Nicolais: This year, the April Fools’ joke is on Rockies fans
The Nolan Arenado trade is simply the most visible sign of a team comfortable taking fans' money without returning anything on the field
Nothing could be more apropos than the first Colorado Rockies Opening Day without Nolan Arenado in nearly a decade falling on April Fools’ Day. The Rockies beat the world champion Los Angeles Dodgers 8-5.
That is the joke.
One game into the season and the Rockies likely hit their high watermark for the year. In fact, one ESPN analyst forecasts only another 57 wins for the Rockies this year — and 104 losses. They are so bad they earned their own tier at the very bottom of MLB rankings.
This is not what I hoped for when I became a season ticket holder in the wake of the Rockies glorious 2007 Rocktober. After watching every pitch of Game 163 with my father, I feverishly hit “refresh” attempting to secure playoff tickets. Unfortunately, about half the state had the same idea.
I began buying season ticket plans the next year. The Rockies have won exactly two playoff games, and no division titles, in the interim 13 years.
During the same time period, the San Francisco Giants have played and won three World Series. The Dodgers have also played in three, winning the last one.
Currently, post-Arenado, it is hard to argue that the Rockies are better at any single position than either of the leading contenders in National League West Division. The only one that is close is shortstop where the Rockies boast Trevor Story (for now). But the San Diego Padres have Fernando Tatis and the Dodgers trot out Corey Seager, both MVP-level players, at the same position.
This might not be so disheartening if there seemed to be light at the end of the tunnel. Baseball is supposed to be a cyclical sport, with peaks and valleys. Winning seasons followed by losing seasons and periods of reconstruction.
For example, the Houston Astros lost 106, 107 and 111 games between 2012 and 2014. But they used that woeful run to stockpile their farm system and buttress a team that would win more than 100 games in three straight seasons, play in two World Series and spray champagne in the locker room at the end of one.
There is no such hope for the Rockies.
Their minor league system is regularly ranked in the bottom five of the league. There are no can’t-miss prospects waiting in the wings.
That is precisely why Rockies fans should be busy making effigies of General Manager Jeff Bridich and owners Dick and Charlie Monfort. They have happily collected the gate sales at 20th and Blake while overseeing a sports franchise that makes the Creamsicle-clad Buccaneers look competent.
The Arenado trade epitomized their ineptitude.
I typically resist becoming a prisoner of the moment and like to give the benefit of the doubt to baseball management. When the Rockies let fan favorite Andres “Big Cat” Galarraga leave in 1998, fans were aghast. But the Rockies had a plan and a hotshot prospect who opted for professional baseball after losing his starting quarterback role at Tennessee to Peyton Manning. Turns out Todd Helton was a pretty decent player.
Similarly, Coloradans were apoplectic when the home team traded Matt Holiday to the Oakland Athletics only a season after his playoff heroics. But they got a solid closer and five-tool prospect who turned into an even bigger fan favorite, Carlos Gonzalez.
But the Rockies got less than nothing for Arenado. Not only were the players acquired “one of the weakest returns” leading analyst Keith Law has ever seen, but the Rockies are actually paying the St. Louis Cardinals for the privilege of being robbed.
At this point, I am thinking of invoking Rule 19 of Bill Simmons Rules for Being a True Fan — I grew up rooting for the Dodgers before Denver ever had a team. If the owners and general manager don’t care about the team, why should I?
The Rockies lost to the Dodgers in the second game of the season and were held hitless through the first six innings. Point proven.
Mario Nicolais is an attorney and columnist who writes on law enforcement, the legal system, health care and public policy. Follow him on Twitter: @MarioNicolaiEsq
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