The Atlanta Braves cut ties with general manager Frank Wren on Monday, relieving him of his duties and replacing him with former Indians and Rangers GM Jon Hart. The move comes a day after the team was assured it would miss the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
Atlanta (76-79 entering Monday) could still finish the season with a winning record, which would mean 2014 would be their sixth consecutive winning season. But plain ol' winning seasons aren't good enough for a franchise that has won 17 pennants and appeared in the postseason 23 times in its existence.
That is a stark contrast to the Colorado Rockies, who are about to finish with a losing record for the 15th time in 22 seasons, and 11th time in 15 years with GM Dan O'Dowd at the helm. Of course, an apples-to-apples comparison isn't necessary applicable here; the Braves, who are a charter member of the National League, have had a lot more time to get their footing than have the expansion Rockies. But one needs to look no further than the relative success of the Arizona Diamondbacks, who have been around for five fewer years than the Rockies but have already accumulated more winning seasons (eight) and playoff appearances (five).
Oh, and by the way, the D-Backs have changed GMs three times since O'Dowd began his tenure with the Rockies in late 1999. Meanwhile, here's what the list of GMs for the Rockies -- a franchise that has compiled a 1,640-1,856 record -- looks like.
But back to the Braves, you know what turned their season sour? The same thing that has supposedly done in the Rockies for each of the past four campaigns: injuries. Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen, both of whom would be the best pitchers in Colorado's rotation, were lost for the season in spring training. That's comparable to the Rockies' injured duo of Tyler Chatwood and Jhoulys Chacin, though at least Colorado got something out of those two. A resurgent Gavin Floyd was limited to nine starts before undergoing elbow surgery. There's Atlanta's Brett Anderson.
The Rockies' front office is a mess
Nobody knows what's going on in the Rockies' front office. It's been that way for years, and it doesn't appear things are changing anytime soon.
Offensively for the Braves, Evan Gattis was the only real positive contributor to miss a whole bunch of time (129 OPS+ in 103 games), so it's hard to compare that to the injuries suffered by Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez and Michael Cuddyer. But Atlanta's offense was nowhere near as good as Colorado's from the start, and the team will still manage to finish close to .500 despite a collective OPS+ of 87. There's something to be said about identifying an advantage and building your team -- and even your depth -- around that, and that's what the Braves have been able to do for years. They can develop pitching (see Alex Wood, Julio Teheran and Craig Kimbrel), but they're also not afraid to take a risk when it's necessary, as was evident by their signing of Ervin Santana, a move that just didn't work out.
O'Dowd and company have gotten better and trying to build their offensive depth by developing and acquiring hitters who can adequately perform their jobs regardless of venue (Corey Dickerson, Nolan Arenado, Justin Morneau, etc.), but it's still not good enough. And while pitching may never be a strength, it has to be better that what it was this year. The Rockies' staff ERA+ of 88 is the worst in the league. Some of it can be explained by having to use 15 different starters, but there is absolutely no excuse for how poorly the bullpen has performed. That's on O'Dowd and the other architects of the team.
The biggest problem with the Rockies is that the men in charge have been given their chance to succeed. And for a few years, they did; building a pitching staff that had an effective mix of power and finesse pitchers and supplementing a star-studded lineup with perhaps the best bench depth in the league worked for three or four years. But O'Dowd inexplicably went away from it, perhaps because he was jaded by his 2011 squad that, for many reasons, failed to build on almost of half-decade of success. When things went extremely south the following year, that's when he should have been shown the door. But for reasons unbeknownst to most, he's still here. And the team is still floundering, injuries or not.
Denver is definitely not Atlanta. Or Phoenix. Or Pittsburgh, Seattle, Los Angeles, or Washington. Sure, the Rockies, due to their environment and budget, might not have the luxury of building their team the same way other successful clubs do. But why does that have to mean losing season after losing season?
That's a question Dick Monfort needs to take a long, hard look at this offseason. Because, before he knows it, his jewel of a ballpark won't have many visitors, as was the case the last time his club finished with a losing record in four consecutive seasons:
Everything we've heard says the Rockies likely won't make any sort of change in the front office. Monfort has said it himself, and Patrick Saunders from the Denver Post has concurred on multiple occasions. But at this point, something has to be done, because patience has worn thin, and no 6-1 homestand at the end of a lost season is going to change that.
The clock's ticking, Dick. Better get to work.