Wednesday Rockpile: It's All Dick Monfort's Fault

The sun is setting quickly on the Rockies' playoff hopes this season. Dick Monfort says that the blame for the team's struggles should fall on him.

At least, that's what he wants us to believe. As Monfort says in Patrick Saunders' article in the Post:

"If this is anybody's fault, it's mine. I will take it right square between the middle of the eyes," said Monfort, who became more involved in the Rockies' baseball decisions after the death of team president Keli McGregor in April 2010. "There is no way that we are as poor of a team as we are playing. And if we are, then I fell in love with our own guys and couldn't look through the forest to the trees. But I don't believe that's the case."

There are a few things in this article to parse, so let's take them one by one. The above quote illustrates a few things that have bothered me about the way the Monforts (and the Rockies) do business.

The Owners

On the whole, the Rockies are not a terribly run franchise. The Monforts do quite a few things very well, paramount of which is creating an affordable and enjoyable fan experience at Coors Field. That's a large reason why, despite the product on the field, Colorado has enjoyed fairly strong attendance. They are making a concerted effort to bring states that border Colorado into the Rockies revenue and fan footprint. And there's the fact that Colorado has been to the playoffs twice in the last 6 seasons, which is hard to complain about (and the team actually has put a lot of that revenue back into the payroll, whether you've noticed or not).

I think that the organization could do a few business-related things better: community outreach (including media access for a certain Colorado Rockies blog), a new TV deal (the one they signed with Fox in 2004 has been pretty awful -- the new one taking effect in 2015 will really enable Colorado to have more flexibility), and maybe they could get rid of Dinger (pretty please?). From a business standpoint I'm okay with the direction the team is heading in.

With that said, I think that the Monforts really need to stay away from the baseball decision making for the franchise. If Monfort really believes that most of the fault for the team's malaise in recent years lies on his shoulders, then he should step down as team president. Dick can be comfortable in taking responsibility for his team's failures because he doesn't have to worry at all about being fired. He's not going anywhere. Dick's role in this decision-making increased after Keli McGregor's death in April 2010. To say that the Rockies have not achieved much success since he took on the position of team president would be an understatement.

This team has repeatedly held on to marginal or declining homegrown talent (e.g. Brad Hawpe, Garrett Atkins) long past the time when they should have been traded. That's what I think Dick is talking about when he says the team has fallen in love with their own guys. One could also argue that the Monforts were the impetus for this off-season's overhaul, in which the team bid against itself for a league average bat but high character guy in Michael Cuddyer, they jettisoned a few young players with perceived attitude issues, and in general accumulated quite a few veterans for this season's team.

The lesson here is that I think the Monforts need to focus on the growing and development of the business of the organization, staying hands off with the baseball decision. This process should include hiring a new club president from outside the organization. The Monforts are obviously very confident about the baseball men running this team, and as such I don't think they would object too strongly to this plan.

The GM

Monfort had this to say about his GM:

"He's a tremendous asset," Monfort said. "I can't think of a general manager in baseball that's as good as him. Granted, I don't know all of them. I do get a chance every once in a while to speak with them, but I just think (O'Dowd) is head and shoulders above everybody else."

Okay, one more quote about Dan O'Dowd:

"I have spent almost my entire baseball career with Dan and I think he is the most brilliant guy I have ever met," Monfort said. "We have made mistakes along the way, but there is not a guy that works harder than him. There is not a guy that cares more than he does. He doesn't think he knows it all. He doesn't pretend that he knows it all, and questions himself all the time."

Dick Monfort is in love with Dan O'Dowd. For better or worse (most of what I've heard about O'Dowd from Rockies fans would indicate that popular opinion leans toward the latter), O'Dowd will be the guy running the baseball operations of this team for the near future.

Off-Topic.

The above quotes about Dan O'Dowd show that Dick Monfort is possibly delusional. O'Dowd has done many things well as GM of the Colorado Rockies. In some notable cases he's gotten good value for his major league assets in trades, at least in cases when he didn't let their value dwindle away. Some of the drafts in the early 2000s were very strong and the Latin America pipeline has proved to be very fruitful for the team. I'm not exactly sure how much of that can be ascribed to O'Dowd, but he had a large hand in creating the two best teams in team history.

