With spring training still more than a month away, it might be a bit early to think about the Colorado Rockies’ upcoming season. But it’s not too early for the team’s ownership to take a cue from the recent successes of its cross-city brethren, the Denver Broncos.
In just three years, the Broncos have gone from a 4-12 loser into a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Few franchises in any major sport can boast such a decisive turnaround, which goes to the organization’s core. Team officials weren’t going to let the franchise continue to rot on the vine. Changes were made, slow progress was sought. And then a guy named Peyton Manning came around, and the team did everything it could to bring him to town. Was it easy? Of course not—but that’s the thing with the Broncos: The team made a real all-out effort to improve the franchise, pull the team from the gutter, and give fans something to cheer about.
But what about the Rockies? In reality, it appears to be a team bereft of fresh ideas. The four-man rotation was an innovative concept—even if the team didn’t have the personnel to pull it off—but other than that, there’s little the team can point to that shows fans there’s a commitment to anything on Blake Street. Coors Field will always be one of the best venues for a sporting event in North America, but that’s not much to hang your hat on when the team is posting its worst record in franchise history. The consistent mediocrity hasn’t kept paying fans away in the past, but you have to wonder what another miserable season will do to baseball in Denver.
So what can the Rockies learn? Simple: It all starts at the top. As the Broncos have shown, the simplest ideas often are the best ones.
In ownership, Pat Bowlen has always viewed his team as part of the public square. Its successes were the city’s successes, and Bowlen’s commitment to winning football games could never be challenged. A few difficult years? A disastrous coaching hire? Sure. But when Bowlen recognized his mistakes, he moved quickly to clear them up and put his support behind his staff.
The same could hardly be said of the Monfort family, which has been chastised for its unwillingness to shape up the Rockies’ front office in part because of its obviously deep, personal connections with some employees. While that might be an admirable trait, it’s a flawed management style. Sometimes good friends simply can’t get the job done, and the team needs to move on. A failure to do so leads to embarrassment, losses, and a lack of trust among paying fans. Let's put it another way: Wildly popular Tim Tebow helped lead the Broncos to the playoffs last year but wasn’t seen as the team’s future quarterback. Could the Rockies make a similarly difficult public relations move and replace an aging Todd Helton?
If the Rockies want the turnstiles to keep churning—and make baseball the sport it deserves to be in this state—they need to take a play or two from Bowlen and John Elway. Stop with the constant “rebuilding” charade and commit to winning.
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