Each offseason for many years, Rockies owner Dick Monfort has written a letter to the team’s ticket-holders, a combination year in review and look ahead.
Assuming he’ll do it again this year, here’s a stab at some of what he could say in his 2023 missive:
Dear Rockies fans:
Well, I sure missed the boat last spring when I said this year’s team could finish .500.
But who would have predicted we’d lose more than a hundred games for the first time in franchise history? And in our 30th anniversary season, at that!
Only someone who knew we’d use a club-record 34 (!) pitchers, including infielders Ala Trejo and Harold Castro twice each . . .
Only someone who knew we’d have 16 (!) starting pitchers, including relievers Jake Bird (three times) and Brent Suter (once), because four members of our original five-man rotation would be on the Injured List by mid-September and the fifth would have washed out before the end of April . . .
Or only someone who knew we’d be without Brendan Rodgers for five months, Kris Bryant for two, and Charlie Blackmon for six weeks—and that promising Ryan Feltner would suffer a fractured skull when struck by a line drive back to the mound (!!!!).
As disappointing as the 2023 season was, though, I’m a glass-half-full kind of guy, so I see the makings of a better result in 2024.
Spring Training starts next February—except for the Rockies. Our last six weeks were the equivalent of the extra practices college football coaches get when their teams make it into a bowl game with a 6-6 record.
It’s not that those college coaches don’t want to win whatever bowl they’re prepping for. But the benefit of additional work before spring drills is more important for the head start on the next season that it represents.
Same for this year’s Rockies. I think there’s a silver lining in the opportunity that early elimination provided a number of young players.
Thirty-five of our final 38 games were against teams that had playoff berths or positioning at stake.
Thus, manager Bud Black got to see Hunter Goodman, Elehuris Montero, Michael Toglia, Sean Bouchard, Alan Trejo and numerous young pitchers—Noah Davis, Gavin Hollowell, Karl Kauffmann, Tommy Doyle and trade acquisition Victor Vodnik among them—in games that counted, rather than for a few innings at a time in March.
Our home attendance topped 2.5 million for the 14th straight full season, and some of those loyal fans might think of this as a lost season.
But it also allowed time for Bud and his coaches, and general manager Bill Schmidt and his staff, to evaluate Peter Lambert, Ryan Feltner, Brendan Rodgers and Tyler Kinley as they came back from injuries and surgeries.
So, how close are the Rockies to becoming the next Baltimore Orioles or Houston Astros, each of which lost more than 100 games in successive seasons before becoming big winners?
Ezekiel Tovar, Nolan Jones and Brenton Doyle are keepers, maybe even future cornerstone players. All three young players showed they can be Gold Glove defenders.
Goodman and Montero both benefitted from steady playing time in September and could join them.
Beyond that, the Rockies need both Rodgers and Kris Bryant to play full, injury-free seasons in ’24, and Elias Diaz to show that he’s a late-bloomer whose 2023 was not just a career year. We’ll get a boost, too, if Ryan McMahon finds consistency at the plate to go with his slick play at third base, as I think he will.
Every team needs some veteran presence, and Charlie Blackmon provides it. We’ll do our best to sign Chuck Nazty again, now that his current contract is at an end. He’s said he’d like to remain a Rockie, and I want that, too.
Promising lineup notwithstanding, our future success depends on effective pitching, as it always does.
Feltner and Lambert should join Freeland and Gomber as 2024 starters, at least until two of our best starters, Senzatela and Marquez—who missed most of 2023—are able to contribute.
I’m confident our starters will be more effective in 2024, and if they are, our bullpen won’t wear down as it did this season.
With all that, I can’t wait for the next season to start!
Thank you, again, and GO ROCKIES!!!
Richard L. Monfort
Denny Dressman is a veteran of 43 years in the newspaper business, including 25 at the Rocky Mountain News, where he began as executive sports editor. He is the author of 15 books, nine of them sports-related. You can write to Denny at firstname.lastname@example.org.