Dispelling Rockies Myths

Most of the myths concerning the Rockies are promulgated by the Rockies' management, either directly or through their unofficial mouthpieces, the Denver media. Following are as many of them as we can remember, followed by the truth.

Myth: The Rockies treat their fans like customers
Jerry McMorris, the Managing Partner of the Rockies, made a statement to this effect to the Wall Street Journal in 1993, the first year of the Rockies. Since then, they have consistently treated their fans, not like customers, but more like suckers waiting to be fleeced. You have only to look at their pricing policies, the public statements of the owners, and the results of their policies for proof:

If you buy a cheap ticket ($13 or less) by phone or on the website, there is a $2.00 service charge. But, if you buy a pricier ticket, the service charge is $3.50 per ticket. Is this how businesses treat customers?

Beer, pop, hot dogs, programs, and caps purchased at the ballpark are among the most expensive in baseball.

Charlie Monfort, current Managing Partner, in the Rocky Mountain News: "
We had some arrogance in our organization. When everything was great the first four or five years, we felt it was something we were doing. Really, it was the great fans of the region that allowed us to be the darlings of baseball. Any honeymoon only lasts so long. Ours lasted longer than most. But those early years, that's when we should have been working hard to build relationships, communicating with the community and our fans in general, getting to know them a lot better. We didn't do a very good job of that." Duh.

The result of not treating their fans like customers: First in attendance for the first 7 years of their existence, Colorado fell to 9th in 2003, and season tickets are down at least 15% for 2004 (2004 actually ended up 1% ahead of 2003-ed.). Average attendance at Coors Field has fallen from 48,037 per game in 1996 to a low of 23,634 in 2005. Average ttendance has climbed back slowly, fueled by the fluke World Series appearance in 2007, to a figure of 32,718
in 2008, though it is expected to drop sharply in 2009.
Myth: Ownership has learned from their mistakes and have it together now
This has been a popular myth for the past 5 years, at least, with the same result every year. The truth of the matter is that these people don't have a clue. They don't know what it takes to build a successful sports franchise, and even if they did, they are incapable of designing a plan to make it happen. Monfort was right about the arrogance that caused the team's slide - well, it is still alive and well and achieving the same results. Right now, you have trucking and meat company executives whose previous businesses were hardly models of success, running the team with a President whose only previous experience was one year as a professional football player, a General Manager who by his own admission has no idea what he is doing, and a manager with no previous managerial experience, whose philosophies vary 180 degrees daily, or are so inane as to make your head spin. The latest move of this brain trust, in 2008, was to extend everyone's contracts on Opening Day for another two years for the sake of "continuity". Hopefully, they have seen how well that worked (74-88) in 2008 and won't repeat that boneheaded move again. Another mistake they repeated, was bringing back Don Baylor as the hitting coach. As we demonstrated conclusively in 1998, Baylor was a total failure as both a hitter and a hitting coach, yet the myth persists that he is some kind of genius. The Baseball Observer is dusting off the nickname we gave Baylor back in the 90's: "Teflon Don" because none of his failures seem to stick. We will see if Don's complicated hitting strategy "close your eyes and let it fly" will actually help the team achieve the stated philosophy of being more disciplined at the plate. This is like hiring Congress to help control spending. But maybe Don can give Hurdle some management tips, now that his Cubs tenure has branded him as the worst manager in Cubs history, which practically makes him the default worst in Baseball history. Great guy to have around.
Myth: The Rockies were the fastest expansion team to reach the playoffs
This comparison would be fair if you count only full seasons, not those shortened by labor disputes. Under that criteria, the Rockies never reached the playoffs, or even come close, until their 16th year. The Rockies must agree, because they removed the strike-shortened 1995 season "Wild Card Champions" banner before the 2003 season.
Myth: The 2004 team is better defensively than the 2003 team
We made this point in 2004 and history shows we were correct and the Denver Media was wrong as usual:
This chestnut persistently surfaces in the Denver media, despite all evidence to the contrary. Let's take it position by position, shall we?
Catcher and first base are basically a wash, because you have the same people there both years. There is some evidence that Helton's range may have declined due to the added weight, but there is a rumor that Charles Johnson may improve slightly, but neither will make much difference.
At second base, Aaron Miles is a rookie who has never played in Coors field, which will be a big decline from last year.
At shortstop, Uribe was a spectacular fielder with a concentration problem. His replacement, Royce Clayton, is adequate with less than average range, a definite downgrade.
At third, Vinnie Castilla has lost some range, but still may be slightly better than Chris Stynes, for a slight upgrade in 2004.
In left field, Jeromy Burnitz will play if Walker is able to play in right. Burnitz has virtually no experience playing left field, much less in Coors Field. He does have a great arm, but that is not enough to offset the superior play of Jay Payton in 2003. A slight downgrade.
In center field and right field, both Walker and Wilson will be slowed by injuries, so their defense will not be as good as last year. It will be even worse if either of them can't play, because none of the backups are currently rated better than average in the field.
Myth: "Bottom line is, people want us to win"
These are the words of Charlie Monfort in an article by the same name in a recent Rocky Mountain News. It is just another indication of how clueless these guys are. Look at the evidence; the Marlins, for example, have won two World Series, and yet they are not considered a successful franchise, and in fact are in dire financial trouble. On the other hand, the Red Sox and Cubs haven't won anything since anyone can remember and are among the most successful teams in baseball.
So, it is clearly something else other than winning alone. In Boston's case, like most other teams, being competitive year in and year out is probably the largest contributor to success. It is not so hard to root for a team when there is a chance they will win (unlike Colorado). Who knows what the deal is in Chicago? Somehow the Cubs have a trans-generational cult following that seems to grow over time and persists whether the team is good or bad (reminds you of the Broncos, doesn't it?). Maybe the Rockies could build up the same magical following if they continue to lose for another 50 years or so - this may be their real strategy, but it is not their public one.
The Rockies also lack some of the fundamental attributes of successful teams, like decent local promotions, compelling radio and TV announcers, and even adequate TV coverage of their games. The Cubs always understood that TV would build loyal fans, and their announcers, like Harry Caray became huge local celebrities. With the spotty coverage the Rockies have, split between two stations, nobody watches the games or even knows who the announcers are.
Anyone with any sense knows that it is extremely difficult to build a championship team - just ask the Yankees. However, it is not nearly as difficult to build a successful sports franchise - in fact, it's practically a no-brainer, especially when you are located in the best sports town on the face of the earth. Unfortunately, all the Rockies owners know how to do is fail.
Sorry, Charlie, the myth that all you have to do is win (as if you could) is not true. You'll find that out if you ever manage to do it.

