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The Colorado Rockies' 2012 season was no fun, as the team nearly lost 100 games. Here's some ways to improve the fan experience (and it doesn't involve getting the players on the roster to do better -- for better or worse).
Being a Colorado Rockies fan in 2012 is a lot like telling people your favorite "Saved by the Bell" character was Tori. Generally people are going to respond with either "Who?" or "Ugh....why?" And as a Rox fan I often felt like SbtB fans did when Tori showed up out of the blue.
"Wait a second ... who is that? Where's the people I know and love?"
Twenty twelve was billed as The Year of the Fan. With the season over, I just want to say, "Um ... thanks?"
Apparently the Year of the (**** hitting the) Fan meant there was "an unprecedented number of promotions and giveaways." Which is sort of like wishing and hoping Santa brings you a new X-Box, and then on Christmas morning you just get to open an envelope that has a coupon for "An Unprecedented Number of Promotions and Giveaways."
Do you know what Orioles fans got this year? An unprecedented number of wins.
But a couple weeks ago, I had to make one more trip to Coors Field to pay my respects to a season gone wrong as the Rockies hosted the division leading Giants.
As I walked in to the game, I stopped by a concession stand for a beer. "That will be $7.50, sir," said the woman at the register.
"Isn't there like a discount if the Rockies are in last place?" I asked.
The Rockies' front office has been regularly criticized for being out of touch with the fans. This would be a nice little way for them to get back in the good graces of the Denver community. For every 10 games out of first place the Rox are, beer prices drop 50 cents.
Another idea I had for improving the fans' experience when the Rockies are really bad would be changing the Stub Hub Move of the Game. This is where fans get picked to move from their crappy seats to really good club seats in Coors Field. I was thinking maybe they could move the fans to a Rangers-A's game.
Also, a big sign above the Helton Burger Shack that you could see from all over Coors Field that would let you know if the shake machine is broken would be a nice touch. That's a long walk.
Basically, the Rockies missed a number of opportunities to really make this year about the fan. When the team went south, the public relations department should have been turned loose, rewarding fans for coming out to the games at every turn.
The in-game trivia and contests should have been A) rigged so that the fan always won; and B) doling out some serious prizes.
"OK, Steve, true or false: Troy Tulowitzki eats food every day."
"That's right! You win the Rockies Prize Pack, which is just a sack full of $250,000!"
If they can count people's texts to vote on what song to play between innings, can't there be some way for the fans to text in lineups or pitching changes or something? Can we turn the management of the game into a Choose Your Own Adventure story?
(NOTE: At this point I was a little worried about this here rant turning into the plot of the movie "Eddie." When I told my wife that, she said she had never heard of "Eddie." Basically stars Whoopi Goldberg as a huge New York Knicks fan who gets hired to coach the team. I tried to IMDB it for my wife, and it really takes some searching to find. It's not one of Whoopi's more ... celebrated films. Maybe I would have been fine making this whole story the plot of "Eddie" and no one would have been the wiser.)
There were umpires at the game, which shouldn't be surprising. They need to be there for the game to be official. And the since the Giants are usually playoff bound you need to make sure all of their games are on the up and up. But I was thinking it would save significant money if they just didn't have umpires for the games when both teams have no shot, like when the Rockies played their final home series of the year against the Cubs.
The umpires' union would never go for the umps not getting paid, so maybe just pay the umpires like ¾ of their normal game pay and let them stay at home if both teams are more than 15 games out in September. The league gets to save basically the cost of one full umpire per game, and the umps get to spend time with family and they don't have to watch the Rockies and Cubs play.
As I reached my seat, I decided to put myself in an optimistic state of mind. "You know, there could still be some history made tonight. Maybe Jeff Francis will throw a no-hitter? Or at least a complete game shutout?"
These hopes were dashed when the no-hitter was gone after the second pitch. The shutout was gone after the fourth pitch. The Giants scored 5 runs in the top of the first inning. During the Giants' rally, a group came in and sat right in front of me. They then proceeded to figure out who was tallest by having people stand back to back, in round-robin fashion. Ordinarily this would be extremely annoying, but it was actually a pretty close competition and I found the novelty compelling.
Jeff Francis was out of the game after 5 innings, partially because of the 5 run first, but also because he had reached the 75 pitch limit the Rockies starters were operating under this year.
I'm still not completely sure how I feel about the whole 75-pitch-limit-with-a-four-man-rotation thing. On one hand, I do feel sympathetic to the starting pitching card O'Dowd was dealt this year. Going into the 2011 season, he had to feel great with the Rockies sporting the best 1-2 punch the rotation had ever had. But Jorge De La Rosa got hurt, and the Ubaldo Jimenez, who won 19 games in 2010, fell into the Springfield Mystery Spot and was replaced with a soft-tossing malcontent. And as 2012 started, it was clear that because of injuries and young pitchers being forced into the rotation too early that it was going to be a rough year pitching-wise. So I do give him credit for thinking outside the box and trying something.
But that something was akin to the Rockies going skydiving, and when their chute didn't open, they started furiously flapping their arms.
I am curious to know what the meetings were like that led to the four-man rotation with a 75-pitch limit looked like.
"OK, we're going to have the starters pitch 75 pitches, and we're only going to have four starters. That ought to fix things."
"Why don't we just get better pitchers?"
"That's it, Jenkins, you're fired!"
Actually, given how the Rockies never really fire anyone, they just make up new jobs for them to do, that would go more along the lines of:
"That's it, Jenkins, you're now the Director of Grounds Crew Operations!"
When the Rockies are in the playoffs, or at least in the hunt down the stretch, I get pretty superstitious. I don't want to really talk to anyone or move from my seat. But since this game was never really close, I figured I wasn't going to jinx anything by stretching my legs.
I started watching the game above the Rockies' bullpen. A guy next to me was looking over a baseball that had a number of signatures on it.
"That's pretty impressive; did you get all of those signatures here?" I asked.
"Yeah, take a look," he said as he handed me the ball. "I'm actually trying to sell it. Twenty bucks."
"Huh. There's Dexter Fowler, Tulo, Helton ... This might be a pretty cool ball to have." I said.
"I wasn't offering to sell it to you," he said as he grabbed the ball back and stuffed it in his jacket pocket.
I decide my legs were amply stretched and headed back to my seat. As I made my way around the concourse, I realized that this little interaction was a perfect metaphor for the Rockies 2012 season. It's as if all of baseball at the beginning of the year collectively said, "Hey, isn't being a baseball fan great! Being a baseball fan is the best, mainly because of how great baseball is! Aren't we all in agreement!"
"Yep! It sure is!" I said to the figurative entity of baseball.
"Oh, well it's not going to be great for you," said baseball.
As the Rockies failed to mount a comeback, and lost 8-3, I bid adieu to Coors Field for 2012.
"So long, Year of the Fan. Next time, I guess I'd just prefer the X-Box."
Or at least let me pitch.