There has been plenty said and written about Colorado Rockies owner Dick Monfort’s comments about his team and the San Diego Padres over the weekend. But there’s more to the story.
By now, you have probably seen the comments made by Monfort about his team’s chances of finishing in a much higher place in the division this season and his thoughts on San Diego’s spending and roster construction. As owner of the Rockies, Monfort has always been known as someone who is much more optimistic about his team than those outside of the organization. To date, the Rockies have never won a National League West title and last made the postseason in 2018.
Let’s start with his comments about his team in 2023. A year after finishing 68-94 and in last place in the National League West, Monfort said on Saturday, “I think we can play .500 ball,” meaning the Rockies would be 13 games better this season than last year. Colorado will largely have the same roster as 2022, but Monfort and others in the organization are hoping that the contribution of prospects such as Ezequiel Tovar and Zac Veen and Kris Bryant’s return from an injury-plagued season that saw him play in just 42 games in his first season will lead to greater success on the diamond.
It’s a roll of the dice, but it’s one that a franchise that refuses to use the word “rebuild” has embraced as its plan for this season, one that will see a convergence of veteran players who could be in their final days with the franchise (such as Charlie Blackmon and C.J. Cron) play alongside young players like Tovar and Michael Toglia who are seen as the future in Denver.
Breaking down the comments of Rockies owner Dick Monfort about the Padres
On the other side of Monfort’s comments were his thoughts on the Padres and what has taken place in recent months with the acquisitions of Juan Soto and Josh Hader, and the massive contract handed out to Xander Bogaerts this winter.
Among the comments from Monfort were these lines:
“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.”
There is a common misperception that Monfort doesn’t spend money on the Rockies. However, according to Spotrac, the Rockies will have the 15th-highest payroll this season, coming in at just under $140 million. San Diego, meanwhile, is third in MLB at just over $219 million. The Padres join the Los Angeles Dodgers (fifth) and San Francisco Giants (ninth) as teams that not only are in the top 10 in spending, but also reside in Colorado’s division.
It’s a tough place for the Rockies and Monfort to be in. He has invested in the team, but the spending has not always provided the greatest return on investment (as an example, Bryant’s first year of a seven-year, $182 million deal was a bust). Additionally, the botched trade of Nolan Arenado to the St. Louis Cardinals will remain as a black eye on the franchise for years to come.
Monfort may not agree with what the Padres have done, but there’s little doubt that the team is built to win. MLB.com has the San Diego lineup as the second-best in all of baseball, trailing only the defending World Champion Houston Astros. Colorado, meanwhile, posted a .254 team batting average last season, the second-lowest in franchise history. Outside of Bryant’s return, little has changed for the Rockies in 2023.
The “pressure” to spend is real for Monfort and many other MLB owners. While the Padres, Dodgers, and New York Mets don’t mind opening their wallets, it’s a reality check for Monfort when he is writing the check that his team is almost certain to not compete with them this season.
While Colorado won’t be in the top 10 of any offensive lineups, they will likely once again finish in the top 10 in attendance this season (the Rockies were ninth last season in average attendance). Fans flock to Coors Field for the sunsets and atmosphere, even if the team is already trailing by double digits in the division standings. Monfort knows that, as do those fans who gripe every season about Colorado’s inability to consistently win.
That inability to win, however, isn’t just about dollars and sense. A deep dive into the Coors Field effect/hangover and the difficulty of bouncing between playing at altitude and sea level makes calling Denver home a challenge for any player. Solving the mystery of consistent performance is a puzzle that has yet to be unlocked by the Rockies.
In a letter to season ticket holders this offseason, Monfort called his team’s 68-win performance in 2022 “unacceptable” and vowed action to improve the team for 2023. Colorado general manager Bill Schmidt stated that one of Colorado’s needs was a left-handed-hitting center fielder who could have been placed near the top of the lineup. However, Brandon Nimmo, Cody Bellinger, and other options signed with other teams this winter. Veteran help won’t be coming at the position, but it’s possible prospect Brenton Doyle and other young players could see time there before the season is over, giving the Rockies new blood from internal options to try to boost the position.
The action that was supposed to happen didn’t. It did in San Diego … and New York … and Chicago. Other National League teams got stronger. Colorado stayed the same. That thought in and of itself will put pressure on you. Just ask Monfort.
Monfort said on Saturday that, when it comes to the Padres, “we’ll see how it works out.” San Diego is taking a chance by improving and Colorado is taking the same chance by standing pat.
One believes the future is now while one believes the future is coming. They are different philosophies and different approaches, and we’ll know in October whether Monfort’s thought of a .500 team and potential struggles in San Diego were views into the future or the words of an owner who is once again hoping his team’s approach will provide a pleasant surprise in the standings.