Friday, July 11, 2014

To Dick Monfort: Just Stop

The entire time I was at Purple Row writing about Ian Stewart's attitude or how Chris Iannetta's OBP negated his lack of receiving skills or how Dexter Fowler in CF was a graceful gazelle, I just demanded of myself that I stick to the players, stick to the team, and be fair with my criticism of ownership, the front office, and the coaching staff. For the most part, I think I accomplished that. I do recall writing the "OK, no more O'Dowd" and the "Yeah, let's part ways with Jim Tracy" articles, but if I'm remembering right, they were near the end of my tenure and I was sort of kind of out of gas and getting lazy, and I'm really not proud of them.

That said, I can't believe that my first actual post on this new site is going to be lambasting Rockies ownership.

Frankly, I always hate reading the "OH MAN HOW MUCH LONGER WILL THE CHEAPFORTS KEEP O'CLOWN AROUND" or whatever nonsense gets spouted around the twitters and facebook posts and Denver Post comments. It's just lazy commentary and it never, EVER, considers the finer points of running a baseball organization, of maintaining a budget as a smart business, of juggling minor league promotions and pitching schedules and veteran presences and and and - it's always just "Duh, go spend money" or "Duh, just go get an Ace". It's just that simple, isn't it? It always boils down to "Just go do better" with no real constructive concept of what "do better" actually looks like. I do think DoD and Geivett are doing their best. Whether or not they're the right people for the job is an entirely different discussion, as they aren't hiring themselves. So as a response, I've always maintained the mindset and stance that organizational problems do, in fact, point back at ownership, in this case, Dick Monfort. 

Now with the Monforts, we've heard so much from the general sports media about being cheap, etc., and I've always been willing to say "Look, these guys DO have to operate under a budget of some sort". I think, in general, that going to a Rockies game is a good product when you consider the condition of the park and the food and beverage selection along with the team on the field. We have to remember that nearly all sports franchises in any league are a Business first, a quest for Sports Glory second. We've heard Dick Monfort over the past several years saying things like "I take full responsibility" and "Nobody wants to win more than I do". Ok, that's great, but what exactly are the repercussions on Mr Monfort? Anything? No, of course not. He just gets to go feel bad or something. Comments such as these essentially distilled my stance to "I think Dick Monfort is a good businessman, and a terrible baseball owner". 

I feel for the guy, I really do. He has no idea what he's doing. He has this huge investment in the Colorado Rockies that he wants to be part of a legacy type thing, where his kids and grandkids are somehow involved as the years roll on. He's trying so hard to make himself look like a Real Baseball Owner. The tough part is that he picked one of the 4 youngest and least storied franchises in MLB to get involved with. He picked the franchise to get involved in that was operating in the most difficult competitive environment in all 4 major North American sports. He did not pick an easy investment. He also has no idea how to manage it.

Back when Charlie Monfort was kind of quietly ushered into a back room and out of the ownership light and Dick Monfort took the reins, I groaned a little. Dick Monfort, the good businessman, and terrible baseball owner. I figured with the more controversial of the two brothers out of the way, we might just see ownership keep their heads down and let the front office work to the best of their ability. That's when the trouble began.

See, back in the infamous 2006 draft that netted the Rockies one potential stud pitcher by the name of Greg Reynolds, everybody thought "What? How did you not pick Evan Longoria?" Well, it turns out that because of the existence of Ian Stewart, Dick Monfort himself stopped by the draft room at the last minute and said "Don't pick Longoria". You know, Evan "Career 38 fWAR, arguably the best 3B in baseball" Longoria.

Dick, stop. That pick was a slam dunk. Just go back to... businessing or something.

2007 featured ownership getting booed in Coors Field after winning the 2007 NLCS, the franchise's first NL Pennant, and heading to the World Series. At this point I thought that was pretty poor on Denver's part. I mean, come on people. Grow up a little. I get it, you're still mad about the firesale and the Neagle/Hampton debacles. Get over it.

So time passed, and outside of Charlie stepping out of the spotlight, things were... more or less quiet on the ownership front. Which is weird, given that 2009 featured the Rockies winning the Wild Card for the 3rd time, 2010 featuring Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez both finishing in the top-5 for the NL MVP Award and Ubaldo Jimenez finishing 3rd for the NL Cy Young Award. I get that it's odd for ownership to not try and bask in a bit of that reflected glory, but humility is fine on my part. I like my ownership like I like my manners for children from the 1800s: they should be seen and not heard.

