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July 5 - Mile High Surprise

At the halfway point of this baseball season, many movers and shakers have hit
the headlines. The resurgence of the Mets and Tigers, the downfall of the Braves,
Bonds and his home runs, and a banged up Yankees lineup- they've all been a
part of a rather unpredictable first half. All of the worthy baseball stories have been
covered by the demanding sports media- with the exception of one.  

Before the season started, when all of the 2006 MLB season previews were
floating around the magazines and websites, one team was stuck to irrelevance.
In some articles or shows that I'd stumbled upon, the team wasn't even
mentioned in the NL West division reports.

But as the Colorado Rockies have proved, previews mean nothing. Don't laugh... Rockies fans have a
reason to be optimistic.

Living in Colorado for several years, putting up with the disaster otherwise known as the Rockies
wasn't easy. In nine of the last thirteen seasons, they've finished with a record under the .500 mark.
Now in their fourteenth year, the franchise has only reached the playoffs once (they won the 1995 NL
Wild Card), only to get blown away by the Atlanta Braves in the first round. That '95 Rockies squad,
highlighted by the offense of the Blake Street Bombers (Andres Galarraga, Vinny Castilla, Dante
Bichette, and Larry Walker), was arguably their best team ever. Since then Rockies fans have
wondered, "When will the Rockies ever be able to compete in the NL West?"

It may be time to stop wondering- and start believing. Not only do they look like competitors in their
division, but they look like they may be a factor in all of baseball (the Rox led the National league in
interleague play this year with a 11-4 record).

Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself. After all, we are only halfway through the season. A lot of baseball
is yet to be played, and a lack of experience -in recent years, the Rockies have been called "Todd
(Helton)'s Toddlers"- will test their consistency.

I can't blame myself for jumping the gun, though. When a team's manager sounds eerily similar to Dr.
Phil in postgame press conferences, excitement is kept to a minimum; and a mascot that looks like a
combination between Barney and Baby Bop can't really help fan expectations either. So to be over
.500 and tied for the division lead should be enough to give me a reason to believe in the Mountain
Men.

Playing at one of the best hitter's parks in baseball history in Coors Field,
you would expect the Rockies to be among the league's best in the
batting department. Surprisingly, I only found two marks worth noting for
their offense.

Hitting
- Top ten in doubles (164)
- Top five in triples (27)

This may prove to be a good thing for Colorado- the Rox have a history of explosive offenses, but
horrid pitching. The result? A living in the cellar of the MLB. Now, however, it seems like they've turned
the tables. Check out these pitching stats:

Pitching
- Top ten in ERA (4.22)
- Top ten in complete games (3)
- Top five in shutouts (7)
- Top five in earned runs (345)
- Top ten in strikeouts (492)
- First in HR allowed (65)

No, you don't have to adjust your computer screens. The team that makes its living in Coors Field is,
in fact, leading the major leagues in HR allowed. With a solid starting staff, a greatly improved
bullpen, and an all-star closer, Colorado's future looks more promising than it ever has. Add an
impressive defense (top five in double plays turned; top ten in errors committed), and the Rockies
may prove to be contenders for October baseball.

A worthy story in the baseball world? That's up for you to decide.