Tuesday, October 23, 2012
What will it take to trust the Colorado Rockies again?
The issues go far beyond the amount of losses, the trust between the fans and the front office has been broken, something a professional sports franchise can ill afford to have happen.
The confusion that comes from 20th & Blake is the hardest part for fans to understand. The team loses games, but that doesn't seem to be of importance to the people running the show. Instead, the more losses that pile up, and the more fans get frustrated, the more the front office seems to get defensive.
Things seemed to be at their worst when the team cruised into the offseason with the worst record in franchise history. Just three years removed from a playoff appearance, looking like the golden child of the National League West, the Rockies had suddenly become the laughingstock of the entire league.
It seemed like rock bottom when the season was mercifully finished. News came out that manager Jim Tracy, Dan O'Dowd and Bill Geivett would be meeting to discuss the teams plans going forward. Despite a "hand-shake agreement" to keep Tracy as the front man for the Rockies indefinitely, it seemed that the promise was only good for a job within the organization. Most fans understood that Tracy wasn't the whole problem, but his in-game decisions and his confusing lineup decisions seemed to have him on the hot seat. It was assumed by many that Tracy would be relieved of his duties, and while that wouldn't solve the problems entirely, it would at least be an acknowledgement from the front office that things weren't going anywhere near what they had expected.
Instead, the meeting ended with Tracy showing his frustration with the front office meddling. Before the end of the weekend, he had turned in his resignation, turning down $1.4 million dollars in the process.
Many sources quoted assistant general manager Geivett as being shocked that Tracy would leave. Apparently he thought the discussions went very well. Instead, Tracy's frustrations were boiling to the point that he walked away from a job that only 30 people in the whole world have.
Rock bottom quickly became a little lower.
Geivett was quick to tell media outlets that despite Tracy leaving, the Rockies would continue to manage their manager the way they had done with Tracy. Despite the fact that it drove Tracy mad and made him walk away, Geivett made it clear that he would continue to pull the strings from the office next door.
The next step came in the form of interviewing for a new manager. The internal names quickly sprung up. Both bench coach Tom Runnells and Triple-A manager Stu Coles were mentioned. Also, in a strange twist, Jason Giambi was an outside candidate.
The issue for many fans was not that internal names were the first to be interviewed, but rather that outside names didn't seem to be mentioned at all. Suggestions of names like Sandy Alomar, Jr., Tim Wallach, and Brad Ausmus were thrown out by members of the media, but it seemed like the Rockies were content to hire from within. Not until early in the week, nearly two weeks after Tracy's resignation, did the Rockies even mention interviewing outside candidates.
Make no mistake, the loyalty is a great thing. It shows those who put in the work within the organization that their efforts will be rewarded. However, not even seeing what else is out there says to the fans that they have a theory at Coors Field and someone from the outside might not like it, and therefore, shouldn't even be brought in.
O'Dowd has made it clear on several occasions that he believes if he left the organization that the club would be set back several years. He believes this because after 13 years, he is just starting to understand the effects of altitude on baseball players. With that thought in mind, it can be assumed that he believes the only way to hire is by bringing in someone who already has the same mindset that the front office possesses. Couple that with the fact that it has already been determined that the new manager will be micro-managed, and essentially fans have nothing to get excited about.
Whether the perception is true or not, there seems to be a stubbornness that comes from the offices at Coors Field. There seems to be a mindset that, despite what conventional logic says, despite what numbers say, despite what anyone else in the game believes, no one understands the game at Coors Field like the guys already in charge. That stubbornness translates comes across to the fans as arrogance. In fact, many times, it comes across as the front office telling their passionate fans that they have no idea what they are talking about.
The Rockies may be realizing that their fans are slipping away. However, their stubbornness continues to tell them that if they get it right--whether that is in 2013 or 2023--those fans will come back. History says that they are correct. However, the damage that they are doing to their reputation isn't going to be easily repaired. A year dubbed "Year of the Fan" was filled with some of the least interesting games played at Coors Field. Despite nearly three million fans pouring through the gates, the vitriol on talk shows and social media became more and more fierce.
For the Rockies, they may have to learn the hard way that the honeymoon in Denver is over. Sure, fans will always go to games because Coors Field is a great venue, but instead of being the No. 1 pick for summertime hangouts, it might drop to fifth or sixth. It might become one of many options, instead of the crown-jewel of Denver that it is today.
Who knows. The Rockies may have it figured out. They may be on to something with the altitude concerns. However, following a 98-loss season, it certainly doesn't seem like the people calling the shots and have been since before the turn of the century, have any clout when it comes to decision making.
The Rockies are losing the trust of their dwindling fan base quickly. They need to do something to get fans to buy in. If they don't the indifference could quickly turn into passionate anger from fans. That is something no franchise wants to have to deal with.
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