When the Colorado Rockies wake up each morning and look at themselves in the mirror, what do they see?
Are they a big-spending team chock-full of All-Stars, MVPs, and Cy Young Award-caliber pitchers? No, that sounds more like the San Diego Padres, New York Mets, New York Yankees, and Los Angeles Dodgers.
Are they a team that is fully committed to rebuilding/retooling in order to try and stay competitive at a future date? No, that sounds more like any other number of teams in the big leagues.
Honestly, when Dick Monfort and the Rockies look in the mirror, I don’t know what they might see. They have a real identity crisis.
Multiple identities of the past
During their early years in the ‘90s, the Rockies' identity centered around a high-powered offense, headlined by the Blake Street Bombers. Sure, the pitching wasn’t much of anything to write home about, but the plan was to get the most out of your pitchers with the assurance that the offense would do its best to make up for it.
Once Dan O’Dowd took over as the general manager, the Rockies then shifted their identity focus leading into the 21st century to that of a homegrown basis centered on speed and defense. They had tried to dabble in the free agent starting pitching market but quickly suffered buyer's remorse with the likes of Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle. However, the Rockies slowly began to inject their young talent around their foundational player Todd Helton.
“Todd and the toddlers” quickly became the identity of the Colorado Rockies thanks to a significant portion of the roster belonging to homegrown talent. This also highlighted the fact that the Rockies would continue to look at the clearance rack and bargain bin, perhaps even the dumpster behind the store, in an effort to “salvage” and fill out their roster. There was some success in those years, specifically 2007-2010, but it was a short window of contention.
2012 saw the Rockies to begin to really lean into the weird and wacky aspect of their organization, mainly out of desperation, that continued on for many years. We saw the four-man rotation with a 75-pitch limit. We saw a 50-year-old man pitch for the team. We saw Roy Oswalt pitch for the Rockies. We saw them stick their co-general manager inside the clubhouse and practically micro-manage. 2012 is when the Rockies' dysfunctional identity seemed to truly come to head and has afflicted them ever since.
Eventually, Dan O’Dowd and company resigned from the team, and the insular, dysfunctional identity was magnified once Jeff Bridich was promoted. The team grew disorganized, quiet, and reclusive, with no real transparency and accountability in how they operated. They began to alienate their own stars who simply wanted the team to do more to win. They also tried to play their version of Moneyball by signing Ian Desmond to play first base and dropped a ton of money on three bullpen relievers that did not pan out at all.
The hiring of Bud Black as the manager brought in a new focus for the team in terms of homegrown pitching. It worked for a few years with a few guys, but that rotation quickly dissolved and degraded by 2023. The team also has gotten into an extremely troubling tendency to logjam their roster and consistently give aging and underperforming veterans playing time instead of promoting and allowing most of their big league-ready prospects to play. They also haven’t evolved much in terms of analytics and development. They stay the course with mediocrity and inaction.
What about now?
So, why is it important to have an identity? When you know who you are, or have a plan of who you would like to be, it changes everything. A plan without a vision is destined for failure. The Rockies are a team that appears to have no plan and no vision of who they want to be. Bill Schmidt keeps pointing to the future and the prospects that the Rockies have, yet they call up a prospect with a hot bat and have him sit on the bench without playing before sending him down. They continue to sign veterans on cheap deals all in the name of “giving prospects time” in the minors.
In spring training, the team preaches about hitting fundamentals and throwing effective strikes and not walking batters, and yet as soon as the regular season begins all that has gone out of the window. They stress the importance of strong defense to win games, yet the fielding fundamentals have been sorely lacking.
The Rockies are failing on all fronts both fundamentally and mentally. Aside from a handful of guys, the team has little life on the field. Losing is enough to take the wind out of anybody’s sails, but who is the captain that will step up and foster a shift in culture and vision to right the ship? For me, now is the time for Kris Bryant to show his quality.
One can look around the league and see the joy and excitement that other teams are enjoying. Teams are constantly inventing new dugout home run celebrations, something the Rockies don’t have anymore since the home run shades in 2021. Other teams are finding ways to be competitive in ballgames, even if they aren’t winning all the time. You can look at other teams and figure out what they are all about fairly quickly. The came can’t be said about the Rockies and it is driving fans away quickly.
