Baseball seasons are long, which can minimize the impact of any specific event and offer useful perspective. Even the best teams have to learn to deal with losing -- the 1961 Yankees, one of the greatest teams in baseball history, lost more games that year than Tom Brady has lost in his entire career. As exciting as a single moment can be, one shouldn't get too overly emotional about any individual victory or loss. The most thrilling comebacks and the most devastating losses are easily swept away in the rush of the season. There's always another game.
But some years just feel right. Some years are the breakthrough after so much buildup, the season fans have been waiting for, one that's a months-long party. And these years are often signified by signature moments. My first one of these was with the 1982 St. Louis Cardinals. The Cards hadn't so much as played a postseason game in 15 years, but in 1982, with Ozzie Smith and Willie McGee and Whitey Herzog, their brand of speed and defense instantly took the league by the lapels and shook. But you really knew this team was unique when, one random game in August, Glenn Brummer, the backup catcher, out of nowhere stole home in the bottom of the 12th inning for a walk-off win.
When that happened, you knew: The Cardinals had something special going on.
There was a fantastic example of this last year, too. The Indians had some frustrating seasons in the AL Central, but what made you think something amazing was happening in 2016 was an August game against Toronto. Cleveland trailed 2-1 heading into the ninth, but Jose Ramirez tied it up with a homer. Then Tyler Naquin stepped to the plate.
He hit an inside-the-park walk-off. That's the sort of thing they play on video screens every home game the rest of the season. That's the sort of thing you never forget. The Indians ended up in the World Series. I saw that play shown at every Indians playoff game. The crowd went nuts every time.
I say all this because yesterday, we might have had our 2017 version of that, one of the greatest in recent vintage.
You've already seen it dozens of times already, but watch it again, because you're going to be seeing it for the rest of this season and maybe many more, over and over and over. You still might not ever get used to it.
It's a home run that has everything. It's a walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth with your team behind. You have the team's best player having his best season and a full-on national breakthrough moment. You have him hitting for the freaking cycle with the homer. And you have the most surprising team in baseball winning its fifth straight game to hang onto first place in the sport's toughest division. It was the first time in baseball history someone hit a walk-off homer with his team behind to complete the cycle … and Arenado did it to push his team 20 games over .500 (20! On June 19!) for the first time in almost a decade, since that 2007 team that went crazy at the end of the season to reach the World Series.
It would be enough that it was a cycle. It would be enough that it was a walk-off. It would be enough that it was the Rockies' star. It would be enough that it pushed the Rockies to the franchise's highest-water mark in a decade. But it did all of these things at once.
Sure, it's just one game. But it sure feels like more than that.
Which leads us to the inevitable question: Is this that year for the Colorado Rockies? Our own Manny Randhawa was on the scene Sunday, interviewing a bloody Arenado (who had a cut above his eye from a teammate's helmet during the celebration) and makes a compelling case that the Rockies might even be better in the second half. Starters Jon Gray and Tyler Anderson have been hurt all season but are returning this week, and Carlos Gonzalez and Trevor Story haven't even gotten going yet.
There is still some reason to be skeptical. They've put a lot on their rookie starters, and the bullpen has taken on a ton of innings and may be beginning to fray a bit. (Jake McGee actually blew a lead before Arenado's homer on Sunday.) Gray and Anderson should be of help to the rotation, but neither has shown to be any sort of stopper. There's a lot of statistical variance in the team's success, particularly on defense; this might be the best defense the Rockies have put on the field in years (specifically in the infield), but as Joe Sheehan pointed out in his newsletter last week, that has its own signal/noise ratio issues. Everything has fallen right for them so far, other than what has to be the biggest threat to the Rockies' success in 2017: The Dodgers and the Diamondbacks. The Dodgers haven't played their best baseball yet and they're still matching the Rockies win for win, with the Rockies peaking. And all this fun could fade if the D-backs come in and sweep this week.
Of course, I wouldn't listen too intently to me on this. The last time I expressed skepticism about the Rockies, I couldn't even get all the players' names spelled right. ("Senzatela" is really hard!) Hey: This sudden Rockies rush has taken all of us by surprise.
Still, it's nothing but good for baseball. The last time the Rockies played in the postseason was 2009, but Colorado remains a fantastic baseball town, with a lovely ballpark in a perfect downtown location and a fan base that, as you could tell from the insane roar after Arenado's homer, has been clamoring for something to cheer for a long time. This town once had 4.48 million fans in one season. They actually hit 2.79 million just four years ago and were in the top half last season, despite another losing season. You get this fan base aflame again, and this could turn into something that electrifies the whole sport.
Of course, maybe it already has. That's what a moment like Arenado's homer gives you. It's an instant iconic moment, how you turn a star into a legend, how you turn a pleasant Father's Day at the ballpark into something imprinted on fans' brains for a generation. We'll see that highlight on the Coors Field jumbotron every game the rest of the year. And for the first time in a decade, we'll have a chance to see it in October. We might see it for many Octobers to come.
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