Then 2012 rolled around. You may remember 2012 as the season where everything imaginable went wrong, where the team lost 98 games and the top 3 pitchers by rWAR were as follows: Rafael Betancourt, Matt Belisle, and Josh Roenicke. The season of the Project 5280 where the Rockies dropped back to a 4-man rotation with a long man to bridge the gap between the 75 pitch limit and the usual closing staff. Neat idea, horrible results.

Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post wrote the following, including the following Dick Monfort quote:
"If this is anybody's fault, it's mine. I will take it right square between the middle of the eyes," said [Dick] Monfort, who became more involved in the Rockies' baseball decisions after the death of team president Keli McGregor in April 2010.
Dick, no... just... no. Stop. Nobody appreciates you stepping up and taking the "blame". Everybody already blames you. You're the proprietor. Of course it's your fault. You admitting it is almost like saying "I caused this problem but I'll be damned if I know how to fix it!" It's a neat concept, trying to take responsibility for a shit baseball season, but what exactly happened to fix it? I mean, getting healthy was a nice start, but that doesn't really have anything to do with you, barring you Nancy-Kerriganning Carlos Gonzalez. Just stop. Duck and cover.

On August 2, 2013, the Rockies were 52-59, 3rd place in the NL West, 8.5 back from the 1st place Dodgers, and 0.5 games ahead of the Padres (the Giants were in last and it was great). Colorado had just been taken apart by the Braves in a 4-game sweep, and that was pretty much the sign of "OK, we had a good run, I guess". But then Dick Monfort speaks up and says:
"I still think we have a run in us. We will get (Roy) Oswalt back, and (Chad) Bettis wasn't awful. You have guys who can put some good games in a row. I still think they can do it. ... We could get some more help in the bullpen." - per Troy Renck of the Denver Post
No, Dick, the trade deadline has passed, we're done... No, you're... ok, listen, the season's over again and that sucks. Everybody knows it's done, and it's not inspiring to have an owner who thinks there's still life in that old nag when it's already been eaten by coyotes. It's actually pretty discouraging knowing that you are in like a fantasy world when it comes to where the Rockies actually are right now. This isn't a sports movie. You can't just expect magic to happen like it did in 2007. Dick, please, just stop. Go sit in your chair in your office and play Tetris or something.

OK, so my original thesis of "Dick Monfort is a terrible baseball owner but a good businessman" continued to hold true through the end of 2013, with the building of The Rooftop over those perpetually-empty RF box seats. Great idea. That's money coming in right there as opposed to not coming in at all in empty sections. Maybe not enough to put us into "Real Suitors for Major Free Agents" territory, but maybe enough to be able to get role players that were a couple of million per year out of our price range.

Then 2014 came and everybody broke their hands and we're back to Hell mode at Coors Field. Patrick Saunders had yet another interview with Dick Monfort, and we got the following gems from the owner of the 38-53 Colorado Rockies:
"Our record is awful. You guys were quick to point out that we would win 90 games — or pointed out that I said that. I thought, with a little luck, we could win 90 games."
Absolutely. Zero arguments. Injuries wrecked the team, and optimists thought that if everybody stayed healthy and played sort of close to 2013 levels (well, the pitching anyhow), we'd be at LEAST a major nuisance in the NL West come late August. Are you blaming your front office?
"...None of us is happy with losing. None of us. But there is nobody more disgusted about losing than I am. It's a direct reflection on my leadership, and I shoulder that. This isn't Dan (O'Dowd's) problem. This isn't (Bill) Geivett's problem. This is my problem. And for the life of me, I don't know how our record got to be where it is."
Not the FO's fault, gotcha. I'm not against that. This was a decent offseason, and it didn't work out because, again, everybody got hurt, but now we're sellers and we shou-
"But we are going to see if we can't find somebody who might fit our needs, before the deadline."
What, you mean like we're gonna sell somebody from the MLB team to get ourselves a young, cost-controlled player?
Q: At this point, are you sellers or buyers?Monfort: "No (not sellers)." 
Ohhhhh no. No, no, Dick, no, 15 games under .500 is really really bad, especially in July, and yeah, I know we've overcome miserable June/Julys and come out pretty well (you know that one time in 2007) but dude, you have to face reality - everybody's broken, this isn't about dreams and hopes and proving to everybody that you haven't given up  - Dick, stop, really, just stop. Please stop. You're killing us. Just stop doing the baseball thing and try just doing the good businessman thi-
...received an email from the Rockies owner, telling him “if you don’t like the product, if you don’t like the experience, don’t come.”
No, that can't be true, there's no w-
“By the way you talk maybe Denver doesn't deserve a franchise, maybe time for it to find a new home. Thanks.”
He can't have meant that.
“I don’t even have an idea what I meant to say,” said Monfort.
He went on to explain that, “What I meant to say was maybe we, the owners, don’t deserve a franchise.”
Is that what he meant. Oh dear.

