General manager Dan O'Dowd steps down. Bill Geivett resigns. Senior director of player development Jeff Bridich receives a promotion and becomes the third GM in the Colorado Rockies' history. It was the kind of major personnel change that almost never happens with the Rockies, on the field or off, and to many it came as a surprise. It's been less than 24 hours since I heard the news and my opinion on how I feel about what just happened is still coalescing. I think a lot of Rockies fans are still in the same boat.
The vast majority of Rockies fans, myself included, were hungry for a change from the status quo in Colorado's front office, which had remained in stasis more or less for 15 years. So were Colorado's own players. The poll we ran on Wednesday after the moves were announced supports this position, with almost 3/4 of voters stating that they were pleased with the change. Still, the way that this change occurred was far from encouraging to this Rockies fan.
From what I am able to piece together after reading Tracy Ringolsby's article on Wednesday's front office moves, here's how I think it went down over the past week:
- Owner Dick Monfort offers Dan O'Dowd an extension to remain as GM but at a reduced level of influence (not clear on how reduced). He declined the offer and decided to resign.
- Monfort's reaction was to immediately look in-house for the new GM. It's unclear how many people were considered for the position within the organization, but senior director of player development Jeff Bridich at the least interviewed for the position before taking over as GM. The move makes Bridich one of the three youngest GMs in baseball.
- Assistant GM Bill Geivett, who may or may not have interviewed for O'Dowd's position but was passed over by Bridich for the promotion, decided to also resign from the club.
If you subscribe to that as the chain of events, it's tough to be convinced that this process was handled well by Monfort and the Rockies organization. It's possible that Monfort wanted a shakeup after a 96-loss season beset by injuries and bad play, but this was a roundabout way to go about it. This is organization that hasn't fired anyone since manager Clint Hurdle in 2009. Before the death of team president Keli McGregor, it's not surprising that Monfort was interested in shuffling around power within the organization instead of firing anyone. That or Monfort just wanted to force O'Dowd and Geivett to resign like Jim Tracy did following the 2012 season.
The trepidation espoused here in articles and in the comments sections over the past day about the front office moves basically boils down to concern that, in promoting Bridich so rapidly from within, Monfort missed a golden opportunity to see what other bright prospective GMs around baseball have to think about the Rockies and provide some of their ideas on how they would succeed in Colorado's unique situation. After all, this was the first time Monfort has ever had the GM position open since he became the majority owner of the Rockies, and his actions were to immediately find the next best person in his mind to Dan O'Dowd in the organization to maintain Colorado's culture.
As many here and elsewhere have stated, one of the biggest obstacles to positive change over the last few seasons has been the increased presence of Monfort in baseball decision making since he named himself president following the death of McGregor in 2010. Repeatedly Monfort's baseball acumen has been called into question, something that will probably hamper Bridich in his new role. If the way this GM transfer was handled is indicative of the baseball decision making process we are going to see moving forward, I'm not hopeful that Bridich will have the autonomy he needs to make the tough choices.
As David Martin pointed out at Rockies Review, with the change Monfort will either become much more involved with baseball decisions (not positive) or he will perhaps be open to Bridich's new ideas and learn to lean on him and trust his baseball acumen. Just how much control Bridich has over baseball decisions won't be explicitly spelled out, but we should see in the coming months the kind of plan Bridich has for this organization.
Bridich is the guy within Colorado's organization that I would have picked to succeed O'Dowd if you had told me that I couldn't look outside the organization for other candidates. He is a young and hungry devotee of sabermetrics that has experience not only with the financial management of a major league club but also with the development of its minor league system.
As has been pointed out elsewhere, in the three years since he took over the player development reins, the quality of Colorado's farm system has increased dramatically, though it has yet to lead to major league success. In addition, Bridich's experience with the challenges facing the Rockies at Coors Field is an asset, particularly if he has the desire to use more resources to improve the understanding of those issues in his expanded role.
We don't know yet how Bridich will approach the external player acquisition markets this offseason or how he will manage Colorado's payroll with several big decisions to be made on player options and impending free agents. We don't know how much rope Monfort has given him. There is much that we don't know about how Bridich will differ from O'Dowd. What we do know is that a change has been made, whether Monfort wanted it or not, and that for the first time in the 21st century the Rockies have a GM other than O'Dowd.
This is a step in the right direction, but there are enough negatives (lack of a comprehensive GM search, the presence of Monfort in the president role/owner's suite) that I have to temper my enthusiasm. Still though, I feel better about the direction of the Rockies today than I did at this time last week, and it's been a while since I've been able to say that.