As of this writing, the Rockies sit 13.5 games out of first place, by far the biggest deficit in baseball. This is an exceedingly difficult “feat” to achieve a week before Memorial Day. (They share the basement with the San Diego Padres, an organization that’s better suited to AAA-ball even when they don’t have 13 guys on the disabled list.)
Part of the reason for this woeful situation is that the Rockies are in the same division as the Dodgers, current owners of the best record in the league. A bigger part of the reason is that for several years now, the Rockies have been living off the goodwill that their 2007 World Series run inspired, while doing almost nothing to create a year-in, year-out contender.
Sure, they have Tulo and CarGo (although Tulo’s had a miserable start). Beyond that? As George Costanza once said, Pfft; bupkus. So-so hitting, terrible fielding, and the next top-flight pitcher the organization develops will be its first. There’s not much help on the way either: Before the season, Baseball America ranked the Rockies minor league talent 17th out of 30 teams.
Which is where this group evidently intends to stay. Owners Charlie and Dick Monfort have exhibited notorious loyalty over the years, particularly to general manager Dan O’Dowd, who’s been with the Rockies since 1999 despite building only two playoff teams (one of them was a flat-out fluke).
Maybe O’Dowd deserves to go, and maybe he doesn’t. Who cares, really? This team just isn’t interesting. The Rockies’ early days were marked by a lot of losses, but at least they were entertaining. If they aren’t going to win, perhaps the team should turn off the humidor and go back to the softball era of 13-12 slugfests. At least that was fun to watch.
The truth is, the Rockies are unlikely to become a consistent contender as long as the Monforts hold the reins. Some of that reality is financial; any Rockies fan waiting for a Steinbrenner-esque spending spree can fuhggedaboutit. And, anyway, numerous small- and mid-market teams have found ways to win in recent years.
Whether it’s an absence of imagination or effort, the Rockies simply lack the organizational will to become one of those teams. In 2008, I wrote a story about how the Monforts had cleverly realized their mid-market limitations and, just maybe, had built the perfect team for that condition. It concluded by recounting how, at baseball’s 2007 winter meetings, a few months after the team’s long-shot World Series appearance, the other owners and executives roundly congratulated the Monforts. It detailed how, at that moment, everyone saw them as the smartest guys in the room.
Does anyone think that anymore?