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This is why we need local sports journalism

Colorado Rockies news and links for Friday, September 29, 2023

Thank you, Denver Post.

I had a whole different Rockpile written today, but I scrapped it in order to give a shoutout to the Denver Post, specifically Patrick Saunders, Kyle Newman, and Matt Schubert for the amazing, in-depth, and no-holds-barred four-part series that dropped Thursday, explaining who the Colorado Rockies are and why.

Battling layoffs and budget reductions from Alden Global Capital, the reporters at the Denver Post — the sports desk and beyond — keep showing up to do great journalism. This comes on top of cutbacks across the media landscape with the Athletic ending its Rockies coverage earlier this season.

AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain’s final day is slated for Oct. 6 with the future of Rockies broadcasting left in purgatory. This includes the livelihoods of broadcasters — Drew Goodman, Jeff Huson, Cory Sullivan, Ryan Spilborghs, Jenny Cavnar, Kelsey Wingert, and the entire crew — who have done excellent work regardless of the product on the field over the last few years. Even Purple Row, which had its payroll slashed by two-thirds in the fall of 2022, isn’t immune from the financial fallout.

The Colorado Sun also deserves praise for an excellent, in-depth, analysis of the Rockies organization that was published in August. The four-part series featured a business focus on the Rockies impact on LoDo by Margaret Jackson, a look at baseball at elevation by John Ingold, an article on why fans are addicted to the Rockies by Kevin Simpson, and a look at the Rockies front office culture from Nick Groke, the former Rockies Athletic reporter.

When a team loses 100 games, people tune out. Coors Field may still get 40,000-plus fans of various allegiance on weekends, but the attendance is down this year as Colorado currently ranks No. 14 in average game attendance at 31,907 and No. 15 in total attendance at 2,456,895 before Thursday’s win over the Dodgers. Outside of Coors Field, the Rockies fan following isn’t as engaged. And who can blame them?

But it starts a vicious cycle. Without readers, publications, websites, and podcasts can’t earn the advertising and subscription dollars needed to exist. The cycle then repeats itself with more layoffs, resulting in team-specific coverage shrinking, leading to fewer readers.

As the Rockies are overlooked or ignored by national media, Colorado fans need local journalism more than ever. They need outlets dedicated to covering them to speak truth to ownership power, question the front office’s decisions, amplify fans’ concerns, and still cover the awe-inspiring and heartwarming moments in everyday games that make people love baseball in the first place.

Saunders, Newman, and Schubert put in some legit legwork on this series, interviewing over 30 people “including former Rockies players and staff, agents, general managers and others across the game” to dive deep into what the Rockies organization is after 30 years on the field. The overall consensus isn’t shocking, but some of the quotes and breakdowns pack an insightful punch.

Part One tries to define what the Rockie Way is and “found that a franchise regarded as among the most insular in the majors, that lags behind the industry’s most innovative front offices and remains stuck in a middle ground between going all-in for a championship and rebuilding its roster without ever fully committing to either.”

Saunders highlights how the Rockies spend money, but do it in head-scratching ways. Look no further than the Kris Bryant signing. He also shows how Rockies don’t change much with my favorite quote of the piece from an anonymous agent: “Say what you want about Dick [Monfort], he’s been unbelievably consistent. He’s never wavered. He’s going to follow the same path every time. That’s his team, that’s his baby and those are his guys. He doesn’t like to be criticized but he hasn’t really wavered from his path.”

That says it all.

Part Two tackles the endless conundrum of high Coors Field attendance that makes the team profitable without prioritizing winning. It’s full of fan survey data and anchored by tales of specific diehard fans who have lost their faith in the Rockies. One fan, who has a Rockies garden in her home backyard, has slowly gone from a season-ticket holder, to a mini-plan ticket buyer, to a fan who would rather spend her “hard-earned dollars” on winning teams like the Nuggets and Avalanche. Again, who can blame her?

Part Three revisits the Jeff Bridich debacle and asks if Bill Schmidt was the right candidate — one of many internal promotions throughout Rockies history — to lead the Rockies as the general manager now. Saunders compares the Rockies use of analytics and new perspectives to the rest of the National League West and rising teams like the Orioles. An organizational chart shows that 13 people in the front office have an average tenure of 20.5 years with the team.

In Part Four, Newman shines a light on the draft-and-develop dilemma where the farm system hasn’t been able to develop enough pitching. Colorado has made some great picks from 2008-2021, posting the NL West’s highest “WAR contributions for their own club (2.62 average) and overall (3.39)” and “the most multiyear starters (15) and is tied for the most all-star nominations (12).” Newman paraphrases some anonymous pitching prospects in the organization who say “that the Rockies need to have more of a concrete plan for each subset of pitchers they are drafting.” Another fault is the lack of analytics. Help could be on the way in both areas with a huge focus on pitching in the last two drafts, and more pitchers acquired at the trade deadline, as well as an analytics lab opening at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale.

Each story is incredibly detailed, bolstered by stats and graphs, and jaw-dropping quotes from a variety of perspectives. At this scale, it’s only material local journalists with time and space can gather. The series concludes with a Q&A by columnist Sean Keeler featuring several baseball experts giving advice to Monfort and explaining where they would make changes.

The entire series is worth a subscription. Rockies fans deserve this level of local reporting. They also deserve to have a Rockies-centric crew they love broadcast games in 2024 and beyond. More Rockies winning would make those ventures more sustainable.

Will this reporting make a difference? Will losing over 100 games? Will a decrease in attendance matter? Maybe all together, a combination of shame and a dented bottom will do something to shake up an organization stuck in mediocrity.


Q&A with Colorado Rockies GM Bill Schmidt on 2023 season and 2024 hopes | Rockies Blog

Kevin Henry checked in with Bill Schmidt on how he sees the Rockies rookies, how the prospects have developed this season, what it was like having an injury-filled season, if he’s happy with the moves he made at the trade deadline, and more.

Rockies’ pitcher hit in head during game opens up about comeback | Good Morning America | Good Morning America

It’s not often the Rockies make national news. This time, Ryan Feltner was able to share his comeback story with the world after a comebacker fractured his skull and he returned to the mound just four months later. Feltner is inspirational and deserves this spotlight.


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