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Opportunity in chaos

Mike Olson Avatar
June 23, 2023

“In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity”
– Sun Tzu

A couple of weeks ago, with a nasty round of work layoffs swirling around me, I tried to keep my mind focused on the phrase above, one a co-worker had introduced me to decades before. He didn’t say it exactly as Sun Tzu had, but I wasn’t really looking for semantics. That day, after friends/co-workers on both sides of me had been escorted away with their things in boxes, I was in the midst of some serious PTSD/survivor’s guilt/impostor syndrome, to the point of not being able to get my hands to stop shaking. It wouldn’t be the last time something like this would happen to me, but you surely never forget your first. An experienced and senior co-worker called me into his office to simply chat.

He reminded me that the friends I was mourning had received very handsome severance packages, and with their abilities, would quite probably land good job offers before those extended checks ran out (they did, and by a lot). That they were also not dealing with all of the wreckage left behind, and even more importantly, that in that wreckage there were a lot of things that no one might be doing with all of the vacuums introduced by all the missing folk. That with some of those vacuums, I might even be able to finally point my career in the direction I kept telling him I was hoping to. He told me to try and see that there was great opportunity in all of that chaos, if I could simply calm down, recognize it, and seize it while a very rare opportunity existed.

That conversation utterly shifted the course of my career, eventually landing me in a spot where I am unimaginably happier than I could ever have seen myself being on that old career arc. Even when back in the midst of that mourning, as a couple weeks ago, I remember to seek the opportunities presented, even when I might have been the one who found myself out on my prodigious ass.

In discovering this year that I am unable to quit the Colorado Rockies, no matter how frustrating I find them to be, they got off to their oft-decent start that now simply gives me that Charlie-Brown-and-the-football feeling of campaigns past. And while that hopefulness often fades quickly, Colorado was still showing great signs of life while battling through injuries and illness. As late as late May, the getting-it-together Rockies were only six games out of .500, winners of their last two against the Mets for a series win, and winners of five of their previous seven. Early pundits were saying they might be on a roll. And then…

Well, and then chaos.

Colorado went on a four-game losing bender, alleviated by a two-game winning streak. That ended quickly with became a six-game losing streak, stopped by a three-game winning run. That brief streak was followed by the eight-games-and-counting losing pattern the Rockies currently find themselves in, headed into a weekend with the not-so-terrible Angels. If this overall pattern keeps up and the Rockies have a six-game winning streak in their near future, who knows… they might follow that up by not winning again the rest of the season.

I kid. But it sounded terrifyingly possible, right?

While that 5-18 chaos now has the Rox a deflating 19 games below .500 and 17.5 games out of the NL West race, there is truly opportunity in the crevices (crevasses? How big are these gaps now getting for Colorado?) while they spend their time in the realities of what the season now brings.

A few ways the Rockies might leverage a season that could be lost before we hit the halfway point…

Play the kids. The always-terrific Patrick Lyons made a compelling case in last Sunday’s article for why this moment is the perfect time to lean into playing the kids, and losing a few more games since only reinforces the idea. The youth movement in Colorado can only improve/prove out with the seasoning that game play provides, and there’s no reason to think that the team will turn this thing around immediately. Give the kids the reps that will not only let them work into big-league shape, but will also help the front office sort out the best from the rest with the brightest spotlight they’ve got. If the kids are bad, if they fail, that’s a valuable lesson, and a gauntlet they have to run sometime. As a recently-coined Colorado champion said: “You need to be bad, then you need to be good. Then when you’re good, you need to fail. Then when you fail, you’re going to figure it out.” The Rockies seem to currently be in the “bad” part of that story arc. Would it be such a bad thing to try and power through that chapter?

Shore up your organizational structure. While the Rockies have had a bit more stability in the org of late than they had for years running prior, there are still glaring needs in the business in terms of depth and knowledge in several spots that could give them advantages against competition with deeper pockets. Would the team need to spend more money on more (and lower) off-field salaries to find more diamonds in the rough and creativity with the wildly higher on-field salaries? For sure. Do those economies of scale seem to sink any for anyone named Monfort? Not yet, but… never say never.

Read the tea leaves. If you were to ask me who were the first three Rockies I’d think of this season (after Connor Joe’s sad departure), the obviously recognizable names would be Charlie Blackmon, Kris Bryant, and C.J. Cron. Sitting at the far end of this losing+losing+losing streak, you know who the three non-pitching names on the IL are? Yeah, you saw them above. SPEAKING OF INJURIES, the pitchers have decidedly been bitten by the bug, and with that, the bulk of those the teams’ more talented hurlers. With your stars both on and around the mound all having to sit it out here and there, maybe lean into what the universe already seems to be laying down.

Find the fans again. While the fallen marquee players make the job even tougher, even the Rooftop is flat at Coors Field these days. There’s a lot to still love about the place and the product these Rockies are putting on the field, and the organization is noticeably losing some of that connection with their fanbase, with Colorado currently dropping to 10th place for attendance this year, which would be their lowest in 16 seasons – when the Rocktober miracle then bounced some butts back into the seats. If this year’s team is hoping for another Rocktober, they’d better hope that all of the rookies above are potential All-Stars, and all of the stars above return fully to form this season.

Absent that sort of a Fall fantasy for Colorado’s boys of Summer, it might seem that the best way to right this ship for the longer haul is to go ahead and just lean into slide. Don’t avoid the chaos, but take advantage of it and see how much opportunity you can actually find.

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