The Colorado Rockies are a Major League Baseball team based in Denver, Colorado. They are in the Western Division of the National League. The team is named after the Rocky Mountains which pass through Colorado. They play their home games at Coors Field.
National League (1993–present)
- West Division (1993–present)
Colorado Rockies (1993–present)
The Rocks, The Rox, Blake Street Bombers, Blake Street Bullies
Coors Field (1995–present)
Mile High Stadium (1993-1994) History
After failed attempts going back as far as the 1880s, by the early 1990s a major league baseball team seemed a possibility in Denver. The Colorado Baseball Commission, led by banking executive Larry Varnell, was successful in getting Denver voters to approve a 0.1 percent sales tax to help finance a new baseball stadium. Also, an advisory committee was formed in 1990 by then-Governor of Colorado Roy Romer to recruit an ownership group. The group selected was led by John Antonucci, an Ohio beverage distributor, and Michael I. Monus, the head of the Phar-Mor drugstore chain. Local and regional companies such as Erie Lake, Hensel Phelps Construction, KOA Radio and the Rocky Mountain News rounded out the group. On July 5, 1991, the National League approved Denver and Miami, Florida as the sites for two expansion teams to begin play in 1993. 
The Rockies joined the National League in 1993, along with the Miami franchise, the Florida Marlins. The Rockies' first pick in the expansion draft was pitcher David Nied from the Atlanta Braves organization. Nied pitched 4 seasons for the Rockies. The team's first home at-bat was a memorable one, as lead off batter Eric Young hit a home run for the Rockies.
Creation of the Rockies
The first game in Rockies history was played on April 5, 1993, against the New York Mets at Shea Stadium. David Nied was the starting pitcher in a game the Rockies lost, 3-0. The franchise's first home game at Mile High Stadium came four days later, an 11-4 win over the Montreal Expos, before more than 80,000 fans, to date the largest crowd to see a Major League Baseball game. This was also the first win in franchise history.
As is the case with many expansion teams, the Rockies struggled in their first year of existence. During one stretch in May, the team went 2-17. The team did not experience its first winning month until September, when they went 17-9. Still, the team finished the season with 67 wins, setting a record for a National League expansion franchise. In addition, despite the losses, the club saw a home attendance of 4,483,350 for the season, setting a Major League record that stands to this day. Rockies first baseman Andrés Galarraga won the batting title after hitting .370 for the season after Manager Don Baylor convinced Galarraga to change from a standard batting stance into an open one in which he squarely faced the pitcher, allowing him to see incoming pitches properly.
On April 17, 1994, the Rockies beat Montreal 6-5, moving the team's record to 6-5 — the first time in franchise history that the club had a winning record. However, that would be the only time during that season that the club would have a record over .500, finishing at 53-64 and in last place in the National League West in the strike-shortened season. Despite the club's poor record, several Rockies hitters gained notoriety for their exploits at the plate, assisted by the thin air of Denver which allows balls to carry farther than they would at sea-level ballparks. Andres Galarraga, a year after winning the batting title, hit 31 homers, and teammate Dante Bichette hit 27; projected over a 162-game season, the two would have hit 43 and 37 homers, respectively. The park's characteristics did not affect just home runs either: 33-year-old outfielder Mike Kingery, a career .252 hitter who did not play in the majors in 1993, batted .349 in 301 at bats. The club once again led the majors in attendance, drawing 3,281,511 fans for the season.
Prior to the 1995 season, the Rockies acquired free agent outfielder Larry Walker, previously of the Montreal Expos. He would form the group known as the "Blake Street Bombers" — named after the street on which new ballpark Coors Field was located — along with Galarraga, Bichette, and third baseman Vinny Castilla, who had played sparingly with the major league club the prior season. The quartet combined to hit 139 homers in the 1995 season, with Bichette leading the way with 40 (45 projected over a 162-game season.) The team debuted in its new ballpark on April 26, 1995, in an 11-9 win over the New York Mets, and proceeded to win seven of their first eight games in the new season. The season ended with a 77-67 record, good for second place in the West division and the club's first (and so far only) playoff appearance as the Wild Card winner. Although much of the attention focused on the power-hitting lineup, much of the club's success was due to a strong bullpen, as relievers Darren Holmes, Curt Leskanic, Steve Reed, and Bruce Ruffin all posted earned run averages below 3.40. The pitching staff's ERA of 4.97 was the lowest in club history until the 2006 team had a 4.66 ERA. The Rockies lost in the NLDS to the Atlanta Braves, 3 games to 1. The Rockies once again led the league in attendance for the season.
