Saunders: What Dick Monfort’s phone call to a fan tells us about the Rockies

Dave Gumina was sipping a beer when his cellphone rang.

“Dave, this is Dick Monfort calling.”

Gumina didn’t believe it at first.

“Why would the owner of the Rockies call me?” he wondered.

Monfort, it turns out, was responding to an email Gumina had sent him. It wasn’t just any email. It was an emotion-filled, 500-word essay about Gumina’s love for the Rockies, including a long, detailed history of his support for the team, and his boiling anger that last week the Rockies traded star third baseman Nolan Arenado to the Cardinals. Gumina wondered how, or if, he could continue to support the team.

“Yesterday, my 8-year-old son, with tears in his eyes, pulled the Arenado pennant off his wall and wanted to throw it in the trash,” Gumina wrote. “It was difficult to stop him, Dick. I feel that pain. I feel betrayed that you and (general manager) Jeff (Bridich) don’t want to win.”

Monfort, who said he often calls Rockies fans, was moved by the email.

“I’m a fan myself, I get it,” he said. “That’s why I call.”

At Tuesday’s testy, hour-long media inquisition, Monfort and Bridich attempted to justify the lopsided trade, while trying to convince skeptical reporters and fans that the Rockies are still a viable contender.

“I am aware this is not a popular decision, but I promise you it wasn’t made with haste,” Monfort said. “I’m a fan first. I think you all know that our players are like family to me.”

Gumina, a third-generation Colorado native, remains upset about the trade and the state of the franchise, but he was willing to hear what Monfort had to say.

“We talked for about 25 minutes,” Gumina said. “We talked about the history of baseball, and we talked about the reasons for trading Nolan. I came away from the conversation convinced that Dick does care. I don’t think he wants to field a loser.

“But I don’t think it’s any secret that he’s too loyal. That’s part of the issue. Historically, he’s been too loyal to some of the players, keeping them too long,  and the general managers, too.”

Then Gumina paused, laughed, and said the conversation “was like talking to one of my buddies about fantasy baseball.”

“We were throwing out stats and reminiscing about Rocktober in ’07 and some of the players that have been through here,” he said. “It was interesting that Dick was so easy to talk to, and he sure enjoys talking. He’s a people person, for sure. At one point I thought I might have to cut the call short.”

After their phone call was over, Gumina sent Monfort a note.

“I thanked him and said it shows a lot of character that he would reach out to a fan who expressed his displeasure,” Gumina said. “We talked it out and in the end, it was a very enjoyable conversation.”

So what are we to make of this little slice of life? For me, it shows that Monfort’s heart — though maybe not his checkbook — is in the right place. He genuinely cares about the Rockies and their fans.

It also convinced me, more than ever, that the Rockies need to hire a team president. They need somebody from outside the organization to add a fresh perspective; someone who could allow Monfort to take a few steps away from the business of baseball.

“I’m a fan. I truly am,” Monfort said at the news conference. “I understand how they feel. And to be quite honest, I would probably feel the same way and maybe I do even feel the same way.”

And that’s part of the problem. If Monfort wants to continue being a fan, along with the fans, more power to him. But adding a smart, experienced, hard-nosed baseball mind to the front office is what the Rockies need.

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