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Rockies

True story: I was in some poor seats at Candlestick, and the Rockies and the Giants were playing a meaningful series right around the All-Star Break. Really. True story. It was one of the best examples for the corollary to the "Giants are always awful in Coors"-theory, which is "The Rockies ain't much better in San Francisco." A three-game sweep put the Rockies in a funk from which they never escaped.

The away-lag and home-advantage of the Rockies has been the most underrated curse in the game. "The Curse of Less Oxygen." "The Curse of Making the World Sit Through Innumerable Four Hour, 13-10 Games." "The Curse of Stealing Duane Kuiper Away, Even If Just For One Season." Whatever. The unknown quantity of the Denver air held enough surprise to lead the Rockies to one playoff appearance with a fair team, but it was the first and last postseason trip. The extreme homefield advantage of the early years was partially reminiscent of the Giants in the first year of Pac Bell. No one was quite sure how to align their outfield at first, the Giants figured it out after about 20 games, and for the rest of the season the park played neutral for the Giants and like the Astrodome for the opposition. Another advantage the Giants had that season was the river of anabolic steroids flowing through the clubhouse.

After trying the Billion-Dollar Pitcher Experiment, the Draft Exclusively Sinker Pitchers Experiment, and Jeff Cirillo, the Rockies finally settled on the humidor. As long as there aren't any shenanigans with different balls being sent out for the tops and bottoms of innings, I'm in love with the humidor. Coors Field will never be perfect -- the outfield will always allow too many bloops and gappers for my taste -- but the games are watchable now. That's the good news. The bad news is that the Rockies are in the beginning stages of another experiment: the Maybe If We Have a Bunch of Good Players, Our Record Will Improve Experiment. It's hard to be a fan of that one.

The offense is almost there. Todd Helton might be declining, but he could still out hit every Giants first baseman of the past decade right-handed. Garrett Atkins is already good, Troy Tulowitzki is expected to make the Bobby Crosby quick-jump to the majors, and Matt Holliday and Brad Hawpe are a very nice outfield combination. If the Rockies can get anything from Chris Iannetta -- whom I am guaranteed to pick five rounds too early in any fantasy draft, just as I did with Ben Petrick for about seventeen years -- they could lead the National League in runs scored with some home-field help.

Their starting pitching isn't as exciting. Jeff Francis is, but that's it. Rodrigo Lopez in Coors? The rehabbin' 'n' nibblin' ways of Brian Lawrence in Coors? Trading Jason Jennings for Jason Hirsh was a brilliant gamble for the long-term, but the odds of Hirsh stepping into a Colorado rotation and being as effective as Jennings right away are slim. The offense is promising, but it isn't Yankee-promising where the deep flaws of a rotation can almost be entirely ignored.

The Rockies also have some interesting arms in the bullpen, and some hard-throwing youngster from deep in their system could surprise the league. Some of the veteran arms could come through as well.

I'm expecting the Rockies to come in last, but wouldn't be stunned if they contended.

Colorado
Lineup rank in the NL West: 4th
Rotation rank in the NL West: 5th
Bullpen rank in the NL West: No idea