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Thursday Rockpile: Rockies remain a large family business in a larger corporate world after reshuffling

August 1, 2012; Denver, CO, USA; A general view during a rain delay in the seventh inning between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field.  Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-US PRESSWIRE
August 1, 2012; Denver, CO, USA; A general view during a rain delay in the seventh inning between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-US PRESSWIRE

To understand the reasoning behind the Rockies switcharoo of duties between Dan O'Dowd, Bill Geivett and Jim Tracy yesterday requires taking a perspective contemporary professional sports fans may not have with regard to their teams, one where year to year results and performance on the field are just a part of the decision making process in the business rather than the primary motivator. First of all, I don't want to imply that in taking this perspective that I necessarily agree with it, but I do want to flesh out the contrary position, however, given the overwhelming consensus seems to be making the case for a complete overhaul and restructure.

First, it's clear that the Monfort brothers are taking cues in running their business from the way their father built his meat packing empire, by being loyal to employees, especially those at the management level and top performers or workers in the player ranks. Remember how Clint Hurdle was offered a position within the organization when he was ousted as manager? Bob Apodaca's shift within the organization earlier this season? The way the Rockies work, and the way they have always worked under the Monforts is to trust they have the right people after the hiring and probationary stage, just not necessarily that they have them in the right place in the organization. Well, the headline writer for Troy Renck's Denver Post article indicates that Dick Monfort said they have them in the right place too, but Monfort's actual quotes from that article and these moves say they think they have the right people, but leave "place" out of it.

Outside of sports, there are large privately held corporations that thrive on this employee loyalty model (it's much less frequent among publicly traded companies as stockholders can and often do push for knee-jerk changes to maximize profit) and unsurprisingly these loyal companies are frequently rated highly in "best places to work" surveys. A team that shows greater than typical loyalty and job security to its employees should be able to subsequently attract better talent to fill its posts than teams that have a higher turnover. If a sports team also has a successful on field system in place, it's easy to maintain employee engagement, but as a team struggles through failure, that engagement gets lost and a counterproductive downward spiral pattern starts to emerge even among the "right people." Here's a report on a study of this effect among employees, but it stands to reason that this is a natural human tendency and the same effects will be true at management level.

So the problem facing the Rockies organization and the Monforts as owners was to re-engage a stressed, under pressure, team of management and on field employees that because of a failure to live up to on field expectations had become counterproductive, but at the same time maintain the organizational loyalty that seems to be a key tenet of the team's business philosophy. The organization concluded, both in this case and with the rotation and pitching coaches earlier this season, that shifting responsibilities within house and building a broader pool of accountable parties rather than focusing both the responsibility and accountability on individual parts would alleviate the negative effects of disengagement, maintain loyalty and put employees and management in better positions to re-engage and make the team productive again.

Given the emphasis the Monforts place on internal company loyalty, and given that they've been very successful on the business end of owning the Rockies (meaning there's no compelling external reason for them to sell,) a shuffling of the deck with employees already on hand will always be their default decision in cases like this.

Dan O'Dowd talks about how this process played out.

Jeff Gordon of St. Louis doesn't know what "begging the question" really means, so therefore, his opinion on the Rockies front office moves must be invalid... Wait, I'm beginning to see why I might not have been cut out for high school debate, but hey, neither apparently was Jeff Gordon.