FAQ: Colorado Rockies

FAQ: Colorado Rockies

Now that the Colorado Rockies are going to the World Series, only a question or two dozen remain about who they are and how they got here.

To fill in the blanks, just the FAQs:

A month ago, I wasn't even paying attention to the National League West east of the Colorado River. Where did the Rockies come from?

Did that torrid drive take the starch out of them, empty their emotional tank?

Has that ever happened before?

So the Rockies are the first team in Major League history to go 7-0 in the postseason?

If I've got my math right, that's 21 wins in 22 games. Has there ever been such a streak in Major League Baseball?

Is five-time All-Star Todd Helton, the Rockies' only household name, still their top player?

Anyone else I should know about?

Tulo-what-itzki?

With all that talent, why did it take the Rockies so long to make a move?

Does the pitching staff have an ace, the kind of undisputed No. 1 that is needed to set the tone?

So the Rockies are totally dependent on Francis and the rest of their rotation?

Have the Rockies appeared in the postseason before?

Making the playoffs in only their third season is pretty impressive, but how had the franchise fared since?

Did they gradually improve to this level?

So all they needed was a manager who could make a difference? This Clint Hurdle guy came in to turn them into winners?

OK, so the Rockies didn't have much team history. How about individual achievements?

What is most refreshing about having a team like the Rockies in the World Series?

And to make it as a Wild Card, that has to be pretty unusual, no?


 
A month ago, I wasn't even paying attention to the National League West east of the Colorado River. Where did the Rockies come from?
From virtually nowhere, with one of the great stretch-drive runs in Major League history. Beginning on Sept. 16, when they were in fourth place in both the division and NL Wild Card standings, the Rockies won 13 of their last 14 regular-season games to force a one-game playoff with the San Diego Padres. They won that game, 9-8, by scoring three runs in the bottom of the 13th inning.

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Did that torrid drive take the starch out of them, empty their emotional tank?
Hardly. The Rockies swept Philadephia in the NL Division Series, and did the same to Arizona in the NL Championship Series.
 
Has that ever happened before?
No. Since the introduction of the best-of-five Division Series following the 1995 season, no team in either league has swept both series to qualify for the World Series.
 
So the Rockies are the first team in Major League history to go 7-0 in the postseason?
No. In 1976, the Cincinnati Reds swept the then-five-game NLCS from the Phillies and also swept the World Series from the New York Yankees for a 7-0 postseason. But when the World Series begins next week, the Rockies will have the opportunity to become the first team to start 8-0 in the postseason.
 
If I've got my math right, that's 21 wins in 22 games. Has there ever been such a streak in Major League Baseball?
Not at this time of the year. The 1935 Cubs won 21 straight and 23 of 24, and the 2002 Oakland A's won 20 straight and also 23 of 24. But sustaining such a streak through the postseason is something else. Closest to the Rockies' accomplishment were the 1960 Yankees, who closed out the regular season with 15 straight wins and 19 of 21 -- but they then dropped Game 1, and eventually the World Series itself, to the Pirates.
 
Is five-time All-Star Todd Helton, the Rockies' only household name, still their top player?
Helton contributed mightily to his first postseason team, hitting .320 with 17 homers and 91 RBIs, but the Rockies' big gun is Matt Holliday. Holliday is a prime MVP candidate after leading the league with a .340 average and 136 RBIs, while also hitting 36 homers.
 
Anyone else I should know about?
This is a very deep team. Third baseman Garrett Atkins and right fielder Brad Hawpe also drove in 100-plus runs. And Troy Tulowitzki just missed, with 99.
 
Tulo-what-itzki?
You better remember that name. He is the rookie shortstop who just turned 23, a 6-foot-3 guy who fields even better than he hits. Cal Ripken Jr. says he does everything as well as he did and one thing even better -- throw on the run. The Hall of Famer is right; Tulowitzki makes off-balance throws better and stronger than anyone in memory.
 
With all that talent, why did it take the Rockies so long to make a move?
Through mid-September, the Colorado staff had an ERA of 4.45. Since Sept. 16, that figure is 2.80. It always comes down to pitching, and the Rockies have received huge contributions from a pair of youngsters added late to the mix, 23-year-old Ubaldo Jimenez and 21-year-old Franklin Morales.
 
Does the pitching staff have an ace, the kind of undisputed No. 1 that is needed to set the tone?
Yes, and he is left-hander Jeff Francis, who tied the club record with his 17 wins, then won the opening games of both the Division Series and the Championship Series.
 
So the Rockies are totally dependent on Francis and the rest of their rotation?
Not exactly. They have a one-for-all, all-for-one staff. In fact, during their current phenomenal run, 10 different pitchers have contributed wins to that ongoing 21-1 run.
 
Have the Rockies appeared in the postseason before?
Once, in 1995, actually the first year of the Division Series. In only their third season of existence, they qualified as the NL Wild Card team, but lost the Division Series in four games to the eventual World Series champion Atlanta Braves.
 
Making the playoffs in only their third season is pretty impressive, but how had the franchise fared since?
Not too well. This season has been a real breakthrough. In fact, the Rockies had never won more than 83 games until this season, when they tied for the NL high with 90 victories.
 
Did they gradually improve to this level?
Not quite. This has been a case of pure sudden impact. Colorado had finished with a losing record in each of the last six seasons.
 
So all they needed was a manager who could make a difference? This Clint Hurdle guy came in to turn them into winners?
Yes, but hardly instantly. Hurdle has managed the Rockies since early in the 2002 season, when he replaced Buddy Bell. But Hurdle began this season a cumulative 84 games under .500 as Rockies manager.
 
OK, so the Rockies didn't have much team history. How about individual achievements?
Plenty. But all of it on the offensive side, due to, and enhancing, Colorado's reputation as a thin-air hitters' haven. In their 15 seasons, the Rockies have had six batting champs (Andres Galarraga in 1993, Larry Walker in 1998-99 and 2001, Helton in 2000, and Holliday in 2007), three home-run kings (Dante Bichette in 1995, Galarraga in 1996 and Walker in 1997) and seven RBI champs (Bichette in 1995, Galarraga in 1996-97, Helton in 2000, Preston Wilson in 2003, Vinny Castilla in 2004 and Holliday in 2007).
 
What is most refreshing about having a team like the Rockies in the World Series?
They continue the Fall Classic's rank as the most democratic, most accessible ultimate event in any sport. Colorado, in fact, is the ninth different NL team in the World Series in 10 years, a stretch during which only the 2004 and '06 St. Louis Cardinals repeated. Including the AL, 15 different teams have appeared in the last 10 World Series.
 
And to make it as a Wild Card, that has to be pretty unusual, no?
On the contrary, the 13 World Series since Commissioner Bud Selig introduced the element in 1995 have included a total of nine Wild Card entries. Each of the last six Classics have included a Wild Card team, sometimes two (2002, Angels vs. Giants).

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.