‘Year Of Reckoning’ For Dan O’Dowd?


My intentions here are not to ask whether or not Colorado Rockies general manager (if that’s even what he is these days) Dan O’Dowd should be on the hot seat. Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan mentioned O’Dowd among a number of others who might be entering a “year of reckoning” as far as their job security is concerned. The reason I am not going to address whether or not O’Dowd “should be” on the hot seat is because that really should not be a question. Of course he should be on the hot seat, entering his year of reckoning, or however you want to put it. Whether he actually is or not in the bizarre culture that is the Colorado Rockies front office is another question.

This is Richard Monfort, not Dan O’Dowd. Image: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Here is the question I do want to ask about Dan O’Dowd: would the team’s moves (or lack thereof) this offseason give anybody the impression that he is feeling the heat? Granted, there is still plenty of offseason left before 2013 Spring Training, but even still there does not appear to be any sense of urgency from O’Dowd or anybody else in management. There does not appear to be any sense that they better shake things up or they might lose their jobs.

You know when it did feel that way? Last offseason.

Under the auspice of acknowledging that he needed to plug some holes, O’Dowd engineered a handful of trades and spent a pile of money on veteran players in the winter of 2011-2012. Each was an effort to improve the short term hopes for the franchise; most of them were misguided. Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom out for a “proven guy who can help right now” in Jeremy Guthrie. Michael Cuddyer in for too much money (even though I still love Cuddyer). Ramon Hernandez and Marco Scutaro in. Huston Street out. Moves that perhaps should have been focused on replenishing the farm were instead focused on quick fixes. Whether you were in favor of the moves or not, it was perfectly reasonable to view them as the agenda of a guy who saw 2012 as his “year of reckoning.”

During the season this agenda shifted from urgency to desperation in the form of, among other things, the baffling “four man rotation paired pitching that wasn’t paired pitching thing.” That decision is the epitome of an executive grasping for a quick fix. The point is this: last year Dan O’Dowd acted like he needed to make the team better immediately (or else), and that urgency simply is not there in this “we’ll listen, but we’re not shopping” offseason.

If you wanted to compliment the overall arc of O’Dowd’s long tenure in Colorado, you would note his adaptability. More than once in the past he showed a willingness to change when the current formula was not working. When there was an outcry to spend money and build an immediate championship contender, he tried that. Unfortunately he signed Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle with that money, setting the franchise back for years. As if it was hard to miss, O’Dowd recognized the flaw in trying to outspend people when your franchise is in Colorado, so he committed to scouting and development in the minor leagues. That plan, combined with a healthy dose of good fortune, led to a splash of success with two playoff appearances in three seasons from 2007-2009.

That willingness to adapt was a good thing. Unfortunately, his moves last offseason and in the years leading up to it did not resemble adaptability. They felt more like an ineffective mix of “sticking with what worked” (home grown talent) and spending money in an effort to find quick fixes (with a decided focus on the abstract concept that is “clubhouse culture”). Those moves felt like they were put into action by a guy fighting for his job.

Those efforts obviously failed miserably. The Rockies finished the worst season in their history. Yet O’Dowd and the rest of the front office, reshuffled as they may be, are all still here.

So if that was not their year of reckoning, why should we believe that 2013 will be?