Colorado Rockies general manager Dan O’Dowd used to stay with some frequency at a hotel where I worked for a number of years. As such I have some knowledge of his personality away from his job. I passed him once in a hallway. I fulfilled my requirement as a hospitality employee and said “hello” (I chickened out and stayed away from calling him ‘Mr. O’Dowd’). He replied with a surprisingly friendly “Hello! How are you today?” Relative to the other chilly guests I was accustomed to passing on any given day, this friendly exchange was the equivalent of a chest bump and low five.
He also had a candid exchange with another employee in which he discussed the inevitable trade of Matt Holliday at the time. He did not big-time that employee or scoff at his courage in asking a professional general manager to talk about a potential transaction. He said he had heard from a lot of people who wanted to keep Holliday, and he would see what it would take to make that happen (of course we are all comfortable with the fact that he eventually traded him).
These anecdotes illustrate what many already know about O’Dowd: he is open, direct, honest, and even friendly. He is not evasive when asked about the state of the team. He is willing to tell you exactly how he feels, even if he is unhappy or does not know the answer to a question.
O’Dowd recently sat down with Troy Renck of the Denver Post and spoke about his many moves this offseason. In the interview, which you can watch here, he showed his usual candor. Here are three moments that warrant extra attention and dissection:
1. Jhoulys Chacin might be fat
Renck notes that O’Dowd is disappointed by Jhoulys Chacin‘s work this offseason and believes he should have done more to get in shape. This is potentially discouraging when you consider the shaky status of the starting rotation past Chacin. Most discussions about the starters this offseason go something like this: “Well you know there’s Chacin, and then (insightful commentary)….” What if Chacin isn’t right? This might be a big deal or this might be no deal at all, but the last thing the Rockies need is another wrench as the rotation takes shape.
2. It’s not just the starting pitching that should scare you
O’Dowd says the biggest question for him is the
rotation aging lineup bullpen. Wait, what?!? He actually said the bullpen?
His answer was in the context of the recent parting with Matt Lindstrom. O’Dowd said that he does not yet know how the pieces will fit there, and that Rafael Betancourt is technically an unknown because he has never closed for a full season. He said he is intrigued by the talent of certain (unnamed) guys, and is anxious to see what they will do when they get the chance to perform in the 8th and 9th innings.
My initial thought here is that O’Dowd is trying to throw us off the scent. He knows that the starting pitching in particular is frighteningly uncertain, and maybe he sees some benefits if that incredibly open competition gets a little bit less attention. But it does raise a valid concern about the bullpen; with Lindstrom now gone, the list of familiar names that made some of us take it for granted as solid is decidedly shorter.
The video portion of the interview opens with O’Dowd noting, with a chuckle, that the pitching is a “work in progress.” Like others who are interested in the Rockies, I have harped on the uncertainty of the starting rotation in recent weeks. It might be time to include the bullpen in those discussions. Gulp!
3. The farm system still matters…a lot.
With the addition of older position players, O’Dowd notes that they will monitor playing time more closely. Assuming this means the role players will be in the lineup more frequently than their weekly appearance on “J.V. Sunday,” this increases the importance of the team having productive bench players. Fans should therefore take a keen interest in the performances of Jordan Pacheco, Charlie Blackmon, Tyler Colvin, and Chris Nelson (among many others). If the coaching staff follows through with the promise to rest veteran starters on a more regular basis, these players will prove instrumental to any success the Rockies hope to have.
This also waters down the notion that the Rockies got away from their dependence on home grown talent by adding Michael Cuddyer, Marco Scutaro, and company. If the importance of the bench is truly enhanced, then the success of the 2012 Rockies will still be decided to a certain degree by home grown players such as Blackmon, Nelson, Jonathan Herrera, Eric Young Jr., and Wilin Rosario. This would also include Nolan Arenado, although I hesitate to call him a role player because when/if he hits the roster he will start more than he comes off the bench.
For better or for worse, Rockies fans know that O’Dowd leaves little up for interpretation. If he thinks he did something brilliant he will tell you. If he thinks he made a mistake he will tell you. If he is unhappy with a player’s progress he will tell you. If he is
obsessed with interested in changing the culture of the clubhouse, he will leave little doubt about it. My final takeaway from this interview is that O’Dowd is not afraid to let the baseball world know that this current version of his team proceeds with a number of question marks.
That is refreshing and unsettling at the same time, Mr. O’Dowd.