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When we last looked in on the Rockies at the quarter pole of the 2014 season, we explored co-owner Dick Monfort’s preseason prediction that the team was capable of winning 90 games this year and noted—with considerable incredulity—that as of late-May, they were actually on pace to do it.
To put it mildly, that now seems unlikely. Over the next 50 games the team has gone a league-worst 15-35 and will need to conjure up a second-half miracle to even sniff .500. They went from number 6 in the May 8 edition of “The 30″—Grantland.com’s weekly Major League Baseball power rankings—to number 27 this week. The only thing keeping them from the cellar is the prolonged futility of the two Texas teams and the Rockies’ National League West rival Arizona.
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If the ugly baseball wasn’t enough, the Rockies have also endured even worse publicity, thanks to Mr. Monfort. With his affable brother, Charlie, mostly invisible this year as he rebounds from a drunk-driving citation and subsequent stint in rehab—a journey on which we wish him nothing but the best—the task of being the public face of the franchise has fallen to the gruff and curmudgeonly Dick.
To put it mildly, it’s been a disaster. After some disenchanted fans expressed their disappointment to Dick via emails and through the team’s website, he responded by bluntly telling them that they’re welcome to not attend the games. Although only two or three of these incidents have gone public, it’s natural to wonder if there are more. Dick soon apologized to all Rockies fans in a formal statement, because what else could he do? He later took a meeting with one disgruntled fan and told her—note: This has not been lifted from The Onion—that he’s reluctant to making front office changes because he wants the team’s “culture” to remain intact.
Think about that for a minute.
Dick also has clarified his earlier remarks to the press, saying he didn’t mean it when he said that maybe Denver doesn’t deserve the Rockies; he actually meant that maybe the owners don’t deserve us.
It’s the first thing Dick has gotten right in years.
Dick knows Coloradans love sports. He knows they love being outside on hot summer days and breezy summer nights. He knows how to turn his ballpark into one of the jewels of the league. He knows how to build a popular and profitable business, one that—Dick clearly hopes—his patrons are too disengaged or sun-stroked or downright stupid to stop patronizing.
Because when it comes to building a winning baseball team, Dick doesn’t know jack.
How much more evidence do we need? The World Series appearance in 2007—still the flukiest title run in memory—and the 2009 playoff one-and-done have obscured the fact that this franchise, 22 years in, has never even won its division. It’s finished below .500 in 11 of the past 14 seasons (and counting) and last or second-to-last in the NL West 10 times (and counting).
Even though this season is all but lost, Dick has been adamant that, with the July 31 trade deadline fast approaching, he likely won’t be selling. He doesn’t want to ship out Troy Tulowitzki or Carlos Gonzalez, either of whom could bring a raft of affordable blue-chip prospects. He wants to hang onto Jorge De La Rosa, the team’s sole competent starter, who probably would shine elsewhere and thus is worth at least a few good young players. And he also wants to keep 35-year-old Michael Cuddyer, the currently injured 2013 NL batting champ, because of his veteran clubhouse presence. Smart move: We all know how crucial locker room chemistry is to a team that probably won’t win 75 games.
The Rockies can always hit, and they can never pitch. Therefore, they can’t win. Unless climate change somehow shrinks our local elevation to sea level, the Rockies can forget about ever being able to sign a front-line free agent starter; the altitude is simply too hazardous to a hurler’s stats (and income potential), humidor be damned. This is why the Rockies’ only hope—a hope that should’ve been obvious ever since slap-hitting Eric Young led off the inaugural major league game in Denver in 1993 with a homer—is to build its pitching staff from within.
Good luck with that. Name a single person in the Rockies’ hierarchy that makes informed fans think, “That guy really knows his stuff; we need to hang onto him.” No one’s saying it about GM Dan “Good Baseball Man” O’Dowd, ensconced since 1999 despite relentless mediocrity, let alone poaching any of his junior execs to show them how it’s done at the mid-market level. No one’s saying it about manager Walt Weiss, who actually is a somewhat respected baseball man that—once again—has been saddled with a pitching staff that might struggle in AAA-ball.
And no one’s ever said it about Dick. So fire O’Dowd. Fire Weiss. Bring in replacements. (Likely on the cheap, because that’s usually how Dick rolls.) Trade Tulo. Trade CarGo. Or don’t. None of it will matter until and unless Dick can answer the self-posed dilemma, “I don’t know how our record got to be where it is” with the only accurate response—by looking in the mirror.
Follow 5280 articles editor Luc Hatlestad on Twitter at @LucHatlestad.
—Image courtesy of Shutterstock.