February 10, 2011
Troy Nelson at 22Gigantes recently wrote an interesting piece on the relationship between his San Francisco Giants and the Colorado Rockies. In the blog, Nelson gives his take on the rivalry between the two teams — or more accurately, his perceived lack thereof.
It's a short and dismissive piece that goes on to accuse the Denver Post's Troy Renck and Jim Armstrong of sensationalizing past events between the teams to manufacture a rivalry he doesn't believe exists. He also indicates the Giants already have their rivalry with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and apparently there isn't room for one beyond that.
Obviously Rockies-Giants will never replace Dodgers-Giants, or even think of it. It could never match that intensity. It could never match the geography or decades of history between those two storied franchises, first in New York and then California.
But I think it's silly for fans of the reigning world champs to dismiss this little budding thing with the Rockies or deny that it can't potentially grow larger as the two young teams go forward. It's OK to have a rivalry mistress, especially if the Dodgers get derailed further by the ongoing McCourt drama.
I can assure Mr. Nelson right off the bat, the rivalry most certainly exists in Denver. Renck and Armstrong might have slightly overstated the scale of the hard feelings Rockies fans and players have against the Giants, but there was never a need to spin, force, manufacture, or encourage those beliefs. It's all very real.
Let me tell you why.
In the Rockies short existence, they have been furnished with two built-in rivalries that have never really gone anywhere. Their expansion brothers from 1993, the Florida Marlins, and then later a more traditional geographic rivalry in the NL West with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Both matchups have had their moments. There's no doubt it ate away at many Rockies fans when the Marlins went on to win a World Series after just five seasons. When Florida followed up with a second championship in 2003, it stung, but the Rockies were mired in such mediocrity at that point it didn't seem worth the energy to hate them.
The rivalry with Arizona seemed destined to develop during the summer and fall of 2007, when two similarly rebuilt rosters stacked with budding superstars met in the NLCS. But it just never materialized because of Arizona's inability to avoid injuries and perhaps a little mismanagement as well.
Yet here's the real difference between those rivalries and what's happening right now with the Rockies and the Giants.
Despite the fact that the Marlins and D'Backs were natural built-in rivalries that should only need one spark to ignite, the spark never came. It always felt somewhat forced to dislike them. With the Giants, it built up over time. Then, in Aug. 2009, when Ryan Spilborghs' walk-off grand slam crushed the Giants playoff hopes, the sparks started flying.
Afterward, Jon Miller spoke out on the Rockies use of the humidor, Tim Lincecum(notes) mouthed those famous words on the mound at Coors Field and the Giants won the World Series. To a Rockies fan, it felt like salt being rubbed in an open wound watching Brian Wilson(notes) record the final out of the World Series. And then to see all the attention their players received in the national media in the months that followed.
As we reach the moment when pitchers and catchers report for the 2011 season, it feels normal and natural to hate the San Francisco Giants.
Fueled by frustration? Sure.
Driven by jealousy? Absolutely.
And that's how Rockies fans know it's different. Maybe it doesn't feel normal or natural for Giants fans to hate the Rockies at this point, but based on some of the social media interactions I read late last season, I don't think they're too far behind. If the Rockies beat the Giants in the NL West this season, San Francisco might come around to our view.
Nelson squeezed one final thought into his piece that I felt was worth addressing.
The Rox were favored to win the division by most experts last year and they fell flat on their asses. What better way to turn the focus away from their disappointing 2010 season than to manufacture a rivalry that doesn't really exist?
To be perfectly honest, the huge contract extensions given to Troy Tulowitzki(notes) and Carlos Gonzalez(notes) — as outrageous or intelligent as they may be — were enough for us to get the focus off 2010 and look toward 2011. After all, a significant portion of that disappointment over missing the playoffs was driven by the urgency of perhaps losing one or both of those cornerstones in the not too distant future.
Dare I say it was San Francisco's ultimate success, winning a World Series, that motivated Colorado to make those commitments? Once that burden of doubt was removed, everyone took a deep breath and focused their attention to the future.
A future they hope includes knocking their new rivals off the top of the mountain.