In fact, the Rockies did have a winner in 2007, but it was done in a historical worst-to-first burst at the end of the season, so it did not have much of an effect that year. They were up almost 26% over 2007, which can be attributed partially to winning and partially to the fantastic, much ballyhooed way they did it. It is important to note that attendance is expected to decline sharply this year, especially if the team gets off to a bad start, which is likely. Also, even though attendance in 2008 was the highest since 2002, it is still almost 32% less than 1996! 
Myth: The Rockies' Minor League system is one of the best in baseball
Since the following was written, the Rockies have developed some stars, such as Hawpe, Atkins, Holliday, and Tulowitzki, and ruined and mismanaged others. After those boom years, they appear to be returning to mediocrity, with few legitimate impact players on the horizon. Also, they are not managing to sign many to long term contracts, but when they do, the grossly overpay, ala Tulo, which makes it doubly hard to sign the rest.
The other day, Clint Hurdle said "Our minor league system is better now than it has ever been." This may be true, but it is still woeful. If you read the scouting evaluation of the top players in the system, you will encounter a litany of "however's" and "though's", along with words like "suspect" (as in "his defense is suspect"), "marginal", "adequate", and "problem". It speaks volumes when the majority of "call-ups" from the farm system are on the plus side of thirty with previous major league experience. Aside from the possibility of Chin Hui Tsao (whose career may have been ruined by management's attempt to rush him to the majors) there are no projected major league impact players in the Rockies system. Rene Reyes may be the best prospect and is described thusly in the Street and Smith's Baseball Yearbook: "born hitter, despite an unorthodox swing and poor plate discipline". Not exactly a recipe for stardom.
Myth: Rockies' Management is the Worst in the History of Baseball
The jury is still out on this one, but right now they have to be contenders. They proved convincingly that reaching the World Series in 2007 was a fluke and only serves as the exception that proves how bad they really are. How is it that the Monforts are so dim that they can't figure out that hiring real experts would make them look good, too. The Baseball Observer keeps expecting the Meat Boys to clean house and get rid of the people who are the problem - Jay Alves, Dan O'Dowd, Keli McGregor, Clint Hurdle, etc., and bring in people from successful organizations with proven track records. But it is just a dream; it will never happen. We can only hope the Monforts will go broke and finally sell the team to Kronke or someone else with a clue.