How the Colorado Rockies Relegated Themselves (and their fans)

It was a bitter, rainy day in 2018 when the Colorado Rockies began their tragic slide into the wastebin of
sports history. That Sunday in October was the last meaningful game played by the Rockies franchise.
Between then and now, the baseball world has watched as the Rockies relegated themselves and their
fans to minor-league status.

The organizational failures of the Rockies were on full display even then back in 2018. Most Rockies
fans, myself included, looked past the mistakes as a matter of course in order to bathe in the splendor
and joy of Coors Field baseball. Nolan Arenado, DJ LeMahieu, Charlie Blackmon, Trevor Story, Carlos
Gonzalez, Tony Wolters and even Matt Holiday donned Colorado pinstripes that year en route to a
playoff berth and a Wild Card win over the Chicago Cubs.

Then MLB exposed the Rockies as pretenders, and it seemed Rockies owners and management decided
to agree with the notion that they would never truly compete. The Milwaukee Brewers swept the
Rockies in three games, the last of which was played on a drizzly grey Denver day that saw Colorado
muster just four hits in the 6-0 loss that ended their season. Grey skies and steady rain are uncommon
in Denver even in October, but as boos rained down on overpaid utility fielder Ian Desmond – his
characteristic weak contact lining softly into a fielder’s mitt – the weather felt appropriate.

Then DJ LeMahieu was gone, blessedly signed by a real ball club while Rockies brass wrung their hands
over whether to offer DJ a worthy deal. Gonzalez retired, the last glimmer of the Rockies’ glory days.
Colorado slowly sunk under massive contracts handed out to role players like Desmond and a host of
bullpen arms doomed to fail in the Coors Field crucible. Young would-be ace pitchers like Kyle Freeland
and German Marquez drifted back to earth as the organization stagnated around them. Colorado
baseball fans left, replaced by tuned-out loft partiers and visiting team acolytes eager to see their club
beat up on the lowly Rockies in gorgeous Coors.

Rockies ownership and management watched the franchise simmer down to nothing right up until the
pandemic, when guaranteed revenues from tuned-out partiers and visiting acolytes dried up. By then, it
was too late for the Monforts to get their loyal fans back. Colorado baseball fans had already moved on.
The running joke in my circle of friends in 2019 was which teams we had decided to follow instead of the
Rockies. Until it wasn’t a joke anymore; it was just reality.

The cherry on top of this dirt sundae is, of course, the gifting of Nolan Arenado to the St Louis Cardinals.
Gifting being the operative word. When baseball teams make trades, they both receive compensation.
The Rockies were so desperate to unload cash liabilities like Arenado’s contract that they took the first
offer made to them, giving up $50 million cash in addition to Arenado. The Rockies will receive “players
to be named later” in return, but they will certainly not land the type of Top 100 prospect(s) that any
respectable baseball club would demand in return for a player of Nolan Arenado’s caliber.

The Cardinals – and all of MLB – know what kind of owners the Rockies have. The Yankees could have
tried to trade for DJ LeMahieu when he was with the Rockies, and rumors of their interest in him
circulated for years before the Rockies let DJ walk away unsigned. The Yankees – a patient organization
run by competent managers – acquired DJ at a reasonable price tag without needing to give up any
compensation other than their bottomless payroll. He is the current MLB Batting Champion.
Similarly, the Cardinals waited for Rockies ownership to panic amidst the current uncertainty, then
watched with glee as the Monfort brothers demanded Rockies management unload Arenado no matter
the cost or the return. Ownership could not have put management in a more compromised position.
There was no deal to make, no hand to play, because the Monforts handed St Louis all the cards.
It took a long time for the Colorado Rockies to fully devolve into a farm team for the league’s functional
ball clubs. The Rockies were never deal-makers or great developers of talent, but they had a great
ballpark, solid draft returns and an invested fan base to put some wind in their sales.

All of that is gone now, the talent written off along with fan loyalty like line items in a badly-managed
budget. Hopefully, sometime very soon, the Monforts will look hard at that bottom line they worship so
completely and decide that they have milked this cow to empty. Decide that it’s time to move on and
sell the Colorado Rockies to an ownership group with an interest in running a functional baseball club.
Until then, you can find me watching Oakland Athletics games on ESPN+ and road-tripping to St Louis to
see my man Nolan play for a real MLB team. The Monforts’ Rockies no longer deserve our attention,
our loyalty or our dollars. The Monforts never did.