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The owners of Major League Baseball’s 30 teams are quite the bunch, in the sense that the vast majority of them are capable of doing or saying something that will either raise my blood pressure or get me to start giggling at how much of a dingus they are. Rockies’ owner Dick Monfort could very well be king dingus in this group: a man who has won nothing ever, and yet is so publicly sure that the way he’s doing things is the right way. And to the point where he’s now openly criticizing the spending of fellow NL West club the Padres, as well as any of the Rockies’ fans who believe that the way San Diego is operating is the right way to go about building a successful team.
From Saturday’s Denver Post:
The Padres are projected by FanGraphs to have a 2023 payroll of $251 million, the third-highest in the major leagues. The Rockies’ projected payroll is $163 million (16th).
“That puts a lot of pressure (on us),” Monfort said. “But it’s not just the Padres, it’s the Mets, it’s the Phillies. This has been an interesting year.
“What the Padres are doing, I don’t 100% agree with, though I know that our fans probably agree with it. We’ll see how it works out.
“I look at the Padres and they have a really talented team, but they have some holes, too. They’ve got three, maybe four starting pitchers, and then they’re sort of like us. They have (Joe) Musgrave, (Blake) Snell and (Yu) Darvish, so I don’t know. They have spent a lot of money and they will have to spend a lot more if they want to keep (outfielder) Juan Soto. But it does put a lot of pressure on you. Yes, it does.”
I’m not sure if this is discounting how good the Padres could be so much as it’s probably overrating what the Rockies are going to be up to: Monfort predicted 94 wins before the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, which was supposed to be a rebound campaign for his club, but they instead went 26-34. That wasn’t a fluke, either: the Rockies, as Patrick Saunders of the Post noted, then went 74-87 and 68-94 in the following two seasons. Now, Monfort is out there saying his team can play .500 ball, and that they had four top 100 prospects per MLB Pipeline’s reckoning, but that, “I kid you not, there could have been 15.” Hey, someone has to cheerlead for the Rockies, why not the guy who needs you to believe that they’re going to be good and worth watching and paying attention to in the long run?
For what it’s worth — more than what Monfort says about it, for my money — Baseball Prospectus’ prospect crew opened up their Rockies top 10 for 2023 by saying, “This isn’t a good system yet”; it’s also improving, as BP noted, but there’s a pretty big gap between “we could have had 15 top prospects in the top 100!” and “maybe it’ll be a good farm system later.” Basically, he either truly believes that the team is already setup for success because the farm system can save it in the near future, or he’s purposely saying all this in the hopes it gets you to buy in and buy tickets. Hey, it’s been working: Colorado was terrible in 2022, but they still finished eighth in average attendance and 10th in total attendance, one spot ahead of the Mets, who won 101 games.
So, Monfort is overestimating the Rockies’ ability when he says the Padres aren’t that different from his team outside of a few players. He’s also strongly implying that going out and spending a lot of money to try to win isn’t the right way to do things, which shouldn’t be a surprise, given this is the franchise that has made a habit of signing popular, talented players to long-term extensions only to then deal them off shortly after. I’ve written about it more than once in this very space, even. Here’s me on Monfort after signing Nolan Arenado to an extension which would soon become the Cardinals “problem” instead:
…within an MLB context, coming from an owner or general manager, “flexibility” is more about the potential to spend money should an opportunity arise in a vague future that will likely never come. The 2019-2020 offseason is apparently not going to be any different, as, before any postseason games had even been played, multiple team leaders went out of their way to bemoan a lack of flexibility or promise their team won’t do anything with the flexibility they do have.
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.
We don’t have a full breakdown of 2023 revenues just yet, but considering the Rockies spent just $131 million on their Opening Day roster, were $62 million under the first luxury tax threshold, and still finished as well as they did in attendance, chances are good they had plenty of revenue and profit to gloat about. There isn’t a lack of cash here, and if there is, well, it’s time to sell, Dick. If he did that, though, then he wouldn’t be able to chair MLB’s labor committee and make an embarrassment of himself in collective bargaining anymore, though, so you know that’s not going to happen.
Anyway! The Rockies’ payroll has gone up a bit for 2023, but not by all that much: the 26-man Opening Day roster projects for $159 million this time around, and there’s still $51 million in space below the first luxury tax threshold. The Rockies have a television deal that pays enough that Monfort felt the need to brag about it just a few years back, they obviously take in a significant local gate, and MLB has never had more money to spread around from national contracts than they do right now, which is one of the reasons they’ve come out the other side of the 2020-2021, pandemic-impacted seasons to once again set a revenue record. And yet, Monfort feels the need to suggest that the way the free-spending Padres are doing things — by spending to try to bring a World Series championship to a team that’s never won one, by acquiring player after player when given the opportunity to do so instead of sitting back and waiting for the exact perfect moment for acquisitions — isn’t the right way to go about things. Given the way the Rockies are run, that’s no surprise that he thinks so, but it’s still funny to hear him say out loud whether he means it from a business or team-building perspective.
Anyway, the Padres were in the NLCS in 2022, defeated the Dodgers to get there, and are a threat to their NL West supremacy in 2023. Nothing is guaranteed on that front, or on getting further than they did in 2022, no, but the Padres are giving themselves the chance to be better after years of disappointment and inertia in the wrong direction. San Diego has never won a World Series, although they’ve been to a couple of them, and the current ownership clearly wants to completely change the way the organization has been run, with the same kind of success and a complete overhaul of the way everything is done, in the same way that teams like the Red Sox and Dodgers found with new owners in the previous decades of this century.
The Rockies have been to one World Series in their now 30 years of existence, have made the postseason just five times in their history, and have been scuffling since last making the playoffs back in 2018, with a 239-306 record and .439 winning percentage from 2019-2022. They’ve never won the NL West, and have finished in fourth or worse in 19 of their 30 completed seasons, third or worse in 26 of 30. Since 2000, they’ve been in the top 10 for payroll exactly zero times, and topped out at 12, and averaged a ranking of 18 in those 23 seasons. Maybe the Rockies should try changing things up like the Padres have, rather than going on the record saying that it’s San Diego who is doing things wrong — it’s not like Monfort has any relevant, successful experience to back up his now-public feelings on the matter, but that’s never stopped him in the past, either.
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