I am, to a fault much of the time, a pragmatic person to my core. If you’re familiar with me at all from my work over at DNVR Avalanche, you’ll know that I’m guided but tangible things, logic, reason, data. All the stuff that makes you a big sports nerd these days, I suppose.
That’s part of what made things so interesting to me when I went to Coors Field recently. You see, like many Rockies fans, I hadn’t been back since Nolan Arenado’s trade to the St. Louis Cardinals. I’m sure my anger is familiar to many of you reading this.
In a lot of ways, that deal is what broke me. I understood that the relationship had soured on both sides (even if the primary source of discontent was driven by one side, by the end it sure seemed a mutual distaste), and his departure was inevitable. I understood they weren’t going to get anything close to good or fair value for a player who is going to wear a Cardinals cap into the Hall of Fame someday. I got all of that. Pragmatic, remember?
It was the $50 million that got me.
Even though the Rockies cry poor and kick around their “woe is me” attitude about being a small market team, they’ve consistently given huge contracts to star players even though it rarely has worked out in their favor. They’ve had payrolls in the top 10 when they believe they are a playoff club.
I’ve never had any real problems with any of this. I’ve understood the approach most of the time. But paying $50 million to give away a player in the heart of a Hall of Fame career? Absolutely not.
At that point, the Rockies pushed me beyond a level I could handle. They broke the social contract that comes with sports fandom. We, as fans, passionately support a franchise through thick and thin and wait for the shot at glory someday.
They, as the organization we love through good times and bad, be honest and clear about their intentions and where they view their trajectory on the journey to what we all hope is a World Series title at the end of it.
When they paid a huge amount of money to make a self-inflicted problem (AKA the Rockies started it) go away, they broke that contract. They weren’t trying to get better, they weren’t trying to make the postseason, they weren’t trying to rebuild, they were just spending money to sweep their problems under the rug.
They held an utterly delusional press conference shortly after. Jeff Bridich, the guy seemingly at the center of both helping to build and rapidly dismantle a successful window of contention for the Rockies, was allowed to make the decision on the Arenado situation only for him to turn around and quit not long after.
Bridich, the guy at the heart of multiple player issues over the years, left the Rockies in utter shambles with no real repercussions. Sure, he might never get to be a GM in MLB again, but the damage he did to the Rockies and the fans is significantly deeper than whatever damage may have been done to his reputation. He’s doing whatever today while the rest of us grapple with an increasingly complicated fandom that makes less sense every year.
For the sake of this piece, I’m going to ignore the Rockies’ complete inaction at the trade deadline. It just doesn’t really matter. Why would I trust them to pick quality prospects in a trade anyway? They haven’t earned any level of trust.
So my anger here is obvious. I probably didn’t need to recap the Arenado fiasco to make that point, but I guess this is at least in some way a part of my healing process, too, because I didn’t want to go to Coors Field that day.
I didn’t want to go to a Rockies game and give money to an organization that felt like they had betrayed the general boundaries between team and fan. They broke the rules and I was still mad about it, but when your wife lives in a different country and is visiting Denver for a few weeks and wants to check out a Rockies game, you put your sports anger in a suitcase and give your lady a fun night out.
You already know what happened next. I had a great time at the game and by the start of the sixth inning, I was trying to look up season ticket packages for the future because going to baseball games is just one of those activities my wife and I love doing together.
She may not be a fan of foul balls (very jumpy, that one), but she likes the game itself and how relaxed an atmosphere baseball provides, especially with both of us coming from the hockey world where games are frenetically paced and rarely boring.
As I was using the half-inning break to look up season ticket packages, I felt this wave of shame pass over me. Was I the problem? Was I the reason the Rockies could continue to slap the fans in the face and suffer no consequences because we keep buying tickets and showing up regardless of their incompetence? Am I the bad guy in this story?
I imagined getting shouted at by the people on Twitter who make a meal out of people like me, people who want to love the Rockies and go to Coors Field and power through their utter incompetence and their blatant disregard for logic and reasoning. I could feel the visceral response that I’m sure even a piece such as this one will elicit from certain corners of the internet.
Shortly after going through those mental gymnastics, I realized the obvious truth here: I love baseball more than I love the Colorado Rockies.
That hurts to write. I don’t want that to be true, but the organization pushed me into a space I’m not sure I can ever emotionally get out of in the future.
Sitting there as the temperature dropped with the sun and the classic breathtaking views of the day disappearing behind the mountains, I looked at my wife and squeezed her hand and told her I loved her. At that moment, sitting at Coors Field with people I care about watching a game I deeply love, I was happy. I was content.
That’s when I decided the game didn’t really matter anymore. The outcome was irrelevant, the score and inning a matter of simply telling us when the night was over and to go home. I was happy but felt guilty about it.
This shouldn’t be the way I feel about the Rockies. I’m as diehard a sports fan as you’ll find on this earth and everything I care about in my life I do so with a deep passion. That used to include the Rockies, but when they stopped caring about the people like me, I just couldn’t do it anymore.
The truth is that night was a great one for me and mine. I loved it, and I’ll return to Coors Field again this season and in future years. I’ll drink some lemonade and eat a hot dog and make some memories.
Coors Field is a crown jewel of Denver entertainment. It’s just too bad the organization seems to feel the same way instead of striving to make it the kind of competitive franchise every other team in the city is.