The toughest part of being a Rockies fan in recent years has to be the offseason. The past 5 years have seen a couple of playoff runs, the first franchise visit to the World Series, the emergence of a couple of the most exciting players in franchise history, and probably some other cool stuff as well. The actual season HAS had more than its fair share of disappointments, in the forms of 2008, 2010, and 2011, but there's been some good.
Ok, maybe the bad outweighs the good. Maybe.
So why is the the offseason such a miserable time as a Rockies fan? Allow me to explain.
Many of you have probably taken one of those political tests where it maps your political leanings on a 2-axis Cartesian map, where Liberal and Conservative are the extremes of one axis and Libertarian and Authoritarian are on the other. When it comes to the offseason, you could probably lump most of baseball into a similar mapping: Haves and Have Nots, Act and Act Nots.
The Haves are the teams that have some sort of long history, have an owner with an absurd amount of money to spend, and have a huge media market with which they can bolster said spending. The Have Nots obviously DON'T have those things: isolated markets, frugal ownership, not a lot of history to fall back on.
On the other axis, the Acts are the teams that are always mentioned when a free agent comes up, when trade talks start stirring, who always seem to be players in the hot stove. The Act Nots are typically slow to act when a key Free Agent comes along, are hesitant to make big trades, and generally present themselves as unwilling to take risks.
This essentially boils down to 4 quadrants: Have and Act, Have Not and Act, Have and Act Not, Have Not and Act Not. Before I go any further, it should be noted that none of these quadrants denotes a "good" or "bad" franchise, but merely their means of operating.
Click past the jump for some examples and expanding on this topic.
The Have and Act teams are pretty obvious: The Yankees and Red Sox are always mentioned in every single major free agent's suitors because they can afford them. Both teams have been around since 1642 when the first double play was turned at Plymouth Rock. Both teams rival the Sultan of Brunei as far as payroll goes. Both teams pay lots of money for good players as well as stupid players. When a big FA hits the open market, you need to check the AL East to see who is lacking a particular position player, and then just sigh.
The Have and Act Not teams are a bit harder to pinpoint. We don't have detailed balance sheets for every MLB team, we don't know what kind of contributions ownership makes, what's pulled from the Luxury Tax, and who only got their team because they drew the right Community Chest card. That said, I'd argue that the Pirates fall in this category: you might recall their financial data from 07-08 getting out and basically the team is making money while losing. The idea is that they probably COULD be making more strides toward winning, but why bother if your team is turning a profit without it?
The Have Not and Act teams are the teams that are constantly criticized for their disloyalty to their players. Ownership is hiding their money and playing the poor card so they can get away with making money without winning like the
Have and Act Not teams. There's a lot of player development, trades of players in arbitration, and league-min payrolls taking the field. The Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays are both prime examples of the Have Not and Act teams, as they're constantly trading away talent that's getting expensive. You also see these teams taking fliers on players like Ben Sheets in hopes of flipping them at the deadline for more cheap talent. Money spent is blatantly an investment with a long-term return in mind (that is, get prospects, they play for you long time).
Finally, the Have Not and Act Not teams. It's somewhat of a stretch, but you can probably put the Twins and the current evolution of the Mariners into this grouping, and if it wasn't painfully obvious by now, the Rockies as well. The Rockies don't acquire big Free Agent players, they don't trade high-end prospects for potential game-changing players. They rely on their internal development to put them in a run of success, but because of their reluctance to look outside of the organization for serious help, injuries and unexpected ineffectiveness basically will cripple the team for seasons at a time.
This is what makes the offseason so damn boring if you're a Rockies fan: you don't expect anything huge or interesting to happen. Last time we saw something huge and interesting happen, it sparked a decade of retooling an entire organization. Yes, the Rockies just traded Ubaldo Jimenez, and Matt Holliday was shipped out just a couple of years back, but those totally don't count. Reason being was that Holliday was on his way out anyhow, so we might as well get value now while the getting is good. Ubaldo - that was more reacting to a bad team and a bad state of the organization culminating in one player having to take the fall for the rest of the team. It's not as if Colorado traded away Ubaldo for Greinke, or signed Adrian Beltre out of FA with the money they saved from moving Holliday.
Here's the problem with the Rockies being in this particular quadrant: it breeds excuses. Excuses upon excuses. This isn't to say that the Rockies aren't a good organization, that's just not a fair claim to make. Before the 2011 season, many an analyst had the Rockies slated for their first NL West title in franchise history. The organization had itself in a pretty decent place. Then everything went wrong, and the Rockies finished in 4th. As a result, we're probably going to have to sit through another "blech" season before the team is in place to actually make some noise again. I could be wrong - I hope I'm wrong - but 2012 looks to be a holding pattern while young talent develops.
It's not as if there's no solutions to the Rockies' plight. They need a 3B, and eventually will need a new 1B. So go get Aramis Ramirez. "But he's expensive!" Yeah, sometimes established talent costs money. "But he won't be worth the contract; what if he falls apart in 2 years?" Yeah, that's a risk you take. Winning requires risk. "But but but..." Fine, don't get Aramis Ramirez. Get David Wright. "But he'll cost a boatload in prospects!" Yeah, sometimes established talent costs prospects. "But his numbers are down! What if he's actually on the downslope and it's not just the park?" Yeah, that's a risk you take. Winning requires risk.
We talk ourselves in these circles forever and then end up getting Ty Wigginton. We draft Greg Reynolds. We rely on extensive amounts of pure luck to fuel the engines enough to land in the Wild Card 3 times out of 18.
This isn't a demand for the Rockies to completely flip their system over - not yet, anyhow. I don't like most of the players available (although I still like the idea of Ramirez at 3B and then 1B when Helton retires). That said, I want more than the standard boring offseason with more bench players being thrust into starting roles. That's what I dread about the next 6 months.