1,614 Days Of Losing

1,614 days. That’s the total amount of time the Rockies have spent in last place of the NL West throughout their past 31 regular seasons in the MLB. 1,614 days roughly embodies all of the highs and lows that the team has endured throughout their existence, but no number has the ability to quantify the unstable history of the Colorado Rockies. 

1,614 days is equivalent to four years, five months, and three days. If Colorado’s time in last place were a child, that child would be starting kindergarten, naming colors and shapes, learning to spell their own name. The number may seem low as the Rockies eclipse three decades of existence—which still makes them one of the youngest franchises in baseball—but I promise you, the numbers aren’t very flattering. The total reflects more than just losing seasons or squandered opportunities and instead joins a long list of statistical follies that establishes Colorado as one of baseball’s most underachieving franchises. The 1,614 days that the Colorado Rockies have spent in last place is a culmination of the franchise’s many struggles of ownership content with mediocrity, a tumultuous front office, and a lack of evolution, all of which has stranded their fanbase with no other viable option other than to embrace the product being offered to them and patiently await whatever the future may hold. 

The purpose of unearthing the total number of days the Rockies have been in last place of their division was not to brainstorm potential solutions to Colorado’s ongoing identity crisis or even pile onto the already overwhelming negative criticism of the franchise, but rather to highlight the length with which the Rockies have struggled to find sustained success and exactly how their culture enables this. Even during moments of triumph like a World Series appearance and multiple postseason births, through perennial All-Star players with a desire to help this franchise win, Colorado’s issues were always looming, and the majority of these can be traced back to the despondent and outdated culture that’s been allowed to take root throughout the Rockies organization for the better part of 31 years. The answers and results that fans seek become all the more difficult to find when the Rockies continue to trend in the wrong direction, as those days in last place continue to grow. Basically, the child born out of all those days the Rockies have spent in last place isn’t going to stop growing, in fact, they’ll become older with each season. 

I’m fairly certain a statistical value for the number of days a team has spent in last place in their division doesn’t exist on any sort of reputable site for baseball analytics, so that’s why I counted every single day that the Rockies have spent in last place in the NL West (thanks, Baseball Reference, for helping me with this monotonous task). In a game that has a statistical output for nearly every kind of value, finding the exact duration of time spent in last place isn’t essential to evaluate a team, but it did seem necessary to delve into Colorado’s struggles from a macro-level, amassing one total number to reveal just how bad the Rockies have been over the course of their existence.  

Was this endeavor a form of masochism? 


Did embarking on this task burden my heart with even more sadness than it already has? 

No, the Rockies can no longer hurt me. 

Did totaling the number of days Colorado has found themselves last in their division lead to a revelation? 

Sort of, an answer to the age-old question of “why are the Rockies so bad?” isn’t as easy to answer as many believe, but Rockies fans already know that.

RJ Sangos/ The Denver Post

The Losing Way

In 1993, the MLB expansion brought two new teams into the National League, ushering in the Colorado Rockies and Florida Marlins. The history of the Colorado Rockies is convoluted at times, and there’s a great article in the Colorado Sun from Nick Groke detailing the mess that the Rockies are and have seemingly always been connected to since their inception, but all you really need to know without going into the deep end of the Rockies creation and their tumultuous beginning in the league is one simple fact: Colorado wasn’t created to win. They were born to sell tickets while keeping the costs and payroll at a minimum. Winning wasn’t an essential part of success in the eyes of Rockies ownership, but rather an added bonus if the team managed to have somewhat of a decent season. And there were spurts of success spliced into those first initial years, especially when Colorado’s front-office was given more of a leash to spend, which eventually led to them making their first playoff appearance in 1995, where they wouldn’t return until the 2007 World Series run. 

In between these years, management and ownership changed somewhat as Charlie and Dick Monfort seized control in a buyout of Colorado’s original owner Jerry McMorris, but the Monforts would also take over as president after Keli McGregor’s death in 2010. On the management front, there were the successful runs Dan O’Dowd had as general manager from 1999-2014 followed by seven years of Jeff Bridich which left current general manager, Bill Schmidt, with the predicament he finds himself in today. So, maybe a little history lesson on the Rockies was necessary, but for the most part those who have been at the helm of the Rockies have undergone little to no change over the span of 31 years.  

Turnover within the front office of a franchise isn’t rare, especially in the MLB, especially when a team has had just two postseason appearances since 2007. Change is expected when the wins are sparse. Even ownership isn’t that rare of a position to see change in.

