It took less than two years for the Rockies to go from signing Nolan Arenado to a franchise record eight-year, $260 million contract, to trading arguably the best player they’ve ever had to the Cardinals for a still-mysterious return, as Ken Rosenthal broke the news of the trade and reported it still will take time to be finalized.
What the Rockies get doesn’t really matter, because for the foreseeable future, the Rockies won’t really matter. It didn’t have to be this way, and that’s the shame of it.
In 2017, paced by Arenado and his league-leading 43 home runs, the Rockies made their first playoff appearance in eight years. The following season, Colorado came within one game of winning its first-ever National League West crown, making back-to-back postseasons as a wild card team for the first time instead.
Finally having played for a contender in Denver, Arenado was convinced to stay, choosing with one year left before hitting free agency to sign long term. The 2019 season was a disaster, as the pitching that had been a huge part of Colorado’s transformation into contenders fell apart, and aside from Arenado, Charlie Blackmon, and Trevor Story, the offense dried up. Colorado lost 91 games, but the silver lining was that there were obvious areas of need to be addressed.
That winter, general manager Jeff Bridich did just about nothing. The most impactful addition the Rockies made between 2019 and 2020 was signing Daniel Bard, who hadn’t pitched in the majors since 2013 and wound up being an incredible story as he wound up becoming the closer… which also is an indictment of the rest of the bullpen Bridich assembled.
Arenado, understandably, was pissed. He’d made a commitment, thinking he was going to be part of a team going places, yet their reaction to a 91-loss season was to stand pat and hope that everything just corrected itself. It made headlines when Arenado said he felt “disrespected” by Bridich, but what really stood out was when he expanded on it in a text to Denver7’s Troy Renck:
“I play hard, keep my mouth shut. But I can only get crossed so many times.”
Arenado wanted the team to be better. Bridich did nothing to make that happen. Somehow, after a shortened season in which the Rockies went 15-31 after a hot first two weeks, Bridich not only kept his job, but was allowed to trade the face of the franchise — not only trade Arenado, but pay the Cardinals $50 million to make the deal happen.
The financial part is important, because that’s another area where the Rockies are struggling — although without open books, we can’t really know the extent of it. What we do know is that Colorado remains in a crummy TV deal in which not every game makes it on the air locally, and that, last summer, the Rockies were one of the noisiest teams about wanting to have fans in the stands, against all logic and ability to read the room. That’s not to say that trading Arenado for financial reasons is in any way justified, more that if the Monforts can’t afford to do the bare minimum to put a competitive team on the field, they ought to sell their club to someone who can and will.
Rockies fans have watched plenty of bad baseball, in a market where they and everyone else are an afterthought because the Broncos dominate everything. But with the Broncos in a down phase due to their own incompetent management (which tall, but otherwise untalented, quarterback will John Elway fall in love with next?), the other Denver teams have had a moment to shine. The Avalanche and Nuggets are title contenders now. The Rockies looked for a minute like they could be too, and even if they were bad, they could at least sell people on coming to the ballpark to watch a homegrown future Hall of Famer at third base.
Not anymore. Not when it takes less than two years for a GM to sour the club’s relationship with its biggest star, not only with his personal handling of the situation, but with his total lack of performance on the job. Now the Rockies want to turn around and talk about an extension with Story? Why in the world would he want to stay?
When Bridich eventually is fired, a lot of Rockies fans will be ready to do their best Rajon Rondo, who displayed just the right amount of petty in waving goodbye to Russell Westbrook after the Wizards guard was ejected on Friday night:
I said ‘a lot of Rockies fans’ ... but not those who listen to Channel 9’s Mike Klis… who’s somehow buying the Arenado trade as part of a grand plan to be more like the Rays:
Yes, and buying a thousand shares of Sam Goody stock today is a big step toward following the GameStop model.