It’s been discussed since mid-March when everything took a giant pause due to Covid-19; Would the 2020 champion have a giant asterisk next to the accomplishment? Be it the MLB’s 60 game sprint to the playoffs, the NHL’s March Madness style tournament or the NBA’s bubble, this back to sports summer just seems off. However, there’s still much to gain for Colorado teams even if a successful season means little in the grand scheme of things.
The Colorado Rockies are built for a 60 game season. For all their ups and downs with pitchers (mostly downs) the starting rotation actually has the makings to be the best group of pitchers the Rockies have ever known. And so far, thanks in part to German Marquez, Jon Gray, Kyle Freeland and Antonio Senzatela, Colorado is 7-2 to start the season (written after the Rockies beat the Giant on 8/3/2020). The bullpen lacks the depth to feel comfortable about such a start thanks to early struggles by big money closer Wade Davis. However in 2019, even after a terrible season by the bullpen and the starting rotation the Rockies were 31-29 after 60. A typical baseball season is a marathon. After 60 plus games we start to see the imperfections that ultimately lead to a bad teams demise. But 60 games works well for teams like the Rockies: Solid on the surface with a weak underbelly. Marquez, Gray, Freeland and the sluggers on this team are the solid surface while the bullpen and the back half of the lineup are the weak points. Overtime this unit will break down but now, we should see one of the best records in baseball. Ultimately it might be fools gold, even if they do the unthinkable and win the World Series, but maybe it will be enough to convince star third baseman Nolan Arenado that things aren’t so bad in the Mile high city after all and give the Rockies more confidence in their rotation.
The Denver Nuggets could very well win their first NBA title once they can assemble their full lineup but most will shrug their shoulders and chalk it up to a shortened, rona virus stricken season. But title or not, there’s something even the most cynical basketball fan could take away from the bubble. All season long Michael Porter Jr,’s name was in the sports headlines. Why isn’t he playing more? Why is he playing so much? When will he learn to play defense? Can he stay healthy? Is he truly the next star for the Nuggets? All legitimate, albeit annoying, questions but perhaps now we can have those questions answered before a full (somewhat full) 2020/2021 season begins. Michael Malone has a chance to see what he can do in the 8 game seeding trial while his proven contributors like Jamal Murray, Will Barton and Gary Harris ease back into things. And so far, it’s just as complicated as it was before MPJ was hurt several weeks before the season took a timeout. Game 1 against the Heat Porter was 4-11 with 11 points. But game 2 he was THE reason Denver won their first game in the bubble. With an all star like stat line of 37 points, 12 boards and 9-9 from the charity stripe, MPJ has the rest of the NBA talking….at least for one night. And that is why the Nuggets have much to gain in the bubble. If Porter can do it again and again and again then we have another stud to add to the mix as far as long term future hype. If he sputters then maybe next season will be more of the same as far as limping him along.
As for the Colorado Avalanche, I kind of see it as a win win for them. They were considered a favorite to win their third Stanley Cup in 2020 and could very well still accomplish that goal. But given the March Madness style play of the “double bubble” set up, upsets are almost a given here and fans LOVE it. The NHL likely created the best back to play plan and hockey seems to be a sport that lends itself to a compressed play in/play off schedule. Sure, Avs fans will be bummed if they don’t win it all this season but will you actually walk away thinking the Avalanche are toast in 2020/2021? We know what this team has and we also know the typical NHL playoff format means even a lower seed can win it all without batting an eye- this year even more so. I see no downside for Colorado unless they flat out collapse this summer……which quite frankly isn’t possible with the talent they have.
Sure, some might stamp an asterisk next to the NHL, NBA and MLB champ this year but there’s still so much upside and championship or not, we will learn what all three of these Colorado teams have to offer for the foreseeable future.