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Some thoughts on Bill Schmidt’s end-of-the-season press conference

It’s all in the subtext

During the Colorado Rockies’ last homestand, Bill Schmidt sat down with reporters to take questions and assess the Rockies’ season. He began by thanking fans for their support: “First, I just want to thank our fans for their support this season. Their backing is not lost on this staff or the players. We don’t take it for granted,” Schmidt said before acknowledging that 2022 was not the season the Rockies had hoped for.

What Bill Schmidt said

“Needless to say, this season hasn’t met our expectations,” Schmidt said. However, he tried to put a positive spin on things: “But at the same point, a lot of good things happen that don’t show up every day. And I say that in terms of our minor leagues and some of the foundational pieces that we are going to need going forward.”

He added, “Our system is getting better as evidence as you see some of the young guys up here this season. There’s more to come.”

Promotions of players like Ezequiel Tovar, Gavin Hollowell, Sean Bouchard, and Michael Toglia suggest that the Rockies are considering their options moving forward.

Schmidt was candid, though, in assessing the Rockies’ failures.

“We didn’t play defense to the standard that we normally play,” Schmidt said. “Our situational hitting left a lot to be desired at times. Our starting pitching, especially of late … we didn’t lose because of our pitching.”

For Schmidt, situational hitting also provides a key to improved offense on the road: “That means getting on base, getting the guy over, and getting the guy in.”

In Schmidt’s mind, the problem at the center of the Rockies’ offensive struggles was Kris Bryant’s absence, which kept the Rockies from having the team they’d envisioned. He went so far to refer to Bryant as an “aircraft carrier,” an indication that he was at the center of the Rockies’ plans.

“I would say you always deal with everything, and it’s usually the health — not having Kris Bryant or the club we envisioned when we were trying to put things together coming out of the lockout. We only had him for [42] games — a quarter of the season, to that effect.”

He also wondered about the effect of the lockout in terms of keeping players from keeping their normal offseason training schedules.

Looking forward, Schmidt is optimistic.

“Hopefully, we’re going to compete next year,” he said. “That’s our expectation — to win as many games every year as we can.”

Of Ezequiel Tovar and Michael Toglia, Schmidt said, “Those guys took advantage of opportunities, and they performed well.” They are also looking to see how Peter Lambert pitches in the Arizona Fall League as they consider their pitching options, and they expect Ryan Rolison to be healthy for next year.

In moving forward, the Rockies intend to consider where they are. Schmidt explained, “We’ll evaluate all of our processes. How can we get better? With Brian Jones taking over the (research and development) department and adding more people there, that’s going to help in our decision-making process. . . . We’ll continue to grow that area.”

As these things go, it was fairly standard “guys need to play better” commentary.

Colorado Rockies Spring Training

What fans may infer from Schmidt’s press conference

I realize this presser happened over a week ago, but I really wanted to sit with it and see how the final road trip played out before thinking through the possible implications. The Rockies have not won a game since Friday, September 23, so the answer is that things did not improve.

Here are some of my (highly subjective) takeaways.

  • The Rockies Still Believe in Their Team . . . Maybe — I don’t ever fault someone in a position of authority for refusing to throw their players under the bus in public, and to his credit, Schmidt did not do that in this press conference. (Call me old school, but those conversations are better had in private between the involved parties.) However, when Schmidt said that the Rockies failed to play to their own defensive standards and that they failed to generate offense, he’s pointing to specific areas in which the 2022 Rockies have failed and will need to address in 2023.
  • Let’s Be Honest: A Healthy Kris Bryant Would Not Have Saved This Team — The Rockies were clearly better in the 42 games Bryant played, but he alone could not have made the 2022 Rockies a winning team. The Rockies have a team fWAR of 7.5, which is 25th in baseball. Kris Bryant couldn’t fix that on his own. (That aircraft-carrier metaphor is going to stay with me for awhile though.)
  • Bud Black Will Continue as Manager for Another Season — This one didn’t surprise me at all. I think the Rockies generally like what he’s done with pitching (you can argue about that in the comments) and how he runs a clubhouse. (Black made some interesting comments about his management style that I want to discuss in a separate piece.) I do think, however, this is his last year as the Rockies manager. As those players the minors get closer to being MLB ready, the Rockies will made changes in the clubhouse to reflect the new era the Rockies have entered. Schmidt also said they’re planning to grow the analytics department, which is promising.
  • The Window Has Begun to Creep Open — The Rockies are never going to say that they’re rebuilding or that they don’t believe they can compete. They just aren’t going to sell tickets to the Best Bar in Colorado if they say those things publicly. After beer and Rocky Mountain sunsets, the Rockies are in the business of selling hope. In calling up prospects like Ezequiel Tovar, Sean Bouchard, Gavin Hollowell, and Michael Toglia, the Rockies are, clearly, looking to see what they have and give those players MLB time. Think of this, too, as a peek at coming attractions: The future is going to be exciting.
  • A Few General Predictions — Related to this, I expect 2023 to be a transitional year: I think the Rockies will spend the offseason removing from the roster some players who just haven’t been able to make it work; repurposing other players; and acquiring a few free agents to fill in the gaps until those players in the minors (e.g., Zac Veen, Benny Montgomery, Drew Romo, Jaden Hill, and Gabriel Hughes) are ready.

The Rockies have said they’d like to acquire a center fielder who can hit leadoff, which strikes me as a fairly unsubtle hint to almost-free-agent Brandon Nimmo. I don’t see Nimmo coming to Denver, and I don’t see the Rockies taking on the contract he would require, so I expect them to do what they’ve done with some success: Extend the warranty on a free agent center fielder and a starting pitcher. It won’t be enough — for now, it just needs to look like it might be enough if everything goes right.

For the folks saying the Rockies’ roster will look much the same in 2023, I think it will in the beginning though I expect José Iglesias, Alex Colomé, and Chad Kuhl to be playing elsewhere. The players with the long-term contracts (and Charlie Blackmon) will be back, but I also look for some new guys in the clubhouse.

And I don’t think the Rockies will sit out the trade deadline next year. If they’re clearly not competing in July, which seems likely, I expect the Rockies to move some tradable veterans. That’s how we’ll know they’re serious about that opening window.

Then the Rockies will truly let the kids play.