Sep 17, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; General view of Coors Field during the first inning between the Los Angeles Dodgers against the Colorado Rockies. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
The Rockies are the kings of recycling projects, and that all starts with their owners, Charlie and Dick Monfort.
Let me clarify, I don’t mean that in a way where they’re particularly adept at it, I mean it in a way where they try to sign over the hill, oft injured, or just plain ineffective players. They hope that out of these experiments, they’ll find one who will pan out, be serviceable and won’t cost them much out-of-pocket investment. This is Charlie and Dick Monfort’s preferred method of operation with the Rockies. I mean, really, why would they spend money to bring in a premium player, or heck, even an average player, when 3 million people a year come see a terrible one? Despite finishing 30 games below .500 in 2014, the Rockies ranked 10th in attendance.
“If product and experience that bad don’t come!”… signed owner, chairman and CEO of the Colorado Rockies Dick Monfort
I’m not convinced they truly care about putting a solid product on the field. Hell, Dick Monfort even famously responded to a fan’s unhappy email with his own witty thoughts.
Financially, the Rockies rank #23 out of 30 on the franchise valuation list. According to Forbes, the financials look like this as of March 2015:
- Championships: 0
- Price Paid: $95 M
- Year Purchased: 1992
- Revenue : $214 M
- Operating Income : $12.6 M
- Debt/Value : 7%
- Player Expenses : $114 M
- Gate Receipts : $58 M
- Wins-to-player cost ratio : 87
- Revenue per Fan : $48
- Metro Area Population: 2.7 M
The most notable recycling projects traditionally have been pitchers due to the difficulty in getting a top notch pitcher to come to Colorado and make half his starts at Coors Field is going to command a premium over and above a lot of other locations.
The three recylcing projects that stand out to me are the Jamie Moyer, Roy Oswalt, and Kevin Millwood experiments. Jamie Moyer broke into the big leagues in 1986 at age 23. Rather than spending money to sign a young, talented pitcher, the Rockies tried to fill a rotation spot with a man who spent 2011 anywhere but pitching in MLB, and was turning 49 years old. Who remembers how that turned out? Oh wait, I do. In 2012 Moyer amassed a 2-5 record and a 5.70 ERA while making 10 starts for the Rox. A short lived experiment which ended with the club still needing a starting pitcher to fill an otherwise terrible rotation. This is the season that ended with the ill-fated 4 man, piggyback rotation experiment. That too, was a failure.
Following the Jamie Moyer disaster, the Monforts turned to an aging, injured, and ineffective Roy Oswalt in 2013. Oswalt only made 6 starts and 9 total appearances in 2013, amassing 32.1 innings pitched, an 0-6 record and an 8.63 ERA. I think the Monforts and Dan O’Dowd, the then General Manager, decided to take a flyer on Oswalt based on his success earlier in his career. He really hadn’t been overly effective since 2010.
Now we’ve arrived at the one that actually, kind of, panned out. Kevin Millwood. He came to the Rockies in 2011 after a fairly miserable 4-16 season for the Baltimore Orioles in 2010. He ended up starting 9 games and had a decent 4-3 record, with a 3.98 ERA. Great! One of the projects worked. You’d think we’d resign him for a nominal fee and let him eat innings again in 2012 until we actually develop some pitching. Not a chance. That would require the Monfort’s to open up the pockets a little bit. Instead, they tried to catch lightning in a bottle again, and went with Roy Oswalt the following year. We’ve already covered how that worked out. Millwood on the other hand went on to start 28 games and throw 160+ innings with a 4.25 ERA for the Seattle Mariners.
In the 2013/2014 offseason, the Rockies appeared to make a play at signing a much need catching upgrade in Brian McCann and even made an offer at Cuban defector, and power bat, Jose Abreu. In my opinion, the Rockies reported interest was all for show. Abreu would have been the perfect solution to the retirement of Todd Helton. He would have filled a vacated 1B spot and provided an already powerful offense with another big bat. Yet again, why would the Monfort’s spend big free agent money if 3 million people will show up every year either way? I’m convinced they offer near what the players are seeking, so they seem, at least to the fans, like they’re trying to improve the team when in all reality, they’re happy saving the money. The Rockies offer to Abreu was supposedly 63 million dollars, and he ended up signing for 68 million with the Chicago White Sox. He went on to become an All-Star, hitting .317 with 36 home runs and 107 R.B.I’s. He was also the American League Rookie of the Year. I’d say he was probably worth another 5 million in my opinion.
Coors Field is an incredible place to hang out during the summer. The addition of the Rooftop area in right center field just made it that much more attractive of a place to spend time before heading out to the restaurants, bars and clubs that populate LoDo. People pay for the atmosphere and the views. They don’t seem to care that the team on the field is in last place. That’s the biggest reason the Monfort’s will continue to make money hand over fist and put it all back in their pocket instead of back into the payroll. Nothing will change at 20th and Blake until we, as fans, stop supporting this behavior. Nothing will change until the Rockies owners start feeling the pain in their wallets. I think it’s time to stand up for what we, the people buying the tickets, Rockies Dogs, and brews, deserve.