Sunday, February 16, 2014

Colorado Rockies need for a president never more clear than after Monfort Twitter appearance

Dick Monfort wants to win, he just has no clue how to do it.
On April 20th, 2010, the Colorado Rockies and the community lost a great man.

Keli McGregor, the team president, died tragically in his hotel room from a rare affliction that caused his heart to give out. He was just 48-years-old. His death left a mark on the entire Rockies organization. From the players at the big league level, to the scouts and coaches at the lowest level, McGregor was remembered as a great man, and an even better leader.

McGregor's impact came, by all accounts, in his ability to get the most out of everyone who he came into contact with. In a 2011 USA Today piece, Troy Tulowitzki, speaking on McGregor said "he would be proud of us because we go every single night and play hard and that is all he ever asked of us. And I think not only on the baseball field, but I think being good role models off the field is what he really appreciated and standing for the right things."

When McGregor departed, owner Dick Monfort assumed the role of team president. It is easy to assume that he felt that his relationship with McGregor would make for an easier transition instead of bringing someone in from outside of the organization, who might not understand the culture.

The problem is, McGregor, a former NFL player, had flung himself into the baseball world. He was well versed and educated on baseball decisions. He knew the game.

Monfort, as was evidenced last week on Twitter, is nothing more than the average fan.

Many Rockies fans rage that the club's ownership cares about nothing more than seeing the seats full on a regular basis. They don't care about wins and losses, but dollar bills. That is an easy conclusion to reach, but it is the wrong one.

Dick Monfort wants desperately to win. He wants to see the Rockies succeed as much as the most die-hard fans do. However, he simply has no clue as to how to make that happen.

He stepped into the role of team president and had to lean on general manager Dan O'Dowd to present him with baseball knowledge. Without previous dealings in his role, it is easy to assume that Monfort never saw what goes into the day-to-day decisions in the front office. He was just there to sign off on them after the dirty work was done.

Stepping into that role was a huge step up. Suddenly, he realized how much thought and action goes into each move. O'Dowd and his staff probably wowed him with baseball knowledge and their ability to pore over the numbers.

As Rockies fans fired question after question to Monfort with more and more vitriol, the owner answered in stride. One answer in particular, however, uncovered the ugly truth as to the veil that Monfort has over his baseball eyes.

The question was why O'Dowd was still employed. Monfort responded with an answer about the team going to the World Series in '07, the playoffs in '09 and a near-miss in 2010. He then followed that with a statement about the Rockies having the best farm system in all of baseball.

Anyone who follows the Rockies and baseball knows that statement would be laughable if it wasn't so painful to digest. The Rockies farm system, in 21 years of existence, has produced less than 10 everyday Major League players.

It would be one thing if Monfort were lying to the fans. However, what the statement reveals is the sickening truth. Monfort has absolutely zero idea how bad things are. He doesn't know what a good farm system looks like, he doesn't know the difference between a top prospect and a minor league roster filler. He has to completely depend on those baseball minds that he knows to fill him in. Essentially, to monitor the success of his own staff, he is forced to go to that very staff to find out what the results are. What do you think they are going to tell him?

The pieces should start to come together for Rockies fans. One item that O'Dowd is always criticized for is that he rips the character and work ethic of every player who doesn't work out. He blames their lack of work for their failures, not their lack of development.

Why might he do that? Maybe he is going to his boss, Monfort, and filling his mind with how great the talent of these players that they have coming up is, or how good the guy that they got in a trade is. Whether that is true or not isn't important, what is important is that O'Dowd talks them up and convinces Monfort that he is making brilliant moves. When the move fails, or when the prospect doesn't become an All-Star, O'Dowd rips their character. It certainly couldn't be from the players lack of talent, or lack of good coaching in the minors, it was the players fault.

Ultimately, the answer to Monfort from O'Dowd is to shift blame. Keep Monfort believing that all of his moves have been genius, they just didn't work out because the players didn't hold up their end of the bargain.

Why would Monfort believe any differently? He doesn't know any other baseball-minded people, and the way O'Dowd knows the game is so impressive, he must be right? Right?

When Monfort says that the Rockies have the best farm system in baseball, he is referring to the Topps award that the Rockies won this offseason. That award, given by the trading card company, refers to the organization that won the most player of the week and player of the year awards at the minor league level. While that should be celebrated, it is far from any indication of the overall grade of a farm system. But how would Monfort know any different? The award fits right into what he is being told by his trusted front office.

Monfort probably doesn't know that there are publications that have a dedicated staff to ranking teams minor league systems. Baseball America and USA Today routinely scout entire franchises farm systems and rank their prospects. The Rockies are never higher than middle of the pack.

The reality is, Monfort is a business man who enjoys baseball. He is a baseball fan, but is in over his head when it comes to serious baseball decisions. He relies on the people beneath him to fill him in. The problem is, with that structure, there is absolutely no accountability. A fast-talker like O'Dowd can sell his plans to Monfort over and over again and keep his job.

While Monfort clearly knows business. His dealings with the media and fans is admirable, but it underscores what has been the elephant in the room for quite some time. This organization is in desperate need for a team president. They need a baseball-minded person who can provide some accountability to the men making decisions in the front office. Keli McGregor provided that leadership, Dick Monfort simply isn't cut out for it.

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  1. A very well written article and I agree fully with it.

  2. If you think that the Rockie fans are miffed - go read some of the Twins blogs.

  3. I don't believe Monfort wants to win, he just wants money, just like his packing plant that he inherited. He really needs to go, sell to someone who wants to win.

  4. Could not be a truer statement. This stuff is getting old with the Rockies.

  5. Why would Monfort want a team president that would take away from his bottom line.

  6. Dick Monfort saying that the Rockies had the best farm system in MLB shows how ignorant that he is. The Twins have a long storied farm system and they have developed some very good players but the ownership is too cheap to pay market value for good players and those players move on. Was Dick drinking some of his brother's (Charlie) hooch before making that statement?

    What was the party deck at Coors Field built for other than another money maker? To keep Charlie Monfort as far as possible away from the locker room?

  7. Thank you for publishing this painfully obvious blog. I seasonally return to root for the Rockies, but the management of the club makes it difficult. How long will they run on the fumes of 2007 & 2009, the pinnacle of McGregor's leadership.
    If they don't improve the club for the fan's sake at least do it for the players. During Todd Helton's 17 years as a Rockie, they only had 4 winning seasons and finished last or second to last in the division 12 times. He spent his whole career with the team and, aside from 2007 & 2009 years, got almost nothing from it.
    If the Montforts don't want to fire Dan O'Dowd, at least give him a new boss. According to USA Today (1/14), Tony LaRussa is being considered to be hired by the Mariners as president. The Rockies should beat them to the punch. That could make rooting for the Rockies fun again!