The inevitable has come to pass, and the 2023 Colorado Rockies have not only cemented their worst record in franchise history, but have also reached the 100-loss mark for the first time in franchise history. With this unfortunate and inauspicious landmark reached, the Rockies front office and owner Dick Monfort can no longer fall back on the tired excuse of “well at least we didn’t lose 100 games!”
In a perfect world, this season would force some introspection on Monfort and the front office. Whether it was their intention or not, the Rockies have fallen into what they dreaded most: a rebuild. The bandage has been ripped off and it can’t be put back on.
The Rockies will need formulate a plan for the upcoming offseason leading into the 2024 campaign. Perhaps the most important task is a full re-evaluation of the big league coaching staff, which might mean parting ways with some familiar faces. Unfortunately, skipper Bud Black is at the top of that list.
Despite being signed through the 2024 season, Bud Black should not return as the manager of the Colorado Rockies next season. Black hasn’t led the club to a winning season since 2018, and the Rockies are currently 474-554 (.461) with him leading the charge. While he was an ideal manager for the 2017 and 2018 squads—assembled teams of veterans in a contention window—he is no longer the man for the job in the Rockies dugout and the team has outgrown him.
On a rebuilding team, you need a manager who can identify with and prioritize the growth of rookies and younger players. Black’s outdated managerial style and prioritization of veterans for playing time simply will not work any longer. This season in particular, it felt like Black had to be forced to give younger players time on the field and was frustrated about it.
Ezequiel Tovar was the starting shortstop by default largely because the Rockies didn’t sign any other shortstops this offseason. Injuries to Kris Bryant and Charlie Blackmon (and to an extent Yonathan Daza) meant he had to play rookies Nolan Jones and Brenton Doyle in the outfield. The team was subsequently rewarded with two incredible defensive seasons and perhaps the team’s most valuable player. Underperforming veterans like Jurickson Profar, Harold Castro, and C.J. Cron saw frequent starts while prospects like Elehuris Montero struggled to find at-bats. It took the trades of Cron and Randal Grichuk—as well as the merciful designation of Profar (and his -1.6 rWAR) for assignment—to open up playing time for Montero and facilitate the call-up of top prospect Hunter Goodman.
Perhaps the final nail in Bud Black’s tenure as Rockies manager is his handling of the club’s 100th loss on Tuesday night when pressed by the Denver Post’s Patrick Saunders:
“It’s another loss this season. I don’t know quite the question. If it’s 98, 99, 100, it’s another loss. No. [There is] no [major significance].
“To you?” he posed back to Saunders.
Another reporter then asked if Black thought injuries played a significant part in the number of losses, to which Black responded:
“We’ve had our share. I think that plays into where we went from there as far as our roster. You saw our roster transition over the course of the year. If I’m not mistaken, I think we’ve used more position players than we ever have in our franchise history. I think we’ve used more pitchers than we ever have in our franchise history. So that leads me to believe that we’ve been hurt by injuries, and also by some performance as well to necessitate roster moves. And some trades at midseason of some veteran players that then transitioned to younger players as well.”
Black seemed agitated with a question that he to have known was coming and he answered with excuses from the organization that don’t hold much water. He also appeared to blame the team’s record on a transition away from trusted veterans towards younger players and rookies.
Ultimately, it was an answer that lacked accountability and any sort of competitive energy. The stoic and somewhat taciturn Bud Black doesn’t have the energy or the presence for a rebuilding club full of hot-headed youngsters. The Rockies need a manager with fire in their belly, like the one they turned to in 1993 to lead an expansion franchise and establish a team identity:
I've been thinking of Don Baylor's quote about the #Rockies in 1993 this year.— Skyler Timmins (@SideLine_Crowd) September 27, 2023
“People say we’re going to lose 100 games. It’s not my competitive spirit to simply accept that.”
The club, specifically the Front Office and it's owner, need to get that competitive spirit.
Big Don Baylor was only five years removed from his own playing career when he took the reigns of the fledgling club, and while the Rockies finished with 95 losses in their inaugural season, they also fought hard for every win. Black is now 25 years removed from the end of his big league career, and it is time for him to step aside for a younger manager more in touch with the modern game of baseball.
With the departure of Black should also come the departure of most of his staff. Bullpen coach Reid Cornelius, pitching coach Darryl Scott, and bench coach Mike Redmond should all be let go in favor of fresh blood in the organization.
The only members of the coaching staff the team should consider holding onto are hitting coach Hensley “Bam Bam” Meulens—and potentially his assistants Andy González and PJ Pilittere—as well as potential managerial candidates in third base coach Warren Schaeffer and special assistant to the general manager Vinny Castilla.
Let it be clear that none of this is an indictment on Bud Black as a person, but rather evidence that the Rockies have outgrown him as their manager. After a 100+ loss season, change is necessary and the Colorado Rockies have a clear first step to take.
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The season has ended for two more members of the Rockies pitching staff. RHP Ryan Feltner was removed from his second start following his comeback after three innings. Feltner is designated as having right elbow inflammation. RHP Daniel Bard is also heading to the IL with a right flexor strain. Karl Kauffmann and Tommy Doyle were recalled from Triple-A Albuquerque to take their places on the roster.
Rockies’ rookie outfielder Nolan Jones has been a revelation for the Rockies in a difficult season. The former hockey player leads the team in rWAR, has set the franchise record for outfield assists, and is likely to get a few Rookie of the Year votes along the way. It’s hard to believe he started the season in Triple-A Albuquerque, but a focus on fun has helped him reach new heights.
“It was really tough for me to go to Albuquerque, but I wanted to have fun,” Jones said. “This is an opportunity that I’m blessed to have received. Some good things have happened, and I’m learning along the way. But I definitely could never have expected this.”
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On the Farm
The 2023 Minor League Baseball season has concluded. The 2023 Arizona Fall League will begin on Monday, October 2nd as the Salt River Rafters host the Glendale Scorpions at Salt River Field at Talking Stick.
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