Let me just begin with this — the following post isn’t meant to bash the Rockies’ front office, it’s just meant to voice some frustration I have that I’m sure many of you do as well. Consider it, if you will, as something of an open letter to management. Or, maybe, it’s just a note to you, Purple Row community. Semantics aside, I wanted to address an article that Bryan touched on in this Tuesday’s Rockpile, so take a look at that if you haven’t already.
As many of you may already have seen via the Rockpile link or otherwise, the Denver Post ran an article this past Sunday quoting Rockies’ manager Walt Weiss as saying of the Rockies: "We are at a point where we’ve got to turn it around. The reality of it is, if it doesn’t happen this year, yeah, you’re probably looking at going a different way at that point." I’m sure I could find similar statements made every offseason from the Rockies regarding "winning seasons," "meaningful baseball in September," or other rhetoric concerning the necessity of change in the event of failure. Take, for example, this article on Monfort’s claims that the Rockies could win 90 games from this past offseason. Now, although that cringe-inducing statement following a season in which the Rockies lost 96 games seems rather absurd, I actually didn’t hate it at the time. Did I think the Rockies were going to win 90 games? Of course not, and I don’t think the FO really did either for that matter, but I did appreciate Monfort saying that he wasn’t content with mediocrity. What I don't appreciate presently is the lack of action following another year of failure. Sure, the FO got a shakeup, but the team remains pretty much the same.
The thing is, for as much as I think that ownership needs to let better baseball minds run the team — like it’s done in pretty much any other sports organization — and as much as I understand the distress of the fan base regarding ownership, I actually can sort of understand management’s position on some matters. Was I advocating the replacement of O’Dowd and Geivett? You bet I was. Realistically, though, I thought O’Dowd did a pretty decent job with the farm system. And while the FO can be blamed for bringing in injury prone guys when the injury bug inevitably strikes — it seems at some point they should just assume the worst given the team’s injury history — you can’t really blame them that all of our stud players are made of shattered dreams and papier-mâché. It’s a tough situation, especially for a team that’s not in the mix of things when it comes to signing star free agents. I’m also not one for the impulsive sacking of a team executive, especially when circumstances out of their control are playing a significant part in a team’s struggles, and in that regard I could understand why Monfort never fired anyone. Change for the sake of change can be viewed either positively or negatively; it just depends on the person. And finally, for a mid-market team that’s overshadowed by pretty much every other team in the area, I can understand why the Rockies can’t spend truckloads of money on players.
With apologies for my digression, what I’m really trying to say is that I think there’s one aspect of the team that the Rockies FO can change, but has routinely ignored these past few seasons at the cost of continually having losing seasons and potentially causing harm to the Rockies’ future as an organization. While I don’t criticize the FO as much as some community members do, although it’s perfectly in your right to do so and totally understandable given the circumstances, I am frustrated by the lack of change Weiss alluded to.
As seasons come and go and the Rockies still find themselves in the cellar of the NL West, has anything really ever changed? Sure, most of you are probably happy that Dan O’Dowd and Bill Geivett are no longer with the team, but that’s not necessarily the change I’m looking for. I’m talking about a change in mindset regarding identity. What are the Rockies now? What are they going to be moving forward? An overhaul of the front office is one thing, but the crux of the issue is a lack of organizational direction. And, as ownership is pretty heavily involved on that front, I don’t think it’s necessarily O’Dowd or Geivett’s fault that the Rockies are struggling so mightily. While I’m happy to see them gone, I don’t know that Bridich replacing them is going to matter if ownership continues to stick to its guns.
The most frustrating thing about it all is that I can see, and I think most of you can as well to some extent, what management sees when they look at this team. Assume the team remains relatively healthy (I know, I know). We have one of the better infield defenses in baseball, a solid outfield defense highlighted by Gold Glove ability from CarGo, and a scary good lineup when it’s clicking. Facing some order of Blackmon, Dickerson, Arenado, Tulo, CarGo, and Morneau would give any pitcher fits. Those bats are good enough that it doesn’t really matter that LeMahieu is a dreadful hitter or that Rosario can’t recognize a breaking ball. The argument can be made that pitching looks relatively all right as well. The problem, however, is that you can’t rely on those guys to put together a full season of solid play. If they could, the Rockies might very well have won those 90 games Monfort talked about. If games were won on paper, the Rockies wouldn’t be in such a bad spot.