Ok so at this point, I've run out of things to say as far as evidence and buildup go. Bad baseball owner? Check. Interferes with the draft? Check. Super defensive? Check. Subjectively loyal to his front office? Check. Trying to play Team President with zero qualifications to really run a baseball organization? Double Check. Good businessman? .... I don't know how confident I am checking that box anymore.

Dick, I'm sorry, but there's just so little positive left to say about your reign as the Owner/Chairman & Chief Executive Officer of the Colorado Rockies Baseball Organization. It's not because I think you're a bad person. It's not because I think you're some sort of money grubbing miser from a cartoon. It's because your sense of loyalty, while admirable in a human sense, is not conducive to a winning MLB franchise. I'm willing to talk about our market limitations, in that we can't be a perennial $150M+ payroll team, that we can't really afford to go sign the Adrian Beltres and Zack Greinkes of the world. I am on board with the concept that we should farm our own Nolan Arenados and Jon Grays. Completely on board. I do understand loyalty to your organization and the players and the prospects, but you seriously need to step back and let other people get overly attached to our players and prospects and view them as assets again. That's what you do as an MLB owner, especially one that wants to try and compete on the smaller end of the spectrum with teams like the Athletics and Rays. You can't run an MLB franchise like you are and expect to win.

Furthermore, I'm no fool, I understand that this is a business. I do. But when you talk to people who drop money on your team as if you're running some hole-in-the-wall falafel joint and you have the freedom to just kick people out whenever you deem them unacceptable, well, that's not how you run a business. Denver fans aren't fools either. They know that they're supporting a mediocre franchise. Some of them hold out a lot of hope, but most of them just love the ballpark experience. The Colorado Rockies Organization has enjoyed 20 of 21 years with more than 2 million fans walking through the gate, and a grand total of 5 of those seasons averaging less than 30,000 fans per game. They're averaging 33.4k fans per game this year, and the team is hot garbage. You, Dick Monfort, are seriously testing the patience of the Denver baseball fan base. Being disappointed in a crappy result to what you thought was a promising team is one thing, but taking out on the fans is just suicide.

As David Martin of Rockies Review posted last week:
When Rockies fans see that nothing is going to change... the first step is anger. After that, however, comes apathy. At some point, if ownership doesn't care and the front office doesn't care, why should the fans care?
It's true. I've stopped caring. OK I DO care in the sense that I'm from Denver, I love baseball, and I'm a Rockies fan. But do I drop money into the organization anymore? No, not really. I mean I guess nachos and a beer, but I have enough friends who tend to have "an extra ticket do you want it" and yes I want it and I love them so much for wanting to spend time at a baseball game with me. But I really don't watch anymore. I don't see changes to really improve this organization. Yes, I'm interested to watch Tyler Matzek pitch. Yes, I want to see Butler and Gray do well. Yes, Arenado is a wizard. But being glued to the day-to-day? Eh.

I don't know how to react to this team and its management anymore. I'm not wholly against what Dan O'Dowd and Bill Geivett are doing, because I do stand by this having been a decent offseason and as a larger point their continued employment isn't really their choice. But we are dealing with an owner who has had WAY too much success as a business with this team and is getting snippy with his loyal fans now. 

Dick, would you like a suggestion at least for these most recent missteps? Make a big, over the top public apology to the fans you've sniped at from your iPad. Offer to buy them ballin' seats with a pile of F/B vouchers, and hell, maybe even a day pass to Eliches or something. Say something like "I responded poorly, and I'm disappointed that I did such a thing, and we really do value your patronage of our baseball team." Don't say "What I MEANT TO SAY was 'I'm sure shootin disappointed in the base balls by golly!'" and expect everything to blow over. Make it right, man. 

Which leads me to the fact that you're even ANSWERING these emails... you know what, no. Stop. 

For the good of your stupidly loyal fans, Stop.

Just Stop. 



  1. "...stupidly loyal fans..."

    Hey, I resemble that remark! Whereas, you my friend, have demonstrated brilliance again.

  2. Great stuff, perfectly encapsulates my feelings on the matter. I don't hate Monfort, I don't think he is bad guy, I just don't like his policies and I don't believe he has the ability or the vision to the guide the franchise. Take a note from me Dick, nothing personal...just business.