Monfort: It's time to create a Rockies legacy
Chairman believes club has the talent to establish itself in NL West
DENVER -- The many days of frost had largely melted by the end of last week. The sunshine in Denver was welcome, if only to burn away the Super Bowl gloom. Rockies owner, chairman and CEO Dick Monfort relaxed in his office and thought of brighter days.
Monfort's Rockies are coming off consecutive last-place finishes in the National League West -- the first time they'd experienced two straight seasons at the bottom. Monfort predicted the 2012 team would finish .500 but didn't account for young pitching. Injuries scuttled last year's dream. But having been wrong before doesn't stop Monfort from believing this year's turnaround could be dramatic.
"I've actually been thinking about that a lot," said Monfort, who has joined the Rockies for Monday's start of pitcher-and-catcher workouts at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Scottsdale, Ariz. "Unless we're really, really, really missing something, we do have enough talent.
"You think you've got enough talent, so where are you missing it? Why isn't that talent turning into wins, or a run? I'm trying to figure out ways."
Last week in a Twitter chat with fans, Monfort said the Rockies could win 90 games if they stay healthy. To put that in perspective, 90 wins were enough for the Reds to qualify for the Wild Card game. But he isn't stopping there.
Of course, Monfort's confidence depends on the health of the team's brightest stars, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, whose injuries last season were part of what turned a team that was contending into June into one that won just 74 games. But Monfort insists that young players such as catcher Wilin Rosario and third baseman Nolan Arenado -- who have played through the suffering seasons, a pitching staff that has been buoyed by several offseason additions, and bright prospects -- especially pitchers Eddie Butler and Jon Gray, and outfielder-first baseman Kyle Parker -- will usher in a period of sustained winning.
The alternative to the Rockies losing again is cringe-worthy. Sure, the Rockies have Tulowitzki, 29, under contract through 2020 and Gonzalez, 28, signed through 2017. But can a team that continues to lose reasonably expect to hold onto two of the game's biggest stars in their prime years? But Monfort, who denied rumors this winter that the Rockies would deal Tulowitzki to the Cardinals for pitching, isn't going there, not when he sees so much good.
"Our opportunity is now," Monfort said. "We've got two of the best players in the game in prime time. If they get you there, if they lead you to some good stuff, then you've got guys that are going to fit in with them extremely well. Our numbers would say you've got two of the best players in the game in their prime for the next three or four years.
"We don't want to deal anyone. We want this thing to click in and work for him and for us. Getting into the playoffs is all that matters, and 74 wins ain't going to get you into the playoffs. We need to have a team that can win 84-94 games every year and take your chances at it. How do we get to 84 wins and keep it there?"
Monfort's optimism for an immediate turnaround is partly attached to the pitching. The Rockies went 49-32 in games started by Jorge De La Rosa, Jhoulys Chacin and Tyler Chatwood, and they added 2013 A's Opening Day starter Brett Anderson in a trade. They believe righty Juan Nicasio, with a full offseason after two winters spent rehabbing injuries -- a neck injury in 2011 and a knee injury in '12 -- will realize his potential.
They also have righties Butler, a supplemental first-round pick in 2012, and Gray, the third overall pick in 2013; lefty Christian Friedrich, who missed last year with a back injury; and righty Jordan Lyles, who earned seven of the Astros' 51 wins last year. The four of them all have the potential to either compete with Nicasio now or add a lift during the season.
"De La Rosa, if you get what you got last year you'll be fine. If you get what you got out of Chacin last year you'll be fine; Chatwood, the same way," Monfort said. "We all think Nicasio is going to take another step up. Then, if you assume that Brett Anderson is going to be pretty good, we've got a good team. The bullpen has added good guys. The pitching looks really, really solid. And then the hitters."
However, opponents don't shake in their spikes and opposing fans don't have that healthy hatred for the boys in purple. Monfort says that must change.
"Last year, we started off well," Monfort said. "A lot of people, probably me included, were saying, 'OK, what's going to happen here?' We've got to have a positive attitude. We've got to know we can do this. We've got to know we can go wire-to-wire. That's the biggest thing, confidence.
"It's time to create a Rockies legacy. It's time to get people scared to death. I sit here and teams come in, and I know every player that can hurt us or that have hurt us in the past. We've got to have people fear some of our guys."
Monfort believes the competitiveness of second-year manager Walt Weiss will rub off on the squad, based on the way he handled last season.
"Good, bad or indifferent, he always had that little wry smile," Monfort said. "He never really panicked. These players were kids and probably didn't watch him play. This is a guy that is insanely competitive and a tough guy. This is a winning guy."
Monfort called on the team's two offensive stars to make the players around them confident.
"I think they can," Monfort said. "I think that they need to. They're going to be challenged to do that. Tulo is one of the best hitters in the game, bar none. CarGo is so athletic.
"There's a goofy deal, when Tulo and CarGo are in the lineup together, it's like 60 percent of the games we win. That's games whether we're home or on the road. If they played in 140, that's 84 games right there. That's not giving any credit for the 22 that they don't play in together. You're going to win some of those."
Monfort hopes he's right about the Rockies this time.
"We've been in this growth pattern for a long time," Monfort said. "You're starting to see some of this stuff pop its head up.
"You just feel closer. You feel like you're getting there."