After speaking with a small group of reporters on Saturday in his hometown for nearly an hour, Colorado Rockies’ owner Dick Monfort stood up from the table and said, “I didn’t say anything bad, did I?”
Little did he realize that his comments on the Rockies an hour earlier were already reaching every corner of the baseball world.
An hour earlier, prior to discussing everything from the San Diego Padres spending to retiring Charlie Blackmon’s no. 19 to the future of the franchise, Montfort addressed the crowd attending the Friends of Baseball’s annual Breakfast of Champions in the Island Grove Events Center in Greeley.
“What these guys – 25 or so on your committee – do to put this on and raise a little money to help the young players is great,” Montfort said of the non-profit group that aims to enhance existing baseball programs from youth up through college in the Weld County area. Monfort even thanked Hall of Famer Tim Raines for coming out to the event and congratulated the various award winners for their contributions to the organization.
“A lot of good things are going to happen,” Montfort said of his club. “I think they’re going to start happening this year. I think we can play .500 ball. I think that if we get some breaks to get some guys playing real well, who knows.”
While not the prediction of 94 wins for the 2020 MLB season, which was also made at the Breakfast of Champions, it was a surprising assessment from a club with four consecutive losing seasons who has spent all of $8.5 million in free agency this offseason.
For 50 minutes, here are some of the most interesting thoughts and comments from Monfort on Saturday.
The 2023 Season
“I will tell you this. I’m more confident today about this year than I was last year at this time. I seriously am. I just see so many good things,” Monfort said about when he’d predict his team to win 94 games again. “We started off and did all right record-wise, but we weren’t playing like we can play. I’m a guy that loves to see crisp defense and all that. We didn’t have it. And it bugged me. I just feel like we’ve got the pieces and we’ve got a lot of pieces that are coming.”
“I think I like the balanced schedule. I don’t know if it helps us any more than it helps anybody else. But we seem to have troubles with the Dodgers and Giants of late and we get to play them (less).”
“We needed left-handers and we wanted a true left-handed (hitting) outfielder. Centerfield, more specific. And Nimmo would have been great. Wyoming kid. We almost drafted him, he got picked in front of us. We had that much confidence in him. And he would have been great but hey, the guy out there (New York Mets’ owner Steven A. Cohen) was not gonna let him go. So we really didn’t address the centerfielder situation.”
Kris Bryant and the 2022 season
“With him I thought maybe .500 is in the cards, right? And I think .500 in the cards and things go right with the expanded playoffs. You know you still got to fight on somebody else’s field probably? But you know, who knows. And that’s sort of what we thought.”
“First of all, I never talked to him before other than when we had a Zoom call. He talked mostly to Buddy and Billy. I think Kris likes it here. It’s interesting. He didn’t want to go back to San Francisco for a host of reasons, I guess. And then I think his departure from the Cubs was not the greatest. So, he’s a Vegas guy. Probably wanted to play somewhere out here. Likes Denver. He bought a home in Denver. But I think he’s got the potential to be a leader and to help the process along.”
The Farm System
“I think we had like the second-best Minor League record last year. We’ve got to really – I meant it – because after they came out with those top 100 prospects, I wrote down a whole bunch of names. I mean, seriously, I think we could have 10 guys that legitimately fit in there. And it seems to me like the big markets get all the fanfare… They’re never going to put a pitcher of ours in the top 100 because they know eventually they got to come pitch here.”
“There’s some pitchers that are really young, you know, 19-20 years old. So we’ve had that group plus ’20, ’21, ’22 we had good draft picks. So hopefully, you know that group of players is going to add in. The record sort of says that we’ve got a lot of talent down there.”
“I love this Tovar kid. I mean, not that I’ve seen him a lot, but I saw him in Spring Training. You guys saw him down there. The way he carries himself is just sort of impressive. And I know Clint (Hurdle) said the guy had a monster first game. And then he goes like 0-for-15 or something like that. And Clint is there and was talking to him and he didn’t know it. He wasn’t worried about it. He just kept going. I’m very optimistic with him.”
