Where It All Began

April 2nd seems like so long ago. We had so many hopes and dreams for the 2007 season. There I was in Denver Colorado eagerly awaiting what I hoped would be an exciting beginning to a 162 season. The core players for the Arizona Diamondbacks were young and inexperienced. I was hoping that this season would give them the opportunity to learn what the Major League game was like so that they could parlay that into a serious play-off run in 2008. The Colorado Rockies were in a very similar situation. They too had a fairly young ball club and were also hoping to gain some experience that they could use to build upon next year. I remember watching both teams warm up at Coors Field. None of these young kids seemed to be overwhelmed at the thought of starting on Opening Day. I was just in the stands and I was nervous so I was impressed to see that at least outwardly these players had somehow overcome their anxiety as they prepared for work. One hundred sixty-two baseball games is a very long time so this game marked the beginning of what many refer to as a marathon. No one could anticipate how this race would unfold. No one knew how either one of these participants would react to a race this long. There are so many things that can get in the way of success. Injuries can occur to key components. Trades can be made both good and bad that will change the outcome. Players can fail to adapt putting themselves in a difficult situation from which they cannot recover. There are just too many variables to accurately predict the outcome of a race that lasts six months. This year though in what looks like a genius scheduling move the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies return to the place where the season started bringing the 2007 regular season full circle.

I am not sure anyone could have anticipated the importance these last three games would have when these teams met April 2 – 4. At the all-star break if someone would have asked me what I would expect during the final road trip to Colorado I probably would have said that I expected Bob Melvin to be playing several of his youngsters at various locations to see what resources he had for 2008 and where the Diamondbacks front office may need to look to bolster the team into contention next season. I probably would have expressed confidence that the team would ultimately prevail in their youth movement and lament that we were perhaps a starting pitcher (or two depending on injuries) away from contending. Likewise I would have said the Rockies were in a similar situation where they would be in evaluation mode trying to identify what pieces worked and perhaps showcasing some players that might be available via trade during the off-season. I would have briefly considered that these two teams could meet in 2008 or 2009 with one of them challenging for the wild card before discounting that it is too hard to estimate what might take place one or two years in the future. Ah, how wrong I would have been.

The Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies series that begins at Coors Field in Denver will attempt to condense a 162 game season into a brief 3 game series with the winner taking all. That is not to say that I am discounting the San Diego Padres. They tend to figure prominently into this drama as well. They are in Milwaukee and therefore are “out of sight, out of mind” for this discussion. Everyone in attendance at Coors Field or watching on television will of course have one eye on the out-of-town scoreboard to see how that game progresses but most of their attention will be in Denver. This is because this series has a definite impact on the NL West standings and ultimately on the NL play-offs. Breaking this series down it is really quite simple. If the Diamondbacks win one game in the next three the Rockies are eliminated from contention for the NL West Division crown and the Diamondbacks will have at the least a tie to win the division. If the Diamondbacks can somehow win 2 games in Denver they will be assured a play-off spot no matter what any other team does.

The Colorado Rockies enter the series as the hottest team in baseball. They have won 11 straight games and find themselves 2 games out of first place and 1 game out of the wild card race. If the Rockies can somehow sweep the Diamondbacks they will leapfrog over the Diamondbacks and depending on the outcome of the San Diego and Milwaukee series they could find themselves the National League West champions. It is conceivable that the Diamondbacks who enter this series with the best record in the National League could leave town not making the play-offs.

The game tonight features each team’s ace. The Arizona Diamondbacks send out Brandon Webb who is seeking a career high 18th win. The Rockies are countering with Jeff Francis who likewise is trying to earn his 18th win of the season. Each team is confident going into this game feeling their pitcher is the most dominant and gives their team an advantage. On April 2 the Diamondbacks felt confident with the newly crowned Cy Young award winner Brandon Webb on the mound to face Aaron Cook. Neither of those starting pitchers figured into the decision as the Diamondbacks took advantage of LaTroy Hawkins and the Rockies bullpen to squeak out an 8-6 victory to start the season. Hopefully the outcome will be the same and the Sedona Red gang will come out victorious. April 2, 2007 was the biggest crowd in Coors Field history with 48,169 people in attendance. I somehow think that mark is going to be broken over these next 3 games. Hopefully there will be a few of them cheering and celebrating a Diamondbacks victory.

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