Continuing from this morning's season preview of the Colorado Rockies…
Do the Rockies have an actual plan?
For most teams, our Burning Question series has focused on the performance of a certain player or a key position battle. But for the Rockies, there is a much larger question at hand. Does this organization actually have a plan for turning things around?
That sounds harsh, probably because it is. But that doesn't make it any less relevant of a question. What the Rockies have is a roster with superstar caliber players in Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez but also a record that has gotten worse for three consecutive seasons before completely bottoming out at 64-98 in 2012.
The problem though isn't that the Rockies are losing, it is that it isn't clear what they are doing to stop the losing from continuing. Just looking at what they've done in the past year, they've shown every sign of being a franchise that either has no plan or no plan that they aren't afraid to change drastically at the first sign of trouble.
Before the 2012 season, the Rockies were a team looking like they had designs on contending again. They spent a healthy chunk of change to bring in Michael Cuddyer even though he was an odd fit given his defensive deficiencies in the expansive Colorado outfield. They then overhauled almost their entire starting rotation with a collection of high contact pitchers, a truly baffling strategy with the well-known environmental factors that make Coors Field a living hell for pitchers of that ilk.
Shockingly, that didn't work out. In fact, it worked out so poorly that the Rockies made the controversial decision to convert to a four-man rotation in the middle of the season. A bold, forward thinking tactic that many smart people have lobbied for in the past, except that the Rockies didn't seem to do it for those reasons, instead claiming that they somehow believed a four-man rotation with starters on a strict pitch count would somehow be less taxing on their already overworked bullpen. But more troubling was their willingness to make this decision without advanced warning to allow their pitchers to train themselves both mentally and physically for this unique strategy.
That experiment met with mixed results, which is probably why the team at first said they'd stick with it in 2013 only to change their mind shortly thereafter and re-commit to a standard five-man rotation. It was a perfect example of how in Denver, indecision reigns supreme. That became only more obvious when they went out and hired Walt Weiss to manage the team, an outside the box choice given his lack of managerial experience, only they gave him a one-year contract. Even when they make a big decision they do so in such a way that allows them to quickly change direction if it doesn't work out right away.
Now the Rox are basically back to the drawing board with everything. After doing effectively nothing in the off-season, they are faced with returning a 64-win team and hoping for better results. But they aren't rebuilding either. If they'd been rebuilding, they would have traded away veterans like Cuddyer or Rafael Betancourt or even Tulowitzki or Gonzalez. After all, it isn't like the Rockies have a tidal wave of talent from a farm system that is generally considered to be in the bottom-third of baseball.
It is almost as if the organization has decided to just make their peace with being mediocre. In a way, that is a plan, but one that isn't going to make anyone happy.