Grand expectations often lead to profound disappointment, which leads to frustration, which eventually leads to anger. Right now, the Rockies’ fan base is Mel Gibson after a fifth of vodka angry. Of course, sports should always be kept in perspective, but the dissatisfaction is somewhat understandable. The magical runs of 2007 and 2009 had fans believing that the organization was finally headed in the right direction after years of mediocrity. Aside from the last two weeks of the season, 2010 was a rewarding year as well. But, since September of 2010, things have spiraled completely out of control. In just over a year, this team has gone from an overwhelming favorite to win their first ever division title to being one of the five worst teams in all of baseball.
There are a lot of things wrong with the Rockies. Trying to pin it down to one particular issue is impossible. Most of the time, we turn to stats to find answers, but with this organization the real issues seem to be much larger and wide-ranging than just on-field play. We are currently witnessing a systematic failure starting at the very top of the franchise.
Admittedly, this is a bit cliché, but losing really is a disease. When it isn’t dealt with appropriately, it spreads and eats away at the foundation. Eventually, losing becomes comfortable and when that happens, you might as well forget about it. Right now, the Rockies are like an old rotted house that needs to be gutted to the core.
I promise I’m not usually one that quickly calls for firings. However, with Jim Tracy, Dan O’Dowd, and even Bob Apodaca, the incompetency is just impossible to ignore. Even baseball’s lowliest franchises refuse to accept results like these and it’s obvious to anyone paying attention that this organization is completely lost.
However, success may not be as far away as it seems. Granted, there have been a lot of poor personnel moves over the last two years, but this is still a talented team and even though their young pitchers are way too green for the bigs, they are not without promise. Under the right leadership, I believe this team could bounce back very quickly.
Now, I’m going to ask you to bear with me while I discuss a little college football, but I promise I’m going somewhere Rockies related with this.
In 1997, my older brother was a safety at TCU. Pat Sullivan was the head coach back then, and despite being a relatively nice guy and a helluva a college quarterback, he was a terrible head coach who failed to draw potential out of his players and lacked the ability to motivate. (Sound familiar?) His 1997 team was particularly awful. They barely managed to win their last game of the season for their only win of the year. The locker room was the definition of dysfunctional. Coaches got into physical altercations at practice. Everyone was miserable because losing just has a way of doing that to you.
When I walked on at TCU three years later, the program had already done a complete 180. After the 1997 season, Sullivan was fired and Dennis Franchione was brought in from New Mexico. Franchione provided TCU with a culture shock. It started with important things that had been overlooked, like setting goals and demanding accountability in the weight room during the offseason. Things were extremely organized and he made sure that every player paid attention to even the smallest details. Practices were scheduled down to the second. No time was ever wasted.
In a way, players held themselves accountable, but that’s because it was demanded. They had to be on time to meetings. They had to know their scouting reports. Loafing wasn’t tolerated. These seem like simple things, but when you allow players to get away with not doing them, you lose control of the team and poor performance becomes inevitable in that situation. The motto under Fran was “Do Your 1/11th”, meaning for the team to function as a whole everyone had to solely focus on doing their job and doing it well.
The program began winning under Franchione immediately and soon big Alabama stole him away. After his departure, Gary Patterson, the defensive coordinator, was hired. At first people were upset over Fran’s exit and skeptical over Patterson, but it turned out to be the best thing for the program. Not only was he able to carry on the lessons learned under Fran, but he improved upon the process.
Patterson is somewhat of a recruiting savant. Rarely, do his recruiting classes rank highly, but they are always underrated. He has the ability to find guys out of position and draw the most out of their talents elsewhere on the field. In his tenure, TCU has become a powerhouse. Now, the program is a complete gem, a real source of pride for everyone that has been involved in it.
I realize that very few readers of this blog care about TCU football. There are plenty of examples of quick turnarounds in MLB, like the Rangers or the Orioles, and maybe those would be better examples to study. However, I bring up TCU’s revival because it’s something that I was fortunate enough to witness first hand and I believe there are parallels to the Rockies. Like TCU back then, the Rox have talent, but it’s been swallowed by a culture of losing. However, to reverse the course, some big time changes will have to be made. Truthfully, we could go on forever about what all the franchise needs to do to be better, but it really just comes down to one thing — demanding accountability from every single person in the organization. It doesn’t matter if it’s the lowliest scout or the clubbie jock washer. If everyone does what’s expected of them in their job, the wins will eventually fall into place.
Loyalty is a great thing, but there are times when it can be too much or even unnecessary. It’s great that the Monforts are so willing to stick with their guys, but there is only so much incompetence that can be tolerated. That’s true of almost any walk of life. And truthfully, there is no reason for a team sitting in the top half of the league in payroll and attendance to be this bad. This fan base has been loyal and patient, but time appears to be running out on that. People are upset and rapidly losing interest in this ball club. Big crowds turned out for this weekend’s debacle with the Mariners, but you have to wonder how much longer that will continue. Even the most casual baseball fan doesn’t want to go see the home team get shut out at the plate and kick the ball all over the field. What is going on right now isn’t fun for anyone with a vested interest in the Rockies.
Who knows how or when the Monforts will respond to his mess. If crowds keep showing up, I expect they won’t be doing much anytime soon. Unfortunately, it may take a dent in their pocketbooks for some changes to finally be made in Colorado. That’s our sad reality. A loyal fan base that attends and watches baseball games regardless of the product would seem like a good thing, but right now, they aren’t being rewarded by the owners. It appears that it will be the fans that will have to demand accountability from the Rockies, and honestly, that’s not really fair.