Friday, June 8, 2012

Colorado Rockies Review: Monforts are not cheap

The Monfort brothers are not cheap. 
Talk to Colorado Rockies fans, listen to what they have to say both at Coors Field and on the radio.

The common theme is that Dick and Charlie Monfort, the principle owners of the Rockies, are cheap. People talk about the youth in the pitching staff, the lack of the ability to find a third basemen ever since Vinny Castilla left, and the failed promises of prospect catchers gone by.

The argument, regardless of how it started, always circles back to the owners don't want to spend money, that they are content with the 35,000 fans that walk through the gates every night and that Coors Field is a destination for a summer evening that they don't need to spend any money on fielding a team that can hit, pitch and field.

Rockies fans have ever reason to be upset. They have every reason to point their frustrations at whatever target they see fit to blame in order to justify their emotions. Passion is what makes a great fan base. The passion doesn't always have to be positive. Sometimes the best fans in the world are extremely negative when things go wrong.

Dick Monfort made himself a clear target two weeks ago with his comments in the Denver Post. Not only did his comments make him sound clueless about baseball, but they made him sound like his passion for winning wasn't as important as making sure his friends had great jobs with no accountability in the front office.

If those comments were where the fans issues started, it would make sense. However, the Monforts have long been a target of Rockies fans. In fact, when they hoisted the Warren C. Giles Trophy when the Rockies clinched the National League Pennant in 2007, the fans at Coors Field booed.

The confusion from fans makes sense. There were lean years, and even though the team is much better than it was from 2003-2005, the winning is sporadic and the develop-from-within strategy hasn't really worked well in recent years.

However, it is frustrating to continuously hear about how cheap the Monforts are. Even recently, Rockies fans complain that the team didn't go out and sign a big-name free agent in the offseason. They complain that they didn't sign a big bat to shore up the lineup. The reasoning must be that the owners don't want to spend any money to win.

The problem with that logic is two-fold. First, recent evidence suggests that not only are the Rockies not cheap, but that they are willing to overpay players in order to either get them into or keep them in purple pinstripes. The most recent example is Michael Cuddyer. While the Rockies are thrilled with the signing, the overwhelming viewpoint from experts in the media and around the league was that the 3-year, $31 million deal that the Rockies inked Cuddyer to was about $2 million more per season than any other team was offering.

Look just one year prior and find the signings of both Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez to long-term deals. Tulo was already signed through his arbitration years and was under team control for four more years prior to the deal. Gonzalez barely had a full season of service time under his belt before he was given a seven year deal. The Rockies easily could have renewed CarGo for the league minimum for three more years, then simply bargained in arbitration with him until he was either traded or left via free agency. Instead, the Rockies paid both players and ensured they played at Coors Field for a long time.

The second issue with the complaint is that fans can never name the big free agent that they think the team should have gone after. Listen next time. The complaining fans doesn't specifically name any free agents that they team should have signed.

Look at the list of free agents that were available in the offseason. Obviously the big hitter was Albert Pujols.  Do fans wish the club would have outbid the Angels $240 million deal for him? The top closer on the market was Heath Bell. Do fans wish that the Rockies would have outbid the Marlins to get him? His $21 million 3-year deal looks great right now. He has lost his closer job twice already and currently has a 6.65 ERA, astonishingly higher than even Jeremy Guthrie.

The big-name starter that was available was Texas Rangers starter CJ Wilson. The lefty had been a starter for just two seasons and had thrown a ton of innings in those two seasons with the Rangers going deep into the postseason. Before that he was a struggling reliever for four years. The Angels signed him for five years, giving him $77.5 million. Wilson is doing well. He is 6-4 with a 2.54 ERA, but no one is talking about how dominant he has been. In fact, a recent poll of anonymous big leaguers showed that the players themselves think that Wilson is the most overrated pitcher in all of baseball.

If those players were the top of the spectrum, it should be considered a good thing that the Rockies didn't pull off any big moves before spring training. Cuddyer was probably the third or fourth best hitters available, and he landed in Colorado.

The other issue is tickets. Many people talk about the owners basking in their money watching all of the fans stream through the gates regardless of the team's record. The only problem with this argument is that if that was the case, tickets would be far more expensive. Very few people know that the Rockies average ticket price ranks 26th out of the 30 Major League teams. Good tickets can be had for $10. Great tickets can be had for less than $75.

Compare that to Yankee Stadium. Want a third deck behind home plate ticket for Saturday's game against the Mets? Pull out the wallet. Each ticket will cost $135. That isn't $35 that is $135...each.

Again, Rockies fans have every right to complain about this team. It is bad. It has under performed. Even with low expectations, very few thought that the starting rotation would be this bad. It's fair to be upset, and it is fair to be mad at the Monforts, particularly after the statements in the paper.

However, when people talk about them being cheap, there is no argument that is factually based that can back that claim up. They are not cheap.

If the Rockies got an owner who went out and spent boatloads of money on every free agent class, the argument would quickly shift to how it is impossible to bring the family to a game at Coors Field because the tickets are too expensive.

Fans can't have it both ways. If they want their owners to spend more money, they are voting for spending more money themselves.

It is fair to be upset with the Rockies. It is fair to hope for a change. Passionate fans want their team to win at all costs. However, calling the Monfort's cheap is an old, tired argument that needs to be retired.

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  1. No I don't believe money is the problem myself. I believe the problem is their lack of judgement when evaluating talent to some degree. And the rest has got to be on coaching. Hey the players are decent and have relatively good skill sets. They get to Colorado and all of a sudden can't play. And those CHEAP tickets, they don't exist. We have been at the ticket booth when it has opened and within 10 minutes the rockpile is sold out. You can't possibly sell that many tickets that fast when purchases are limited. Yet you will find people wearing official ROCKIES team clothing selling those same seats across the street for 25-50 bucks. Don't tell me it doesn't happen I have been there and seen it with my own eyes.

  2. Fantastic article except I do not feel his comments in the post were out of line. Think about how many well established teams have been worse than the Rockies: the O's and Astro's quickly come to mind. It isn't easy fielding a winner!