The problem is, however, that games aren’t played on paper. They’re played in the real world, and the real world is cruel and unforgiving and sees our studs miss a ton of time and struggle to return to form if they do return. The FO tells us that they believe the team is a contender. Fine, I guess I can buy that. It’d take a whole lot of luck, a whole lot, but if the team remained somewhat healthy they have the players that could make up the foundation of a winning baseball team. But if they really believe this team is a contender, then prove it. I said above that as a mid-market team the Rockies can’t spend obscene amounts of money, but that isn’t to say I don’t see why they can’t loosen the purse strings at all.
Yes, the additions of Jairo Diaz and Austin House are nice, and it is good to see the Rockies adding power arms with swing-and-miss stuff to a bullpen that is in desperate need of help. Yes, the Descalso signing is a good move to bring in infield depth when Tulo inevitably goes down. None of those moves, however, are the moves of a team that think it’s on the verge of being a contender. Maybe the Rockies bring in Kyle Kendrick, which certainly helps the rotation, but that’s not going to cut it either. That rotation doesn’t make the Rockies a contender. If the positional players can stay relatively healthy, then I can see that offense/defense being good enough to be a playoff team, but not the pitching. The rotation isn’t terrible, but if something big isn’t done then the Rockies will be mired in the mediocrity that Monfort said he wants to avoid. The Rockies shouldn’t be afraid to deal a big name, especially when guys like Blackmon or Morneau are sell-high candidates. I’m not saying either or both of those guys nets you an ace, but the return would be still be good. With Morse signing with the Marlins, however, another potential trading opportunity vanishes. It’s very well possible that the Rockies have waited too long to do anything significant on the trade front.
To be totally honest, I don’t really know what trades the Rockies should make or what free agents they should target. I do know, however, that if they want to be contenders like they think they are, the Rockies FO needs to prove it by making an impact move. Otherwise, they’re just going to be stuck in limbo for another season. If the team doesn’t think it’s a contender, then they need to rebuild. I know the dreaded rebuilding phase is something many of you are loathe to take part in, but the reality of the situation is that if the team isn’t going to make moves to make itself a team whose playoff aspirations aren’t predicated on a late season Cinderella story 15 game run, then they need to sell off their veterans while they still have value. As a fan, I’d personally rather see a bevy of young prospects develop knowing that in a few seasons the team would be competitive again then watch a team continually struggle with no future relief in sight. I love Tulo, CarGo, Blackmon, and Morneau. I really, really do and it would break my heart especially to see the former two go, but in the interests of the team something needs to happen.
If the team isn’t going to be aggressive in the offseason and if it isn’t going to enter a period of rebuilding, then the future is decidedly uncertain. The Rockies may well find themselves in a position in which their veterans are older, with little trade value and playing at a poorer level, and with no relief in sight in the form of younger prospects. The Rockies farm system is good, maybe even very good. We have a handful of guys who could become legitimate studs. But I’m not taking any chances here if I’m the Rockies and I’m not willing to go all in on an impact move or two. Instead, I’m trading one or two of my big players for some top prospects to join an already talented pool.
They say not to count your chickens before they’re hatched, but it sure helps your cause if you have more eggs than not. That’s a rather poor metaphor for the acquisition of prospects, but hopefully you get my point. If the Mets offer up some of their pitching prospects in a package for Tulo, I’d take a good hard look at it. Without an identity or sense of direction, the Rockies may find themselves in a precarious position following a stretch of more losing seasons. Now I turn to you, Purple Row members. Do you agree with me that the Rockies need to change something, either through impact acquisitions or by trading away veterans? Or can the Rockies hold their course and still find success with minor tweaks?