-tier teams again. The Chiefs, especially, look like certain Super Bowl contenders and appear poised for a dynastic type of run.
But even so, the giants all around us look a little less scary now that we have considerably more talent and a defensive genius at the helm. Count me in as the rosy, optimistic cool-aid drinking type – at least for now.