In 1996, with all four Blake Street Bombers returning, the Rockies expected to contend, but an injury to Walker hurt the team. Walker played in only 83 games and batted .276 with 18 homers. However, outfielder Ellis Burks picked up the slack with an All-Star season, batting .344 with 40 homers and 128 RBI — one of three Rockies to hit forty or more homers that season, along with Galarraga and Castilla. The team set a major league record by scoring 658 runs at home on the season, and Burks and Bichette became the first pair of teammates since the 1987 New York Mets to both steal 30 bases and hit 30 homers in the same season. However, the pitching staff — a strong point for the team in 1995 — was beset by injuries; Bill Swift, who went 9-3 in 1995, started just three games, and the staff ERA ballooned to 5.60. As a result, the Rockies fell back to third place in the West with an 83-79 record.
A healthy Walker became the first player in club history to win the NL Most Valuable Player award in 1997, batting .366 with 49 homers and 130 RBI. Walker came very close to winning the Triple Crown that year, leading the league in home runs but finishing second to Tony Gwynn in batting average and third in RBI (teammate Galarraga led the league.) Once again, three Rockies (Walker, Galarraga, and Castilla) hit 40 or more homers; Walker also won the first Gold Glove in franchise history. As in 1996, though, the team's pitchers struggled in the high altitude and had a 5.25 ERA, and the Rockies could not improve upon their finish from the previous season.
The mid-1990s and the Blake Street Bombers
The Blake Street Bombers were broken up after the 1997 season when an aging Galarraga signed with the Atlanta Braves as a free agent. His replacement was Todd Helton, who had been the club's first-round draft pick in 1995 out of the University of Tennessee. After a 4-1 start, the club lost its next eight games and struggled to a 77-85 record, finishing only ahead of the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL West. Pitcher Darryl Kile, signed as a free agent in the offseason, struggled in Colorado, going 13-17 with a 5.20 ERA -- a far cry from his numbers the prior year as a member of the Houston Astros, when he went 19-7 with a 2.57 ERA. Kile would become one of a long line of free agent pitchers who struggled after signing with the Rockies. The team's struggles led to the firing of manager Don Baylor, the only manager in franchise history, following the season.
Jim Leyland, a two-time NL Manager of the Year who had won the World Series with the Florida Marlins two years earlier, was expected to bring the Rockies back into contention in 1999. Instead, the Rockies dropped even further, finishing 72-90 and in last place in the West as the Diamondbacks won the division in just their second year of existence. Helton was blossoming into a star, batting .320 with 35 homers and 113 RBI; Castilla, Walker, and Bichette also hit more than 30 homers each. Once again, though, the team's pitching was a glaring weakness, as the staff had an ERA of 6.02. Kile, who was being paid over $8 million for the season, struggled mightily, going 8-13 with a 6.61 ERA, and he wound up being traded to the St. Louis Cardinals following the season. Interestingly, Kile would go on to finish fifth in voting for the Cy Young Award the following year, as he had in 1997 (the year before he joined the Rockies.) Kile's performance before and after joining the Rockies, compared with his performance while with the team, was yet another piece of evidence that the extreme conditions in Colorado made it virtually impossible for a pitcher to succeed with the Rockies. The Leyland era lasted just one year as a frustrated Leyland retired following the season, not to manage in the majors again until 2006.
In 1999, the Rockies made history as they played their Opening Day game against the San Diego Padres in Monterrey, Mexico; this was the first time that an MLB team opened its regular-season schedule outside the United States or Canada.
