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 two of this three part series will focus on the mismanagement of the Rockies over the last year.
On July 31, 2011, the Colorado Rockies traded number one starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez to the Cleveland Indians for young prospects Drew Pomeranz and Alex White. The Rockies allowed Jimenez to pitch the first inning of his final game with the club and then took him out as the trade was going down. It is among the least classy things the sport has ever seen, as the best pitcher in Rockies history was shown the door mid-game. Fourteen months removed from the club’s only no-hitter by Jimenez, the Rockies no longer had an ace.
The Jimenez story highlights much of what is wrong with the Rockies organization. The Rockies had high expectations for Jimenez heading into 2011, but pushed him early in spring training leading to a slew of injury problems. Going back to his first full season in 2007, the Rockies pitched Jimenez too much, which may be responsible for part of his decline. The Rockies also withheld a contract to Jimenez after rewarding Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez with long-term deals. This led to animosity in the clubhouse and ultimately ended to Jimenez throwing at Tulowitzki in 2012 after comments Tulowitzki made on the subject. If the General Manager’s job is truly to manage players, Dan O’Dowd majorly mismanaged the best pitcher he was able to develop.
O’Dowd went into the 2011 off-season looking for a new philosophy. He came to Colorado in 1999 believing he was smarter than previous Rockies management and decided he could bring in the pitching no one else could. When this strategy did not work he adopted a “build from within” mantra for several years. When the young players did not develop fast enough, O’Dowd said it was the organization’s lack of Christian values that were holding them back. By the winter of 2011, it was apparent that he needed a new strategy and this time decided that veteran leadership was the key to success.
Adding to Todd Helton and Jason Giambi, O’Dowd brought in Michael Cuddyer, Casey Blake, Ramon Hernandez, Marco Scutaro, Jamie Moyer and Jeremy Guthrie. All of these men are 30 or older, with Moyer topping the list at 49. O’Dowd admitted defeat with prospects Ian Stewart, Chris Iannetta and Seth Smith in the process. Moyer surprisingly made the unproven rotation that would implode as he lost his spot. O’Dowd’s focus on offense left Colorado without a lot of arms.
The Rockies’ season never gained traction. Colorado had a decent April before plummeting in May. Their winning percentage has decreased every month of the season. The understaffed starting rotation is on pace to have the second worst ERA of all time. The Rockies have rolled out 13 starting pitcher. Their number one starter, Jeremy Guthrie, was shipped off to the Kansas City Royals after a 3-8 record and a 6.66 ERA. His replacement, Jonathan Sanchez, is now on the disabled list along with starters Christian Fredrich, Juan Nicasio, Jhoulys Chacin and Jorge De La Rosa, who never played a game. Their other pitchers, including Alex White and Drew Pomeranz, have shown an inability to throw strikes in the majors.
The pitching mess led to what General Manager O’Dowd calls a piggyback system. The Rockies rotate through starters on a four-man rotation instead of five and have imposed a 75-pitch count limit. Three rotating pitchers that serve as long relief men then back up the starters. O’Dowd says this strategy was adopted because altitude affects pitchers’ recoveries. However, his plan has pitchers pitching more often, with even worse results. O’Dowd is just now trying new things at altitude despite his 13 year tenure, but believes he is the only man who understands its effects.
Rockies owner Dick Monfort said that O’Dowd is the best General Manager in baseball. He sees nothing wrong with the lack of knowledge and inability to gain traction displayed by his General Manager and friend. The Monfort Brothers, who run the Rockies, do not know a lot about baseball. Their main reference point is through O’Dowd, which has stifled change as they blindly go forward. The Montfort’s and Rockies organization is all about controlling data. They refuse to hear criticism and have shut themselves off from the media. They tell the season ticket holders in long letters that they have vast plans.
Rockies’ fans one hope for the future was the threat of 100 losses. Fans felt that with the Rockies reaching the century mark for the first time in history, ownership would have to make a change. For Rockies fans, that hope was lost when the club announced the promotion of Bill Geivett. The new Senior Vice President of Major League Operations negates the momentum against O’Dowd through this disastrous season.