Nolan Arenado Trade Ignites Blame

Spread the love

The trade of Nolan Arenado has triggered an outpouring of emotions among Colorado Rockies fans. In spite of months of signs that it was coming, the trade struck long-frazzled nerves of purple-clad devotees. A great deal of the blame is directed at the team’s front office and Executive Vice President and General Manager Jeff Bridich. A healthy portion of the fans’ venom is also for the Monfort brothers, the team’s owners since 2005. In reality, the Monforts and Bridich are only parts of a chain of events. A number of people are responsible for the departure of the club’s best ever player and what comes following this move.

Blame Ownership

Charles and Richard Monfort have long histories with the Colorado Rockies. The sons of a meat packing magnate first got involved with the club in 1992. They gradually increased their roles until ultimately purchasing the team. In the time the Monforts have owned the Rockies the team’s payroll has gone up from $32.5M in 2005 to $151.8M in 2019. It’s that final figure that seems to be the point of emphasis of Rockies fans. Team payroll began slowing as it approached that $150M number in recent years. Many fans pointed to ownership’s unwillingness to pay for perceived difference-making acquisitions that could have propelled the Rockies into serious contention. 

The popular view is that the Monforts run the franchise as a “money machine” and focus on profit over winning. The team took an upward swing in competitiveness when Bridich was elevated to the GM role in 2015. However, the rise to contention plateaued in 2018 after two wild card births and an elimination in the National League Divisional Series. Fans began putting the blame on ownership for the team failing to advance further.

Blame The Fans

Yes, the fans had their own collective hand in creating the current situation. Prior to the 2018 season fan favorite Charlie Blackmon was headed to free agency. A collective cry went up for a new contract for the outfielder. Management responded with a six-year, $108M deal that would keep Blackmon with the team through his age 36 season. The next year it was Arenado, the franchise superstar, whose contract was up and again the fans screamed to the heavens to keep him in Denver. Management again responded with a contract extension of eight years and $260M. Fans were an unwitting driving force behind stacking approximately $56M of the Monfort’s $150M payroll cap into just two players.

Blame The Players

The resulting payroll was squeezed and didn’t allow for big name free agents to be pursued. However, the team needed additions in order to plug holes and, hopefully, elevate further into the playoffs. So the front office went to work and brought in the likes of Ian Desmond, Wade Davis, Bryan Shaw, Jake McGee and Daniel Murphy over several seasons. Unfortunately, none of them performed to any semblance of the level they had achieved prior to arriving in Denver. But somehow the players’ failures were perceived by fans to be front office mistakes and the blame game bypassed the players themselves. 

Nolan Arenado himself also contributed to the negative public perceptions. The perennial All-Star and Gold Glover possesses a desire to win that has few peers, certainly unequaled in MLB. He took his demands for new additions to the team to management. When there were no significant acquisitions, Arenado then did nothing to quell brewing controversy in the press and among fans. The situation soon became publicly characterized as a feud between Arenado and Bridich.

Blame The Front Office

Jeff Bridich and his front office team have taken much of the heat for the Rockies’ shortcomings. A number of factors leading to the current state of the team and its fans perceptions are largely out of the hands of executives. The payroll limit from ownership. Fan demand to keep favorite players. Failure of free agent acquisitions to produce even in the same zip code of their previous performances. Through it all the biggest shortcoming of the front office was a palpable lack of a plan to manage the situation itself. Bridich and his crew seem to have relied on limited private conversations and expectations of professional conduct to keep the flow of events between the lines as they moved forward. This gave too many people too much time to make up their own minds without critical input from team executives.

Another huge failure of the front office comes from the scouting and player development departments. Since 2015, the farm system produced only three players (Jon Gray, Kyle Freeland and Antonio Senzatela) that made any significant contributions to the team’s success. As things stand right now the minor league pipeline is largely bereft of talent save a few top end prospects like Zachary Veen, Ryan Rolison and Michael Toglia. The Rockies farm system is assessed among the bottom three in all of baseball by a number of publications.

Blame For The Arenado Trade

So the Rockies have failed to ascend to championship level in spite of having a franchise player leading them. Blame is piling up at the feet of team officials, but there is a lot of it to go around. The Monforts being seemingly unwilling to spend the extra money to bring in needed talent to take the team to the next level. Fans applying tremendous pressure to keep favorite players at high price tags. Free agents failed to earn the contracts they were given. A highly intelligent front office that’s not capable of managing the people in their charge. A scouting department unable to stock the minor league system with talented prospects that can advance to the major league level and impact success. It’s all there.

Teams can overcome a couple of these factors to contend for championships. However, that many negative elements working simultaneously presents challenges that are powerful. It’s just too much momentum rolling in the wrong direction. Now the process of breakdown and rebuild to whatever degree begins. The mistakes of the past are clear to be seen. Whoever is responsible for this effort going forward should be mindful of those mistakes and the dozens of others that can be made along the way. All that matters now is to remember that Rockies fans bought nine million tickets from 2017 to 2019. The organization isn’t just rebuilding a team. It’s rebuilding the enthusiasm that drives that many people to remain loyal to their efforts.   

Main Image:

Embed from Getty Images

Players Mentioned: Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon, Ian Desmond, Wade Davis, Bryan Shaw, Jake McGee, Daniel Murphy, Jon Gray, Kyle Freeland, Antonio Senzatela, Zachary Veen, Ryan Rolison, Michael Toglia.