I have never received a more ego-boosting ass whoopin' than was delivered two weeks ago by our friends and allies of the Purple Dinosaur Podcast. If you aren't listening to their podcasts religiously, then you probably don't really love baseball or the Rockies or America or freedom.
The inciting incident was, naturally, a piece I wrote defending Dick Monfort and Dan O'Dowd. I feel the need to clarify some misconceptions and answer a few of Tyler Maun and Anthony Masterson's fair questions but—most importantly—I'd like to move this whole conversation away from the realm of who is to blame and into the realm of what is to be done.
Let me reach into my way-back file and begin this debate by defining some terms.
Devil's Advocate: I would first like to clarify that—despite my appreciation for those who use this term for my benefit—it was never my intention to "play devil's advocate" nor was I instructed to. In fact, this was the exchange between myself and editor (and co-benevolent overlord) Bryan Kilpatrick on the subject:
Me: I think I'm going to write a piece defending Monfort/O'Dowd.
BK: Don't do it.
Everyone else at Purple Row is absolved from the responsibilities of my opinion.
Other than the word "rebuild" and the word "vast" in front of the word "majority" (when I discussed how most baseball teams have losing records) I believe every word of what I wrote and it was entirely of my own volition. I did not defend the organization because I think someone has to or because I am on their side. I did it because the front office has a case that shows they are making the right decisions right now. I don't care what happened from 2000-2006.
The point about the "vast majority" of teams having losing records (when it's really only 17) was overstated but better articulated by the stat that coming into this season the Chicago Cubs had the sixth highest winning percentage of all time at .511. So when people cry that all they really want is a winning record, they aren't being as reasonable as it may seem on the surface.
"Rebuild" vs. "Restructure"
First, there is a false dichotomy brewing here much like the "buyers" versus "sellers" concept between "rebuilding" and "competing." I used the word "rebuild" (and admittedly should not have) because after 2012 it was clear to me that it was going to take a few years to get back to any modicum of contention. Regardless of how many games Monfort says he thinks the team can win, I reject the notion that they should either be adding veteran talent to compete now or trading for prospects in a complete rebuild.
I don't think adding players like Justin Morneau and the owner expecting to win 90 games lessens the reality that the team is now—and has been since 2012—building for contention in 2015 and beyond, with expected bumps along the way. It's always worth having those pieces if a few things break your way. This season, absolutely nothing has broken the Rockies way.
Probably the single biggest piece of pushback I got, including from the PDP guys, was over this notion of a rebuild. I should change to that "restructure," which is what I meant and why I used post-2012 as a cutoff date for criticisms.
"In 2012, when the Rockies lost 98 games, O'Dowd offered to quit but Monfort talked him into staying."
I have also had some conversations with people around the front office and get the impression that the majority of the moves Rockies fans would consider bad (including the pitching situation in that dreadful 2012 season) were the results of O'Dowd being overruled by his owner.
I cannot confirm nor have I been told that any kind of deal was made, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if O'Dowd staying was conditional upon no longer being overruled in such a manner. Since this happened, I have noticed a trend of winning individual baseball moves that include the acquisitions of Morneau, Drew Stubbs, Jordan Lyles, Brandon Barnes, and others along with three straight excellent drafts that have dramatically improved the depth of the organization.
All of this doesn't even scratch the surface of the incredible working going on at the team's Dominican academy.
The other event that occurred at this time was hiring Mark Wiley as head of pitching operations, which showed excellent results during the Jhoulys De La Chatwood era and is almost impossible to judge with so many starts going to Christian Flandbergjens in 2014.
This is why I have challenged those who wish to see regime change to point out the mistakes they have made since 2012 and almost no one has taken me up on that offer. Several people have suggested moves they could have made to address depth, but you can do that with every team in baseball and anyone who expected the whole depth issue to be solved by now are being unreasonable in my opinion. But arguing what they could have done without knowing what was specifically available scapegoats actual analysis of actual moves which have mostly panned out.
Are there still holes on this roster? Absolutely. Does that mean that the team hasn't been moving in the right direction system-wide for the last two years? It does not.
And this is where the conflation of 15 years of ineptitude comes into the picture. Those who argue that "my anger isn't about bad baseball this year but for O'Dowd's entire tenure" are still using the results on the field this season as evidence of systematic failure, which in my mind is remarkably premature.
Eddie Butler bad in one game then got hurt? Must be O'Dud's fault and he is probably ruined forever.
I have stated several times that I would have been in favor of regime change in 2012, but that ship has long since sailed and we are in the middle of the ocean now. Some are ready to abandon ship but I see land on the horizon. Either way, where we took off from is now irrelevant.
The problem with this whole "restructure" is that it left a confusing chain of command in place that may be detrimental to flexibility. The Denver Nuggets had this same problem for several years in the middle of the Carmelo Anthony era and when they were being bounced in the first round every year the unusual nature of the front office structure became a big part of the conversation.
