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2013 Rockies ownership review

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The Monforts want to win - but they don't want to sacrifice the club's profitability to do so. As the old adage goes, sometimes you've got to spend money to make money - but the Rockies first need the right brain trust to spend that money wisely.

Doug Pensinger

The presence of the Monfort brothers, heirs to a meatpacking fortune, helped ensure that the Rockies would indeed become a MLB franchise 20+ years ago when founding owner Mickey Monus became embroiled in legal trouble. Without them, we'd have no team to agonize over. It's important to remember that, and I'm of course very thankful that the brothers were able to step in to help out a fledgling baseball team in its hour of need.

Of course, that initial investment of less than $100 million 20 years ago has ballooned into a $500 million + MLB team per Forbes, which is why I don't think anybody is feeling sorry for them either. Here's what I wrote last month on the subject after Charlie Monfort had his second DUI:

The Monforts have been convenient punching bags for the media and fans for a long time. Some of this negative attention is inherent to being an owner of a professional sports franchise. After all, while most fans understand that they can't play on the level of the athletes on their favorite team, they sure as heck believe that they could do a better job acquiring the right players and running the business end of a sports franchise that will increase in value rapidly just through inertia.

From a baseball operations standpoint, I think that the criticism that surrounds the Monforts is deserved. Time and again the ownership has proven to be out of its depth when it comes to baseball decision-making. Perhaps even worse, they are loyal to a front office regime that has had 13 years to develop a long-term plan of success and instead has delivered zero division titles. Reluctance (or inability) to properly evaluate their own talent (on the field and in the front office) has repeatedly hamstrung the Monfort brothers's attempts to field a winning team and has made the Rockies the most insular team in the big leagues.

And don't believe that story about how the Monforts don't want to win. They do very much...but they just don't want to sacrifice profitability to do it. Recently Dick Monfort detailed the team's balance sheet to Troy Renck and what I saw was a team that ran their business pretty responsibly - not spending more than they would take in. Of course, as fans we don't want a team that is fiscally responsible when it comes to putting a team on the field.

It also might be a sub-optimal way to run a baseball team. After all, there is a considerable benefit to fielding a competitive and successful baseball team - estimates have pegged a playoff appearance as a $30 million windfall. Perhaps if Dick Monfort were less concerned about short term balance sheets and more concerned about building that winning club (perhaps using the new national TV contract money), he might realize even larger long-term gains. Ownership does appear to be spending some more money this off-season (Justin Morneau, Brett Anderson), so that's a positive step.

Of course, in order for more money to have the biggest impact, the Monforts really need to take a hard look at the accomplishments of its front office and ask themselves if the group's long-term plan appears to be solid. From where I'm standing, I just don't see it.

With all of that said about ownership's deficiencies in baseball operations, they've proven themselves to be competent at maintaining Coors Field as one of the best parks and gameday experiences in baseball. The right-field party deck that will be unveiled next year is a great example of that - another great feature that keeps the Coors experience fresh (and gives the social crowd to be loud and distracting away from the people who are actually interested in watching the game).

The Rockies benefited in 2013 from the aforementioned fantastic ballpark and gameday experience as well some of the lowest average ticket prices in MLB and some plum home dates against the Yankees and Red Sox. These positive factors as well as a team that won ten more games than the 2012 edition allowed the Rockies to draw 2.8 million fans to Coors (10th in MLB) in 2013 - a 160k increase from last year (7th in MLB).

It's those kind of attendance numbers that make many in the Denver metro area wonder why the team isn't a bigger spender. Obviously the lower ticket prices are a part of it, but so too is a regional TV contract that pays among the lowest rates in the league...and that could do so until 2020. All of this combines to give the Rockies a 27th ranked franchise value by Bloomberg. Hmm...maybe the Monforts aren't so good at running the business of the Rockies? Either way, we're stuck with them.

2013 Grade: C-

I can't ignore the positive results in the attendance area that the team had in 2013 - and the team on the field did improve by ten wins. Still, there is a very low level of approval and trust for this ownership group from Rockies fans, and unless some serious changes are made and/or the Rockies become competitive, I don't see that changing.

Series Wrap-Up

Thanks to everyone who read along as the Purple Row staff reviewed the 2013 Colorado Rockies season! 2013 was a big improvement over 2012 and I sincerely hope that 2014 will be much better than 2013. With that said, barring some development out of our young players, sustained improvement of the 2013 breakouts, and immaculate health from gambles like Anderson and Morneau, we'll probably be right around 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.

2013 season review archive