The Colorado Rockies are full of questions that need to be answered, but don’t say they’re rebuilding.
Don’t shoot the messenger; that sentiment comes from Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich.
“We’ve had plenty of losing seasons over the last half decade – all of them,” Bridich told the Denver Post’s Nick Groke earlier this week. “We’ve done enough losing. We need to start showing areas of growth.”
From 2011 to 2015 the team went a combined 345-465, good for a clean (and astounding) 120 games under .500. Bridich is right: The boys in purple have done plenty of losing the past five years. It is time to start showing improvement. No one is going to argue there.
But the Rockies’ second-year general manager better be careful with his words. Or, at least, he should have been – it might be too late now. Do heads need to roll at 20th and Blake if the team has another losing season? After all, they’re apparently not rebuilding.
Bridich’s bold words might be fun for fans to hear, especially when the team backed it up with an impressive 10-5 win on opening night – a game in which rookie Trevor Story hit two home runs and proven commodities Carlos Gonzalez and Nolan Arendao each added dingers of their own. (Tuesday proved to be more of the Rockies of old, as they blew a four-run lead and lost 11-6.) But if the Harvard graduate Bridich isn’t careful, he might have to bid farewell to Walt Weiss should the Rockies come up short in 2016, because, you know, the Rockies apparently aren’t rebuilding.
“We’re always trying to win,” Bridich said. “People are questioning us, or they’re confused. ‘Why aren’t you trying some sort of nuclear rebuild?’ Those things have to happen when you feel like you don’t have talent on the field to compete or a system of depth to add to it. Our belief is that we have talent on this level to compete,” Bridich added to Groke during Monday’s interview.
And while trading the best shortstop in baseball last year for a slew of unproven pitching at the major league level would indeed suggest a “nuclear rebuild,” Bridich doesn’t think that is the case. The Troy Tulowitzki deal has been hashed and rehashed a hundred times, but on the surface it wasn’t a move that screamed “win now.”
So here’s a hypothetical: Say July’s trade deadline approaches and the Rockies are floundering between 10 and 20 games under .500. Will Bridich pull a ‘Tulo part two’ and unload Gonzalez? Could (gasp!) Arenado be moved for an overwhelming package of prospects and proven pitching?
Possibly, but both those moves would be Bridich admitting the Rockies are rebuilding just months after insisting otherwise.
“That has never crossed our mind, ever. We are focused and dedicated going the other direction,” Bridich told Groke when asked if he’d consider a “multi-year teardown” – something that propelled the Houston Astros back to the playoffs in 2015 after a handful of miserable years.
Let’s hope this is all a moot point. If the Rockies do indeed take a big leap forward this season (even 80 wins would satisfy realistic fans) then the comments Bridich made on April 4 will be neither here nor there come next offseason. If the team shocks the baseball world and October 2016 turns into Rocktober 2016 then Bridich will be hailed a hero, pushing all the right buttons to help bring postseason baseball back to Denver. Victories cure all, but of course those aren’t easy to come by.
“Winning is very difficult. But we should compete [this season] as long as we have health,” Bridich said to Groke.
Health is key for any professional sports team; that’s not a secret. But that appeared to be Bridich’s only hedge. If the Rockies stay healthy, but don’t compete, then what’s next?
As mentioned, it could be Weiss shown the door. The skipper in his fourth year from Regis Jesuit High School (after a long big league career as a player) hasn’t exactly had a lot of success, but it’s not like he’s had much to work with, either. If you walked down the 16th Street Mall and asked the average Joe why the Rockies have struggled the last few years, not many would come up with “Walt Weiss.”
After that, there aren’t a lot of logical options to bite the bullet. It is highly doubtful Rockies owner Dick Monfort would fire Bridich. The GM’s only been on the job 18 months. As a reference point, Dan O’Dowd was given 15 years by Monfort and still was never fired (he resigned in October of 2014).
“I don’t really care. There will always be knuckleheads out there,” Bridich told Groke about the Rockies’ detractors. “They don’t know the players like we know these guys as people. You’re not ever going to satisfy everybody.”
Bridich is right; you’re not going to satisfy everybody. But delivering on his brave words that 2016 isn’t a rebuild for the Rockies would be a good place to start when it comes to pleasing the masses.
Otherwise, there will be plenty of more questions to answer, including whether or not Bridich would like a mulligan on his most recent comments.