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The Rockies and another team: The Arizona Diamondbacks are fun and have a sense of direction

These two teams are far apart as they prepare to play each other on Opening Day.

I’ll start with a little bit of a programming note for this newsletter since it’s in the early stages. I am a Colorado Rockies fan. My first forays into internet baseball writing and blogging were focused on the Rockies.

I can’t help it. They’re my team. So, I want to keep writing about the Rockies as part of the weekly content here at Ongoing Attempts. At the same time, I want to write newsletters that appeal to a broader population of baseball fans. I’m hoping this weekly entry will be a fun way for me to strike that balance. I can still write about the stupid team that I root for and also take a look at what’s happening with other teams around the league.

Let’s get to this week’s post as the Rockies prepare to face the Arizona Diamondbacks to open their 2024 season.

The Rockies, a team with no direction

I write this on the heels of the news that the Rockies have signed Ezequiel Tovar to a seven-year extension. That means they have numerous homegrown players signed to long-term extensions, with Ryan McMahon, Kyle Freeland, and now Tovar. If you start there, you might trick yourself into thinking that this is a rebuilding team with a plan.

This is not a team with a plan.

There’s talent in the farm system. But a lot of those guys are far away, and with that distance comes the uncertainty and questions. And it’s not the kind of farm system you would look for if this team actually had direction and had actually committed to some form of a rebuilding process.

That’s the main takeaway I have when I see various Rockies prospect rankings and lists. There are talented players, but those lists also reflect years of missed opportunities to make a more concerted effort to add a lot of talent and build for the next wave of big leaguers.

If the Rockies aren’t rebuilding, what are they doing outside of these extensions for young players? That, my friend, is when things get weird. So weird. We don’t need to go blow by blow through all of their strange moves. Let’s just touch on two that stand out.

They signed Kris Bryant to a big free agent contract two years ago. That move should have been fun, a rare splash in free agency for this franchise. But there was no sense of where he would fit in or what else the Rockies would do to maximize his value. Bryant has played poorly as a member of the Rockies, but even if he had excelled, this move still made no sense.

They signed Daniel Bard to a two-year extension in the middle of last season instead of trading him to a contender at the trade deadline. Trading Bard was a layup, the easiest move that any front office could make. Relievers are volatile, so it is generally wise to capitalize on opportunities to sell high when they present themselves. Instead, the Rockies have an OK closer locked up as he approaches age 40.

They aren’t rebuilding, but they clearly aren’t contenders. They make odd moves here and there, mostly on the margins of their roster. And what are these moves, exactly? I guess these are the moves a team would make when they were one or two players away? Maybe it’s like that, except if those teams asked themselves, “what if we tried to fill that gap on our team, except with a worse player, just to see how that goes?”

I’m not even persuaded that the only path forward for the Rockies is to bottom out and rebuild. I think there are probably ways to be creative and develop some sense of direction without completely starting over. One way or another, that would probably start with the young core that they do have.

What the Rockies do need is some sense of direction, or at least an acknowledgement that they need some semblance of a plan or direction. For that, they need a functional front office. And to have a functional front office, they probably need an owner not named Dick Monfort.

So, that’s a quick overview of how we got to 2024 and the “LOL Rockies.” The team that people mostly laugh at. The team that is projected to have the worst record in baseball. A team with no direction.

The Diamondbacks, a team flying high in a specific direction

There are opportunities to doubt the Diamondbacks and give their 2023 World Series appearance the old side eye. That team had a negative run differential, for one thing, and looked for all the world like they would miss the playoffs altogether into the last week of the regular season.

The point is that they had the talent, especially building block players like Corbin Carroll, Ketel Marte, and Christian Walker, to be close enough in the standings that a late hot streak mattered and actually propelled them to a run in the playoffs. They also had a roster full of solid additions with role players and bullpen arms to fully take advantage of that position.

Maybe the Diamondbacks were a little lucky. Maybe they will take a step back this year. Even if they do, the future is bright because it’s clear what they are doing, and what they are doing makes sense. They have one of the best players in baseball, period, in Carroll, and multiple good-to-great players to build around with him.

From that place, they make logical, quality additions to their team. They traded for Paul Sewald in the middle of 2023 to bolster the back of their bullpen. They added Eduardo Rodriguez in free agency this offseason to add another consistent starting pitcher to their rotation. These aren’t splashy moves, but they are the kind of savvy moves that teams like the Diamondbacks can make to stay relevant and compete for a playoff spot.

One other thought: these understated but nevertheless smart moves are also what we would hope to see from a better version of the Rockies.

Opening Day has a lot of noise and excitement. The cliches about hope at the beginning of the long season can hold true for any team. I will still go into 2024 hoping there is some way for the Rockies to be good, to surprise the league, to somehow be in the playoff race down the stretch. But that hope also feels flimsy. I don’t think it will take much in the early parts of the season for me to assume the predicted struggles for the Rockies are coming true.

There is a distinctly different feel for the Diamondbacks. If they struggle, there will likely be resilience from the team and their fans that there is still hope. They will certainly be happy to grab onto any reasons to confirm their notion that this team is the same level of contender now as the one that reached the World Series last fall.

These two franchises know each other well. They have a lot in common, from the humidors to the Spring Training facility to the potential roadmaps for success. In their respective histories, you might find periods of time where the Rockies and the Diamondbacks felt pretty similar.

Now is not one of those times. These teams couldn’t feel more different, with one riding a clear sense of direction and the momentum of a World Series appearance and the other just floating at the bottom of the standings with no clear notion of who they are or where they are going.