The beginning of the Helton era
On August 20, 1999, Bob Gebhard, the only general manager in franchise history, announced his resignation. A month later, the Rockies named Dan O'Dowd as his replacement. After hiring Buddy Bell as the club's third manager, O'Dowd proceeded to make a series of offseason deals that would change the face of the franchise. Popular outfielder Dante Bichette was traded to the Cincinnati Reds. Later, he traded Kile to the Cardinals and, in a four-team trade, sent Vinny Castilla to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. With those two deals, Larry Walker remained as the only player from the Blake Street Bombers still with the team. Walker wound up playing in only 87 games in 2000 due to injuries and hit just nine homers, as the Rockies had a completely different look from prior years. Perhaps not surprisingly given the injury to Walker and the trading of two of the team's most popular players, the Rockies finished third in the National League in attendance in 2000, marking the first time in club history that it did not lead the league in attendance.
Despite the major changes made to the team in the offseason, the team wound up with its first winning season since 1997. Helton, in his third full year in the majors, was becoming a bona fide superstar, winning the batting title with a .372 average and also leading the league with 147 RBI while hitting 42 homers. However, he finished just fifth in MVP voting, perhaps due to the fact that the team finished fourth in the division and also possibly due to bias by voters due to the fact that he played half of his games in hitter-friendly Coors Field. 2000 also marked the first of five consecutive All-Star Game appearances for Helton. The pitching staff also improved its ERA to 5.26, helping the team to an 82-80 record.
Although previous big-name pitchers, including Bill Swift, Bret Saberhagen, and Darryl Kile, had struggled in Colorado, following the 2000 season O'Dowd made two very splashy signings in the free-agent market, signing Denny Neagle to a five-year contract worth $51 million, followed five days later by signing Mike Hampton to an eight-year, $121 million contract. Two years earlier, Hampton had won 22 games and finished second in voting for the Cy Young Award as a member of the Houston Astros, while Neagle had been a 20-game winner in 1997 for the Atlanta Braves and had won fifteen games in 2000. The two star pitchers were expected by the Rockies to change the team's fortunes.
Instead, the two flopped, much as their predecessors had. Hampton, after a strong first half in 2001, completely fell apart in 2002, going 7-15 with a 6.15 ERA and demanding a trade following the season. Neagle went 19-23 in three years with the Rockies; he was injured in 2003 and never pitched in the majors again before the Rockies released him after the 2004 season. The Rockies went 73-89 in both years that Hampton and Neagle were in Colorado, and the amount of money owed them (the Rockies paid a sizable portion of Hampton's salary even after he was traded to the Atlanta Braves) crippled the team for the next several years.
Under previous general manager Gebhard, the Rockies had largely neglected their farm system and mostly relied on signing veteran free agents from other clubs; this was possible due to the high attendance numbers in the club's first few years of attendance. However, as attendance began to dwindle -- the Rockies fell to just sixth in the National League in attendance in 2002, and ninth in 2003 and 2004 -- the club could no longer afford to build through big-name free agents. In 1999, the Rockies spent their first-round draft pick on Baylor University pitcher Jason Jennings; three years later, Jennings went 16-8 with a 4.52 ERA. In the process, Jennings became the first Rockies player to win the National League Rookie of the Year award.
With Hampton out of town and Neagle injured much of the year, Jennings became the centerpiece of the Rockies' pitching staff in 2003. Despite a fourth straight All-Star season by Helton and 36 homers by outfielder Preston Wilson, acquired in the Hampton trade, the Rockies finished just 74-88. In addition to Jennings, though, young pitchers Shawn Chacon and Aaron Cook showed promise.
In 2004, the Rockies acquired Vinny Castilla, who had been with the club for its inaugural 1993 season, once again, and he hit 35 homers. However, Wilson and Larry Walker spent much of the season on the disabled list, forcing the Rockies to play Matt Holliday, who had been slated to start the season at Triple-A. While the Rockies struggled to a 68-94 record -- the second worst record in club history -- the club's Triple-A affiliate, the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, went 78-65. Declining attendance meant that the club's payroll could no longer support a franchise stocked largely with veterans from other clubs. In addition, Walker, who had been with the team since 1995 and was widely regarded as the best player in team history, was now 37 years old, and injuries prevented him from playing much of the time. Because he could still be useful to a contending team, the Rockies traded him to the St. Louis Cardinals in August for three minor-leaguers.
