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The Decline and Fall of the Rockies

August 24, 2009. Look at the box score. Looooooook at it. That was the Ryan Spilborghs game. It was one of the signature wins* for a team that went 45-29 in the second half and charged into the playoffs.

July 8, 2010. Ubaldo Jimenez pitched eight innings against the Cardinals at Coors, allowing just one run. His record moved to 15-1. I knew that pitcher win-loss records are useless … but, man, 15-1. That's still impressive. Jimenez started the All-Star Game for the National League. The Rockies were 47-38 at the break, three games behind the Padres and leading the Wild Card race.

That was the Golden Era of hating the stupid Rockies. In between those bookends, both the Giants and Rockies were contending at the same time. And the Rockies were stupid. And I hated them. You hated them, too. They hated us. Hate hate hate. Nothing will ever replace a Giants/Dodgers rivalry, but I never thought anything would come that close, either.

After the All-Star Break in 2010, the Rockies went 36-41. No matter, as they were still a critical darling heading into 2011, with several pundits predicting they were going to win the division, if not the World Series. Never forget. The Rockies started the season 17-8, but went 56-81 after that. They were possibly the most disappointing team in baseball.

This season has … well, not much has gone their way. They've had injuries and disappointing years from several players. They're in the middle of a wacky four-man-rotation experiment, and they don't have a starting pitcher with more than 100 innings pitched on their roster. Their closest starting pitcher to 100 innings is Jeff Francis, which is interesting because what in the hell Jeff Francis is still pitching? And for the Rockies? That's almost like a Ryan Vogelsong story, except for all the parts that are different.

With this slide -- 165-213 (.437 winning percentage) -- since the 2010 All-Star Break, the Rockies hatred is waning. The Spilborghs game is almost cute in retrospect. The history just wasn't there between the two teams to sustain the coals of hate when one team wasn't any good. I can't even work up anything but mild loathing when I look at this guy:

And when you read the series preview over at Purple Row, it opens with resigned sadness and lowered expectations. Hey, that used to be my routine when the Giants went into Coors! What in the hell happened here?

It's true, though. Did you know the Giants are 9-1 in their last 10 games at Coors? Probably. Because you watched those games, and they were awesome. My personal favorite part was all that winning. But it still seems weird. The Rockies, though, aren't winning at home anymore. That started right around the time MLB independently monitored the humidor. I'm not saying. I'm just saying. What? What? It was an innocent sentence! I'm not saying! Plus, the Purple Row preview said it first!

Hoo, this is getting rambly. Back to the original point: Between August 4, 2009 and July 8, 2010, Giants/Rockies games were fun. Horrifying. Frustrating at times. But fun in that peek-through-your-hands-covering-your-face kind of way. They were fun like a good horror flick. Got the endorphins flowing and the heart racing.

I miss that. The Rockies made for good rivals. More than the Diamondbacks, and more than the Padres, I want the Rockies to be just good enough to stay in the race, but just bad enough to finish behind the Giants every single season.

For the rest of this season, they should keep losing, of course. Except for the last three days of September, they can just lose and lose and lose. And if Coors Field could hold off and not be a haunted burial ground for the next three days, that'd be swell, too. But when it comes to the future … I kind of miss the good Rockies. They have all sorts of young pitching to figure out, a couple of franchise players in Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, and some really good position-player prospects, so they might be back sooner than their record indicates this season.

And, the obvious disclaimer: Of course the Rockies could still put a whoopin' on the Giants in Coors Field this series. I don't care if they're on pace to lose 130 games, Coors Field will always scare the jeepers out of me. I don't want this to seem like a "Look at the poor, ineffectual Rockies!" post. Because if you aren't scared of the Rockies in Coors Field, you're new to baseball.

As long as the Rockies never get that good, I'm all for them being good. This stretch hasn't been a lot of fun for anyone to watch. Except for the Giants and their fans. Because, lol. Still, I miss the burgeoning rivalry.

* The Spilborghs game was also the last game that Adam Eaton pitched in the majors. Eaton went out a winner. And by "winner", I mean that he gave up a two-run Eugenio Velez triple and a walk to Eli Whiteside in the last inning he ever pitched. Baseball doesn't usually send career-counseling messages that easy to interpret, but it sure did that time.