Rockies changing system instead of people
There is a natural fear of the unknown.
More concerning to the Colorado Rockies, however, is the known.
Things haven't gone well for the Rockies. They are ready for a change.
This time, though, instead of changing people, they are changing a system.
Dan O'Dowd, despite initial reports, is still very much a part of the Rockies' hierarchy, maintaining his role as the team's executive vice president, chief baseball officer and general manager.
What's different is that Bill Geivett, who has been the senior vice president of scouting and player development, on Wednesday became the senior vice president of Major League operations, and he will be responsible for the day-to-day overseeing of the big league team, and will even move his office into a conference room adjacent to manager Jim Tracy's office in the clubhouse.
Yes, but no.
It's an alignment a bit different from most teams, but it really isn't that far of a reach.
Think about it.
The Rockies, like most teams, have a full-time Minor League director, whose focus is on the Minor League operation. The Rockies, like most teams, have a full-time amateur scouting director, whose focus is on scouting non-professional players. The Rockies, like most teams, have a full-time professional scouting director, whose focus is on scouting professional players.
And in the past, the Rockies, like most teams, have had a variety of people overseeing Major League operations, but with their attention also on other areas.
The Rockies will now have in Geivett what could be called a Major League director, whose focus is on the Major League operation, and will work directly with the manager, training staff and everyone else associated with the day-to-day operation of the big league team.
With the Rockies on pace for the first 100-loss season in their existence, the restructuring isn't going to calm a fan base that wants to see changes. Owner Dick Monfort, however, said his concern is more about improving the process than merely placating disgruntled fans.
"I take accountability for [the franchise's plight]," he said. "There is not one major thing that has happened in the last couple of years that I haven't agreed with. We have to make sure we are moving in the direction to get better. To just get rid of someone does not change the situation."
Translation: The easy answer to a team's struggles is to fire people, but if there is a flaw in the system, hiring a new person to do the same job only perpetuates the failures.
It's like the medical world. An operation can provide relief to discomfort, but unless the patient changes lifestyle and undergoes proper rehab, the problem will return.
With the Rockies' new structure, O'Dowd will still make trades and be responsible for personnel moves, and he will take input from Geivett, just as he has ever since Geivett joined the organization following the 2000 season.
Since he left the Dodgers to join the Rockies, Geivett has been a primary sounding board for O'Dowd. Until now, however, he has been more of a troubleshooter, getting involved in virtually every part of the organization, but never having any accountability because he has been an adviser more than advocate.
Now Geivett has the day-to-day responsibility of what goes on with the big league team, freeing Tracy to focus on the actual managing of a game, rather than the growing number of clubhouse distractions that have become a part of the daily routine.
What's more, instead of assorted front-office personnel traveling with the team, it will be Geivett who is expected to be on hand for every game of the regular season, and every day of the spring, helping avoid potential pitfalls.
Meanwhile, O'Dowd will allocate more time toward revamping the Rockies' player development program in the Minor Leagues.
"In assessing the process, I just felt this is an important step that needs to be added," said Dick Monfort. "The way the structure is set up right now, there's no filter in the process."
Under the new structure, Geivett will have day-to-day powers with the big league team, but he will still report to O'Dowd, who will continue to oversee the entire baseball side of the organization. With the new plan he will have more time to focus on the Minor League and scouting areas, which have become concerns because of the lack of impact players in recent years, particularly on the pitching staff.
And along those lines, O'Dowd is already looking at creating a unique position of "director of pitching operations," who will be a veteran baseball man with a strong pitching background who will have control of pitching in the organization. The position would range from talking with scouts about key aspects to look for in projecting an amateur pitcher, to creating an overview for the Minor League pitching coaches, to providing an extra set of eyes and ears at the big league level.
"He's going to be someone whose focus in life is pitching," said O'Dowd. "We have 20 years of history of pitching in Denver, and what it has shown us is the conventional system doesn't work. We have to be willing to explore other areas, look for something that might seem unique, but something that will work in our situation."
Rest assured that the Rockies will be ridiculed.
That is a part of trying a different approach.
"How will it be received?" asked O'Dowd. "If it works, people will love it. If it doesn't ..."
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.