The phrasing of the Colorado Rockies' April 26 announcement about the exit of general manager/executive vice president Jeff Bridich — the statement notes that the team and the GM "mutually agreed that Bridich will step down from his role, effective immediately" — could not have been less satisfying. Long-suffering fans deserved something more along the lines of "Bridich was frog-marched out of his office in shame" or "Bridich raced from the building screaming, as if he'd just noticed that he was on a sinking ship and the last lifeboat was nearly filled with rats."
Sometimes when a team goes through a major move like this one, the players respond with a strong effort, to prove their resilience — but not the Rockies. A few hours after the Bridich announcement, the squad took the diamond against the San Francisco Giants, to whom they promptly lost by the humiliating score of 12-0.
This "performance" feels symbolic of Colorado's 2021 season to date, as well as a forecast of the months ahead. The Rockies aren't officially the worst team in baseball — the Minnesota Twins and the Detroit Tigers each have one fewer win than the eight they've notched in their 23 contests to date — but they're the one with the least likelihood of reaching even semi-respectability.
Dumping Bridich in April is essentially an admission that the Rockies' current campaign is already a lost cause — and owner Dick Monfort's decision to elevate Greg Feasel to team president does nothing to change that. Like Bridich, Feasel has been with the club for years. As such, he's been complicit in the destruction of a franchise that was trending in the right direction just a few short years ago, before turning into a flaming clown car.
It's hard to remember at this point, but the Rockies made the playoffs in 2017 and 2018 — and in early 2019, Bridich signed the outfit's best player, Nolan Arenado, to an eight-year, $260 million contract that the Colorado faithful saw as a signal that Monfort was finally willing to spend money to keep pace with the powerhouses of Major League Baseball, including National League West rival the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Turned out that was a mirage. Bridich made the fatal mistake of assuming that because the Rockies reached the post-season in two consecutive years, he didn't need to do anything substantial to improve the lineup — and when 2019 turned out to be a disaster, his relationship with an increasingly frustrated Arenado soured. The result was one of the most embarrassing transactions in recent sports history: Earlier this year, Bridich essentially paid the St. Louis Cardinals $50 million to take Arenado's contract off his hands in a tacit admission of fiduciary regret.
The deal was essentially Bridich's way of saying that Monfort either couldn't or wouldn't make the investments necessary to produce a consistent winner. And indeed, Montfort seemed content with fielding a mediocre product as long as he made millions from Coors Field attendance, which tends to remain high whether the team does well or not.
The pandemic dealt this philosophy a karmic payback. Suddenly, there were no ticket-buyers at all to sniff the stench the Rockies left behind last season. And while fans are now being allowed back in the stadium, the capacity limits necessitated by COVID-19 ensured that Monfort could no longer use hefty profits to justify keeping Bridich on board.
As for Bridich's future employment prospects, they look dim considering his subterranean profile nationally. His departure received only a parenthetical mention on yesterday's episode of ESPN's Pardon the Interruption, with co-host Tony Kornheiser saying his name incorrectly (it's pronounced Bride-ich, but Kornheiser shortened the "i") and dismissing his tenure by pointing out that he traded Arenado and got nothing in return.
The Arenado escapade is likely to be the epitaph on Bridich's career tombstone, but there are more potential disasters awaiting his successor. The best everyday player on the Rockies roster right now is Trevor Story, whose contract expires at the end of next season — and the smart money suggests that the next GM will be forced to trade him then rather than pay what would be necessary to extend his stint. And since the Rockies' farm system is currently rated among the worst in the sport, there aren't a lot of hot prospects ready to fill his cleats.
So go to Coors Field this year to enjoy the beautiful weather and one of the best ballparks in the country, and root for the other team, as most attendees have been doing lately. But don't expect any good news from the Rockies in 2021 — or likely for many years to come.
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