UNDER FURTHER REVIEW – Rockies aren’t alone as Spring Training begins

Another baseball season is upon us—the Rockies’ first spring game is Friday.

And while nothing in this column is intended to excuse Rockies ownership for decades of relative mediocrity, a little perspective seems appropriate.

Specifically: The Rockies aren’t the only team that’s never won the World Series.

This may come as a surprise to those disgruntled fans who are influenced by the vocal critics who continually badmouth Colorado’s 31-year-old Major League Baseball franchise for its dearth of success. 

But, Rockies fans, you are not alone. And, in fact, you are not the longest-suffering.

The Never Champions List is down to five now that the Texas Rangers finally won it all last season—in the franchise’s 63rd year. 

 San Diego and Milwaukee head the remaining five.

Those Padres began play in the National League in 1969. That’s 55 years ago, 24 more than the Rockies at this point.

In slightly more than a half-century, the Friars have compiled the EXACT same winning percentage as the Rockies through 31 seasons: .465. 

They’ve lost 100 or more games five times (to Colorado’s one); have had 37 losing seasons (67.2% to the Rockies’ 68.8%); and have made six trips to the postseason, including two lost World Series (compared to Colorado’s five postseasons and one lost Series in just over half as many seasons).

The Brewers also were born in 1969, but as the Seattle Pilots. They moved to the former home of the Braves after one season in the Pacific Northwest.

So, this franchise has been trying to win a World Series as long as the Padres, albeit as two teams and from both leagues at different times. Like the Rockies, the Crew has had one chance—losing in seven games to St. Louis 11 years before the Rockies began play.

The Pilots were replaced by the Mariners in 1977. Although their 116 wins in 2001 broke the American League record set by the 1998 Yankees, the M’s are the only MLB team to never even appear in a World Series. They began with 14 straight losing seasons and have lost 100+ five times.

That leaves Tampa Bay. The Rays, nee Devil Rays, were dismal during their initial decade, finishing last nine of their first 10 seasons. The name change came in 2008, and—voila!—away went the futility. 

The newly named Rays won the American League pennant in 2008 and went to the World Series, losing in five games to the Phillies. They’ve been to the postseason each of the last five seasons, losing their second World Series, 4-2 to the Dodgers, in 2020. 

Of note, given the frequent knocks on the Rockies’ supposedly limited spending: Tampa Bay’s Opening Day payroll has exceeded $83 million only four times and has been less than $50 million in 11 of 26 seasons.

This brings me back to springtime in the desert.

More than any of the perennial also-rans described above, the 2024 Rockies remind me of the Baltimore Orioles.

The Birds last appeared in the World Series 10 years before the Rockies came into existence, when they beat Philadelphia in five games.

Since then, they endured a stretch of 14 losing seasons in a row (’98-’11) and lost 100+ in three straight full seasons (’18-’21). In 1988, they started the season 0-21.

But last season, fortified with several good, young players, Baltimore won 101 games. And the Orioles begin this year among the top World Series contenders, with a potential Rookie of the Year in Jackson Holliday, son of Rockies pennant-year star Matt Holliday.

That doesn’t mean I predict anything close to triple digits in wins for this edition of the Rockies. 

But, Ezekiel Tovar, Nolan Jones and Brenton Doyle are three reasons to think Colorado could be turning the corner, just as Baltimore did. There are others in the pipeline, and two or three of those prospects might be factors sometime this season.

The key, as it always has been and will continue to be in Denver, is pitching. Right now, those prospects are not as obviously promising.

But at least General Manager Bill Schmidt seems to recognize the pitching reality and is attempting to stockpile arms in the hope that a few will pan out.

If you still need a bright side, be thankful this is not Pittsburgh.

Since 1993, the Rockies’ first year, the Pirates have had only three winning seasons.

Denny Dressman is a veteran of 43 years in the newspaper business, including 25 at the Rocky Mountain News, where he began as executive sports editor. He is the author of 16 books, nine of them sports-related. You can write to Denny at dennydressman@comcast.net.