And yet, the Monforts have had stakes in the Rockies since the team was just a dream amidst the MLB’s plans for expansion in 1985, and as the years went on the pair has only gained more control. Colorado consistently promotes from within, and while this can often be advantageous or a representation of a healthy and respectful organization, it seems to be anything but that for the Rockies, especially given the team’s complacent ideology of what success means. Jeff Bridich had been with the Rockies organization from 2004 before his departure in 2021 while current GM Bill Schmidt was hired by Colorado in 1999. The Monforts have had their claws attached to the Rockies since the team was a twinkle in the eye of the MLB and the only change that’s occurred between the brothers is that Charlie now takes a backseat to Dick. Again, the culture of losing has always been threaded into the Rockies DNA and those who have perpetuated this continue to embody the same interpretations of success that were established 30 years ago: winning is not the top priority, in fact, it may not be much of a priority at all.

Dick Monfort - (John Leyba/The Denver Post)

Colorado’s dragged their feet in regards to areas of the game where other teams—including division rivals—have not only adapted to, but have learned to embrace as the current way the game is being played. Take the department of research and development as an example. For a sport that’s one of the oldest in the world, baseball is brimming with the statistically savant, and over the past decade and a half the MLB and a majority of the league’s teams have undergone a cultural shift to utilize this new technology to gain a competitive edge over their opponents. Colorado, however, has not welcomed the shift in technological advancements as warmly as most organizations. As of 2022, the Rockies had a total number of five baseball operations analysts and data engineers. As of the 2024 season, they have grown the department to 12. While having more analysts and engineers is exactly the kind of change the Rockies need, they are nowhere near other teams around the league who boast analytics departments of more than 20 personnel and have had so for nearly a decade. So, Colorado is trying to catch up to a trend that may already be transitioning into the next stage of evolution, and this lack of change is directly correlated to the culture instilled by those leading the Rockies franchise. A culture remaining persistent in the belief that they always have, and will continue to, make the right decisions. The kind of culture that accepts 1,614 days in last place as part of the process.  

The influence of change begins with those in charge.

In all of this it’s important to consider the players as well. You know, the 40-man roster that actually has to take the field. How does the culture affect them? Or, maybe perhaps the better question is, how has Colorado’s culture derailed the rosters that were poised for success? The decisions made by Colorado’s front-office are often puzzling, for both fans and the players that have had to endure their choices at pivotal moments when the team was on the verge of not just being considered a contender, but having a genuine chance at making a run at the World Series. The last time the Rockies found themselves in this situation was also the last time they made the postseason, in 2018. This was a roster that included players who Rockies fans saw as cornerstones for their future success—DJ LeMahieu, Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story, and Jon Gray— a core that could be depended on to produce and propel the team into relevance for years to come. Of the 2018 40-man roster, five players now remain.

It’s no secret that the Rockies haven’t been an attractive destination for free agents, and even when Colorado has managed to coerce a player to sign with the team they are either past their prime or come with an inflated price tag, which becomes nothing but a hindrance after a year or two, but that’s besides the point. The important theme to follow is exactly how Rockies players who were either drafted by the team or had spent a considerable amount of time in their system have consistently been left with no other choice but to seek out the opportunity to play for a team whose focus and priority was winning games and being competitive. 

This trend became apparent after Colorado had a stretch of successful drafts from 2009-2013 and developed those players not just into serviceable players, but perennial All-Stars. That flash of hope that started in 2017 and ended in 2020. Year by year those Rockies who’d played together throughout the minor leagues, grew together, and made Colorado a relevant baseball team again, all eventually departed to a better place (not to make it sound like they have passed into the great beyond, just signed with a team that pays them more and treats them better). Thus, the Rockies have come to be viewed as a developmental team for organizations with a bigger payroll. DJ LeMahieu signed with the Yankees, Jon Gray went to the Rangers, and Trevor Story took his talents to Fenway. And why does this become the reality for Rockies fans? Again, the culture created by the ownership—their satisfaction with spending the least amount to be somewhat competitive—reflects poorly on the front office, who are then tasked with doing the impossible of keeping players who want to win and want to win in Colorado but also want to be paid, satisfied. It doesn’t work. It hasn’t worked and it’s been the case throughout the team’s history, since the days of the Blake St. Bombers all the way to the dismantling of a World Series roster. A vicious cycle of building the team up just to tear it down once again.