When they traded Allen Iverson for Chauncey Billups and went to the Western Conference Finals, Rex Chapman (essentially Bill Geivett in this scenario) was awarded executive of the year even though general health and the overall play of Melo is really what drove that team and nobody really knew who was in charge of the Nuggets.
Post hoc, ergo propter hoc.
The point is, we often read a great deal more into what is going on in these highly secretive places than we can possibly know.
I agree with the criticisms that the ambiguity in the Rockies front office is becoming a problem. But rather than just bemoan the status quo, I prefer to aim for more constructive ground.
It is far easier to tear a house down than to build one. But let's try.
On the field:
One concept that I feel gets missed out when we talk about the front office or management is the actual play on the field. The reports that Bill Geivett is too hands on is disturbing yet it also makes sense that the GM would have certain rules about playing the team in a way that makes sense based on how they were compiled.
Rather than constantly being in the manager's ear about what needs to be done, I would institute a few blanket rules:
1. No sliding head first. Ever. Any player who slides head first receives an automatic one-game suspension unless that slide wins a playoff game. Organization wide.
2. At the MLB level, no bunting/stealing. Pitchers exempt from the first part. All 27 outs are precious.
3. At the MLB level, a pitcher's training wheels come off. He can pitch high if he want to, but MiLB guys still trained to pitch to low contact so they have that tool in their bag.
4. Don't hustle, a player will hurt himself. We are running a marathon not a sprint so giving it all 100 percent of the time doesn't make sense. Set a pace. Rule does not apply in playoffs/playoff chases. Health over 162 is more important than one out or even one run.
5. If a player is not one of the top two hitters in the organization at any given time, TAKE PITCHES. At home, on the road—especially on the road—don't be aggressive, don't push the issue, let this game come to him.
6. Hard pitch count limit at 115. Anything before that is manager's discretion. 80 pitches for MiLB pitchers.
Off the field:
The problem for many Rockies fans (myself included) begins and ends with the lack of an outside voice in the front office. The first step for this team should be hiring someone from outside the organization to be the final decision maker on all baseball moves. I am in favor of Kim Ng for this job, but there are plenty of qualified candidates. For now, let us pretend that I am Kim Ng, just brought in to run the Rockies baseball operations.
Bill Geivett would be on his way out with nothing but the best of wishes. I would keep Dan O'Dowd in a role suited for minor league development. There are varying reports of how involved he has been and how much power he has, but under this management he would have those specific duties and be otherwise limited. The team president could either act as GM or hire someone of their choosing. I think O'Dowd's tenure here has taught him a great deal and losing that knowledge out of anger for the past would be misguided.
I firmly believe that if Dan O'Dowd was left to his devices yet not given free rein to do what he wants at all levels, he would be an incredible asset to this organization.
I would also fire Walt Weiss, who I haven't been a fan of since the 90s, and replace him with a much more new-school stat-oriented manager who hates bunting, stealing, and faux displays of "grit."
Appeasing Troy Tulowitzki:
Two paths diverged in a wood.
If we don't think we have the assets to win in the next two seasons, we should trade Troy Tulowitzki. If we do think we can win, we need to convince him of that.
I'm not ready to blow the whole thing up and trade the best player in the NL for unequal value so this offseason is going to need to be a big one.
The Rockies have two glaring areas of need at the major league level: pitching (including the bullpen) and catcher. The Rockies also have an excess of position players, especially in the outfield, that can be moved to address these concerns.
I'd start by swinging big, offer Carlos Gonzalez in a package surrounding Jason Castro, Wellington Castillo, or Travis d'Arnaud. CarGo and Wilin Rosario for a defensive catcher and either some major bullpen help or a decent rotation pitcher could actually end up being an overpay but could dramatically improve the Rockies' situation. CarGo is the biggest chip they have and could be used to shore up several areas even if the return isn't exciting. The best thing for the Rockies is that he is one player who has been injury prone that can likely net the Rockies several players in order to spread out both production and risk.
The trade I worked out with House of Houston that sent CarGo to the Astros for Castro, Josh Fields, and a pitching prospect is the kind of deal I would be looking for.
If a blockbuster can't be done, just go down the line offering outfielders (even Corey Dickerson for the right package) to acquire a defensive-minded catcher and any and all pitching you can find.
The landscape will shift several times between now and the offseason so I can't get too far into actual trades, but moves need to be made this winter to address these two main areas of concern. The Rockies have enough assets to get that done without setting themselves too far back.
If I were president, I would go all out this offseason trying to prove to Tulowitzki that this team is serious about building a winner around him by signing more hitters and trading for more pitchers, which unfortunately for my soul means being open to trading Carlos Gonzalez.