The Rockies have a disadvantage in building teams that will win consistently, and that is the altitude of Colorado. Pitchers don't want to come here of their own volition and the team has to play half their games in a vastly different offensive environment than the rest of baseball. No doubt, it's tougher to build a consistent winner in Colorado than in most other situations.

With all that said, Dan O'Dowd is far from the best GM in MLB. Colorado has been successful in only 2 of his 12 years helming the team, and the worst part is that he still hasn't figured out a strategy that will overcome the unique challenges the Rockies alone face. It seems like the team has gone through plan after plan during his tenure without a whole lot of success. When the team did succeed, it was because they were able to execute on drafting and developing young talent. Unfortunately, Colorado had a severe drafting and player development drought from 2005 to 2008 (aside from Tulo) and they are paying for it big time now.

I don't know if Dan O'Dowd is the best person to run this team going forward, but there is quite a bit of potential talent in the upper levels of the farm and even on the big league club, so I'm willing to give him a little (but not too much) leeway. If this current group fails to develop, well at some point the GM has to answer for his decision making. Given what Dick Monfort has to say about him, that could be a while for O'Dowd.

The Manager

Dick Monfort had this to say about his manager (he later says that firing Tracy is not the solution):

Asked if he believed players had quit responding to Tracy or had quit hustling, Monfort said: "He hasn't lost the team. That answers part of the question. I think Jim is grinding it just like anybody else. He wears every loss. We had a long talk about that, and I said, 'You just have to shower up and go on.' "

The much publicized reason for the dismissal of Clint Hurdle at about this time during the season in 2009 was that Hurdle had lost the clubhouse. Monfort clearly doesn't think that is the case here with Jim Tracy. Given the fact that Monfort is in love with Dan O'Dowd and Dan O'Dowd is in love with Jim Tracy, I don't foresee a change at the manager position in the near future either. Then again, a lot of Monfort's justification for not firing Tracy seems to rest on the defense that he's trying really hard and he cares a lot.

Much has been written (too much, truth be told) about the shortcomings of Jim Tracy as manager, so I won't rehash it here. I will simply say that I don't particularly care for Tracy's stewardship of the team and that I would prefer it if someone else were in charge of managing this baseball team.

Conclusion

This interview frustrates me in ways I can't properly articulate. I fundamentally disagree with Dick Monfort on the direction that this team needs to be taking in terms of its management. I don't have faith that they understand what is needed to create a consistent championship-caliber team. It should be of paramount importance to the management team to properly identify the kind of team that best can overcome Coors Field's unique set of challenges, but this management team hasn't done so in a dozen years.

More than anything, I'm frustrated by the very real possibility that nothing is going to change for this team, that we'll keep following this path to mediocrity (or worse) year after year.

Jim Tracy Interview

For his part, Jim Tracy is still preaching patience with this year's team:

"More so than at any time in my career, I think patience is absolutely paramount. I am not changing who I am. We have some young people on our club, and we have to allow them to evolve."

Now this is a strategy that I can get behind. It's what Tracy did when the team was very successful in 2009. So why, despite his declarations that he hasn't changed, did Tracy get away from this for 2+ years? We'll see if this renewed commitment to letting young players evolve pays off down the road, but if it doesn't we should probably be seeing some new people brought in to help them develop.

Other Links

Irv Moss of the Post checks in with the 1st player taken in the 1993 expansion draft, David Nied.

In this notes column, Michael Cuddyer talks about maintaining good chemistry in the clubhouse and Marco Scutaro gets benched.

In a different notes column, Chris Nelson rehabs his injury while Jordan Pacheco takes his place.

Jonathan Herrera will hit the DL with the hamstring injury he suffered last night. He will be replaced by DJ LeMahieu.

Colorado has selected Garrett Atkins as their representative to this year's MLB draft.

This was linked in yesterday's Rockpile, but I found this quote notable that in Troy Renck's mailbag:

The Post has a minority stake in the Rockies. Since arriving at the paper in 2002, I have never been told to cover a story differently because of it. In fact, over the last decade, multiple members of the front office, one manager, and a handful of players have ceased talking to me for months at a time for what they view as negative coverage.

I've certainly heard people accuse Renck of being too much in the team's pocket with his complimentary commentary. Apparently he hasn't been positive enough for some in the front office.

I'm not going to link he who must not be linked, but he did write a thing today bashing the team's management.

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