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Longtime Rockies’ general manager Jeff Bridich resigned from the position on Monday, less than a month into the 2021 regular season. His exit was a “mutual decision” with Rockies’ higher ups, meaning they told him he was fired but could bow out on his own instead of getting tossed out. Rockies’ owner Dick Monfort finally tiring of Bridich and telling him to go doesn’t mean that there is a major change coming to the organization, of course. Bridich acted the way he did for years because Monfort wanted him to: it is entirely possible that Monfort just needed someone new as general manager so they can restart this whole cycle.
You might remember this line of reasoning from when the Pirates parted with their own longtime GM, Neal Huntington, and their team president, Frank Coonnelly, after the 2019 season. Here’s me on that:
[Bob] Nutting is being cagey about finances, as usual, and this is not a great sign following what looks like a regime change in the front office. It’s more likely just going to be a swapping out of office door name plates, since Nutting wants you to know that the financial limitations that are definitely not an excuse are weighing the team and their decision-making down. How is this any different than the story under Coonelly and Huntington? The new president and GM still won’t be authorized to spend, which means different people will be making disappointing decisions going forward…
What Nutting is looking for then, really, is a new spin on an old yarn. That’s what all of the talk about effective, “compelling” communication is about. He needs a new president and GM who will do a much better job of public relations with the fans. He needs people who will do a better job of explaining an exciting vision that’s unlikely to come to pass because of the way Bob Nutting runs his team. Fans had tired of the Coonelly/Huntington duo, who were with the organization in their positions of power for over a decade: a fresh coat of paint and no other discernible changes will surely fix a fan base that’s seen almost nothing but failure and a lack of imagination and effort for multiple decades…
The Pirates got that guy in Ben Cherington, and everything has pretty much played out as expected. There is less yelling about the team, which is getting a chance to find itself under Cherington’s leadership, but none of that process involves spending money to put a better product on the field. Their 26-man payroll on Opening Day was $45 million, which is obviously low, but for some fun context, it’s also about $23 million less than it was 20 years ago, for the 2001 season. If you are a Pirates fan who would like to be very mad, you should throw that $57.8 million 2001 payroll into an inflation calculator and see what it spits out.
Cherington might build a better club than Huntington and Coonelly could, but the most important thing for Nutting was that you believed that was possible, not that it actually happened. Similarly, with the Rockies, it’s not like Monfort opposed trading Nolan Arenado, and that’s why Bridich is gone now. Hell, he was out there after the extension was signed whining to the press about the team’s financials and their lack of flexibility:
The Colorado Rockies gave a two-part performance in this regard, with team owner Dick Monfort telling assembled reporters that “[the Rockies] don’t have a lot of flexibility next year.” The Rockies spent $145 million in 2019, or, $61 million below the $206 million luxury tax threshold. A year ago, they pulled in $291 million in revenue — this before their cut of revenue-sharing — and this season, though they were terrible, they still drew just under 3 million fans, the sixth-most in the league. And the kicker: the day before Monfort said there wasn’t much flexibility, he announced the signing of a new television deal for the team, one with a “sizable jump” in money for the franchise. The Rockies can afford to spend more than they do, but they don’t want to, so here we are, having to read about all of this as if can’t is the same as won’t.
And this was right around the same time Bridich was bragging to the press that he inserted the opt out into Arenado’s deal, and not at his third baseman’s request. A decision that seems mind boggling until you parse that the point was that they wanted Arenado to use it so they didn’t actually have to pay him for the deal they received positive press for inking. And that initial reaction I had only made more sense as the relationship between Arenado and the Rockies obviously and publicly degraded.
Monfort realizes, by way of the reaction to the Arenado deal, that Bridich is toxic at this point, that he’s not enjoyed by the press nor the fans, and that it was time for a change so as to get the Rockies in a better position to get away with what they’ve been up to all of this time once more. Until proven otherwise, this is no different than what the Pirates were attempting to do, except, to this point, Monfort has been smart enough to clam up and not give away the game at the initial press conference to the degree that Nutting did.
Maybe Monfort realizes that new leadership was needed because Bridich lacked the baseball mind necessary to put together a consistent, winning team. Much more likely, though, is that he needed someone new to run the same racket the Rockies have been running under his ownership for years now. They’ll compete if they can, sure, but it’s more lucrative for everyone involved if it happens by accident.
We won’t have to wait long to find out, at least. After all, it’s almost time for Trevor Story to be signed to a long-term extension and then dealt just a little ways into it while Monfort complains about the financial state of the team and the game once again.