The Devil Rays were a topic on "Pardon the Interruption" and "Around the Horn" today, thanks to their plan for a name change. That hardly ever happens, as reflected by the talking heads' complete inability to say anything interesting on the subject. Change seems to be in the air in pro sports, as the NHL's Ducks are dispensing with the "Mighty" modifier as well.
Perhaps even more unlikely, I flipped on the radio in the car this evening and the 24-hour Broncogasm that is Denver sports talk actually lowered itself to talking about the Rockies for ten minutes. There are in fact some local on-air personalities who can name three Colorado players (Barmes, Holliday, Cook) besides Helton. But the overall story is still the same: the perception of the local baseball team is that they wasted money in the '90s and won't spend any now. The next time the drive-time jockeys will take a Rockies call is when ownership or upper management changes, hopefully both.
I'm willing to give O'Dowd and the Monforts a little more slack, perhaps because I haven't been living here since 1993. It's true that the team's brief experiment with big-money free agency was a catastrophic failure. But it's also true that it would have taken any regime a few years to dig themselves out from under it. In the current economic environment, no team not named the Yankees, Mets, or Red Sox can spend enough to go from really bad to contending in an offseason. Could the Rockies afford to carry a payroll twice the current size? Well, no, because it wouldn't make them better enough to pay off in ticket sales and renewed local interest. The only way to fill Coors again is the agonizingly slow way. The signs of progress under O'Dowd 2.0 are limited, but they are there. I'm willing to give him two more years rather than start a whole new five-year plan under some other GM.
What hardcore Rockies fans remain (and we're out there, really) seem to feel pretty much the same way. If the current core doesn't even sniff a division title, or even .500, by the time Matt Holliday reaches free agency, it'll be time to question whether Colorado can ever contend with its current leadership. In this division, though, it'll be pretty hard to not contend at least once if only by accident. There are plenty of other teams who are worse off -- I'd rather be a Rockies fan than a follower of the incompetent Pirates, geriatric Giants, or rudderless Reds. The team's not in immediate danger of relocation, the stadium's still nice, and good seats come real cheap.