As hard as it was to tear myself away from playing ESPN's mock NBA draft lottery over and over again until the Bulls wound up with Greg Oden, there is actually some positive force for change beginning to build a head in what passes for the Rockies' fan community. After three seasons of sniping from the sidelines, can Bad Altitude make a difference? Can we help to cause a loud enough furor to get the Colorado MLB franchise out of its decade-plus malaise? Or at the very least, can we change enough faces to start a new, different and hopefully more interesting malaise? I mean, if we're going to be bad, the least the players could do is start getting arrested a lot like the Bengals or the Trail Blazers. Maybe then the rest of the National League wouldn't feel so at ease making themselves at home and taking two out of three every damn time at Fortress Coors. What passes for intimidation these days is Clint Hurdle directing a half-hearted Jeff Francis BP changeup into Kevin Kouzmanoff's midsection in a spring training game.
It does appear as if I wasn't the only one who felt something snap, you know, on the inside, after the back-to-back debacles of the 5-run 12th in the rubber game at home against Kansas City Sunday and the Jorge Julio gopher ball to Carlos Quentin in Phoenix yesterday. Rockies fans are watching Clint Hurdle explain on the postgame show that everything will be OK now that LaTroy Hawkins and Kaz Matsui are back and saying to themselves, enough is enough. Really, enough was enough about six years ago.
So columnists like Mark Kiszla, whom I often criticize for using the Rockies' serial ineptitude as an excuse for not really paying attention to them, are now watching closely. Why is that? Because, I suppose, they can sense that the franchise is on the verge of a huge change, and if everyone gets on the same side and pushes together it might happen sooner rather than later. Woody Paige might have gotten rightly pilloried for calling Denver a "great baseball town" on "ATH" a couple of weeks ago, but Denver is a pretty good overall sports city. Much like how regional disgust at the state of the Nuggets forced that perennially underachieving organization to make dramatic changes in its culture that along with a little luck led to the current exciting, borderline-championship-contending squad (well, if Kenyon Martin ever gets healthy), forces are at work to make the changes necessary to turn the Rockies into a team worthy of the city they call home.
In today's Post Kiszla directs us to monfortsmustsell.com, a new blog with an attached petition calling for... well, I suppose you can figure it out. In the name of Rockies fan solidarity, I will ignore the fact that the Post hasn't acknowledged my existence in three years' hard labor on the Rockies beat but has now given free publicity to an eight-day-old blog twice in one week. I guess a site with as concrete a message as Jason Gilligan's new project is an easier sell than my more esoteric appeals to euthanize Willy Taveras and return Josh Fogg to a swingman's role, but there's no use crying over spilt milk. This thing is bigger than any of us, whether it's the pro columnists who alternately ignore and excoriate the Rockies, the lunatic Pollyanna fringe who pore over prospect lists while explaining away the annual complete lack of progress at the major league level, or the few bitter contrarians like myself who keep following the team because, well, this is our home, and we love baseball, and we deserve to see decent baseball in our hometown sometime before we grow old and die.
Of course, as any fan of Firefly or Star Trek: Enterprise could tell you, thousands of signatures on an online petition and four bucks will get you a Rockpile seat and that's about it. The much more interesting aspect of Kiszla's latest broadside is that apparently there are certain forces in the Denver business community who have had it up to here with the Rockies as well. That's the only thing that the Monforts and the baseball business in general really respond to, the specter of the sound of a thousand checkbooks snapping closed.
Meanwhile, the Monforts just keep digging themselves a deeper and deeper hole. Another eye-raising story in today's Post claims that Clint Hurdle, even with a freshly-signed two-year contract extension in hand, could be in danger of losing his job. Well, that's just fantastic. How can these idiots constantly cry poor and then throw away money like this? Why did they re-sign Byung-Hyun Kim if they didn't want him to pitch for their team? Why did they allow Dan O'Dowd to extend Clint Hurdle if they thought the possibility existed that the Rockies would be so bad as to make his firing a fait accompli? Either there's no one steering the ship or the person making the ultimate decisions is such a complete unrepentant numbskull that the possibility that trading the Rockies' best pitcher, signing no meaningful free agent talent whatsoever, and taking away the only faint hint of accountability remaining for the feckless Hurdle might in fact make last year's 76-win team worse didn't cross their minds. There's simply no defensible argument you can make for the actions the Monforts and O'Dowd have taken. I've played the role of the apologist more often than not for these guys, because frankly the notion of a team succeeding on a shoestring budget really appeals to me, and broadly speaking the teams laying out large for free agents these days end up immediately regretting their decisions seven or eight times out of ten. But like I said, I snapped. I want to be good! I want to go to playoff games! I want to walk around in Boulder wearing my Rockies cap and see ONE OTHER GODDAMN PERSON wearing one and smile and nod at them!
I've said it before, but I'll say it again. It may be true that by pure head count Denver is one of the smallest metro areas in major league baseball. But demographically this town can and should be an amazing baseball city. Indeed, it has been in the very early days of the franchise, when 50,000 fans or more would file in to see the expansion Rockies play at Mile High Stadium. Denver might not have a huge population, but it is home to a lot of thriving businesses, numerous large universities, and a whole lot of white-collar types who gladly pay premium ticket prices to see the perennially competitive Avalanche and Broncos do their thing in their beautifully appointed home stadiums. To win back the trust of justly paranoid Colorado fans, the Rockies are going to have to lose money for a couple of years. The Monforts aren't willing or it seems well-capitalized enough to make that happen. They make vague unspecific promises about raising the payroll "when the time comes," but it's a chicken-and-egg situation and as it stands right now only the luck of the draw in getting a home series with the Yankees this season is probably allowing the Rockies to turn a profit at all. It was too late to be waiting around in, I dunno, 2003. Now it's just getting ridiculous. What happens next year if the current course continues? Todd Helton gets traded. Matt Holliday leaves as a free agent. Same with Brian Fuentes. And a whole generation of young players -- promising young players, I still believe -- stagnates because from top to bottom the Denver MLB franchise has become a black hole from which no light can escape. Why push yourself to get better, work on your changeup, if you're Jeff Francis? The bullpen is just going to bury you anyway. Why even show up for your starts, if you're Aaron Cook? The offense isn't going to score any runs. Why stay in shape or work on fielding grounders at the hot corner if you're Garrett Atkins? What's there to do but loaf and wait around for the merciful release of free agency or if you're really blessed, a trade, Vince Carter-style?
It's like my man Shane Botwin put it: "We have become alienated. Desensitized. Angry. And frightened.... I think you all need to understand. There are m-----f----- snakes on this m-----f----- plane! We are not safe!" The Monforts are snakes. Clint Hurdle is a snake. Dan O'Dowd, although he's good at disguising it, has to be considered a snake as well. Who among you, I ask, is man enough to Sam Jackson up and start blowing these poisonous reptiles away?