As regular readers of this space know, the Colorado Rockies' collapse in 2012 did not come as a major surprise.
The spring prediction here was a 76-86 record, though many felt the Rockies might contend in the National League West. That hope lasted for a while, as they woke up May 1 at 11-11. But the season soon fell apart, as Colorado went 53-87 the rest of the way to finish 64-98, worst in the franchise's 20-year history.
By the end, it was obvious that general manager Dan O'Dowd had no relationship with manager Jim Tracy, and in fact O'Dowd had lost some power with the promotion of Bill Geivett to director of major-league operations.
Facing the certainty of his staff being fired, and not having as much control over personnel going forward, Tracy made an admirable decision. Though he was welcome to stay another year with a $1.4 million salary, Tracy stunned the front office — OK, he stunned Geivett — by resigning and saying he no longer was the right man for the job.
But from this view, shared by multitudes of Rockies fans, that housecleaning wasn't enough. For some reason, owners Dick and Charlie Monfort decided to give their upper-management executives, O'Dowd and Geivett, another chance.
It would have been far easier for the Monforts, once and for all, to admit the changes needed to start at the top of operations. They could have dismissed O'Dowd and Geivett, who have had more than a decade to shape the Rockies into a perennial winner.
Instead of creating a positive atmosphere and a productive minor-league system, the Rockies' front office has squandered the momentum that a good string of prospects started and continued through an improbable run to the National League pennant in 2007. The five seasons since then have brought mostly frustration, sandwiched around the wild-card playoff berth in 2009.
But it's not just about wins and losses. It's about the front office espousing the belief that "it's impossible to win consistently at altitude." That hadn't been the operating philosophy before, for the Rockies or the minor-league Bears before them. Everyone acknowledged that the ball carried farther at 5,280 feet, but nobody used it as an excuse — until the O'Dowd regime.
Until this excuse-filled culture changes, the Rockies will not change.
Meanwhile, the handling of pitchers and hitters has been questionable at best. Some young players have been pushed to the top too quickly. Others have been discarded, or ignored, far too early. Injuries have not been handled properly. Also, you look around and see Rockies castoffs doing well throughout the majors, with a classic case being pitcher Jason Hammel. Traded to Baltimore for Jeremy Guthrie, Hammel had a good enough year that — despite missing the final few weeks of the regular season — he started the Orioles' postseason opener against the New York Yankees. Guthrie was a total bust in Colorado, dealt in midseason to Kansas City.
So what happens now? Apparently the Rockies will promote from within, with Tom Runnells as the likely next manager. He's probably the best hire for the short term, and is the only person in the organization who can put forth the kind of respectable image that Tracy did. But it's obvious the Monforts won't touch O'Dowd and/or Geivett unless (or until) the fans stop flocking to Coors Field. When the frustration reaches that point, perhaps we'll see a change that leads to a new mindset.
Until then, prepare for more mediocrity.
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