It’s hard not to have an opinion about Rockies owners Dick and Charlie Monfort. From 2010 to 2016, the Rockies averaged 72 wins a year and finished an average of 21 games out of first place. In the middle of all this losing, the team spent an estimated $10 million to open The Rooftop, and a meme was born.
“The Monforts don’t really care about winning,” went the refrain. “They just want to make money off of Coors Field.” Nevermind that the Rooftop was paid for out of a fund specifically designated for stadium improvements, and that a hypothetical free agent pitcher worth that price wouldn’t have moved the needle on a bad team. “Cheapfarts is more like it.”
Except we have a growing list of counterpoints to this claim.
This offseason was headlined by the Miami Marlins, the Tampa Bay Rays and the Pittsburgh Pirates, and for all the wrong reasons. Constrained by tiny budgets brought on by massive debt (in the case of the new Marlins ownership) or an inability/unwillingness to spend (Rays and Pirates), these teams ended up selling off their franchise cornerstones along with a number of other valuable major league players to the highest bidders. All three looked at their situation and decided they weren’t going to spend money but were going to cut payroll and start from scratch.
You know who wasn’t among that group? Your Colorado Rockies.
Not only are the Rockies not crying poor, they are actively spending money. They were one of the few active teams on the free agent market this winter, bringing in free agent relievers Wade Davis, Bryan Shaw, and Jake McGee (and committing about $106 million in the process). They are currently on track to have the highest Opening Day payroll in team history.
There’s one more thing that runs counter to the narrative: the Rockies are one of the biggest spenders in baseball. Not this season, and not by raw totals, but relative to their income.
Since Fangraphs released their ownership rankings recently. This is 2017 opening day payroll/2016 revenue per Cots and Forbes. League average was 44.66% pic.twitter.com/G4hQ6GYbEh— Big Swinging Dickerson Szn (@EvilNeal) January 23, 2018
This chart started floating around last month. And while some have pointed out that some of the numbers are wrong (these numbers don't account for benefits going to players or postseason shares, which brings player revenue closer to 51% of overall revenue), the larger point still stands: the Rockies are spending their money, and more of it than two-thirds of MLB and one of only ten teams that spends at least 50% of revenue on the team. In fact, the Monfort’s have said multiple times that their goal is to do exactly that: spend 50% of their income on the team.
None of this is to say that frustration with the Monforts has been completely unfounded in the past; spurious emails fired off in frustration don’t exactly endear one’s self to one’s fanbase and customer base. And there have been times where the Monfort influence has led to head scratching signings and non-trades and that breaks down trust.
But maybe, just maybe, they are earning that trust back. Since hiring Jeff Bridich, the Monforts seem to have been willing to trust their GM to make baseball decisions, seen most clearly in the Troy Tulowitzki trade. In the past two offseasons, seeing a team ready to enter a contention window, they approved over $200 million in free agent contracts. And they are making good on promises to take revenue and put it into the major league roster. When you compare their behavior to other actual cheap owners around the league, the Monforts no longer look so bad.
So maybe we can stop talking about the Party Deck for a while. Instead, we should probably start talking about the Monforts as one of the best owners in baseball.