Here, now, are the numbers that matter.
75. That’s how many games the Rockies have remaining on their schedule. Of those 75 games, 37 of them will be played at Coors Field, while 38 of them will be played on the road.
39. That’s how many games remain against NL West opponents. 17 of those are at home, and 22 of them are on the road.
10. That’s how many games the Rox have left to play against the Los Angeles Dodgers, currently in second place in the West. Seven of those are at Dodger Stadium, a place that has given the Rox nothing but trouble in their history. It’s also the number of games that the Rox will play against the current division leaders, the San Diego Padres. Seven of their games against the Friars will be at the corner of 20th and Blake.
13. That’s how many games the Rockies will play against teams with winning records outside of their division. That’s four at Cincinnati to start the second half, three at home with St. Louis starting July 24, and six with the Mets, three at Shea Stadium starting August 18 and three at Coors starting August 29. The rest of the 36 games the Rockies play outside their division are against teams with losing records – Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, the Cubs, Washington, and Atlanta.
3.5. That’s the current deficit that the Rockies face in the Western Division. It’s not insurmountable by any measure, especially given what has proven to be the unpredictable nature of the divisional standings.
1.5. That’s how far behind the Rockies are in the Wild Card hunt, trailing the Dodgers. With only four teams not leading their divisions having winning records (LA, COL, CIN, SF), the Wild Card race is wide open and might provide the Rockies with an opening if either LA or San Diego starts getting red hot and pulling away from the Western pack in August. (However, I see one of either Milwaukee, Houston, or Atlanta catching fire and taking this extra playoff slot.)
87. That’s how many wins that I believe the NL West winner will have at the end of the season. Seems like a fair enough number. And that brings us to our last number…
43. That’s how many wins I figure the Rockies will need to win the NL West. That would entail the Rox playing at a 43-32 clip - .573% baseball – down the stretch, which would easily be their best finishing stretch ever. It would also give the Rox their most wins ever in a season.
With all due respect to the Wild Card… f*** the Wild Card. We’ve been there before. It was nice, it was a novelty, but there’s a reason you don’t see a “Wild Card Champions” banner flying at Coors Field (at least, you don’t anymore) – it just isn’t anything to celebrate in the long term. And with all respect to the future – and plenty is due – why wait, when the opportunity to win one with the horses you’ve already got is staring you in the face?
Maybe the Rox will tank. Maybe the bullpen slump becomes prolonged, and the starting pitching wilts, and the positions of shortstop, center field, and catcher continue to be ciphers offensively.
But maybe they won’t. Maybe they’ll play lights out. Maybe tonight’s solid performance in the All-Star Game by Brian Fuentes will shake him out of his funk, and the rest of the bullpen will follow suit. Maybe there’s a little life in Cory Sullivan and Yorvit Torrealba’s bats, after all (I’ve given up on Clint Barmes). Maybe Jason Jennings and Josh Fogg are for real.
Those are the maybe’s that we hang on to. For tomorrow will be the last day that the standings don’t move until they are done moving for good, and if we can’t dream a little bit while standing still, how can we ever dream when the race has begun and is threatening to leave us behind?
We know this Rockies team is better than any we’ve seen in quite a long time. And we as fans see the window of opportunity that a weak National League and a dead-even division have given this team to do something special. The best part of what is otherwise the worst day on the MLB schedule – the day after the All-Star Game – is that it gives all of the teams an opportunity to start anew at the same time. The Rox won’t drop further behind San Diego or LA tomorrow, nor will they gain ground on the teams below them, San Francisco and Arizona. Starting Thursday, it’s a race to the finish line, and the head start that the Rockies’ rivals have been given isn’t large enough to make anyone believe that catching them is impossible.
Will the Rockies win the West? Will they take the Wild Card? Will they take their vacation starting on October 2, the day after the regular season ends? We’ll know in 75 games. In the meantime, we’ll hang on every pitch, every play, and every last day of this season. Maybe this is the year, and maybe it isn't, but it's a hell of a lot more fun to be optimistic.
Seventy-five games left until the finish line for the Rockies. I’m in.