Rockies' all-time best GM: Harding's take

June 24th, 2020

DENVER -- Bob Gebhard went from the top of the baseball world, as assistant general manager of the 1991 World Series champion Twins, to, well nothing.

And everything.

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After that Series, Gebhard became general manager of the Rockies, who wouldn’t even play their first game until 1995. Yet in their third season, the Rockies were in the postseason. At the time it was the fastest a team had ever gone from expansion to playoffs.

The Rockies stayed competitive for a couple more seasons before a decline led to Gebhard’s resignation in August 1999. But the franchise’s beginning, when it seemed the Rockies hit a lot of the right notes and took their first crack at the difficulties of winning at mile-high altitude, earned Gebhard the nod on this subjective ranking of GMs in the club’s history.

There have only been three -- or 3 1/2, depending on how you count them.

Dan O’Dowd replaced Gebhard and stayed through the 2014 season, though in his final three seasons, the Rockies had an unusual two-headed system with O’Dowd and director of Major League operations Bill Geivett. Jeff Bridich took over for O’Dowd and Geivett following '14. O’Dowd and Bridich certainly have good arguments for consideration here. O’Dowd oversaw two postseason clubs, including the 2007 World Series team. Bridich is Colorado's first GM to oversee back-to-back postseason berths, in '17 and '18, and he can continue to write his story.

But we’re going with Gebhard for this ranking based on the early success with the high degree of difficulty -- overseeing an expansion team, in an unusual atmosphere, and building the club while a new ballpark was under construction.

Gebhard scored immediately in a number of areas:

• Gebhard picked original manager Don Baylor, who pushed an exciting style. The original squad, which played at Mile High Stadium, hit 142 homers, and in 1996, Baylor’s team became the first in MLB history to finish with 200 homers and 200 stolen bases in the same season.
• The expansion MLB Draft was a bonanza. Third baseman Charlie Hayes, relief pitcher Darren Holmes and Eric Young were among Colorado's first six picks. The 20th pick was Vinny Castilla, who became one of the club’s most beloved players. Catcher Joe Girardi and starting pitcher Kevin Ritz also were key cogs in the 1995 postseason team.
• Baylor recommended two players he had worked with previously, and Gebhard listened. The result was two All-Stars. The Rockies signed first baseman Andres Galarraga as a free agent, and in the expansion Draft, they picked outfielder Kevin Reimer from the Rangers and traded him to the Brewers for Dante Bichette.
• Gebhard and Rockies ownership parlayed the early massive crowds into the Rockies’ first big free-agent signing: eventual Hall of Famer Larry Walker for the 1995 season.

All of these moves made the Rockies a contender in 1995, the first year they moved into Coors Field.