Hey, everybody, it's my birthday! Let's all raise a glass of something to 27 action-packed years of Mark. For a baseball fan, you can't pick a better time to have been born than right on the eve of Spring Training games. Each year of your life you can replay the seven ages of man through the drama of the baseball season. Plus (I realized quite early on), my birthdate is close enough to Christmas that I can combine them for megapresents if need be but not so close that it leads to single-gift corner-cutting like that with which my poor sister Ellie (Dec. 19) has to contend.
I was going to write a whole list of things that I want from the Rockies this year, but I realized that I don't want that much, really. I accept that this isn't the year they go for the gusto, and I can't really blame them for making that decision. I'm going to continue to be bitter about the Jason Jennings trade, but my rational self realizes that management was trapped in a corner. Jennings wasn't going to re-sign period and anyone with half a brain and a USA Today sports section knows the market for free agents pitchers is trending through the stratosphere. If you balance risk and reward as do all baseball teams, being businesses, you realize that the team's very tiny shot at a division title or a wild card with Jennings in the fold for his walk year is overwhelmingly outweighed by the negative scenario where the Rockies with Jennings go 82-80 and Colorado uses their compensation picks from Jennings' departure to draft yet still more "signability" guys. I'm savvy to this industry.
So here it is, all I want for my birthday besides the 12-string guitar and Netflix subscription I already got from my folks: one more win. One more win! Last year the target I set for the Rockies was 75 wins and they covered with a tip, winning 76. So this year, I want to see them win 77 games. Am I being too realistic? Isn't part of the fun of a fan the freedom to dream, to hope big hopes, and all that jazz? I think not. When you reduce everything down to a single number, 76 to 77 seems like standing still. But, when you consider the number of positions that Colorado has yet to stabilize going into this season, I think that that one win represents a ton of progress. 77 wins in 2007 would mean that the Rockies somehow found a way to get production out of shortstop, right field, and catcher, most likely in the guises of Troy Tulowitkzi, Jeff Baker, and Chris Iannetta. All of these guys are under team control and cheap for years to come. 77 wins would also mean that the rotation without Jennings' hugely underrated stabilizing presence managed to at least scrape along at league-average or so level. The beachhead that the Rockies established last year towards the cause of a competent rotation is one I would hate to see overran. Jeff Francis and Aaron Cook will be good barring injury. If the Rockies win more this year than they did last year, it'll mean that someone else from their stew of possibles won a starting job and kept it by merit rather than default. It'll mean guys like Ramon Ramirez, Garrett Atkins, and Jamey Carroll consolidated on their good seasons in 2006 and established themselves as bona fide winning players.
77 wins in 2007 mostly would mean that being wildly enthusiastic about 2008 would not be nearly such a stretch. More players will be coming of age, Jason Hirsh will fill our rotation's Jason vacuum, and Matt Holliday will get so excited about the idea of playoff baseball in Denver that he'll re-sign at a ridiculous discount, helped along by a magical accountancy vortex that travels back in time and makes Todd Helton's contract an entirely reasonable one for a still-productive but no longer dominant veteran and clubhouse leader. Dare to hope, Rockies fans!