“I’m a big fan of Brenton Doyle. I saw him in Spring Training last year. And first of all, I’d heard all these tools he has. He can run. He can throw. He’s got power. And then I saw him come up to the plate and I thought, ‘This guy’s a man.’ So I know he strikes out too much… But I’m excited. He should be making the move.
The Front Office
“I think Bill has really been a steady hand. I think he has let Buddy and the coaches do what they do. As he says – he’s told you guys – he’s there to support him. He’s not there to put a lineup out there or tell them what to do. So I think he’s been a real steadying force.”
“Billy, he wants to win here. He’s a Rockie. I think that’s very, very beneficial, at least to me.”
The Analytics Department
“We’ve gotten criticized a lot for our lack of analytics. And (Assistant GM) Zack (Rosental), they put together a pretty good group there. I think having (Director of Analytics Brian) Jones is really a good thing and the reason why is because all the guys on the baseball (side) – Buddy and (Head Athletic Trainer Keith Dugger) and the whole organization down there, the players, they like Jones. And it’s a lot easier to listen to a guy that you have a relationship with. And so I think that was good. I see Jonesy all the time now. And I think he’s going to do a really good job on the analytic side.”
“We had Trevor (Patch) and two or three other guys, so we probably had four or five at one time. I’d say we have eight or nine back there now…. And I think Jonesy is really a key there. I think that the guy that we had before and didn’t last very long, nobody really knew him. I think Jonesy brings a lot of credibility with Buddy and the whole staff. So I think that helps.”
Bud Black and his future
“I like Buddy. I like him a lot. I think he’s done a lot of great things for us. I think it’s sort of up to Buddy, you know, how long he wants to do this. So I think he’s another guy that really is fond of the team, the city, the organization. I think he’d like to reap the rewards (of the next contending club).”
“I think Billy, they had a pitcher’s clinic last week or two weeks ago. And I think they chatted about (an extension). It’s probably something we’ll talk about at spring. Because I know from past, Buddy Bell wasn’t real well when he only had one year left. In fairness, that doesn’t need to be a constant question every time we struggle is, ‘What about your contract,’ or something like that. So you don’t want to have that as a distraction.”
Brendan Rodgers and the Marlins trade conversation
“I like Brendan. I think this is sort of a pivotal year for him. I think we all think he probably made some movement last year defensively. Obviously he got the Gold Glove. But I think this needs to be a good year for Brendan. (Miami) surely wanted him so they obviously felt highly enough of him.”
The double-standard in Denver
“One of my frustrations: Kyle Freeland won the Cy Young in 2018. He did in my mind. How is it that Todd Helton is gonna get punished or Larry Walker got punished for having stats here? Kyle Freeland had a sub-3.00 ERA. Won 17 games. Goes in there and stymies the Cubs and we win the Wild Card Game… But he not only didn’t win, he didn’t get second. He didn’t get third. He got fourth.”
“It just frustrates me. Do you know what Kershaw’s ERA is at Coors Field? It’s 5.00. This is a first ballot Hall of Fame pitcher that has a 5.00 ERA here. We had a pitcher that pitched half of his games at Coors Field, had a sub-3.00 ERA, won a big Wild Card Game in Wrigley Field and won 17 games. We tied the Dodgers for the division. The only team in the last eight years to tie or beat them in the division and (Freeland) gets fourth.”
Retiring Charlie Blackmon’s no. 19
“I probably would. In an era where stars seem to want to go other places, Charlie’s been pretty loyal and pretty good to us.”
“You don’t want to make it like everybody gets up there. But I mean Charlie is – I would say in the history of the Rockies, longevity, all this and that – he’d be right behind Todd.”
“I’m guessing Charlie would want to play more… It’s hard seeing him playing somewhere else.”
Is the next Rocktober Around the Corner?
“Well, ‘07, things really went right. Especially at the end. I never saw that group of players making such a difference. When I look back from all our teams, the present teams always seem to compare a lot better than because, I don’t know, they’re younger now. I don’t know.”
What’s the problem with rebuilding?
