We come to the conclusion of this year’s State of the Position series like we always do, with ownership. Perhaps no position in the Rockies organization has fluctuated more in the past five years with so little change.
In 2017, everybody had an opinion (most of them negative) about Rockies ownership, but there were reasons for optimism. Lo and behold, the team made the playoffs and then opened up the pocketbook, spending more of their revenue than most of the league. After another playoff appearance and more contracts for homegrown players, could they be one of the best ownership groups in the city, or even the game? A horrible 2019 season (and offseason) poured some cold water on that claim but maybe they were still better than average. (For a more detailed timeline, check out Ken Rosenthal's and Nick Groke's article in the Athletic from earlier this week).
Now with a homegrown all-everything third baseman gone, the choruses calling for Dick and Charlie Monfort to sell the team have risen to new heights. The easy narrative is that the Monforts don’t really care about the team and they just want to make money off real estate. Unfortunately, that seems to go against a lot of available evidence. Perhaps even more unfortunately, that evidence does not point in a much better direction.
Dick Monfort addressed the media after the Nolan Arenado trade and, suffice it to say, it was not his best performance. But a few things stood out. First, it was hard to watch the presser and hear Dick’s statement and not believe that he loves this team. It may be the kind of love that makes a mother look at her baby born with one nostril and declare him to be the most beautiful baby around, but it’s love nonetheless. The Rockies are more than a moneymaking venture for Monfort. He frequently says things like, “Our players are like family to me,” and “I’m a fan first.” While the passion is admirable, it does raise questions about the requisite objectivity needed to make tough decisions.
The other thing that stood out was what was missing. There are reasons to be upset over the way the presser was handled but the biggest one is this: Monfort offered no clear message about what is going on with the Rockies going forward. His talk of “We’re built to compete” rings hollow when there isn’t a projection system predicting anything better than last place for the Rockies. The eye test also tells us that a lot of players will have to step up in a big way to replace Arenado’s production in an offense that struggled to score enough runs to win games with him over the past four years. If the Rockies aren’t in rebuild mode yet, what will it take for them to get there?
Perhaps the most striking thing about the presser came when Monfort was asked a question about the status of general manager Jeff Bridich.
"I haven't thought about firing Jeff, no," Rockies owner Dick Monfort said of his general manager. "I have thought about firing myself."— Nick Groke (@nickgroke) February 2, 2021
Monfort knows the buck stops with him, and he deserves credit for being willing to own that. But that credit can only go so far when he seems unwilling or unable to see that there’s something he can do about it. It’s clear that Monfort loves this team, but that love has made him loyal to a fault.
Were Dwight Schrute looking for a job in the late 2010’s, there would be hardly a better landing spot than the front office of the Colorado Rockies. Former GM Dan O’Dowd officially resigned after four winning seasons in fifteen years. Former manager Jim Tracy turned down a contract extension and chose to walk away from managing instead. Major trades, few and far between as they are, tend not to involve players at the height of their values.
That’s what happens when you love a team like they’re your family but you also serve as team president. It prevents Dick Monfort from doing what could actually help him build a successful team: bring in help from the outside. Monfort may not be able to fire himself as team owner, but he is capable of firing himself as team president.