I love the Rockies and I love baseball, but 2023 is actively making that extremely difficult to do and it’s only a few weeks into the season. There is no joy, excitement, or fun about the Rockies right now, despite there being an interesting cast of characters on the roster. I mean they have a guy in the bullpen who looks like Jim Carrey and has a dinosaur nickname. There is talent on this team and so much potential for the organization that has had over 30 years of loyal, dedicated fans that deserve so much more.
There is still time to turn things around, but in order for the team to do that, they need to take a long, hard look in the mirror and decide who they want to be, especially their owner. Do they want to be an aimless organization that is quickly becoming the laughingstock of Major League Baseball, or a team that is known for exciting talent and competitive nature?
Personally, I’d rather be known as the second one.
★ ★ ★
Tuesday’s game saw Elehuris Montero hit the bench while Ryan McMahon slid back over to third base. The Rockies' defense has been rough thus far this season, and Montero has shown his growing pains at the position. Montero’s bat is coming along, but his defense is still lacking and the team is considering sending him down at the time of writing.
On Monday, Kris Bryant hit his first home run at Coors Field as a Rockies. He followed that up with another on Tuesday, but prior to that, he talked with Nick Groke about hitting that first home run and just his overall experience with the Rockies this season and what he’s trying to work on.
★ ★ ★
On the Farm
The hills weren’t alive with the sound of music, but rather the sound of dingers as six total home runs were hit between the Isotopes and the Dodgers in the slugfest. Albuquerque accounted for four of those homers with Brenton Doyle, Aaron Schunk, Jimmy Herron, and Nolan Jones all going yard. Herron and Doyle both contributed three-hit nights while Schunk and Jones contributed two hits apiece on the night. Jones’ big blow came in the second inning when belted a grand slam for his seventh of the year. He also scored four runs in the game. Additionally, Randal Grichuk went 1-for-5 with a strikeout in his first rehab game. Karl Kauffman was roughed up for eight runs in five innings of work, but the bullpen was quite solid for Albuquerque. Eli Lingos allowed two runs in two innings of work while Riley Pint and Fernando Abad combied for two scoreless innings.
It was an ugly night for the pitching staff in Hartford. Nick Garcia started on the mound and lasted just two innings, surrendering five runs on four hits with three walks and three strikeouts. He gave way to Adam McKillican who then allowed three runs on three hits in two innings of work. Jared Biddy followed him and lasted just 1 2⁄3 innings, giving up another five runs on four hits and struggled with his command, issuing four walks. Dylan Spain brought some stability however, tossing 2 1⁄3 scoreless innings and surrendering just one hit. Grant Lavigne, Julio Carreras, and Drew Romo all had good nights at the plate, each tallying two hits. Bret Boswell did a lot of heavy lifting as well, driving in four runs as part of a two-hit night.
A wild pitch in the top of the 10th was all that Spokane needed to secure the victory against Tri-City. Gabriel Hughes took the mound for Spokane and collected seven strikeouts through five innings of work while allowing two runs, one earned, on three hits. The bullpen fared quite well until the bottom of the ninth when Angel Chivilli walked the lead-off batter, then allowed a one-out double to make it a one-run game. Then with two outs, threw a wild pitch that tied the game at 5-5. Sterlin Thompson had a big night at the plate, going 4-for-5 with two RBI and led off the two-run ninth with a double, and coming in to score the go-ahead run. Benny Montgomery add a three-hit night while Adael Amador scored two runs as part of his two-hit night at the top of the order.
Despite tying the game in the top of the ninth, the Fresno Grizzlies weren’t able to push things to extra innings, losing to Rancho Cucamonga via the walk-off in the bottom of the ninth. Caleb Franzen started on the hill for Fresno and turned in a quality start, allowing two runs on four hits in six innings of work. Unfortunately, the bullpen wasn’t as successful in the last third of the game. Tyler Hoffman was hit the hardest, allowing three runs in the seventh while recording just two outs. Offensively, Jesus Bugarin had a big day at the plate for the Grizzlies going 3-for-5 with a two-run home run in the sixth inning.
★ ★ ★
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