If you attended a Rockies game in 2005 or 2006, you saw Coors Field plastered with the slogan: “Generation R.” It was an attempt to convince people to still buy tickets despite the team’s lack of success.
“Come see these exciting young players. They may stink now, but you will be happy you saw them when they get good later! Please still buy tickets. Please… Pretty please?”
Here’s the crazy part – it actually happened. They got good. The core of players that made up “Generation R,” such as Brad Hawpe, Garrett Atkins, and Clint Barmes, combined forces with the likes of Troy Tulowitzki and Matt Holliday to lead the team to a National League pennant in 2007. When the original Rocktober happened, fans who bought into “Generation R” were rewarded with an unusually quick payoff.
It also signaled a change in organizational philosophy. Gone were the days of signing inadequate veteran free agents to plug the holes on a team whose highest aspirations were a third place finish. In their place was a team that was built the right way, developing home grown talent and depth. At that point we figured we were cheering for a team that would be relevant for a long time.
Fans’ expectations of sustained success reflected those of the organization. We all agreed: the Rockies should be able to contend almost every year, and any year that they don’t is an aberration. We were willing to accept “Generation R” as an explanation of failure in those days…but not now.
This lack of patience explains the presence of the following players on the Rockies roster (age in parenthesis): Casey Blake (38), Jason Giambi (40), and Michael Cuddyer (32). Todd Helton (38) does not qualify for this list because he has been with the team for so long. What these other veteran players represent, besides a need for a change in clubhouse culture, is the fact that the “Generation R” packaging only passed as acceptable at that moment. It was acceptable because it gestured to a light at the end of the tunnel. Now that they reached it, they cannot reverse back into the tunnel, not without losing the faith of their fan base (and probably their own jobs, too).
The additions of Blake and Cuddyer signal the need to boost the long-term attached to the youth in the organization with short-term veteran solutions. The hope must be for the older players to produce on contending teams and then be replaced by the next wave of homegrown prospects. If that is the case, then we were right to interpret Rocktober as a sign of a team that was here to stay. We were right to assume that “Generation R” was acceptable because it was a one-time thing. But…
What if these recent moves signal the ugly stage of a cycle back to irrelevance? What if they signal a lack of the homegrown talent that was supposed to be the foundation of success moving forward? Remember the days of Jeromy Burnitz, Preston Wilson and Jeffrey Hammonds that led us to “Generation R” in the first place? Management was forced into it by failures in free agency and its farm system as much as it chose to actually change its philosophy. If these signings show that the apparent model for sustained success was actually a mirage, then the new general manager and manager in the 2014 season might be forced to sell us another version of “Generation R.” Let’s hope not.