The Dan O'Dowd era
The trade of Walker set in motion a series of moves that would lead to a complete overhaul of the club's roster. Castilla and Jeromy Burnitz, who led the team with 37 homers in 2004, were allowed to leave as free agents following the season. Catcher Charles Johnson, who had been acquired along with Wilson in the Hampton trade, was traded to the Boston Red Sox. Royce Clayton, the club's starting shortstop in 2004, also was allowed to leave. Along with Holliday, who had performed ably while Wilson and Walker were out, the club promoted Garrett Atkins, Brad Hawpe, Clint Barmes, and J.D. Closser, who spent most of 2004 in Triple-A. Jennings and Chacon combined with Joe Kennedy, Byung-Hyun Kim, and top prospect Jeff Francis to form the team's starting rotation. Other than Helton and Wilson, virtually all of the team's regular players were under the age of 30; the Rockies dubbed this group "Generation-R."
The result of all the moves was a 67-95 record in 2005, which tied for the worst record in franchise history, as the young players -- many of whom had never been everyday players in the majors prior to that season -- struggled. Helton and Wilson -- virtually the only experienced players on the team -- struggled as well; Helton hit just 20 homers, the fewest of his career, and missed the All-Star Game for the first time since 1999 and also went on the disabled list for the first time in his career. Wilson also spent time on the disabled list and, as the Rockies fell out of contention, was traded to the Washington Nationals. After starting the season 15-35, though, the team had some success later in the year, going a respectable 30-28 in August and September as the youngsters became more experienced. However, perhaps because of the trade of Walker and several consecutive losing seasons, the team fell all the way to fourteenth in the National League in attendance; for the first time in team history, the Rockies drew under 2 million fans for the season.
The 2006 season started with some promise; the Rockies were 44-43 in the first half of the season and were in contention in the NL West for much of the season. However, the team faded in the second half and wound up at 76-86, tied for fourth place in the division. Despite this, several of the young players showed promise. Matt Holliday hit 34 homers and was named to the All-Star Game; Garrett Atkins batted .329 and hit 29 homers. In addition, the pitching staff posted a 4.66 ERA -- the best in team history -- and starters Jason Jennings, Aaron Cook, and Jeff Francis had good seasons.
On July 4, 2007, the Rockies completed a three-game home sweep of the New York Mets, becoming the first team in major league history to sweep the New York Yankees and the New York Mets in the same season. The Rockies had swept the visiting Yankees two weeks earlier, winning all three games at home June 19-21, 2007.
Following the 2006 season, Jennings was traded to the Houston Astros for outfielder Willy Taveras and pitchers Jason Hirsh and Taylor Buchholz; Jennings had been the winningest pitcher in Rockies history. In January 2007, rumors surfaced that the Rockies were going to trade Todd Helton, the face of the franchise since Larry Walker was traded and arguably the best player in team history, but after negotiations with the Boston Red Sox apparently failed, the team decided to keep Helton.
At 5,280 feet above sea level, Denver is by far the highest city with a Major League Baseball team; the second-highest major league city, Phoenix, is just 1,085 feet above sea level. The effects that the altitude plays on baseball games in Colorado are pronounced, and some have argued that Denver's altitude makes it difficult for the Rockies to field a competitive team.
Coors Field has long been regarded as the most hitter-friendly ballpark in the majors. Because of the altitude, fly balls hit there carry farther than they would at a sea-level ballpark, increasing the numbers of home runs. In addition, the dry air in Denver makes it difficult for pitchers to grip the ball properly, and pitches do not break as much as they would elsewhere. Also, in response to the high number of home runs that would be hit at any ballpark in Denver, the Rockies built a spacious outfield at the ballpark in an effort to decrease the number of home runs that would be hit at the park. Coors Field has the deepest outfield fences in the majors; this leads to increased numbers of singles, doubles, and triples. The large amount of ground that the outfielders must cover -- in addition to the thin air -- likely lead to outfielders tiring much more easily than they would at most ballparks.
