On Thursday night, the New York Yankees clinched the AL East after beating the Los Angeles Angels 9-1. Much celebrating ensued — the kind of thing we Rockies fans have enjoyed for the last two seasons as we geared up for Rocktober. While the players partied, the Yankees social media team started sending out the celebratory pictures, some of which featured former Rockies.
I had mixed feelings about it. I’ve followed the Yankees this year to keep up with DJ LeMahieu, Adam Ottavino, and Mike Tauchman. I was proud that all of baseball got to see how talented LeMahieu and Ottavino are and that they put a damper on the “Coors creation” narrative. And I was glad to see Tauchman getting a chance. I was also stunned by just how good he’s been.
During a season when the Rockies have gone a miserable 66-87, it’s good to know some players we grew to love and respect are headed to the post-season even as Rockies fandom began arguing about offseason moves. At least we’ve got some old friends to follow in the playoffs.
I’ve tried to be pragmatic about these players no longer being Rockies. Ottavino wanted to go home. (I get that.) LeMahieu was blocking younger players, which I understood until the Rockies signed Daniel Murphy at the same salary (2 years, $24 million). And through Lindsey Adler’s writing, Tauchman became a Rosetta Stone for what’s happening with player development in the Rockies organization.
I was feeling ambivalent about things and a bit sorry for Rockies fandom, and then this happened:
I'll be there for you, when the champagne starts to pour. pic.twitter.com/B6dnwq6fdB— New York Yankees (@Yankees) September 20, 2019
I’ve got nothing but respect for a good troll, and this one deserves an A+. There they are, DJ, Otto, and Tauchman, soaked in champagne and wearing not-purple pinstripes while (I imagine) the Yankee Stadium sound system blares Sinatra’s “New York, New York.”
If the Rockies have had a bad year with an injured pitching staff, the front office has had a worse one. Ken Rosenthal has written about mismanagement by the front office (see here and here). Nick Groke has shown how problematic the Rockies’ balance sheet is and pointed out cultural issues in the clubhouse. And Patrick Saunders is reporting off-the-record conversations with players in which they question the ownership and the general manager. Meanwhile, Nolan Arenado is making his frustration known as well — and he’s not buying the injuries excuse.
The 2019 Rockies’ fWAR is one way to quantify the problem. To summarize, the Rockies have had two outstanding seasons, from Arenado and Story, but no other position player has more than 2 fWAR. Scott Oberg leads all relief pitchers with a 1.1 fWAR. For comparison sake (and to make you depressed if you aren’t already), LeMahieu, Tauchman, and Ottavino have combined for a 9 fWAR. No one can guarantee that these players staying with the Rockies would have significantly changed the 2019 team, but what the Rockies passed up is clear.
Rockies fans deserve front office accountability. According to ESPN, 2,865,005 fans have watched the Rockies at Coors this year — that’s the sixth highest in baseball. We’ve shown our commitment by buying tickets and merchandise and following the team on TV, the internet, and radio. It’s time for management to explain what happened and how it plans to address these issues.
Some of the answers are obvious. Arenado has pointed to a lack of depth. Ben Lindbergh and Travis Sawchik in The MVP Machine show where player development is going — and the Rockies are absent from that book (except for Adam Ottavino, who’s now drinking champagne with DJ and Tauchman in the Bronx). How do the Rockies plan to address these issues?
When can we expect general manager Jeff Bridich to deliver an autopsy of the team he built? Is he going to hide behind player injuries, or is he going to address larger questions? Will he fall back on his general approach of “We just need to learn how to be a better team.” Will he explain why he overestimated this team? (“It’s frustrating because it’s the same group of guys,” Bridich said. “I don’t think anybody saw this coming. I certainly didn’t, not to this degree.”) Or is he just going to serve up some Jeff Bridich word salad? (As we are often reminded, Bridich went to Harvard. Surely he can provide clear answers.)
I’m happy for DJ, Otto, and Tauchman, and I intend to cheer them through the playoffs. (#NeverDodgers — if the Rockies can’t beat them, perhaps some former Rockies in a better organization can.) But I also want to know what happened to the 2019 Rockies. Jeff Bridich declined to speak to Ken Rosenthal on the state of the team until the season ended. That’s next weekend.
We’ll be waiting.
This article was corrected to indicate that Oberg leads all Rockies relief pitchers.