(Joe Puetz, James A. Pittman, & Joe Nicholson/ USA TODAY Sports, Getty Images)

This disconnect between Rockies players and the front office culminated with the Nolan Arenado trade. For a player who’s consistently not just one of the best players in baseball, but maybe the best third baseman in the sport, trading away what was arguably the most accomplished player in Colorado’s franchise history less than two seasons after he was signed to a eight-year deal was the end result of the Rockies antiquated and self-righteous belief system that’s been steering the franchise in the wrong direction. 

For what it’s worth, the Arenado trade did change the Rockies quite a bit, in the worst of ways. What should’ve been an absolute haul coming back to Colorado in return for Arenado ended up being two worthwhile players and a $50 million check written to the St. Louis Cardinals. Rockies fans have seen low before, they’ve known what it’s like to be the bottom of the barrel, but that trade, along with all the other players they let walk, widened the divide between the fanbase and those at the helm of Colorado’s only professional baseball team. Losing Nolan Arenado revealed to the baseball world what Rockies fans had known for decades: the franchise’s complacency towards evolution and lack of commitment to a winning culture continually sets them back to the condition they found themselves in when they were born into the MLB, a team perpetually stuck in the state of a rebuild.

The Numbers Behind Last Place

While records were set for the Rockies during 2023 in the worst of ways, from an outside perspective many would perceive Colorado’s fall from grace as a byproduct of many winning seasons, the aftermath of a stretch of time where hope for the team’s first pennant was consistently alive and well. The truth is that even during the times when the Rockies were in contention for the crown of the NL West and touted rosters filled with All-Stars, the road to winning was not a steady climb, but a path filled with hills and valleys, pitfalls and self-inflicted stumbles.

So, what does 1,614 days in last place mean? 

Since baseball is a game of numbers, why not delve deeper into those days in last place, those intolerable stretches of bad baseball where for weeks or months or an entire season Rockies fans in their entirety looked to the bottom of the NL West and let out a collective sigh.

The graph of those days in last place resembles the sharp and jagged peaks of the Rocky Mountains, perfectly representing all the ups and downs that Colorado has had over the past 31 seasons, making it obvious to see the good, the bad, and the particularly awful. Keep in mind that there are roughly 180 days in a given MLB regular season, so while 128 days may not seem like a monumental amount of time to spend in last place, when it’s within the confines from early April until late September, the number’s meaning suddenly changes. 

In 1993, Colorado’s first year, they spent 128 days or 70.1% of the season in last place. 

In 2005, a season where they finished 67-95, two years away from their World Series run, they spent 169 days or 92.3% of the season in last place. 

And last season, 2023, when the Rockies had their worst season in franchise history, they spent 179 days or 96.2% of the season in last place, escaping the bottom of the division for one total week.

Finally, since the Rockies’ days as the newborn twin of the 1993 MLB expansion, to 31 seasons later as a somewhat grown and immature adult, Colorado has spent 29.2% of their life in last place of the NL West.

As much as the losses need to be examined, so do the instances of success. 

After Colorado’s struggles in their first season as an expansion team, the Rockies spent one total day over the course of the 1994 and 1995 season in last place. Even during 2007, in what may have been one of the best seasons in Colorado’s history, they still spent 46 days in last place, including a 38-day stretch that saw them plummet to the bottom of their division. And then there were the years of contention that I highlighted above, the three seasons from 2016 until 2018 where the Rockies were in last place for two total days during this time. So, the 1,614 days in last place is a little misleading, but it doesn’t hide the end results of each year or mince the fact that in 31 seasons of play Colorado has only gone to the postseason five times and made it to the World Series once. 

In all this focus on last place in the NL West, it’s important to factor in the influence that the four other teams in the division have on which team finds their home behind everyone else. I mean, these teams play each other more than any other team in baseball, so if Arizona is having a particularly bad season, the Rockies are spared last place even though their record may not be worthy of anything better than last. But, the Diamondbacks are one of two teams that are younger than the Rockies, what’s the total number of days they may have spent in last place of the same division? Who on Earth would want to count that up?

Keep in mind the sample size for Arizona’s days in last place is five years less than Colorado’s, so depending on which years are selected to avoid bias, the numbers may be skewed, but regardless, the Diamondbacks’ total number of days in last place, through 26 seasons, is 1,050. Through Colorado’s first 26 seasons, their total comes out to 1,173, but if you use 1998-2023 as Colorado’s sample size, the number becomes 1,407, but for the sake of this argument we’ll use the first 26 seasons, so the result is a 123 day difference between the two franchises. 

