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Low opinions of the Colorado Rockies

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The Rockies are losing on and off the field

Not much has gone right for the Colorado Rockies this season. The team is in last place in the NL West, 7 games out of the second wild card spot with six teams ahead of them, and a difficult schedule for the final two months of the season. They’d need to finish the season with a winning percentage around .730 to even have a chance at the playoffs, which they won’t. In short, the 2019 Rockies are toast. They won’t make their third consecutive postseason appearance.

Those are the problems on the field. Off the field, the season hasn’t been great either. Jeff Bridich received criticism for his remarks about beat writers, which were tone deaf at best and condescending at worst. Now fans and analysts alike are starting to direct their criticism to the Rockies’ front office operations, concluding that the team has created a good situation for itself but has failed to capitalize on it.

Let’s start with the view from the fans. We’ve periodically kept readers up to date on SB Nation’s FanPulse polling. The survey goes out to a self-selected group of Rockies fans, and it asks two questions each week: “Are you confident in the general direction of the Colorado Rockies?” and “Do you approve of the job Bud Black is doing as manager?”

We saw some natural ebb and flow of the first question at the beginning of the season, and that’s the more interesting question. Surveyed fans expressed more confidence in general when the team was playing well, and less confidence when they were playing poorly. But overall, surveyed fans maintained pretty high confidence.

They don’t anymore though. What had peaked at 89% confidence two months ago now sits at 21%:

This is justified, and ultimately unsurprising. Everyone has there go to comparison, but this most reminds me of 2011. That year the Rockies started 11-2, finished April 17-8, and were 4.5 games ahead in the NL West. They then went 8-21 in May and were 4.5 games out of first place once the calendar turned to June. It didn’t get better after that. They finished 73-89. Contrary to how the season began, they were just a bad team that played well for a little bit.

The Rockies still have over 50 games yet to play in 2019, so it’s too soon to put such a label on the club. But maybe focusing on this month and this season is too small.

That’s where the broader commentary comes in. On Tuesday Ken Rosenthal wrote a fairly standard trade deadline article. Then, he ended with a quote from an unnamed executive about the difference between well-run teams and poorly-run ones:

“The well-run teams are realistic and have a good feel for their talent and how it stacks up to their competitors,” one executive said. “The poorly-run teams do not.

“The Rockies are a great example. They thought they were building off a 91-win team (last season) without appreciating how fortunate they were and that their true talent was well below that.”

Dan Szymborski of FanGraphs took that and ran with it, writing an article titled “The Rockies Are Wasting Their Stars.” Szymborski uses some weird formulations (total WAR after top two pitchers/position players) that will probably never be used to make an argument again, but his point holds, and it’s a view that a lot of Rockies fans likely share.

The Rockies have developed a great core, but they haven’t done anything substantial to complement it, either by trade or free agency, and have instead continued to give a lot of playing time to sub-par players, which in turn has mitigated the Rockies’ overall potential to succeed. That has been less the case in 2019 than it was the past two seasons, but you can also argue that all that playing time to sub-par players has stunted the development of some of the Rockies position players.

That’s where we’re left right now. Surveyed Rockies fans (again, I don’t know what the sample size is or how it’s changed over the weeks) are expressing low confidence in the direction of the team, and national writers are amplifying messages that justify the pessimism.

The Rockies do still have a great core to work from, but the question we have to ask about the future — and perhaps the question we should be asking about the past, especially the 2017-2018 offseason — is what are they going to do to make the most of it?