Updated: April 6, 2014 at 8:54 am
DENVER — This is Dick Monfort's element, on a party deck at 5,280 feet.
That's what the purple sign says: 5280. Judging by the detail of the two bars, 52 beer taps and Vegas-style cabanas, we're left to assume he's had someone measure.
On The Rooftop, a 38,000-square foot frat party, the Rockies owner is the delighted grandfather from Jurassic Park, reminding visitors he spared no expense. "I heard some people are calling it Dick's Deck," Monfort says, and that appears to be a point of pride, as it should. The party deck is seven flavors of awesome.
This is Monfort's element, way up here, on the Fourth Floor of Fun.
It's not down there, on the field.
There's a misconception at the corner of 20th and Blake. It says Rockies ownership doesn't care about winning baseball games.
It's wrong. Dick Monfort, the CEO, is plenty passionate about winning, right down to the black-and-purple sneakers he trades out when the Rockies sustain a losing streak.
I've never gotten the impression Monfort doesn't care about fielding a winning team. Not once.
I just think he doesn't know how to field a winning team.
The issue with Rockies management isn't indifference. The issue is ignorance. Their acquisition of previously injured starting pitcher Brett Anderson is "the same kind of gamble the Broncos took with Peyton Manning," Monfort said.
With that, I almost passed out, but it's a long way down from the party deck.
The problem isn't money, either. The Rockies are a midmarket team with a midmarket payroll. Theirs ranks 17th out of 30 teams, right about in the middle, right about where it should be. This isn't Boston, New York or L.A. It's not that the Rockies lose their best players over money. Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez are All-Stars on the books for close to $250 million.
So feel free to blame their struggles on tight wallets. That's the convenient attack, and critics adore an easy target. But pointing a finger at their fiscal approach is like blaming Winter Park when it doesn't snow. That's pointing at the wrong culprit.
"We're right in the neighborhood of 10-15 clubs (with their payroll)," Monfort said.
On a sun-splashed opening day, I talked my way onto the party deck. The cabana couches are so comfy, I almost forgot about the baseball game unfolding below.
Don't get it confused: Monfort hasn't forgotten about the game below. Rockies ownership simply knows the bar business better than the baseball business.
"In Miami a 16-ounce beer is 9 bucks," he said. "In Denver a 16-ounce beer is 6 bucks."
Does he know the cost of ice-cold suds in other markets? The 49,130 who showed up for opening day suggest so.
Does he know how Cincinnati, Tampa Bay or Oakland usually field competitive teams? The results suggest not.
In 2011, the Rockies finished in fourth place in the NL West. In 2012 and 2013, they finished last. If this season shapes up like those, the Rockies must restructure the front office and bring in a bright baseball man as team president. Monfort should focus on building party decks and not worry about which player is on-deck.
"I'm a fan," he said. "I'm not happy we won 74 games last year."
"We think we should be playing meaningful games in September," he added.
Few ownership groups throw a better party than the Rockies'.
Few ownership groups lose more games, without forcing change, than the Rockies'.
By the time the Rockies close their opening home series Sunday, we can be sure of at least two things. Someone will spill a beer over the railing of the party deck. And someone will say the Rockies struggle to field a winner because ownership doesn't care.
Rockies ownership cares, all right, and not only about The Rooftop.
I just think it doesn't know how to field a winner.