- Inadequate starting pitching
- Unacceptable production at second and third
- Inability to hit left-handed pitching
To most Rockies fans that probably looks like a list of the team’s biggest problems last year. However, Dan O’Dowd has informed us that those things weren’t the real problem. Apparently, the Rockies finished 16 games below .500 last year because they lacked leadership and clubhouse chemistry. It didn’t matter that they had veteran good guys, Todd Helton and Jason Giambi. It didn’t matter that Tulo and CarGo signed monster contracts last off-season, the kind of contracts that you give to players that are expected to lead the franchise. It didn’t even matter that the organization has spent the last decade plus preaching how they focus on acquiring high character guys. If you are one to believe Dan O’Dowd, you believe that this squad wilted under the pressure of expectations. Call me a cynic, but I rarely believe Dan O’Dowd anymore.
It was obvious to every fan that the Rockies quit last year down the stretch. They quit on their manager and themselves. So, I can’t blame O’Dowd for wanting to make some changes. However, the changes that are being made and they way that they are being made has to make one question the direction of this organization. I realize that me griping about the way the Rockies are run is a broken record, but after what’s gone on this off-season, how can I not?
Forgive me, but I refuse to believe that this squad had deficient character and leadership last year. Am I really supposed to believe that guys like Tulo, Giambi, and Helton lack the ability to lead? That’s bunk. You know what Tulo needs? He needs a couple of infielders that can produce. He needs a GM that doesn’t dump a bunch of assets just so he can overpay for another that in no way fixes the team’s issues. And, perhaps most importantly, he needs a manager that will put faith in his teammates and not micro-manage the team into the ground.
Blaming what happened last season on clubhouse chemistry is just an excuse, and doing so is a failure to address the true problems that plague the team. You will never hear about a winning team that doesn’t get along. When you win, stuff like that is overlooked. Losing sucks. It gets you down. Nobody is happy. It’s natural to have tension in the clubhouse when you are supposed to win the division and you finish fourth.
I’m sure Michael Cuddyer is one hell of a guy. I mean that. He is a very popular figure in Minnesota, both with his teammates and the fans. However, if you think the Rockies are going to turn things around just because they brought in an over the hill good guy, you need to have your head checked. Cuddyer may very well be a solid player for the Rockies next year, but let’s keep this in perspective. He is only slightly better than the guy he is replacing. And, that guy (Smith) wasn’t even close to the team’s biggest issue.
When the season starts next year, they will be weak in the same spots — well, except for the obvious character upgrade – and the only difference will be that they’ve managed to lower the fans’ and their own expectations. That kind of complacency has now become a plague on the Rockies’ organization. They have one of the longest tenured GM’s in the game and they are almost 100 games below .500 since he’s been running the show. It’s rather remarkable that he’s been able to hang onto his job this long. Their manager completely lost the team at the end of the 2010 season. Last year, he completely lost them in May. Yet, here he is, returning for another season with a reputation as one of the worst tactical managers in baseball.
Here is the truth about the Colorado Rockies. They are blessed with one of the best stadium set ups in all of baseball and are well supported by a baseball loving fanbase. They finished 16 games under .500 last year and still were in the top 12 in attendance. That means they made money, and in the end, that’s all the Monforts care about. Winning is secondary. Maintaining the status quo, and more importantly their bank accounts, is priority number one. I can’t fault them for that. Most of us operate in the exact same fashion. But, don’t expect the Rockies organization to make any real changes as long as there are butts in the seats.
I would never call for a boycott of the franchise. That’s just ridiculous. Not to mention, I myself could never go through a summer without taking in the pleasures of Coors Field. However, as fans, we need to be realistic about the Monforts’ top priority — making a buck. And, despite the fact that they grossly overpaid for Cuddyer, the signing will keep most of the fanbase intrigued, helping to fill the seats of Coors Field next April. That’s the Rockies’ formula – win just enough and keep the team just intriguing enough that the fans keep coming. Maybe I’m wrong about that, but based on everything we’ve seen this year, how can you argue otherwise?
For more on the Cuddyer signing, read Travis’s take on the subject. Also, ESPN’s Mark Simon gave us a nice breakdown of Cuddyer’s defensive limitations. As with anything Simon writes, it is definitely worth a look.