"Regular playoff berths with a shot at the championship at least once per decade."
is, frankly, the expectation every fan should have of their team, regardless of the sport. obviously that cannot happen, however, because for some to win, others have to lose.now there is some validity to saying "you have to look beyond winning seasons" when evaluating, say, a new group of people in charge just getting a feel for the job (this would have been appropriate in the 2004-2005 time frame); or if the team has had severe boom/bust cycles, such as 2 winning seasons since, to pick a year at random*, 2008 but those 2 were 100-win, 4-game WS sweep years and the other years were 100-loss, mike trout-level draft pick seasons.
but that's not the case. we're dealing with a group of people who have been in charge from 2001 through today. and yes, if you were looking at a player who'd been the league that long, you'd place more value on his latest few seasons rather than his first few in trying to forecast some measure of future performance. the claim is that throwing everything before 07 out makes them look better? well, this is what i see when i look at 2007 through 2013: 2nd of 5, 3rd of 5, 2nd of 5, 3rd of 5, 4th of 5, 5th of 5, 5th of 5.
i see a team that lost 9+ games a year more than the previous year for four consecutive years. "but wait! then they won 10 more games than the year before!" yes, they did, all for the privilege to... still finish in last place.
obviously, we know what they did to try and fix that problem: after 2012, it was to... cry injury, weather, and promptly sit on their hands. after 2013, it was to... cry injury, youth, and make a series of roster moves that, to most people, seem stupid at worst and a sidestep at best. it's easy to point to the extreme polar reactions to not succeeding (your definition of "not succeeding" may vary, but stick with me here): the 2008-2009 and 2013-2014 offseasons of the new york yankees, the 2012-2013 offseason (and late 2012 season) of the boston red sox, the 2013-2014 offseasons of the texas rangers and seattle mariners. it's also easy to point to differences in budget, fanbase, etc., and say "the rockies can't do that," and then confine yourself to the same mindset that the rockies public face presents.
the thing that becomes more difficult to point to, is the internal expectation of excellence. the new york yankees have that expectation. the texas rangers have that expectation. the colorado rockies do not. and i don't really think it's debatable when the team's owner and president comes out and himself says that making the playoffs (an increasingly low barometer of success) twice in five years is the goal, and the reaction to not meeting that goal is the reaction we've seen.
and now i'm feeling like i'm losing my train of thought, so i'll try to close this out and answer drew's question, "What are fair expectations for the Rockies franchise?"
as long as they remain run by the same people, i don't think it's fair to expect anything more than what we've been told to expect, and have actually seen: a frustrating, middling franchise that will go on a nice little run every once in a while, because they don't expect any more out of themselves.
*year not chosen at random