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Nolan Arenado got out of Denver, baby. Maybe he was the lucky one.
Baseball lovers in this dusty old cowtown are stuck with Rockies owner Dick Monfort, the son of a cattle feedlot owner and so full of bull that Arenado kicked up dust until the team was forced to pay the St. Louis Cardinals $51 million to haul away the golden glove of the most magical third baseman to ever field a groundball.
Hope for winning baseball in the Rocky Mountains departed with Arenado. At this point, what intelligent fan can believe Monfort will do right by this team?
Enough is enough.
A major-league city deserves better. Sell the Rockies, Dick.
“You’d like that, wouldn’t you?” Monfort said Tuesday when I dared suggest it might be wiser to divest ownership of a team he has turned into a butt of jokes nationwide.
Like it? Heck, I would absolutely love it if our great city was blessed by great ownership committed to turning its National League franchise into a consistent winner.
The Monfort brothers? They ain’t it. Dick and his goofy brother Charlie are not bad guys. But, time and again, the Monforts prove their baseball instincts stink worse than the wrong end of a steer.
While trying to explain the thought process behind paying St. Louis $51 million to take Arenado off his hands, Monfort talked in circles, before finally admitting: “There were times in the last couple weeks that this Cardinals deal didn’t make sense.”
But someway, somehow, the Rockies found a way to rationalize the unforgivable.
Stupid is as Monfort does.
This messy divorce with Arenado wasn’t an outlier. It’s a discouraging pattern that dates all the way back to Matt Holliday and runs through Troy Tulowitzki. Monfort cannot pay a star player enough to stay happy working for a chronically mismanaged organization. The Rockies are currently a dumpster fire stoked by general manager Jeff Bridich, whose tone-deaf people skills make Michael Scott look like the best office manager in the history of western civilization.
Pretending to show respect for a salt-of-the-earth, humble star he drove out the Colorado clubhouse door, Bridich prattled about how bestowing a $260 million contract in 2019 demonstrated his love for Arenado.
Perhaps Bridich has Monfort fooled. But not me.
I lent a sympathetic ear enough during the past two years to understand Arenado was not only hugely frustrated by the team’s 97-125 record since signing his deal, but he was pushed over the edge by Bridich’s refusal to treat him as a partner, rather than just another piece of meat in purple pinstripes.
That’s why I felt compelled to ask if Arenado would still be playing ball in Colorado if only his general manager had taken the time to make a franchise player feel valued beyond the gaudy numbers on the third baseman’s paycheck.
“The relationship wasn’t always peaches and cream,” Bridich replied. “There were some bumps here and there. Relationships change over time. Could’ve I done a better job in some areas? You betcha. Absolutely.”
For too long, Monfort has raked in profits from sunshine and empty promises at Coors Field, where summer nights are so sweet nearly 3 million paying customers show up every year that ownership can open the ballpark gates.
I suspect Monfort’s inability to exploit gullible fans might be part of the Rockies’ current distress. The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the health of a myriad of human beings and business enterprises alike for the past 11 months.
Our local baseball team, saddled with a modest local television contract, has no hope of competing against the mighty Los Angeles Dodgers without revenue from ballpark attendance.
Add the recent focus of Monfort on McGregor Square, a major construction project that will house condos, office space and restaurants in a city block adjacent to the ballpark, and it made me wonder aloud if ownership might now care more about leases and lending rates than slugging averages and first-pitch strikes.
“It was a tough season (in 2020). I think all teams had financial shortages last year,” said Monfort, quickly adding the decision to trade Arenado was not dictated by cash-flow issues.
So what’s next? More pain, most likely. Fans should consider it a mild upset if the Rockies don’t lose 100 games in 2021 and manager Bud Black can still write the name of shortstop Trevor Story on his lineup card after the trade deadline.
Through my looking glass, Monfort and Bridich are Tweedledum and Tweedledee.
“If we are looking to pass blame,” Bridich said, “you can blame me.”
But, I kid you not, here’s what Monfort said when asked why Bridich hadn’t been fired for the expensive mistakes known as Ian Desmond and Bryan Shaw, much less the bungling of a beautiful relationship with Arenado.
“I have not thought about firing Jeff, no,” Monfort said. “I have thought about firing myself.”
Now there’s the first really good idea Monfort has had since he installed a rooftop bar at Coors Field.
Until Monfort, Bridich — or preferably both — are headed down the road and out of town, why should anyone believe baseball will get better in Denver?