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January 29, 2021


So the Rockies are trading Nolan Arenado. 


As part of the deal, they're sending in the neighborhood of $50 million to the Cardinals.

They're effectively -- heavy emphasis on the "effectively" -- agreeing to pay about a year and a half of Arenado's salary under the terms of the six years remaining on his much-ballyhooed eight-year deal.      


It's an indirect way of getting out from under the rest of the deal. But when he plays against Colorado this season, the Rockies effectively -- there's that word again -- will be paying him.   


Make sense?


Of course not.


It's a joke.

It will remain one regardless of how all the elements of the deal eventually shake out,  including the inevitable and preposterous propagandizing about how the undistinguished prospects coming to Colorado could include the next Nolan Arenado or even Ubaldo Jimenez, add strength-in-numbers depth and free up money for other signings (e.g., Trevor Story). 



The deal is so distasteful, someone involved must be planning another revival of "No, No, Nanette" for when Broadway reopens. 


It comes off as an Onion parody. But it's very real.


General manager Jeff Bridich is taking considerable heat for the deal he negotiated. But without getting into a spirited defense here, let me ask this: Does anyone really believe Bridich announced to Dick Monfort: I've decided to trade Nolan? The motivation, the impetus to explore or listen came from above after major financial losses in 2020 and prospects of additional red ink this season.


Absolutely, Bridich's own missteps and misjudgments contributed to the troubling state of the on-field product that also was the backdrop to the deal. See the mystifying and misplaced faith in especially Daniel Murphy and also Ian Desmond.  Shake your head about D.J. LeMehieu's exit. And more. His contentious relationship with Arenado wasn't Ivy League-bright, either, though it's unfair to say it was all Bridich's fault. 


But this is familiar. Dan O'Dowd played the good soldier for years, which is one of the reasons he lasted, only to eventually drop hints about constraints after his departure -- including as an MLB Network studio analyst. (For the crowning moment of O'Dowd's tenure, see my previous commentary.)


The Monfort ownership has not been cheap. It's not that simple. Arenado's contract itself was the latest demonstration of how's-that-for-cheap defiance, similar to when the Rockies signed Todd Helton to a deal that both locked him up but also was a bit of a financial albatross in the first baseman's twilight years. 


But the available resources have been mismanaged. The safety net with this approach is small. It requires competence in the decision-making, as with the Tampa Bay Rays, for example. It can be done. And here, the perception remains that the Monfort ownership is more than willing to take advantage of fans' willingness, even if it's begrudging, to make Coors Field the equivalent of an amusement park. (Say, Elitch's with a party deck.) That part is overstated, too, since there's nothing wrong with making personal entertainment choices that include visits to the park, whether you keep score and second-guess all the managerial decisions or can't name six Rockies without prompting from the scoreboard. Or, yes, you came to Coors to remind everyone in your section that you moved here from Chicago ... and aren't moving back.   


So every time the Rockies make a bonehead move, the call goes up for Coloradans to be more discerning consumers, to stop rewarding mismanagement and lack of ambition. That's an indvidual choice. And I'm writing here mostly as if the gates will be open and the seats could be filled this season. They won't be. No matter what, we know that.


Maybe you've noticed I haven't even tried to break down the trade and the possible final details, both prospects obtained by the Rockies and Cardinals' salary dumping involved. That's because at this point, it's beside the point. This is about trading one of the best five players in the game. Period. I don't need or want to break it down any more than that. The message it sends is horrendous.


In Denver, we've been able to watch Nathan MacKinnon, Nikola Jokic and Arenado -- all three among the very elite at their crafts -- in their overlapping careers. To an extent, we took it for granted.  For as much heat that the Kroenke ownership takes at times, especially for its refusal to take what it can get from Comcast to get Altitude back on the dominant cable supplier in the area, its commitment to try to win -- albeit in leagues with salary caps that mandate degrees of restraint -- can't be questioned. It's inconceivable that the Avalanche, for example, could be pressured to trade MacKinnon because of the horrendous toll of no spectators allowed and Altitude's hemorrhaging money minus the income from Comcast. (Maybe the Rockies should put their games on Altitude.)         


You're not going to get me to trash the Monforts, and not only because I've seen what the family has done in Greeley with Sunrise Community Health's Monfort Family Clinic and the Monfort Concert Hall ... and much more. I've been to the grave of, and written about, the first Richard "Dick" Monfort -- Dick's uncle, who died at age 21 during a World War II bombing mission in Europe.

The problem is that this isn't going to get any better. The losses during and coming out of the pandemic will continue to mount ... for at least a while longer. Those losses, of course, would be more than recouped in a sale of the franchise. And that's what has to happen now. Better management, from the ownership on down, to and through Bridich, certainly would have helped matters. But the Arenado deal is the tipping point.                   




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