The effects that this has are obvious. In their fourteen years of existence, the Rockies have never finished lower than fifth in the National League in runs scored, and often lead the league in that category by a wide margin. The flipside is that the team has finished last in the league in ERA ten times, also often by a wide margin. The franchise leader in ERA, Aaron Cook, has a 4.58 career ERA.
Due to the relative ease of hitting at Coors compared to other ballparks, Rockies hitters often have wide discrepancies in their performance on the road as opposed to at home. In his ten-year career, Todd Helton has a .371 batting average at home while hitting just .294 on the road. Larry Walker was at .381 and .283. 105 of Dante Bichette's 146 home runs for Colorado came at Coors Field. Other players often have even more pronounced splits: in 2006, second baseman Jamey Carroll hit .375 at home but .220 on the road. In his 1996 All-Star year, Eric Young hit .412 with 7 home runs, 55 RBIs, and 37 stolen bases at home, while batting .219-1-19 with 16 steals on the road. His performance was typical of the 1996 Rockies, who as a team hit .343 at home, but .228 on the road.
Strangely, Rockies pitchers generally do not have similar splits despite the clear difficulties of pitching at Coors Field, and sometimes even perform worse on the road. In 2006, Aaron Cook had a 3.96 ERA at home while having a 4.62 ERA on the road; fellow starter Jeff Francis had a 4.30 ERA at home and a 4.05 ERA on the road.
Not surprisingly, such discrepancies often lead to large discrepancies in the club's record in home and away games. In 2003, for example, the Rockies won 49 games at home but just 25 on the road, a difference of 24 games.
The effects of altitude on baseball
On June 1, 2006, USA Today reported that Rockies management, including manager Clint Hurdle, had instituted an explicitly Christian code of conduct for the team's players, banning men's magazines (such as Maxim) and sexually explicit music from the team's clubhouse. The newspaper reported:
Behind the scenes, [the Rockies] quietly have become an organization guided by Christianity — open to other religious beliefs but embracing a Christian-based code of conduct they believe will bring them focus and success.
From ownership on down, it's an approach the Rockies are proud of — and something they are wary about publicizing. "We're nervous, to be honest with you," Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd says. "It's the first time we ever talked about these issues publicly. The last thing we want to do is offend anyone because of our beliefs."
The article sparked controversy, including criticism in a column in The Nation by Dave Zirin, which stated:
San Francisco Giants first baseman-outfielder Mark Sweeney, who spent 2003 and 2004 with the Rockies, said, "You wonder if some people are going along with it just to keep their jobs. Look, I pray every day. I have faith. It's always been part of my life. But I don't want something forced on me. Do they really have to check to see whether I have a Playboy in my locker?"
Soon after the USA Today article appeared, The Denver Post published an article featuring many Rockies players contesting the claims made in the USA Today article. Jason Jennings, a Rockies' pitcher, said:
"[The article in USA Today] was just bad. I am not happy at all. Some of the best teammates I have ever had are the furthest thing from Christian," pitcher Jason Jennings said. "You don't have to be a Christian to have good character. They can be separate. [The article] was misleading."
While the initial USA Today article caused some controversy, the main claims have been repudiated by the ballclub and its players in the subsequent Denver Post story.
2006 Controversy over Christian rules
In 2002, a humidor was installed to store baseballs at the manufacturer's specification. Since the discovery of the humidor, it has cast suspicion in baseball of the Rockies talent, or lack thereof. Tampering with equipment, or more accurately, perceived tampering of equipment is an old phenomenon in baseball. That is in part why there is much discussion about the Denver humidor, and why Major League Baseball has not stepped in on the situation.
Since the installation and discovery of the humidor in Coors Field, runs and high scoring games have since gone down in frequency. The Rockies do not deny this, however they point to the reason for balls flying out of Coors Field is not so much the altitude (5,280 feet above sea level), but the extremely dry air in Denver. They liken it to playing baseball with golf balls, as harder objects travel faster than softer objects when hit, like a baseball when kept at a humidity level recommended by the manufacturer. Columnists in Denver's newspapers also speculate that most players are stopping the use of steroids because of the increased testing and penalties, so fewer home runs are hit at Coors Field.
