It can be easy sometimes to forget that ballplayers are not just numbers on a piece of paper or characters like so many others we see coming through our television and computer screens. As much as we talk about statistics, regression to the norm, buying low and selling high we oftentimes forget that part of the beauty of baseball is the same diversity of humanity that makes what happens next a constant adventure.
There seems to be a prevailing feeling among many in the Rockies fan base that General Manager Dan O'Dowd has a few philosophies that interfere with him actually making the team better. While I feel that there is some legitimacy to the complaints, I would also like to address a few of them head on.
First, let's be clear, the Rockies want to win, they want to field a winner. Any conversation that they simply don't care is silly and worthy only of minimal consideration. The Rockies have been smarter than a lot of other teams when it comes to signing larger contracts (hello Yankees and Angels!) and really haven't clearly lost any trades other than the Ubaldo debacle in a while.
Does Dan O'Dowd really not sell high?
Didn't he sell high on Ubaldo? I recall countless national TV talking heads saying that the Rockies had won that trade in a landslide and many predicted Drew Pomeranz would have a better 2011 than Ubaldo Jimenez. Didn't we sell high on Matt Holliday and bring in a franchise cornerstone we were able to lock down for longer and less money? Sure, maybe the team held onto some of it's home grown products a little too long, but we still ended up with a pretty sizable win in the Ian Stewart deal.
The problem with the argument that DOD doesn't sell high is that we rarely have access to information on what kind of trades are actually available and the examples I just provided show that for the right price he is very willing to sell high, including on the player who should have won the 2007 MVP.
There also seems to be this notion out there that the Rockies front office holds onto it's own prospects for too long, essentially overvaluing them and not looking to move them for pieces that could help the big league club. But I'm not necessarily convinced that this is a flaw in philosophy as much as it is a tactic that hasn't yet fully paid off. If I was a player for an organization I would want to know that the GM values my development as a player and wants me on his team, not that he simply sees everyone he drafts as a potential trade chip.
When I was in Grand Junction last I spoke with 17 year old prospect Terry McClure who told me that he met with the Rockies head scout for the first time when he was 15 years old. He has wanted to be a Rockie ever since. These are people with whom the front office and coaching staffs will develop legitimate relationships with and I don't believe that being able to shuck that aside is a sign of a good General Manager.
I have heard (or read I suppose) that the problem with the front office actually hasn't been trades but an inability to have quality drafts. This seems the most accurate and problematic critique as a team like the Rockies will never be able to build a contender in the same way as the Yankees, Red Sox, and Dodgers. I am no scout, but it seems like the last couple of drafts has been much better and the deep core of prospects (Gray, Butler, Dahl) could be a strong turn in the right direction.
The difference between armchair coaching and armchair general managing is that we are much closer to having all the same information as the coach. This isn't the case with the GM, and it is incredibly popular for people to say things like, "we should have traded Cuddyer!" without actually having to say for what and without really knowing what was available.
I know it's frustrating right now, but the Rockies are still outperforming a lot of people's expectations and still have two superstars, three high quality MLB pitchers and a bevvy of young talent that still has a ton of upside. My new rule for myself and anyone else who feels like following it;; if you are going to armchair GM, you have to go the whole way and suggest actual moves that could legitimately be made. And try to remember that they aren't just numbers on a piece of paper.