We once again find ourselves a few blocks away from Coors Field. Instead of being at 20th and Blake we are at Speer and Chopper. Ball Arena, home of the Denver Nuggets, sits silent just two days after the NBA season tipped off within its walls.
Colorado Rockies fans, meanwhile, were reeling after another miserable season in LoDo that ended with a 68-94 record — the fourth-worst in franchise history. Owner Dick Monfort sent out a letter apologizing to season ticket holders while Avalanche fans were singing “All the Small Things” in triumph.
On Tuesday night, it was Denver Nuggets fans at Ball Arena watching their 2023 NBA Champions banner ascend to the mountain top. A deafening roar of the crowd presided over the arena as the ceremony commemorated the Nuggets winning their first championship in the 47-year history of the franchise. Fans bellowed chants of “who’s your daddy?” as the Nuggets conquered the Los Angeles Lakers to cap off a night in which rings were handed out, and a new campaign began.
The banner has been raised.— NBA (@NBA) October 24, 2023
Denver Nuggets. 2023 NBA Champions pic.twitter.com/GQhLSWBKhk
Colorado Rockies fans, meanwhile, were once again reeling after a miserable season in LoDo. The Rockies lost 103 games, reaching the century mark for the first time in franchise history and achieving their worst record in 31 years of existence.
This time, however, there has been no letter apologizing to fans for a brutal 30th-anniversary campaign. There has been zero recognition of the worst season in franchise history. No promise to do better. Dick Monfort has offered season ticket holders nothing nearly a month after the regular season ended.
Not only has there been no letter, but it’s been almost complete radio silence from the organization since October 1st. The Rockies haven’t held an official postseason debriefing since before Nolan Arenado was traded. They’ve become more and more insular and reclusive since then. Fans are unlikely to hear anything from Dick Monfort unless he gets criticized for saying something out of touch at some variety of luncheon in January or February.
The closest thing Rockies fans have gotten to a postmortem on the 2023 season was a brief Q&A session with general manager Bill Schmidt. Even though it was published via the Rockies’ own blog on September 28th, the end result of the season was barely mentioned.
“Yeah, we’re not pleased with that record. That wasn’t our expectation.”
Rockies fans now turn their heads to see a World Series match-up between the Texas Rangers and the Arizona Diamondbacks. These two teams each lost over 100 games only two seasons ago before coming out of the other side with pennants.
The Rangers and general manager Chris Young bolstered a strong farm system and excellent home grown players like Josh Jung and Evan Carter with a spending spree to bring in name-brand talent on both sides of the ball. The Rangers had the highest payroll of any playoff team. They also had successful reclamation projects, such as Jonah Heim and Adolis García, the latter of whom has become a bona fide fan favorite superstar and was named the ALCS MVP. Combine that with Bruce Bochy, a tried-and-true winning manager, and splashy trade deadline acquisitions for the pitching staff, and you have an extremely successful team fighting for their first World Series title.
The Arizona Diamondbacks took a somewhat different approach. They took a bottom-ten MLB payroll to the World Series, led by Ketel Marte—fan favorite and NLCS MVP—and Corbin Carroll—runaway NL Rookie of the Year candidate. They also have an unsung starting rotation.
They made two small trades at the deadline to bring in clutch hitter Tommy Pham and strong closer Paul Sewald, but largely stuck with their already developed roster. At the helm is Torey Lovullo, who is arguably one of the smartest skippers in the league. Lovullo is supported by a strong front office, a strong farm system, an extremely robust analytics staff, and one of the best pitching coaches in baseball.
Either one of these strategies would be within reach for the Rockies after their own 100-loss season. Like both the Rangers and the Diamondbacks, the Rockies have a strong—and honestly underrated—farm system. However, the silence from the organization leaves fans unsure of where things go from here.
They are unlikely to spend the kind of money the Rangers have committed, and they have yet to show they will embrace analytics in the way the Diamondbacks have. The Rockies are also weighed down by their coaching staff, led by Bud Black, and their overly-meddlesome owner making poor decisions. The Diamondbacks jettisoned Madison Bumgarner despite his massive contract. The Rockies are unlikely to do the same with Kris Bryant.
Back in Denver, the Rockies could even look to the Nuggets for inspiration. Much like the Avalanche, there are a lot of similarities in the recent history of these franchises. The Nuggets traded away a franchise cornerstone who wanted out in Carmelo Anthony and suffered several years of pretty bad basketball. Smart drafting and development of players led to the emergence of a largely home-grown core led by two-time MVP Nikola Jokić, as well as Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. They then made smart trades—bringing in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Aaron Gordon—and smart free agent signings like Bruce Brown, all while continuing to draft well under general manager Calvin Booth. Combine that with an excellent coaching staff in Michael Malone and his assistants David Adelman and Ryan Saunders, and the Nuggets found their recipe for success and their path to the Promised Land.
All is not lost for the Rockies. The emergence of exciting prospects Nolan Jones, Ezequiel Tovar, and Brenton Doyle can provide some hope for the future, especially when more talent is on the way from the farm system. Bill Schmidt also did the right thing at the trade deadline in flipping veterans and expiring contracts for pitching prospects. However, without a clear vision from the organization due to their silence following the worst season in franchise history, that hope can only carry Rockies fans so far.
As the Nuggets raise their banner, fans of their neighbors downtown raise concerns and wonder if it will ever be their turn to celebrate. Rocktober was 16 years ago, and it’s hard to see another one in the near future.
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In this excerpt from Thomas Harding’s newsletter, the Rockies beat writer discusses looming questions for the Rockies offseason. Two of these questions involve pitching and where it’s going to come from, both for the bullpen and the rotation. Two more involve the Rockies trade market. Who would the Rockies trade and what prospects might they be willing to part with? Finally, who is the long term solution behind the dish?
It would appear that the Chicago Cubs shortstop Dansby Swanson has the Gold Glove for his position all but locked up. However, Nicholas Duffy over at Rox Pile believes that Ezequiel Tovar’s truly outstanding rookie defensive season might give him a better chance than one would think.
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Arizona Fall League
All three Rockies position prospects got the start in Arizona, but Benny Montgomery had the best night. Montgomery went 1-for-2 with an RBI and three walks while stealing his seventh base of the season. Sterlin Thompson went 1-for-5 with three strikeouts and Drew Romo went 1-for-4. Case Williams made another three inning start for the Rafters, striking out three batters and walking two. He gave up just two hits in his scoreless outing.
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