Rox GM lauds Desmond's 'depth of thought'

Bridich voices support after veteran elects not to play in 2020

July 1st, 2020

DENVER -- From the day they met and began working on what grew into a five-year, $70 million contract, Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich felt outfielder Ian Desmond’s personality and values were special. After Desmond elected not to play in the 2020 season, citing family concerns and an opportunity to make an off-the-field impact, Bridich’s feeling is even stronger.

Bridich said he and Desmond discussed the decision in two conversations over the past week. Bridich kept it under wraps, on the off chance that Desmond would change his mind before announcing his decision on Instagram on Monday. Deciding Desmond’s decision “was not my or the organization’s story to break,” Bridich delayed commenting until a Zoom meeting with local media on Tuesday afternoon. Following the announcement, the Rockies agreed on a Minor League contract with veteran outfielder Matt Kemp.

After the 2016 season, Bridich reached the deal with Desmond to play first base, even though Desmond had not played the position before, partly because of Desmond’s experience as an influential player on winning teams. While Desmond’s numbers haven’t matched the contract, he added toughness to young clubs that made postseason appearances in 2018 and ‘19.

There were no hard feelings after Monday’s announcement. Just warm ones, in volumes.

“Ian is extremely thoughtful in what he does,” Bridich says. “He’s thoughtful in how he prepares as a professional athlete. He’s thoughtful as a husband and a father. I don’t have the personal experience seeing him as a husband and a father, but enough to know these stories that he's told me of his family.

“He’s thoughtful about things that are bigger than Ian. To this point the reference has been the team, around the clubhouse and locker, more things that affect the organization, his charity work, passion projects of his outside of the game of baseball.

“He’s willing to devote a lot of time and energy and thought to things that he does. And so, when you have somebody like that, who is a professional athlete who is in the thick of it every day and trying to do the very best that he can to hold up his end of the bargain as an athlete, as a teammate, as a performer. And then he's also willing to think about other people on the team in the organization [and] outside the organization.

“It's easy to gravitate to people like that.”

Desmond’s wide-ranging, nine-page Instagram post dealt with how baseball helped him through difficult childhood times, how the sport can be difficult for people from poorer backgrounds to break into, how the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis has made it difficult to tamp down the emotions that come from dealing with racism in overt and implied ways, and more.

The ultimate decision came to staying home with his wife, who is pregnant with the couple’s fifth child, helping his children through a difficult time in the world and lending a hand to reinvigorate a Sarasota, Fla., youth baseball scene that has fallen into disrepair since he came through the program.

Desmond also discussed baseball’s need for greater diversity on and off the field, as well as a clubhouse culture that has seen racism, sexism and homophobia.

Bridich said Desmond’s posts and their conversations have given him plenty of food for thought, and he hopes teammates see his words in the same spirit.

“I can't speak for every single player in our clubhouse -- I certainly wouldn't want to,” Bridich said. “I would hope that each and every player would understand the depth of thought that went into this for Ian and his family, and if they had any questions about it, that they would approach him on it, you know, because I think he's somebody who would very willingly and honestly engage in that sort of conversation.

“But when Ian and I spoke, we made it very clear to each other that none of this would change our relationship, our support, any of that. And it doesn't change. With what we're going through in this country right now, and the realities of it and how it affects -- all of it affects people differently -- I think it would be pretty shortsighted and naïve to change a relationship because a family makes a decision on what's best for them.”

On what the Rockies and baseball can do to improve diversity in the sport, Bridich said, “there's areas where we've done things well and there's things that we've tried to do, in terms of whatever it is -- hiring or other things – that we can do better. We're a community, and so, just as communities do, we'll try to make things better and figure it out.”