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Timeline 25: Dan O’Dowd got off on the wrong foot and never got a fair shake

(Photo By Karl Gehring/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

On March 6, 1995, The Fan was born. In the 25 years since, a lot has transpired on the fields, courts and ice in Colorado, giving the hosts and listeners who’ve been part of the station during that time plenty to talk about and debate.

During the course of the next few weeks, we’ll take a look back at that history, remembering the good times and the bad, the winners and the losers, the successes and the failures. It’s a series we’re calling “Timeline 25” and it continues today with a look at a story that would have a long-term effect on the Colorado sports landscape – the Rockies hiring Dan O’Dowd to be their general manager.

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At the time he was hired, luring to Dan O’Dowd to Colorado was considered a coup. It was a move that was almost universally applauded around the baseball world.

Previously, O’Dowd had served as the assistant general manager of the Indians, an organization that won five straight division titles and appeared in two World Series during his tenure. As a result, he was a hot commodity in Major League Baseball, with his name coming up almost every time a front office position opened.

On September 20, 1999, at the end of a disappointing 72-90 season, the Rockies were able to entice O’Dowd away from Cleveland. The team replaced Bob Gebhard, the only general manager in franchise history and a popular figure with the local media, with the 40-year-old wunderkind.

During the next 15 years, O’Dowd would lead the Rockies through all sorts of peaks and valleys. Colorado would reach the only World Series in franchise history during his tenure, but also record four of the six seasons in which the managed to win less than 70 games. Along the way, they’d see the franchise’s approach evolve from big spending in free agency (see Denny Neagle and Mike Hampton) to building from within.

In a lot of ways, O’Dowd was successful in Colorado. He brought a lot of stars to the organization via the draft, including Troy Tulowitzki, Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon. He also parlayed Matt Holliday into three key contributors, including Carlos Gonzalez. And he signed two eventual batting champions as free agents. Those players became integral parts of the best teams in franchise history.

That said, O’Dowd is widely considered a bust amongst baseball fans in the Rocky Mountain region. He’s largely despised by the Rockies fan base.

In part, that loathing dates back to his first months on the job. At the conclusion of the 1999 season, “Dealin’ Dan” lived up to his nickname by trading away two of the most popular players in franchise history.

First, he shipped outfielder Dante Bichette to the Reds for Jeffrey Hammonds and Stan Belinda. Then, he sent third baseman Vinny Castilla to the Devil Rays for Rolando Arrojo and Aaron Ledesma.

Two of the Blake Street Bombers, who are still beloved in Colorado to this day, were traded for four guys who most people don’t even remember in purple pinstripes. The die was cast at that point.

It didn’t matter that O’Dowd rebuilt the farm system into one that has produced a lot of big-time, big-league players. It didn’t matter that the general manager hired Clint Hurdle and Jim Tracy, two life-long baseball men who had great success as Colorado’s skipper. And it didn’t matter that he built a World Series team, as well as a 92-win club two years later.

Dan O’Dowd got off on the wrong foot with Rockies fans in 1999. As a result, all of his failings were magnified and his successes were downplayed, creating an unfair legacy for one of the longest-tenured executives in Colorado sports history.