The Colorado Rockies are a mess, on and off the field. And eventually, something has to give.
The team, decimated by injuries, has collapsed after a promising start, losing 35 of its last 53 games, including six straight.
Owner Dick Monfort said in a recent radio interview that he assigned responsibility to Bill Geivett, who is the senior vice president of major-league operations.
And manager Walt Weiss has grown frustrated due to his philosophical differences with Geivett and the team’s unusual front office structure, major-league sources say.
Weiss, who took over as manager for the 2013 season, signed a three-year extension last October through 2016. He is not looking to leave the Rockies, sources say. But his dissatisfaction reflects the growing sense in the industry that the organization is reaching a breaking point.
The Rockies, who have not had a winning season since 2010 or made the playoffs since ’09, have yet to figure out how to sustain success while playing at high altitude in Coors Field.
Internally, the Rockies simply do things differently. At a time of growing front office involvement in a manager’s decision-making, the team actually has an executive, Geivett, who maintains an office in the clubhouse.
The Rockies shifted their front office structure on Aug. 1, 2012, saying that Geivett would oversee the day-to-day operations of the major-league club.
Dan O’Dowd, the team’s general manager since September 1999, continued to oversee all baseball operations and remained involved in player acquisitions but shifted more of his focus to the minor leagues and player development.
The new arrangement has left Weiss in an awkward position, sources say. He gets along with Geivett, but the two have different ideas about how the team should operate.
Monfort, in his radio interview with KOA, the Rockies’ affiliate, responded to a question about O’Dowd by saying, "People say, ‘Replace the GM.’ OK, that’s easily said. But you’ve got to have a person that in your mind will do you a better job."
When asked who was responsible for the Rockies’ record, Monfort said, "You would have to say it’s Bill Geivett. He’s responsible for the major-league team. Now the talent that gets into the major-league team, (that) is the responsibility of scouting and development."
Asked if the team would make front office changes before next season, Monfort said, "That’s a decision we make later."
The owner also made news earlier in the month when he apologized for terse email exchanges with some fans. In one, he said, "Maybe Denver doesn’t deserve a franchise." In another, he told a fan, "If it is that upsetting, then don’t come to games."
More to the point, as far as the Rockies’ future is concerned, sources say Monfort remains the principal obstacle to the team’s trading its two biggest stars, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez.
The two have yet to play more than 145 games in the same season. Moving one or both could help the Rockies boost their core of young talent and gain financial flexibility.
Tulowitzki, the starting shortstop for the National League in last week’s All-Star Game, told the Denver Post earlier this month that he would be open to a trade. Few in the industry would be surprised if he formally asked to be dealt at the end of the season.
Such an escape was not Tulowitizki’s intention when he signed a 10-year extension in November 2010. He is now 29, and after this season he is guaranteed $118 million. Gonzalez, 28, is owed $53 million between 2015 and ’17.
The Rockies, it seems, are cracking at numerous levels – a surprising development, considering that club officials initially expected the team to contend in the NL West.
Injuries, however, quickly disrupted those plans.
The team not only lost third baseman Nolan Arenado, Gonzalez and right fielder Michael Cuddyer for extended stretches but also has contended with injuries to six starting pitchers – left-hander Brett Anderson and righties Jhoulys Chacin, Tyler Chatwood, Jordan Lyles, Christian Bergman and Eddie Butler.
The pitching breakdowns are the latest example of the Rockies’ historic inability to build an effective staff at Coors. The pattern is so familiar, the team’s latest troubles cannot simply be attributed to "one of those years."
Not in the middle of a fourth straight losing season. Not when the organization is full of disconnects. Not when change is as necessary as it appears to be in Colorado.