It’s hard to imagine a more precipitous fall for a team owner (that did not involve some sort of scandal). Three years ago, coming off back-to-back playoff appearances, Colorado Rockies owner Dick Monfort had a case to be one of the best sports owners in the city or even the league.
But those three years have taken their toll. The team owns a .446 win percentage—a 72-90 record over 162 games—and has had one of the worst offenses in baseball. Last offseason they shipped off one of the best and most beloved players in franchise history in embarrassing fashion. The season seemed DOA from a competitive standpoint, but the Rockies failed to find a good trading partner for the other ostensible franchise cornerstone, who ended up taking less money in free agency than return to Colorado. Perhaps worse, the team failed to agree to terms with a player who was on record saying he wanted to stay. The less said about Monfort’s role representing the owners in collective bargaining negotiations, the better.*
Many of the aforementioned issues (with the last one being the obvious exception) can be traced back to the front office that bears responsibility for building the roster. But in Denver, that responsibility has long been seen as nominal at best, as Dick Monfort tends to execute final say over all roster decisions. In a way, that’s the prerogative of owning a sports franchise. But when the franchise has experienced such a steep decline, the buck stops at the owner’s suite, not the Baseball Ops division. Dick Monfort knows this. But he seems unwilling or unable to do what’s necessary to change it.
Last year’s version of this preview pointed out Monfort’s loyalty problem and offered the suggestion that Monfort make some changes in the front office. Then Jeff Bridich stepped down as GM. Monfort took the step of finally appointing a new team president in Greg Feasel—a man who spent the last 25 years in the organization, mostly on the business side. He also gave 23-year veteran of the front office, Bill Schmidt, the interim and then full general manager job. For a fan base that hoped for substantive change in the front office (and not just disruptive turnover), that move seemed as inevitable as it was disappointing.
So once again Rockies fans have a bad taste in their mouths when it comes to the Monforts. Perhaps that’s why the team made acquiring Kris Bryant a priority, so they could find some way to repair the relationship with fans. Time will tell if the hope will bear fruit, but ultimately the team needs to win for that relationship to be fully repaired. The 2016-2018 seasons taught Rockies fans that this franchise can win. Maybe Bryant can lead the next competitive window, but not without help from the rest of the squad, whether from the farm or further free agent acquisitions. And that squad cannot improve without investment from the front office. And the front office cannot improve without a change in approach (or permission to change) from ownership.
Dick Monfort owns the Colorado Rockies and shows no indication that anyone else will in the foreseeable future. Whether the relationship with fans (and former players) improves depends on whether the franchise proves willing to try something—anything—different, or if they will stick with their current trajectory and just hope for the best.