And, maybe you’re considering the Marlins in the midst of this discussion about numbers and days spent in last place. How many days have the Marlins been in last place? Think about it, they are the perfect comparison for the Rockies because they’ve spent the same amount of time in the MLB as Colorado has.

The Marlins, just like the Rockies, have spent a considerable amount of time in last place of their division, but the Marlins have only amassed 1,511 days in last place of the NL East, 103 less days than Colorado has. The Marlins total makes Colorado’s appear less daunting than it may actually be. But, we have to consider the successes, and while not having considerably more days in last place than some of the other younger teams in the MLB might be the kind of solace Rockies ownership and front office are content with, what must be brought into consideration is the end goal: a World Series. 

Marlins World Series Titles - 2

Diamondbacks World Series Titles - 1

Rockies World Series Titles - 0

What often becomes lost in the shuffle when discussing the Rockies and specifically their standing within the NL West is how intensely competitive the division is, especially when all four teams have a larger payroll than the Rockies. There’s a reason Colorado has never even won the NL West, the odds are already not in their favor, but it’s not as if any other division in baseball isn’t as close of a race as the NL West is, the 162-game race in all of baseball has always been and will continue to be, close. What creates the difference in the worst of ways for the Rockies is their ideology, the complacency that playing subpar baseball will eventually average out to success. The belief system that Colorado’s leadership has instilled throughout the most influential positions of the organization is one that’s determined to prolong the disparity between the Rockies and any other position in the NL West besides last place. The pattern has been repeated for more than 31 years, with little to no proof that the current culture of the Rockies will ever lead to anything other than the occasional instance of a somewhat successful season, which at this point in Rockies history means anything above last place. 

More Days Ahead ... For Now

For the Colorado Rockies, the 2024 season will most likely add 184 days to the team’s total time spent in last place, raising the grand total to 1,798, which if we’re being honest is a more intimidating number than 1,614. Of course, this is barring a miracle, a complete heel-turn at some point as the summer heat rises, weighing heavily on the Rockies and their inevitable pursuit to win and finally raise a banner as champions of the NL West. But even when that reality fails to happen, what must persist is the acknowledgement of the glaring reasons why the Rockies have spent as much time in last place as they have. Without acknowledgement, without the truth being told, the Rockies current culture and attitude towards success will continue to be enabled. 

Eventually, those days in last place will stop. That child representing the Rockies time at the bottom of their division will cease to grow into an angsty pre-teen. But right now, we need to remember the past or be faced with the consequence of repeating the same mistakes season after season. There’s always a reason for optimism, just look at what Ralph Routon thought in his article for the Colorado Springs Gazette Telgraph about the Rockies at the end of their inaugural season.

Even in the darkest of times for the Rockies, there’s always a sense of optimism from their faithful fanbase, even if it emerges at the end of yet another anger-inducing, late-inning collapse, or a season of record-setting losses. One day the number of days that the Rockies have spent in last place will be yet another statistic, one that embodies the ups and downs of baseball at mile-high. Regardless, there will always be those who root for the Rockies, even though they too understand that a change in attitude is necessary for the next stage of their evolution.

Sources – 

Baseball Reference

Colorado Sun – Nick Groke – Colorado Rockies History

ESPN – Gene Wojciechowski – Rockies born of Monus’ work, but he never saw his baby grow up

Purple Row – Jordan Freemyer – Past & Present: Just how did Dick Monfort wind up owning the Rockies anyway?

The Denver Post – Patrick Saunders – Brittany Haby, Rockies manager of baseball research, leaves ballclub

The Denver Post – Kyle Newman – State of the Rockies’ farm: Draft-and-build Colorado playing catch-up in pitching, analytics

1993 Colorado Rockies Official Scorecard Magazine – Contributing Writers : Bill Craib, David Haifleigh, Barney Hutchinson, Emmet Jordan, Colleen Miller, Damen Zier.

1995 Colorado Rockies Official Scorecard Magazine – Contributing Writers: Jim Armstrong, Jane Curtis, David Haifleigh, Damen Zier. 

Colorado Springs Gazette Telgraph (The Gazette) – Sunday, October 10th, 1993 Edition –  Ralph Routon


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