“I hate that word. Well, I guess the connotation on rebuilding is you just get rid of everybody. You try to draft low, which we’re not. We’re not trying to get the first pick. We’re not going to tank. We never have, never will. And it worked a couple of times, I guess maybe three. It worked for the Cubs. I mean, I think the Cubs really did do that. Not the tanking part. The Astros. Kansas City. I don’t know if they were trained to do that or if they were just (bad) for a long period of time.”
“But you look back at Kansas City and the 2000s. They had like six, seven years where all but one of them they lost over 100 games. And so it worked for them. But the problem is now Kansas City’s not drawing anybody, right? If they are on a rebuild, this is year eight of it. I don’t see our fans wanting to come to the games and say we’re gonna suck for eight years. Pitching is always going to be a challenge here to get the right kind of pitchers and we used to think guys that throw it low or can do this or can do that. I think it’s more just mentally tough guys, right?”
“One of my favorite players of all-time was Pedro Astacio. I remember a game he got a standing ovation. He left in the sixth inning and he’d given up six runs. Standing ovation. Now we had scored nine, it was one of those days and the guy just went out there and battled every inning. So we got to have those kinds of guys and I think we have at least three of them. And we may have four. When you’ve got sort of that piece of the puzzle, maybe, then it’s really hard to say, ‘Well, we’re just going to throw them to the curb and start up.’ I mean, if we could have kept Nolan and Trevor, who knows.”
On advertisement patches for 2023
“We’re trying on the patches, yeah. That’s another thing. The big markets got a lot better opportunity on the patches than we do. And the helmet deal is a Major League deal. We held that back. Fact is, in my opinion, we should have done the patches, all of that should have been central and split 30 ways. The Dodgers, I guarantee you, the Dodgers are gonna get twice what we get for a patch. Number one because they’re the Dodgers, but number two is there is eight million people in LA.”
San Diego Padres
“I look at the Padres. Take a look at their team. They got some really talented guys. They got some holes, too…. Now, there’s still time left. They got three, maybe four starting pitchers, and then they’re sort of like us, right? Got Musgrove, Snell and Darvish. I don’t know. They spent a lot of money. They’re probably going to spend a lot more if they want to keep Juan Soto. And you know, we’ll see, but it does put pressure. Yes, it does.”
“I would say their spending habits of their clientele are much higher than ours. Somebody just told me here, ‘I don’t want to pay more for seats.’ Yeah. And, you know, our tickets are… if you take the Rock Pile out we’re probably 24 or 25 in average price. If you put the Rock Pile in we’re 28-29. And San Diego jumped their prices and got more people there and that model will work. It truly did. My hat’s off to him. They almost doubled their revenue in the park and it worked. But they do have a clientele that pays 15% Income Tax and this and that. So it’s a different market, but we should be able to compete with them. We should. But our salary is up there. It’s more than what our revenue this year will be.”
Message for the Fans
“I think we have a competitive team. I think we are learning some things that we need to do differently. And that has more to do with usage of the players at home. I think we’ve got a good game plan on a lot of stuff. I think we have some players that need to step up. I think we can be competitive. I look at Arizona. Arizona, I think, is going to have a pretty decent team. Those lefties that they have out in the outfield. I haven’t seen much of Carroll. But the other two guys we saw quite a bit last year. I liked them and they tend to play good against us. I think San Diego is very formidable. I think they have flaws too. But I truly believe that this is a year where we can really step it up a little bit.”
“And I think some of it comes from guys that we’ve been watching for a while. We talked about Brendan. Brendan got, what was it, two or three hits in April? He needs to be a little more consistent. Ryan McMahon, I think (he) wants to be the leader of the club and there’s some things he needs to fix. And then you got the young kids. You got Tovar and Toglia. C.J (Cron), I think had a great year. I think he’s a perfect example of whether it was the wrist that he got hit on or just plum working him to death. He wanted in (the lineup) every day. It wasn’t as if he didn’t want to be in there. But I think he played in every game except one or two before the All-Star Game. I think with Toglia there, if he makes it. I mean Toglia is not a sinch, but Toglia brings a couple of things, right? He can play the outfield, he can play first base and he can swing from the other side. I think this is a year where people need to take a step forward. Some of the new kids need to come in there and show excitement, knowing that there’s more coming right behind them that just keeps the faith here. I think we’re on the right track.”