I spent the weekend pondering Joelle Milholm’s Friday Rockpile, “Could changes in the game alter how the Rockies operate?” She’s raised some compelling issues. In the Colorado Rockies’ first home stand, attendance was down (admittedly, the sample size is too small to be meaningful); shorter games mean fewer concession sales; and the team’s TV contract is unsettled.
Joelle concludes by asking this:
Will the Rockies front office finally be forced to prioritize winning, starting with fronting the money to build a competitive starting rotation? Or will they continue the Monfort way, inking veterans to Minor League deals and staying on the sideline during the trade deadline while players lose value and the team remains well outside the playoff race?
I want to take a slightly different angle here and explore what appears to be growing fan apathy — and given that the Rockies are 5-12, that apathy is justified.
The data I’m about to provide is early and largely anecdotal, so think of this less as proving a point than creating a snapshot in time that perhaps provides a benchmark we can return to.
Measure 1: Attendance
To reiterate Joelle’s points, the sample size is limited to the first home stand, which may prove to be meaningless, but attendance is also the most objective measure we currently have.
In 2022, the Rockies’ Coors Field attendance averaged 32,467, which is ninth-highest in MLB. So far in 2023, the Rockies are averaging 30,803, which is fourteenth. I expected Opening Weekend to be more successful than it was given the nice weather and the fact the baseball had returned to LoDo, but after the Thursday game, attendance notably declined. Surely, then, the Cardinals faithful would show up for that series, but, again, attendance was down.
The Rockies have only played seven home games, so they have 74 games to improve, but this is a number that bears watching.
Measure 2: A Survey
Over the weekend, Purple Row ran a Twitter poll in an attempt to get a sense of fans’ attitudes as the second week of the season concluded. To be clear, a Twitter poll is not scientific: It only gathers a portion of Rockies fans (those on Twitter) at a particular moment using a social media platform with an opaque algorithm. So, this is not sound data.
But some trends are worth pointing out. (See the original tweet here.)
Here are a few points that stand out.
First, the fact that almost 20% of fans said they never even paid attention to the Rockies should be concerning. These are, presumably, people who saw the poll because they are interested enough in this team to follow us on Twitter, so the fact that they aren’t even paying attention is not good.
Another 35% said they just wanted to watch baseball, which is certainly an understandable position. But notice that 40% that is “losing interest fast.” Those are fans who started out engaged but are dropping off — and, again, this is only the second complete week of the season.
In a follow-up question (see the original tweet here), asked those losing interest to explain why. The results here are not as robust — and, again, this is an imperfect measure — but they provide some points to consider.
An overwhelming number said they were tired of watching a team that loses.
Some of the comments are instructive. An indifferent ownership was consistently voiced as an issue.
Every single game is a constant reminder that this team will never go anywhere and Monfort will never care— Trevor David (@TrevorjDavid) April 15, 2023
There are also concerns about pitching, a point much reiterated. Here’s one.
There isn't even a glimmer of hope at this point, the pitching situation is just awful.— Whidbeygal (@whidbeygal1) April 16, 2023
One fan noted the Rockies are “flat,” and they’re instead watching other teams that are more engaging (and include the son of a former Rockie on the roster).
Rockies fan here but they stink lol catch myself watching blu Jay's sometimes. With bichettes son. They are fun to watch. Baseball is real good this year but ROCKIES are flat.— King Turd (@KingTurd22) April 15, 2023
This respondent had a similar answer, which should be a concern to the Rockies: Fans aren’t giving up baseball; they’re just not watching the Rockies.
There doesn’t seem to be a direction for this franchise. They had false hope of competing this year but that wasn’t going to happen with the teams in their division and they have zero pitching depth. I like baseball but will watch other games.— Brad Bell (@bellfree22) April 15, 2023
This is a key point.
D. All of the above.— Tropical Chrome (@TropicalChrome) April 15, 2023
I understood this year’s team wouldn’t be competitive, but I looked forward to seeing their growth. Instead, it’s becoming just another repeat of past failures. Simply put: this team is boring.
“I looked forward to seeing their growth” stands out. For serious and committed fans, this was supposed to be the year when they began to see the window open — and Bill Schmidt has reiterated since September that the Rockies were “going to give our guys opportunities.” Long-time fans took Schmidt as his word, even as the team signed Jurickson Profar, Mike Moustakas, and Harold Castro to one-year deals. This would seem to undercut any commitment to giving younger players developmental time.
Case in point: Nolan Jones, one of the Rockies’ offseason trade acquisitions from the Guardians.
When Germán Márquez was placed on the IL, the Rockies called up a scorching hot Jones from Albuquerque (.359/.479/1.351 with six home runs). After Elehuris Montero suffered a hand injury, Jones receiving playing time seemed like a sure thing.
On Friday, Trejo started at third and was replaced by Mike Moustakas during a clutch hitting station. Moustakas finished the game.
On Saturday, the Rockies were losing in a blowout, so Kris Bryant was removed from the game in the ninth inning. Harold Castro took his position in right field.
On Sunday, Jones was returned to Albuquerque.
RHP Noah Davis has been promoted from Triple-A and will make the start today for the #Rockies in Seattle.— Patrick Lyons (@PatrickDLyons) April 16, 2023
To make room for Davis, IF/OF Nolan Jones has been optioned back to Triple-A Albuquerque.
This has nothing to do with Mike Moustakas and Harold Castro, but fans wanted to see Nolan Jones; they wanted a glimpse of the future they keep hearing about; and they wanted the Rockies to let the kids play.
That did not happen.
This comment struck my as reading the moment perfectly.
It’s the realization that they really are that bad. And baseball just started.— Maureen Burnett (@Maureen_Burnett) April 16, 2023
We’ve got an August vibe even though it’s still April. It doesn’t help that the Nuggets and Avalanche are both in the playoffs while the Rockies feel virtually eliminated, even though the season is not yet three weeks old.
It’s early in the season, and this is a small sample size, so who knows? Maybe a home series with the Pirates will be the thing that gets this team back on track.
But as the season progresses, these measures of fan apathy should be monitored.
Thomas Harding considers what’s happening with the backend of the Rockies’ rotation — and the Rockies need for improvement. According to Darryl Scott, José Ureña is showing improvement Scott said Ureña, by working on “regaining the downward angle of his pitches.” Meanwhile, Austin Gomber is focusing on “mental lapses,” according to Scott, while Ryan Feltner, Bud Black reiterates, has “a Major League arm.” As Scott put it, “The stuff is the stuff. We know what the stuff is. We know what the spin is. It’s time to quit worrying about that. Now it’s time to take that pitch and get it executed.”
Given that the Rays are 14-2 while the Rockies are 5-11, it fairly apparent that the teams have different approaches. Patrick Saunders digs into the details, noting that the Rays “do more with less,” emphasizing analytics and performance over payroll. The Rockies, by contrast, spent more but win fewer games. (Coors Field does boast higher attendance, however.) Saunders delves into the data that shows just how different these two franchises are.
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