Wednesday, June 13, 2012

What's wrong with the Rockies?

I moved to Denver CO in 2001 from Melbourne, Australia where I grew up. I had watched a lot of baseball on TV and I had followed and attended games from the now defunct Australian Baseball League. I followed the Waverley Reds, who were then associated with the Cincinnati Reds. It was single A level baseball, maybe AA on it's best days, but it gave me the taste for baseball I have carried to this day.

Once I moved to Denver I immediately started following all the local teams. I was lucky - the Avalanche won the Stanley Cup soon after I arrived. I lived through that euphoria. I watched Nuggets and Broncos games. I adopted Coors Field and went to Rockies games, just seduced by such a grand stadium. I learned about the "Blake Street Bombers" and how balls just went into orbit. Each game was a slug fest. Let the best offense win. It was the following year that the Rockies introduced the humidor. There was so much excitement in the air that the Rockies had signed 2 high profile pitchers at the end of 2000 - Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle. Finally the Rockies were ready to WIN!

The Rockies made the wild card in 1995. They hadn't made it since. They were known as an offense-only ball club. Pitching would put them over the top. We all know well what happened and the disaster Hampton and Neagle were. Hampton's contract alone handcuffed the payroll long after he was booted out of town. Attendance dropped in 2002 through 2004. They changed their philosophy and went to a youth movement - they had drafted Jason Jennings who went on to win the NL Rookie of the Year award and promoted young pitchers Shawn Chacon and Aaron Cook. At the end of 2004 veterans were allowed to leave and players like Brad Hawpe, Garrett Atkins, Clint Barmes and Jeff Francis came up - the beginning of Generation R.

In 2005 with the influx of young players the Rockies tied a franchise worst with 95 losses. In 2006 they lost 86 games. But the starters posted a franchise record 4.66 ERA. 2007 came and the Rockies won 90 games (tied a franchise record) and set a MLB record fielding percentage that year of .98925 We witnessed Rocktober and the World Series run. 2008 was a disappointment. Players and management could not handle the expectations. 2009 brought the playoffs again but a first round exit to the Phillies. 2010 finished with a winning record but no playoffs. 2011 was nothing short of a disaster. The club cracked from within. Players bickered. Rockies management decided there needed to be accountability - got rid of the "troublemakers" and signed players who would bring a hard-nosed toughness and incorporate this culture - Jeremy Guthrie, Ramon Hernandez and Michael Cuddyer. 2012 was supposed to be a fresh start with a new improved team and higher expectations.

So what is wrong with the Rockies? The management team! The Rockies are a case study in the complete failure of organisational management. It starts with the owner Dick Monfort. He publicly lauded GM Dan O'Dowd and said in his mind there "wasn't a better GM in baseball". Huh? What are you looking at Mr. Monfort? There are currently 29 better GM's in baseball. They are not Mr. Mistake Dan O'Dowd. If you actually cared about the real reason to own a team - to win and succeed - you would see what an absurd comment this is. However you are in it for the money. Fair enough, that's your right. But you can make money in real estate, in technology, in oil, in mining and whatever other industry you choose. Don't own a major league sports team. The fans in Denver are very passionate and care about their teams, they want to see them win. You don't and you don't care. You are a square peg trying to fit in a round hole.

Dan O'Dowd - has been the GM since 1999. You know how bread gets stale after a while? Well O'Dowd has got stale. He has been there for 13 years. He is an intelligent and honorable man. However it's time for him to leave. His poor decisions far outweigh his good decisions. He promised us before the season that this would be a new team, a new direction. He spent money on free agents again. But I agree with Dave Martin (@RockiesReview) who said yesterday on 1510AM radio that this has simply not happened and there is NO accountability. We are watching before our own eyes the complete regression of a ball club and the clueless management team who are not willing to stop it in the name of friendship. Indeed as Steve Lundgrin (@Stars5Steve) astutely points out, the Rockies have not performed since mid-September 2010.

The pitching has been a complete failure this year. The rotation own a 6.27 ERA through today which is not only the worst ERA in MLB but is also on pace to be the worst ERA of all time in a single year (1930 Phillies - 6.15). The "innings-eater" Jeremy Guthrie has woefully under performed and last night did a complete punk move by tipping his cap to the crowd who were booing him for giving up another sizable lead in the blink of an eye. Injuries have crippled the rest of the rotation - Nicasio and Chacin on the DL - and the Rockies are blooding young pup's - White and Friedrich. Against any informed judgment they re-signed Jeff Francis who predictably gave up 8 ER in less than 4 innings in his first game back. Another genius move by O'Dowd - replace one soft-tossing lefty with a younger version. Same results. The Rockies pitching staff as a group have done:

5.35 ERA (worst in the NL)
17 quality starts (worst in the NL)
314 runs given up (worst in the NL)
.296 batting average against (worst in the NL)

Throw in the second-ranked offense in the NL (.264 BA, .778 OPS) but who perform way too inconsistently and thus you see a 24-36 record and second last in the division.

I keep hoping that the mediocrity will end but it just gets worse. I keep hoping the pitching will improve but it doesn't. As Troy Renck of the Denver Post (@TroyRenck) reported today the humidor is OK and the Rockies have complied with MLB in providing weekly updates and reports on it. But it's not the humidor's fault - it's management's fault - there is zero accountability on them. The buddy system works it's way all the way to the top. Monfort will not fire his buddy Dan O'Dowd. O'Dowd will not fire his buddy Jim Tracy. Jim Tracy will not fire his buddy Bob Apodaca. There in not one single coach or manager on the "hot seat" despite the buck ultimately stopping with them. Every single manager and coach is failing and are sending this club to the depths of hell but they don't care - they have their friendships, they have each other's backs. Loyalty is admirable, but this kind of loyalty ensures the Rockies will be irrelevant for the next 10 years. A complete failure of management.

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