No one really knew what to expect from the expansion 1993 Colorado Rockies other than they’d be shiny and new, and they’d play their home games a mile up in the clouds.
Shiny and new was handled by hot shot draftees like David Nied and stars-in-waiting (or in-transition) like Andres Galarraga, Vinny Castilla, and Dante Bichette.
And purple uniforms that no one had ever seen before.
And a Major League team in Colorado.
And, believe it or not, real baseball cards featuring real images of real Rockies players in their real Rockies uniforms before the season was even over.
Like 1993 Topps card #591, featuring speedster Alex Cole.
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Now, by 1993, Cole wasn’t new in any sort of way since he’d been in the Majors since 1990 and would turn 28 in August. He was sorta shiny, though. I mean, just look at those shades on his Topps card — dude’s face is half high-shellac polymer.
And he was kinda flashy, too, as evidenced by his 40 stolen bases as a rookie with the Cleveland Indians.
But how would all that work in the mix with his new teammates? And how about the Rockies as a team — how would their concoction of newness and shininess and purpleness and thin air shape their fortunes?
Would they hit? Would they pitch? Would they field? Would they run? Would they win?
Well, yes, they’d do all of that, though not much of the winning. Their 67-95 record did leave them six games ahead of the non-expansion San Diego Padres, though, so the Rox didn’t finish last in the National League West.
And, well, they scored. And scored and scored. They’re still scoring.
We know now that offense plays well in the thin air. Pitching not so much.
Not all offense, though.
Not 1993 Alex Cole offense, for example.
On a team that finished fourth in the NL in runs scored and third in batting average, Cole hit a soft .256 and scored just 50 runs in 126 games. His OPS+ was 64, not much to write home about as a starting center fielder for a new, exciting team.
(He did steal 30 bases, and that must have been exciting.)
It was good enough for a -0.5 WAR and a ticket out of town, as Cole signed with the Minnesota Twins for 1994.
As it turns out, Alex Cole could have probably played for the 2018 Colorado Rockies, too. At least at the end.
We didn’t really know what to expect from this year’s Rox, just like 25 years ago.
Sure, Colorado won 87 games in 2017 and appeared to be on the upswing, but they still play in the NL West. That’s where the mighty Los Angeles Dodgers roam, where the Arizona Diamondbacks are trying to build something, where the San Francisco Giants still think they’re entitled to a World Series title in even-numbered years.
These Rockies were plucky, though, and they pushed their win total to 91, good enough for a one-game playoff with LA for the division title. Colorado lost that one but still landed a Wild Card berth and a showdown with the upstart Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Division Series.
It promised to be a grab-your-popcorn-and-sit-back-to-watch-the-fireworks series.
And it was, for the Brewers. After a 3-2, 10-inning nail-biter in Game 1, Milwaukee completed the sweep with 4-0 and 6-0 victories, that last coming in Colorado.
On the series, Colorado slashed .146/.210/.188 as a team.
So … how does that shiny 1993 Topps Alex Cole card look now?
(Check out the rest of our 2018 playoffs posts here.)
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Alex Cole was HEAVILY marketed in Colorado during 1993. With the Rockies, the idea was that Cole = Rickey Henderson or perhaps Kenny Lofton (and what was expected of him). Cole fizzled though as you noted. The rest of his career did much the same and that was all for Cole.
Sort of a Billy Hamilton type, though I’m not sure he reached the top-end speeds Billy hit.