Could the Colorado Rockies Actually Contend For Their First NL West Title?

Written By Ken Pomponio on 04/06/2022 - Last Updated on April 8, 2022
Rockies Elusive NL West title 040622

Are you ready for some Dinger?

The Colorado Rockies’ 30th season is upon us.

The winter’s labor strife is in the rear-view mirror. And the Rockies open play Friday against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Coors Field.

The weather forecast calls for a sunny afternoon in the mid-60s.

Prize offseason signing Kris Bryant is set to make his debut in purple pinstripes.

Partying will be back in session on Coors’ party deck.

And former Rockies draft pick Russell Wilson* is slated to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. 

Rockies bettors and Colorado’s online sportsbooks are at the ready.

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An underwhelming 29 seasons

But, underneath the requisite Opening Day optimism, not all is sunshine and smiles in LoDo.

Despite glowing annual attendance figures, the Rockies have been one of baseball’s worst teams during their near-three-decade run. The numbers are hard to ignore:

  • Colorado has had nine winning seasons, has made only five playoff appearances and has won just two postseason series (both in 2007) in their 29 seasons of existence.
  • Of the four expansion franchises who have joined the MLB ranks over the last 30 years, three have won the World Series. The Rockies, of course, are the exception.
  • Colorado’s .458 winning percentage over the last decade ranks 28th out of the major leagues’ 30 teams.

More concerning recently has been the franchise’s talent exodus.

Two of Colorado’s top five all-time players in terms of Baseball Reference’s WAR rankings have left in their primes the last two offseasons.

In 2020, All-Star/Gold Glove third baseman Nolan Arenado was “traded” to the St. Louis Cardinals in a widely-panned deal.

Then, this winter, All-Star shortstop Trevor Story bolted for Boston in free agency. 

Jon Gray, a prize third-overall draft pick and seven-year starting pitcher, also departed for greener pastures.

It’s left Rockies fans wondering what’s more important: The franchise’s winning percentage or owner Dick Montfort’s profit margin.

… and still no division crown

One glaring gap in the Rockies’ resume, though, stands out above the rest.

Three decades in, the franchise somehow is still looking for its first division championship.

Colorado has come close, finishing second in the NL West four times. In each of those seasons, the Rockies finished within three games of first place. 

That includes their most-recent runner-up finish in 2018. 

The Rockies and Dodgers finished the ’18 regular season with identical 91-71 records. But L.A. dominated the division tiebreaker game 5-2 at home to capture the sixth of what would become eight straight NL West pennants.

Last season, the Rockies hit the over on their preseason win total by finishing 74-87.

But they still wound up fourth in the West. And, more importantly, a whopping 32.5 games behind the first-place San Francisco Giants.

The Rockies’ division-title drought has them in rare (and sad) company.

Only two other MLB teams — the Miami Marlins and Pittsburgh Pirates — have failed to win a division crown since Colorado joined the National League in 1993.

And among the other major pro sports league franchises which were in existence in ’93, only the NFL’s Cleveland Browns, the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets and the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings, Edmonton Oilers and New York Islanders currently toil alongside the Rockies in the span’s 0-For-Division-Title Club.

Meanwhile, the Centennial State’s other three pro sports franchises — the Broncos, Avalanche and Nuggets — have all won at least five division championships since ’93. That trio has combined for 24 division titles in all during that span, with the Avs poised to add another in the next few weeks.

Rockies are NL West longshots again 

So what are the Rocks’ odds of breaking though and winning the NL West this season?

Glad you asked … but not especially great.

Surveying the numbers at PlayColorado’s three top-rated online sportsbooks, the Rockies’ division-title odds range from (BetMGM Colorado) to  (DraftKings Colorado).

The Dodgers, who finished a game behind the Giants at 106-56 last season, are the prohibitive NL West favorites at around -225. And the L.A. rich got richer this offseason, signing 2020 NL MVP Freddie Freeman.

Interestingly, though, BetMGM spokesman John Ewing tweeted the following Wednesday:

Any way you slice it, the NL West is one of MLB’s best divisions. 

Last season, it featured the two best records in baseball. And this season, three of the six teams with the best NL pennant odds reside out West.

Meanwhile, the Rockies’ odds of winning the NL as of Wednesday were the exact same as winning the division at all three of the above sportsbooks.

Thinking it over, it makes perfect sense.

In fact, you have to like the Rockies’ chances of sneaking into expanded six-team NL playoff field as a wild card and winning the pennant a little better than outperforming the Dodgers, Giants and Padres over the 162-game long haul.

And the former is something Colorado has actually done in its 29 seasons of existence.

An NL West crown, though, appears to be as frustratingly far away as ever.

* Reportedly the same NFL QB Russell Wilson acquired in a trade by the Broncos last month

Photo by AP / Matt York
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Written by
Ken Pomponio

Ken is a fourth-generation Coloradan and career sports journalist with more than 30 years covering the gamut from the preps to the pros. A lifelong Front Range resident and son of 1960s Denver Broncos season-ticket holders, he is a long-time sports betting enthusiast whose insight and passion shine through in his coverage at PlayColorado.

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