With Rockies in tatters after Jeff Bridich’s resignation, what must be done to rebuild franchise – The Denver Post

The Rockies are a mess.

General manager Jeff Bridich’s resignation last week, abrupt as it might have seemed, was only the most acute symptom of what’s ailing the franchise. That’s the general consensus of the big-league baseball community, and quite a few people inside the Rockies’ organization, too.

“I honestly don’t know what the Rockies are trying to do,” a prominent agent said. “There seems to be no game plan right now. For a lot of us in the industry, it’s been confusing.”

When the Rockies announced Bridich’s resignation this past Monday, the club said it would hire an interim GM and then hire a “permanent” GM at the end of the season. Whoever gets the job(s) — short-term or long-term — will be charged with cleaning up the mess.

That’s going to be one heck of a chore, one that will require a talented, creative, and dynamic leader. Patience will be required, too, because reshaping the Rockies into a competitor will likely take at least three years.

“Organizational success relies on a nimble big-league approach combined with a highly productive minor league system,” said Dan Evans, the former Los Angeles Dodgers general manager who has lived in Boulder for seven years and keeps a close eye on the Rockies. “But the Rockies seem to have lost their identity. Who are they? What are they known for? Is it about development? Consistent winning? Offense? Defense? Pitching? Speed? That’s a tough question right now.”

The Rockies entered the weekend 9-16, 1-9 on the road and mired in the National League West basement. Since making the playoffs in 2017-18, their winning percentage is .429 (106-141).

But that didn’t stop owner Dick Monfort from trying to make an optimistic pitch to the fans.

“Let me close with this: we have an extremely talented team,” Monfort said after trading all-star Nolan Arenado this past winter. “They are built to compete. It is time for them to take the next step. We are excited for our season ahead and look forward to the challenges.”

As it turns out, the biggest challenge of all is finding a long-term GM. But before the search begins, Monfort must decide how much power and autonomy the new hire will have.

“If the Rockies really want to change things, Dick needs to get out of the way and let the new GM do his job,” one major league executive said.

In conjunction with Bridich’s resignation, the Rockies also appointed Greg Feasel, the club’s executive vice president/chief operating officer since 2010, the team’s new president/chief operating officer.

“We appreciate the focus and structure he has provided to the day-to-day business side,” Monfort said in a statement. “I am confident he will bring that same leadership to the baseball side.”

That move immediately raised red flags. Although Feasel is now in his 26th year with the organization, his job with the Rockies has been business, not baseball. Feasel played football at Abilene Christian University and his professional career included time with the Green Bay Packers, San Diego Chargers and the Denver Gold of the USFL.

So key questions must be asked: Will Feasel allow the new GM to truly make major baseball decisions? Will Monfort? After all, while Bridich took a lot of the heat for the Arenado mess and the lopsided trade that followed, it was Monfort who steered Arenado’s eight-year, $260 million deal in the first place, and Monfort who directed Bridich to find a trade partner when the disgruntled star wanted out less than a year after signing the biggest contract in Colorado sports history.

The last, true team president the Rockies employed was the influential and well-respected Keli McGregor, but he died unexpectedly in 2010. It was at that point that Monfort combined his role as owner and de facto team president.

“When McGregor passed away in 2010, Dick said he had three choices,” broadcaster Drew Goodman wrote in his 2019 book about the club. “He could promote someone from within, which was daunting or hire someone from the outside.”

Monfort told Goodman: “But Keli had built such a great culture that I just didn’t think there was anybody on the outside that wouldn’t screw it up.”

So Monfort chose the third option, combining his role as owner with the role as team president.

“I started getting involved and I had no freakin’ idea how much I had to do,” Monfort told Goodman.

The Rockies’ interim GM faces huge, immediate issues. All-star shortstop Trevor Story, right-handed starter Jon Gray and right-handed reliever Mychal Givens are all due to become free agents. It makes sense for the Rockies to trade them for prospects before the end of July and invest in the future.

Going forward, the permanent GM faces a long must-do list. One of their first jobs will be to mend fences with the fans and media. That will require someone with strong “people skills,” something Bridich decidedly lacked.

“Start with being more transparent, with an interactive and honest tone towards the media,” Evans said. “The fan base will yield respect and be more forgiving of the current predicament.”

Evans said it’s also important for members of the front office to remember the essence of the business they are involved in.

“Baseball is entertainment,” he said. “Coming out of the pandemic, that is even more important. Provide this outstanding fan base with an entertaining product, an enjoyable team to watch, a reason to want to go to Coors Field, or watch a game on television.”

Other pressing issues facing the Rockies’ next baseball boss include:

* Rebuilding a farm system that has been consistently ranked near the bottom of Major League Baseball.

* Beef up Colorado’s relatively small analytics department. Analytics has become a key component to success in the majors, as the Tampa Bay Rays have proven by consistently fielding competitive teams despite a small payroll.

“Use a rebuilt analytics department to assist in being keenly aware of their own players,” Evans said. “And focus on improving talent acquisition by allowing the analytics staff to assist in information gathering, strengthening the decision-making process.”

* Admit that the team is rebuilding and convince the fans, and Monfort, that it’s going to take some time to become a contender, especially in the NL West where the other four teams are currently in a much better position than the Rockies.

In Goodman’s book, Monfort made a bold declaration.

“I truly believe — and I hope it happens when I’m around — the Rockies will become a Cubs, a Red Sox, a Dodgers, a Yankees,” he said. “I mean, they are gonna be.

“The community already loves the team, but it’s going to grow more and more and it’s going to be the ‘in’ thing to be a Rockies fan and go to Coors Field. We’ll keep spending money on it and making it the best place to go. So, I truly believe this is something we’ll be proud of for a long time.”

The issue right now, of course, is not Coors Field. It’s already considered one of baseball’s most beautiful ballparks. The issue should be building a winning team to play in that ballpark.

The person Monfort ultimately chooses to rebuild that team, and how much freedom he gives that person, has become the Rockies’ overriding issue.

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