Rockies fans have had a complicated relationship with their team’s General Manager, Dan O’Dowd. At times he has presented himself as a shrewd and tactical GM, while at other times he has made decisions that have made fans want to bang their head into the nearest hard surface. This dichotomy has bred a certain amount of ambivalence where my own feelings about O’Dowd are concerned. I don’t really know for certain how I feel about O’Dowd, because his negative and positive impacts on the organization almost seem to balance out. As the team prepares to begin the 2012 season, though, it would appear that his ultimate legacy is about to be decided.
Let’s start with the good things that O’Dowd has done for the Rockies. First and foremost, he brought us Troy Tulowitzki, who almost single handedly revitalized the franchise and is destined to become the greatest player in team history. What’s more, O’Dowd smartly locked up Tulowitzki with a long term contract extension. We have every reason to believe that Tulowitzki will be in a Rockies uniform for his entire career, and that is an extremely comforting thought to hold on to.
Perhaps the biggest challenge that O’Dowd has faced since becoming GM of the Rockies was having to figure out what to do with Matt Holliday following the 2007 season. He was stuck with the unenviable task of trying to figure out how to trade a player that everyone knew was leaving in the off season anyway. Baseball history is littered with teams that bumble these type of situations and end up trading their star player away for peanuts (Remember the haul of players that the Twins got for Johan Santana? *shudder*). O’Dowd swung a trade that brought the team Carlos Gonzalez, who has essentially replaced Holliday’s production in the Rockie’s lineup, and is also locked into a long term contract.
Following the Holliday trade, O’Dowd proved to be a competent decision maker once again when he cut ties with Garret Atkins and Brad Hawpe at just the right time. It would have been very easy to throw money at two players who were so instrumental to the team’s 2007 World Series, and yet O’Dowd did the smart thing and let them walk.
Finally, O’Dowd was the first Rockies GM to establish any kind of scouting presence in Latin America, which has brought some desperately needed talent to the team.
Unfortunately, O’Dowd has also done a lot of damage to the Rockies organization. Other than Tulowitzki, he has not produced one meaningful draft pick in the last 10 years, his most egregious error being the decision to draft Greg Reynolds with the #2 overall pick in 2006. Reynolds was chosen in lieu of Evan Longoria, Tim Lincecum, and Clayton Kershaw (this is where you bang your head into something hard).
Even when O’Dowd has brought young talent to the team, he has handled their development in ways that leave much to be desired. Players like Chris Iannetta and Seth Smith were locked into frustrating platoon situations instead of being allowed to flourish, and then were hastily cut loose in the off season. Ian Stewart and Dexter Fowler had their confidence visibly shaken when they were repeatedly sent down to the minors and recalled throughout the years.
So what are we supposed to make of Dan O’Dowd? I don’t think we’ll really know until the end of this season, as the true ramifications of some of his most drastic decisions are not yet known. Last season was a disaster, and we’ve been led to believe that he has been making decisions since last July that will return the team to a state of prominence in the N.L. West. At the moment it’s easy to wail about Jimenez being unceremoniously shipped out of town and O’Dowd’s seemingly new found obsession with intangibles and “character,” and yet we don’t really know how those decisions will pay off. It’s entirely possible that Ubaldo Jimenez will continue his slide in the A.L. Central, while Drew Pomeranz and Alex White develop into top flight starters. Wilin Rosario may very well burst onto the scene and make us all feel silly for ever thinking that Chris Iannetta was the answer. Even O’Dowd’s “Old Dudes With Character 2012” campaign has the potential to pay off with a meaningful uptick in the team’s win column.
It’s these unknowns that make this upcoming season so intriguing as far as O’Dowd’s legacy is concerned. What he truly means to the Rockies organization is about to snap into much clearer focus. Whether he will fall or fly isn’t clear right now, but finding out sure will be interesting.
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