|Dan O'Dowd should have gone with youth.|
The Rockies aren't going anywhere in 2012. They know it, their fans know it, everyone knows it. The sad part about it is that the front office knew it before anyone else did.
The reality is, when general manager Dan O'Dowd told the media that he had given Jim Tracy a vote of confidence and that he would be his manager for years to come, he was anticipating a disaster of a season.
O'Dowd was caught with his pants down in the early part of 2011 when starting pitcher Jorge De La Rosa went down with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. O'Dowd's eyes were opened when he realized that he would have to dig beyond his Triple-A rotation and force one of his young prospects to the big leagues before he was ready. That was when Juan Nicasio got the call in late May of 2011.
That move almost certainly woke O'Dowd up. He suddenly realized just how depleted his farm system was. The big-name prospects weren't panning out the way everyone thought that they would and the team's failures in the draft pre-2009 were becoming extremely apparent.
O'Dowd knew he would have to do something drastic. Presumably, that was when he got serious about dealing the club's first true ace, Ubaldo Jimenez. It was a move that was motivated as much by a need to re-stock as it was a move to get rid of what had become a bad apple in the clubhouse.
The trade worked, it netted two first-round draft picks and two additional minor leaguers. However, the players received in that trade were still in need of seasoning, particularly the centerpieces, Alex White and Drew Pomeranz.
Before spring training, the Rockies front office must have looked at their starting rotation and shuttered. De La Rosa was still months away, Nicasio was recovering from a broken neck, Jhoulys Chacin watched his season get away from him after the All-Star break in 2011 and Pomeranz and White were not ready.
The early feeling was that if two of the young pitchers could pop, if Chacin could take the next step forward and Pomeranz could pitch well enough in the early part of the season to build his confidence that if a lineup that could slug with the best of them was built around those young pitchers, that the Rockies could have a chance.
Of course, all of the scenarios described involved the front office crossing their fingers that it would all work out.
O'Dowd wanted to compete. He made moves to sign Michael Cuddyer to add a solid bat to the lineup. He acquired Marco Scutaro to fill the hole at second base. He traded a pitcher in Jason Hammel, who had fallen out of favor with the club, to Baltimore for their ace, Jeremy Guthrie. O'Dowd was doing everything in his power to make the team competitive. However, at the end of the day, he knew that it was probably too much to ask for.
Knowing that he had failed in drafting and developing solid players, O'Dowd shouldered the blame. He wasn't going to let Jim Tracy be the fall guy in the final season of his contract for a team that O'Dowd didn't believe was good enough to win. Therefore, before the season began, the Rockies GM gave Tracy the vote of confidence, which essentially was O'Dowd giving Tracy every excuse in the book to not win in 2012.
Hindsight is 20/20. However, as the "Year of the Fan" becomes the year of the unused ticket, it has to be wondered if, instead of attempting to build a make-shift, cross-your-fingers-and-hope team, O'Dowd should have gracefully acknowledged that the team was going to let their youth get experience under their belt, whether at the big league level or in the minors, and sink or swim, 2012 was going to be a quick turnaround, rebuilding year.
The Rockies should have saved their money and not signed Cuddyer. They should have stuck with Chris Iannetta, but given more starts to Wilin Rosario. They should have left Marco Scutaro in Boston and Guthrie in Baltimore. They shouldn't have tried to force a good season out of a team that wasn't ready to compete.
Fans would have been upset. They would have called for O'Dowd's job. They would have been angry that the farm system was in such disarray and no one knew it until it was too late. Fans would have had every right to be angry. However, the honesty from the club would have gone further than what the fans were being fed in spring training.
The front office did just enough of a good job to convince their fans that they were going to be good. They sold Guthrie as an innings-eater anchor of the staff that could keep the team in games. They sold a lineup with Cuddyer in it as the best in the National League playing in a great hitters park. They sold their fans a bag of goods that said they had a chance.
In reality, the talent would suggest that they did have a chance. The team, talent-wise, is pretty good. Sure, there are holes, but they are good enough to win. However, as soon as O'Dowd gave Tracy a golden parachute that if things went bad, he would keep his job, everything went down the drain.
It wasn't that Tracy or O'Dowd wanted failure. However, in a role like those two are in, when losing is expected, and accepted, even for a one-year period, losing is exactly what will happen. That attitude permeates the whole organization. When the two top-dogs seem to feel like losing is part of the growing up process, it becomes alright to lose.
It would have been difficult for fans to accept that the team was going nowhere and weren't trying to win in 2012. They would have used the usual argument that the Monfort's are cheap, that O'Dowd is terrible and that Tracy can't manage. They would have had points and they would have been justified in their anger. However, there is no way that anger would be anywhere close to the level that the anger is currently at right now.
Instead of trying to mask what was going to be a bad year, the Rockies should have gone with youth. They should have simply accepted that the bad year on the field bought their top prospects another year in the minors to get ready and that sooner rather than later, those guys would be at Coors Field helping the team get back to the point of contending.
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