To the contrary, skeptics will say that any tampering of the equipment would create an advantage for the home team, and if it did not, then the changes might never had been made. These accusations arrived again through the course of the 2006 season, as the Rockies had their best year since 2000 (however this doesn't account for the fact that all of the Rockies' four seasons over .500, including a playoff berth in 1995, came before the installation of the humidor, and their 2nd worst season in franchise history was 2004). There does not seem to be any real end to the controversy in sight.
Some baseball followers have suggested that every major league baseball team should use a humidor. The Coors Field humidor is designed to keep the baseballs at the exact same size and weight as they are originally constructed for Major League Baseball. It is theorized that if every team had baseballs that were stored before the game in exactly the same conditions, it might serve as an equalizer for the teams, as well as eliminate the controversy of "tampering" with the baseballs.
Not all Major League baseball teams have similar revenue streams, which contributes to a disparity of "haves" and "have-nots" amongst franchises. Major League Baseball franchises average spending 48.9% of every revenue dollar on player payroll while the Rockies spent 28.4% of team revenues on player payroll. (Not including benefits and bonuses where the Rockies pay disproportionately more than other teams.)   Only one team in all of MLB spends a lower proportion of team revenues on player payroll than the Rockies.
Never used Rockies logo 1991-1992 
Rockies alternate logo 2001-present
Rockies alternate logo 2003-present
Began play: 1993 (National League expansion)
Uniform colors: Black, Purple, Silver, and White
Logo design: Purple mountain with baseball
Team motto: R you in?
Team mascot: Dinger
Playoff appearances (1): 1995
Owners: Charlie and Dick Monfort
General Manager: Dan O'Dowd
Victory Song: Get Free by The Vines
Local Television: FSN Rocky Mountain, KTVD-20
Spring Training Facility: Hi Corbett Field, Tucson, AZ
None Baseball Hall of Famers
42 Jackie Robinson; number retired throughout Major League Baseball. Retired Numbers
† 15-day disabled list updated 2007-08-09 •
60-day disabled list
28 Aaron Cook
37 Josh Fogg
26 Jeff Francis
38 Ubaldo Jiménez
41 Jeremy Affeldt
35 Taylor Buchholz
60 Manny Corpas (CL)
32 LaTroy Hawkins
34 Matt Herges
50 Jorge Julio
27 Ryan Speier
16 Gerónimo Gil
8 Yorvit Torrealba
21 Clint Barmes
27 Garrett Atkins
1 Jamey Carroll
17 Todd Helton
7 Kazuo Matsui
2 Troy Tulowitzki
10 Jeff Baker
11 Brad Hawpe
5 Matt Holliday
19 Ryan Spilborghs
18 Cory Sullivan
3 Willy Taveras
44 Alberto Arias
54 Denny Bautista
99 Darren Clarke
40 Brian Fuentes †
48 Jason Hirsh †
51 Juan Morillo
61 Ramón Ramírez
-- Sean Thompson
15 Edwin Bellorín †
55 Alvin Colina
20 Chris Iannetta
62 Jonathan Herrera
29 Jayson Nix
6 Omar Quintanilla
14 Sean Barker
13 Clint Hurdle
00 Brad Andress (strength)
36 Bob Apodaca (pitching)
58 Alan Cockrell (hitting)
4 Mike Gallego (third base)
30 Glenallen Hill (first base)
53 Rick Mathews (bullpen)
9 Jamie Quirk (bench)
56 Mark Strittmatter (bullpen catcher)
31 Rodrigo López
46 Zach McClellan
Currently vacant Current roster
AAA: Colorado Springs Sky Sox, Pacific Coast League
AA: Tulsa Drillers, Texas League
Advanced A: Modesto Nuts, California League
A: Asheville Tourists, South Atlantic League
Short A: Tri-City Dust Devils, Northwest League
Rookie: Casper Rockies, Pioneer League
Rookie: VSL Rockies, Venezuelan Summer League Radio and television
Rockies statistical records and milestone achievements
List of Colorado Rockies broadcasters
Managers and ownership of the Colorado Rockies
2007 Colorado Rockies season