The baseball season is a 162 game marathon that unfolds at a snail’s pace. Currently, the Rockies are 4-5. Even if this season goes spectacularly well, we are likely to see worse nine game stretches than 4-5. Certainly things could be better, but they could also be much worse.
Nevertheless, the start of the season has been fairly frustrating. It looks like they’ll be throwing in the towel again on Sundays – we’ll get to that in a minute – and many of the questions marks that surrounded the club in spring training have turned into full blown worries. It goes without saying that it’s early in the season and things could turn around in a hurry, but with the way the starting pitchers have performed there is some cause for concern. However, the most worrisome aspect of this team is its manager.
I realize that the manager is a sitting duck and writing a Fire Jim Tracy post would be a lazy effort. That’s not my intention. In fact, I didn’t even intend to write about Jim Tracy today, but I came across this Hardball Times post by Chris Jaffe, as well as a link in the comments of Jaffe’s piece to this October 2007 article in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. Now, I have Tracy on the brain as a result. Both of these links are a must read for anyone that has any interest in Jim Tracy.
My impression of Jim Tracy is that he’s probably a really good guy and contrary to popular belief, he’s smart – maybe even really smart. However, he over analyzes and seems to lack some essential leadership qualities. That’s not to say he is wholly ineffectual as a leader, but he is often taken advantage of because of his easy handed approach.
This was basically Dejan Kovacevic’s main point in his article for the Post-Gazette. It seems that players genuinely like Tracy, but his clubs often lack accountability and he tends to over coach young players in an attempt to turn them into something they are not. Each of these things undermined his ability to lead in both LA and Pittsburgh. What’s really alarming is the parallels to what was going on in Tracy’s clubhouse in Pittsburgh and what happened last year here in Colorado.
Now, as Chris Jaffe wrote in his post today, managers often received too much credit for wins and too much blame for losses and perhaps no manager defines that as well as Tracy. To an extent I agree with that in regards to Tracy, but I lean towards believing he does more harm than good — particularly on Sunday afternoons.
The Rockies’ organization apparently believes that players must hold themselves accountable. Things obviously slipped in 2010 and 2011, and instead of pinning it on Tracy, O’Dowd decided that he could reform the clubhouse by overturning it. But, if things don’t change this year, it has to come back on Tracy. He’s eventually lost control every team he has managed in MLB, and if things continue down path of 2011, the only conclusion is that he has become ineffective in Colorado too.
Of course, any fair discussion of Tracy needs to have mention of the Rockies’ 2009 season and his Manager of the Year award. Don’t be mistaken, Tracy deserved that award. The immediate turnaround under his watch was truly remarkable, but he also took over a very talented squad that had become too uptight under Clint Hurdle’s heavy handed approach.
I call it the Buck Showalter theory. It occurs when an over-bearing manager is fired and replaced by an easier going leader. Discipline from the previous man in charge carries over and a perfect equilibrium of freedom and accountability is achieved, leading to a peak in on field performance. The team isn’t necessarily playing better just because of the new guy. The players are still receiving benefit from both guys and I believe that was the case in 2009 with Hurdle and Tracy. (For a football example of the Buck Showalter Theory, see the 2007 Dallas Cowboys.)
Unfortunately, last year, it seems that Tracy and the players failed to remember the lessons learned under Clint Hurdle. With the amount of youth currently on this Rockies team, that can’t continue. Hopefully, the moves made this offseason will fix the issues in the clubhouse, but based on Tracy’s history it doesn’t seem that likely. If things don’t change for the better this year, it’s time for the organization to transition back into a more domineering personality in the manager’s office. Whether they will or not is an entirely different discussion.