We all know the numbers. Fourteen seasons. Three winning records. Two postseason appearances. No division titles. And now, four last-place finishes.
The Colorado Rockies have been, at best, mediocre as a whole during Dan O'Dowd's tenure as general manager. They captured lightning in a bottle in their lone trip to the World Series in 2007 and failed to capitalize on better teams in 2009 and 2010, though the former at least earned a Wild Card berth. Since then, things have taken a sharp downhill turn. The Rockies still have the services of the two best players from those teams after signing Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez to long-term extensions, but O'Dowd and company's failure to surround them with decent talent has sucked all the momentum out of the big-league club.
The health of the Rockies' stars was as much a hindrance in 2013 as it was in 2012. And 2011. And, hell, even 2010. The team's brass is right to use their inability to stay healthy as an excuse. It's a valid one. However, after so many seasons of the same stuff over and over again, one would think the men in charge would have learned something.
They didn't, and the result was another finish in the NL West cellar. But, it wasn't because the Rockies were without a plan, though that's what may people would have you believe.
I'm sorry to put you through this, but let's rewind to 2012 for a minute. Prior to the start of that season, the Rockies brought in guys like Jeremy Guthrie and Michael Cuddyer in hopes of turning around the team's chemistry and clubhouse presence. It didn't work. The club stumbled to its worst season in franchise history. However, there was a silver lining: several young players -- notably, Wilin Rosario, Tyler Colvin, Josh Rutledge and Jordan Pacheco -- performed well at the big-league level, perhaps giving the front office reason to believe that the club would be better on improved health alone.
It wasn't a terrible assumption by O'Dowd, Bill Geivett and the gang; Jhoulys Chacin pitched well upon returning from an injury early in the season. Jorge De La Rosa and Juan Nicasio were expected to be healthy. Tulowitzki, Gonzalez, Cuddyer, Dexter Fowler and Todd Helton were going to be starting with a clean slate after each dealt with ailments of various degrees during the horrid 2012 campaign. And, Colvin, Rutledge and Pacheco could be relegated to bench roles with a resurgent Chris Nelson in the lineup and top prospect Nolan Arenado waiting in the wings.
The front office looked pretty smart early in the season when Tulo and CarGo were mashing and Chacin and De La Rosa were firing on all cylinders. The Rockies jumped out to a 13-4 start and had a winning record deep into June. During that time, even Arenado was having success after the club rightfully pulled the trigger on promoting him to replace Nelson.
However, Tulowitzki predictably sustained an injury that caused him to miss significant time and it wasn't long before Gonzalez suffered the same fate. Closer Rafael Betancourt had a series of injuries in the middle of the season as well, putting a strain on the bullpen. Additionally, Colvin, Rutledge and Pacheco washed away the good will they built up in 2012 by performing poorly in 2013. The weaknesses of each player, which were prevalent the year before but masked by solid stats, were badly exposed by the opposition, leading many to question whether or not any of those players would ever again be serviceable MLB components.
Colorado was in a tailspin out of contention. If the plan or direction of the team wasn't already clear, it was by this point. The Rockies weren't going to mortgage their future to address issues mid-season.
In hindsight, that was probably the way to go. The Dodgers, on the strength of a ridiculous stretch in which they won something like 65 out of 63 games, won the division going away. Even if the Rockies did some things to bolster their roster, they likely would have fallen significantly short of a postseason berth.
However, now that the season is over, the Rockies should be seriously thinking about adjusting their plan. The Dodgers are only getting older. Despite their large payroll, they're not a team without weaknesses, and those can be exposed over the course of a full season. The Giants are down, though they might spend some money to upgrade at some key spots. The Diamondbacks and Padres are hardly world-beaters. The Rockies can compete in this division.
We've already established that the front office's plan during the 2013 season was to use the youngsters who broke out the year before as depth and insurance for the solid-but-hardly indestructible core. That clearly didn't work out, although Charlie Blackmon and Corey Dickerson showed progress toward proving otherwise. Owner Dick Monfort has acknowledged that relying too much on young players, homegrown or otherwise, might not be the best idea:
"One of the things is that we have too many young kids. When our young kids aren't ready or are hurt, their substitutes tend to be young kids. We don't tend to go out and get experienced backup guys. I think that's a fault."
So, going forward, the Rockies might need to adjust their plan, though shouldn't completely change it. The team doesn't need to jettison its young MLB-ready players and close-to-the-majors prospects in favor of savvy veterans, but they've got to get better at having protection for their star players. This is especially important when realizing how quickly their status as near-contenders -- which I think they are -- can disappear, considering the core is only getting older and/or closer to free agency.
Rockies' front office grade for 2013: C
In some aspects, O'Dowd and company were proven right in their assessment that the team just needed some health in order to improve upon their disastrous 2012 campaign. However, the inability of the front office to address the back-end of the rotation and bench, as well as some player development concerns, puts the FO square in the area of mediocrity, which is probably where it belongs.
In order for this grade to improve next season, the big-league bench and rotation must be addressed (I will have more very soon on SBNation.com on specific moves the team can make in these areas), the prized pitching prospects in the system need to continue to develop in a positive manner, and the organization as a whole must prove it is capable of winning in the very near future. If that means even burning out late in the year after truly contending past the All-Star break, so be it.
Now, if the Rockies don't accomplish those things listed above? Then, it'll probably be time to start looking for new front office leadership.