Colorado Rockies Organization: 13 Years of Incompetence

By Derek Kessinger

The Colorado Rockies are on the road to 100 losses. It continues to be a rocky road for a club with a winning percentage under .400. The most recent move to reassign the duties of General Manger Dan O’Dowd will shield him from a firing he deserves. With Bill Geivett assuming the day-to-day operations of the club as Senior Vice President of Major League Operations, the Rockies’ management continues to show a lack of understanding. Asking fans to wait on a broken system is insulting their intelligence. Part one of this three part series will focus on the mistakes of O’Dowd in his 13 years at the post.

September 20th will be the 13th anniversary of Dan O’Dowd taking over the role of Colorado Rockies General Manager. In his 12 seasons, the Rockies have had a winning record four times, made the playoffs twice and the World Series once. The Rockies have never won their division in what is their 20th season of competition. This year’s Rockies’ current winning percentage of .370 would eclipse their inaugural season’s .414.

O’Dowd entered Coors Field and told the Blake Street Bombers to pack up the show. Power hitters and Rockies’ favorites, Vinny Castilla and Dante Bichette, were sent out of Denver and replaced a season later by pitchers Danny Neagle and Mike Hampton. The two pitchers spelled disaster for the Rockies and set the team on a new path.

The Rockies next strategy was to grow from within. The Rockies committed money to first baseman Todd Helton and then built around him. This era, affectionately known as the Todd and the Toddlers era, saw no winning seasons and a general apathy from Colorado fans, as the only major change was switching to Manager Clint Hurdle from Buddy Bell.

In 2007, after finally growing talent out of Matt Holliday and Troy Tulowitzki, the Rockies went on one of the most miraculous runs in history of sports. They won 13 of their last 14 games to end the regular season to force a play-in game against the San Diego Padres. The game ended in the 13th inning, 9-8. The Rockies came from behind in the inning and scored three against the ultimate closer, Trevor Hoffman. The Rockies went on to sweep the Philadelphia Phillies and the Arizona Diamondbacks, their only two playoff series wins. The Boston Red Sox then swept the Rockies in the World Series. The Rockies were outscored 29-10 in the four games. Looking back, O’Dowd’s month and a half of success will never be replicated in such a way again.

2008 and the first two months of 2009 were trying for O’Dowd’s Rockies’ club. O’Dowd elected to let outfielder Willy Tavares, pitcher Josh Fogg and second baseman Kaz Matsui go in favor of the Rockies’ farm system. Garrett Atkins’ production slowed down and the Rockies’ pitching, including Aaron Cook, Jeff Francis and Ubaldo Jimenez, was not as strong as in the previous year; the Rockies finished 74-88. The Rockies traded a disgruntled Matt Holliday to the Oakland A’s for closer Huston Street, pitcher Greg Smith and minor league player Carlos Gonzalez.

Current Manager Jim Tracy replaced Clint Hurdle after the club started 19-18 in 2009. It’s worth noting that the Rockies brought Tracy in because he was a hands-off manager. The Rockies felt that Hurdle was micro-managing the team, which is an important factor in the current Bill Geivett situation. The Rockies 74–42 record under Tracy earned them another Wild Card berth, which they lost in four games to the Phillies. The jump was made by the strong play of Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, Ubaldo Jimenez, Dexter Fowler, Chris Iannetta, Ryan Spilbourghs, Ian Stewart and Seth Smith.

2010 saw the Rockies leading the division over the San Francisco Giants from after the All-Star Break to a series late in September. The Giants bolted ahead and the Rockies lost 13 of 14 games. Their young players including, Ian Stewart and Chris Iannetta, stopped producing and the Rockies fell off the radar. Ubaldo Jimenez struggling early in 2011 led to his departure. The Rockies finished 73-89.

It’s safe to say that the Rockies under O’Dowd through last season had three passable campaigns. In the 2007 season, they were ten games above .500 before their magical run. 2009 saw a surge in the last four months of the season. 2010’s record of 83-79, despite the collapse, tied their third best record of all time. In baseball, consistency is important. O’Dowd has changed his philosophy so many times and in so many ways. Dealin’ Dan O’Dowd became his nickname because he made such small trades; it is an apt comparision to a local used car salesman. Bill Geivett explained the Rockies philosophy best, “You have to trust in the organization.” For the last 13 seasons, the Rockies have put their trust in O’Dowd with little results.

Part Two: One Year of Incompetence
Part Three: A Future of Incompetence

Read More of Derek Kessinger’s posts here.

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