The Rockies in the year 2012 were marketed as a bridge team, a team that would maintain the relative competitiveness of the prior few years while buying time for some of the team's brighter prospects to make their way to the Show. The 2012 Rockies' performance, which has been detailed in the rest of these reviews, has made those marketing the team in this way look like bridge salesmen with us, the fans, playing the part of gullible sap.
Whether they intended to or not, ownership and the front office were lying to us about this team's ability to contend. I think that, given many of the statements made by the Brothers Monfort over the calendar year, it's probable they were lying to themselves as well. I've written at length about the inability of ownership to, in Dan O'Dowd's words, "self-evaluate and grow" and their Lake Wobegon attitudes towards the evaulation of their own employees, so let's not dwell too much on that point. Suffice to say that the Rockies get a poor grade in Baseball Operations and a worse one in Public Relations.
2012 was anything but the Year of the Fan. In fact, this season might have been the year the casual fan decided to stop being a fan. Among the 30 teams in MLB, Colorado had the 3rd largest attendance drop year over year, decreasing from 2.9 million fans to 2.6 million (roughly 3,500 fewer fans per game). That even 2.6 million still showed up is a function of a few things:
1. Attendance lags somewhat behind success, or in Colorado's case, failure. In other words, many of the fans who fill Coors Field only have a vague idea of whether the Rockies are succeeding or failing in recent weeks. Over time however, there is enough of a critical mass of positive (or negative) buzz around the team to affect attendance. In addition, many fans have purchased tickets well in advance of the games and thus are relatively unaffected by a team's performance.
Unfortunately for the Rockies, I'd say that the fan base is pretty well aware at this point of the team's lack of hope for 2013. I'd expect another big decrease in attendance next year.
2. A phenomenal venue and great family atmosphere. A summer night at Coors Field is excellent, which is a huge point to ownership's credit. Many people have noticed. They are further enticed by...
3. Some of the lowest ticket prices in MLB. If all you want to do is hang out with your friends in a great atmosphere, there's not many places this can be accomplished cheaper than at Coors Field, especially in the Rockpile. Just $4 gets you into one of the best stadiums in sports, and while the home team might not win, more than likely there'll be plenty of offense.
Still, it must be said that it is very tough to sell fans on a competitive product going into 2013.
Some of the biggest gains in revenue for the Rockies going forward have absolutely nothing to do with the team but rather with the new TV contracts MLB signed with ESPN, Fox, and TBS that will bring in roughly $25 million per year in additional revenue starting in 2014 to the Rockies.
After the 2014 season, Colorado should expect another big windfall with the expiration of the team's local TV contract. Considering some of the new TV deals that have been signed recently, the team will be flush with cash even if attendance does decrease over the next couple of years.
For this reason, I fully expect the Forbes valuation of the Rockies to increase from this year's $464 million (which, given the selling prices of some teams recently is already a low end estimate). In other words, no matter what the product on the field does for the Rockies, expect the value of the franchise to continue to increase.
There's no ifs, ands, or buts about it. 2012 was a disaster for Colorado and it's time to put it to bed. Unfortunately for fans, it's looking like the 64 win squad from 2012 will be largely unchanged going into 2013. Barring some major development out of our young players and immaculate health, we'll probably be right here at this time next year. That's not to say it won't be interesting to watch young players blossom and catch a few games at the ballpark. After all, we are Rockies fans and for better or worse, we'll be watching.