Question: Would you rather the Rockies be very good — playoff-level good — for an extended stretch, or would you rather put all your resources on one big season, knowing that when the season was over, it might be awhile before the Rockies were competitive again?
On Friday, NBC Sports’ Craig Calcaterra tweet-stormed this question: “Do fans really want ‘sustained success’ . . . ?” (I recommend reading entire the thread.) As examples, he cites the 1990s Braves and the current Dodgers, teams that won a lot but with fleeting championship success. (The Braves won 14 consecutive division titles but just one World Series during the shortened 1995 season.) In contrast, he cites the 2015 Royals and 2016 Cubs, teams that went all in and won a World Series, spending money and prospects when the moment was right. (The 2018 Red Sox provide another example.) These are the teams fans remember, not the ones that were very good but not quite good enough. Calcaterra acknowledges there’s no “right” answer, but he does add this:
I think the “sustained success” thing is just another front office talking point that fans have uncritically accepted. Sure, it's desirable, but it's not the only way to achieve success. Going for it and saying you're going for it is another way too, yes?— Craig Calcaterra (@craigcalcaterra) January 18, 2019
The ways in which teams justify spending less money is a topic for another day, but consider for a moment the Rockies and the notion of sustained success.
This is obviously their model — look at the ways in which they protect prospects. The most notable prospects the Rockies have traded in recent years are Forrest Wall and Kevin Padlo. MLB.com’s Thomas Harding makes this especially clear in a recent question-and-answer article, “Do the Rox Need Big Move for a WS Push?” Here’s the passage that stood out, especially after Calcaterra’s argument:
And, yes, the Rockies are reluctant to deal young players, mainly because they use them. Theoretically, had those deals been made in recent years, they would not have David Dahl, who is expected to be part of the 2019 lineup. And while they’ve had relative health with starting pitching in recent years, they need to be protected in case of injuries.
The projected 2019 Rockies lineup has homegrown players at four of the eight positions, with three others having legitimate hopes as starters. In other words, those players are more necessities than surpluses. It’s difficult to lose several of those players for one piece before a season starts.
This strikes me as the Rockies’ definition of “sustained success,” built on young players and what Jeff Bridich has termed “responsible growth.” Harding points out that in filling positions, “[n]eed has to line up with player,” which suggests that if a given Rockies team is good enough to be contenders, only then will the front office look to fill gaps and make the team more competitive (e.g, Jonathan Lucroy, Pat Neshek, and Seung-hwan Oh). But this is a reactive strategy, as opposed to going all in. (It also probably has the added benefit of ensuring “sustained attendance” since fans are more likely to pay to see a contending team than a tanking one.)
(By the way, it’s not an issue of money. As Maury Brown has reported, in 2018 MLB saw a record 10.3 billion in revenues. Moreover, David Roth points out, “Your favorite baseball team can afford any free agent it wants.” Presumably, that includes the Rockies.)
But here we are: It’s the last guaranteed year with Nolan Arenado, and the starting pitching rotation is the best in Rockies history. The Rockies are in a perfect position to spend money and prospects to complement a strong club, and yet they have (apparently) decided to take their chances with the outfield and hope Ian Desmond is going to find his swing in center field while Daniel Murphy brings the missing offense and becomes an effective first baseman. That sounds like “fiscally responsible sustained success.”
I was a bit surprised to find that I was #TeamAllIn. Usually, I’m big on keeping my pantry full, saving what I can, and planning for tomorrow. But not this time.
Wouldn’t it be amazing for the Rockies to be absolutely ripped contenders from the opening game of the season, even if it meant wandering in the baseball wilderness for a few years? By all appearances, this year the NL West will be very winnable. Granted, going all in doesn’t guarantee a World Series series win — it just adds a little to the odds. But I’d argue it would be easier to live with having lost out on a championship knowing the Rockies went all rather than settling for sustained success. It’s time to put all our purple chips on 2019 and win.
What do you think?
Should the Rockies go all in in 2019, even if it means a few marginal years in the future?
This poll is closed
Yes. I want that purple parade in LoDo with Nolan, Kyle, and German holding up the World Series Trophy. We’ll worry about 2020 later.
No. A 90-win season works for me — I enjoy seeing them win over a long period with a chance of a championship. Feast or famine is a bad idea.