Denver has more professional sports teams per capita than any other major metropolitan area in the United States of America. Surprised? You probably should be. It is absolutely nuts to think that as the ~19th most populated city, we manage to support teams from all four major sports leagues plus soccer and a bevy of lower-level lacrosse and hockey teams. Athletic events in our city are not hard to come by and they come in all flavors.
We are lucky enough to have watched some world-class athletes compete on these teams through their history, and lately some of the ownership groups have brought these athletes back as coaches and front-office personnel. Everyone is completely aware of the hiring of John Elway as VP of Football Operations for the Denver Broncos and all of the success that move brought. After that our Colorado Rockies hired Walt Weiss and Dante Bichette to guide the team from the dugout as well as continuing to use Vinny Castilla and Eric Young in front office roles, all key pieces to earlier success of the Rockies. And yesterday the Avalanche hired the winningest goalie in franchise history and two-time Stanley Cup champion, Patrick Roy, as their head coach and VP of hockey ops just a week after shaking up their front office and giving the former Avs Captain Joe Sakic more say in the day-to-day operations.
The move to bring in old players as front office gurus is not unparalleled, but to have this many teams run by former players in one city may be. Even more unheard of is the fact that non of these men have had any former Big 4 (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL) coaching/executive experience before being hired. So what is really going on? Is this just a publicity stunt to sell more tickets? Are we as fans falling for a ruse? Or do these compile some of the most ingenious hires in professional sports, and we as fans are going to have the luxury to watch it unfold in our backyard?? Only time will tell.
May 8, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; A general view during the fourth inning between the New York Yankees and the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
The one thing missing from all of this is decision making entitlement to hires in the Colorado Rockies organization. It was no real secret that one of the reason’s former manager Jim Tracy was unhappy and left was due to the fact that he was handcuffed by GM Dan O’Dowd and right-hand man Bill Geivett. That is why a managerial hire like Walt Weiss is low-risk — the decisions he is allowed to make are not to the same level as most typical major league managers. It appeases fans, gives them a familiar face, and allows Geivett to continue to make decisions such as the ridiculous 75-pitch limited 4-man rotation of 2012. Ok maybe that wasn’t solely Geivett’s idea but I refuse to believe an old-fashioned baseball mind like Tracy’s could’ve dreamt that up.
I am not necessarily calling for heads in the Rockies front office, because the city of Denver has called for O’Dowd’s head for years to no avail. However what would it hurt to follow the lead of the Avs and Broncos, and give some day-to-day decision making authority to a former Rockie? The answer is, it wouldn’t. Now not just any player would do the trick, it would have to be on the level of a John Elway or Patrick Roy. A winner, a future hall-of-famer, and competitor. In the course of Rockies’ history there is only two players that fit that bill: Todd Helton and Larry Walker. With Helton nearing the end of his career, and Walker enjoying his life after baseball it is possible neither of these fellas would be interested in a VP of Baseball Operations title immediately.. but what would it hurt to try? Perhaps the Walt Weiss experiment will be short-lived, even though he has guided this team above expectations in the first quarter of his first season, opening the door for a Helton manager/VP option a couple of years down the road. Perhaps Weiss will have great success in the coming years and become that person who can step up into more day-to-day responsibility. Perhaps the Monfort’s along with their chief minion O’Dowd will never cede any power or responsibility to anyone else, ever, and will continue to see 2-3 millions fans walk through the gates and Coors Field each year, lining their pockets. We may never know but it would be fun to find out.
Again, only time will tell if the Avs and their decisions this week can follow the Broncos lead and climb back to being a relevant franchise in the sports world once again. As an avid Rockies fan I am more than ready to see the Rockies become relevant at all and step away from the mediocrity that has plagued them for years. The question is, when will it happen? There is no time like the present.