Before getting into details, I have to be honest and post a disclaimer.
While the Kübler-Ross model of five stages of grief may be considered outdated and overgeneralized in the psychology world, I believe it to be a fitting model for where I am at in the wake of the Rockies trading away one of the best third basemen in the history of the game — and sent money — for peanut shells. Step one: denial. That’s how I felt over the last year of trade rumors, how I felt when the Cardinals deal “wasn’t close,” how I felt before it was finalized and I thought the MLB might step in to prevent the swindling to which the Rockies were consenting. Maybe the Rockies front office was being held hostage and Rob Manfred would find out and cancel the deal. I would have believed anything but the truth.
Then it was official. Enter stage two: anger. While bargaining, depression, and acceptance are the other steps, I don’t imagine leaving anger any time soon.
With that said, in assessing everything that’s happened in the last week, and really the last two years since the Rockies made back-to-back playoff appearances, I have come to the conclusion that Dick Monfort and Jeff Bridich can only fit in one of the two following categories: a) Either, they don’t care about winning and only care about making money; or b) They do care about winning, but they are just really bad at their jobs. Either way, it’s bad.
While I mostly believe the answer is B, there is one quote from Tuesday’s press conference that makes me think A. When the Denver Post’s Sean Keeler asked about published and nonpublished reports of players and former players warning other players that the Colorado Rockies organization is not a place where they should come if they want to win, Bridich’s response included this phrase:
“We certainly strive for World Series participation.”
Participation. Not winning championships. Just participation. That says it all. That’s why Nolan Arenado is in St. Louis. The Cardinals have won 11 World Series and 23 pennants. Sure, they’ve been around for 100 more years than the Rockies, but their tradition is winning. In 28 years in the MLB, the Rockies have never won an NL West title, let alone a World Series. They lucked their way into the 2007 World Series and after showing potential in 2017 and 2018, have since reverted back to the team that is 9-19 when it comes to winning seasons. Is all the front office cares about is participation? If it brings fans and they can stay in the top tiers in attendance, are they really just here for the money? Many (5280’s Robert Sanchez, 9news’ Kyle Clark, the 1,650-plus fans that have signed the Change.org petition asking for Bridich to be fired and for the Monforts to sell the team, and more) feel this way.
However, I also don’t think it is just about the money. In 1992, the Monfort Brothers bought in for a stake in the team for $92 million and worked their way up to own the team in 2005 (through an unconventional journey). In April of 2020, Forbes valued the Rockies at $1.275 billion. Even with COVID economic hits, the Monforts could make a lot in a sale and they have numerous other investments (McGregor Square and Tattered Cover just to start). They could certainly invest and manage other enterprises without all the public condemnation.
So that’s when I circle back to option B. Monfort loves baseball and he wants the Rockies to win. He is just bad at his job. The clearest quote to demonstrate this from the press conference:
“In hindsight, losing DJ was a big deal.”
The front page of Wednesday’s Denver Post featured a huge picture of Nolan’s face and the headline: “No hope for winning in Denver without sale,” referring to pessimism about Monfort’s ability to run a winning operation. Fans are fed up, thinking about becoming Cardinals fans, boycotting games, or just ending emotional investment.
To compound Monfort’s winning-resistant ways, he hired Jeff Bridich, who is also bad at his job.
While neither Monfort of Bridich seemed to be happy about trading Arenado, they don’t quite seem to grasp the severity of what they have done either. In Tuesday’s press conference, Bridich took blame, but still has no sense of accountability or consequence. He’s just rehearsed his lines to prepare for being confronted with another monumental mistake.
The Rockies have become a joke in the national media and Tuesday’s press conference didn’t help. Several times, Monfort tried to rationalize trading Nolan, who he said wanted out. Monfort believed Arenado would have opted out at the end of the season and didn’t want to be left with only one draft pick for the Rockies to fill the gaping hole left in the future Hall of Famer’s wake. Instead, they decided to pay Nolan to leave for four prospects who aren’t in the MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospect list. It sure makes you wish that Arenado didn’t have that opt-out, the one Bridich oh-so-wisely suggested. Without that brilliant idea, Nolan might still be on the Opening Day lineup.
On Tuesday, Monfort said, “In dealing with this, we tried to find a way that we could get the greatest returns possible. There were many teams that we talked to. There were many deals that made no sense. There were 10 times over the last week where I didn’t think the St. Louis deal made any sense, but Jeff did an incredible job of pushing the talent.”
Wait, what? Monfort didn’t think it made sense, but then it did when Bridich got “the talent.” All Bridich did was get the talent out the door.
When Monfort was asked how things got to the point where the superstar who signed the “career deal” wanted out of Colorado, he replied, “I have spent anguished for many sleepless nights wondering why that happened. … I speculated. … We had a bad year in 19.”
Monfort further speculated that it was that Nolan didn’t get love from national media and MVP votes that can come from more historical clubs, major markets, and the coasts. That’s all he could think of. He couldn’t seem to remember how a big part of Nolan’s deal came with the understanding that the Rockies were contenders. They said they would put a team around Nolan and win. But then they didn’t. They spent money, but not wisely. The third through seventh top salaries the Rockies paid out in 2019 were to Wade Davis, Ian Desmond, Murphy, Jake McGee, and Bryan Shaw for in the sum of $60 million (over 38 percent of the total payroll). Does that signal baseball know-how and inspire confidence that you know how to win?
Monfort’s background is in running a meatpacking company. He’s been with the Rockies since they were born so he’s gained experience, but he said it himself: “I am a fan first.” He’s not a baseball scholar. He can’t seem to find them to work in the front office either. It’s a hard job and it requires an amazing staff of baseball geniuses. On top of that, the club runs one of the smallest analytics operations in the game. Bridich is also gaining a reputation of being a GM players might not want to work with. That is also the vibe the organization is sending out into the MLB.
In the words of The Athletic’s Marc Carig, “[Arenado’s] departure was a matter of hurt feelings and battered trust, and smart people would interpret this outcome for precisely what it is: a clear signal of total and complete organizational failure, one that should be studied, analyzed and mined for insights, in hopes that such foolishness is never again repeated. But these Rockies, they don’t do self-reflection. Nor do they do reality.”
It’s just hard to make the case that the Rockies front office is good at its job.
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Despite lots of talk from the MLB about a possible delay to the season, it’s looking more and more like spring training and the regular season will start on time. Things could of course change, but unless local governments in Arizona and Florida tighten COVID restrictions or the MLB and the MLBPA can’t agree on health and safety protocols, the season is set to go. This seems unlikely because they can use the protocols that were in place last year.
The Dodgers are still in play for Trevor Bauer. They are still trying to improve. The NL West could be even worse for the Rockies.
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