Of all the things I was hoping to see Troy Renck tweet on the first full day of spring training workouts in Scottsdale, this was at the bottom of the list: “Rockies have extended Jim Tracy’s contract beyond this year. It’s a handshake agreement that ‘we want to be indefinitely,’ O’Dowd said.”
My first thought was, this is a joke. One of the best pieces of news that came out of the Rockies’ front office toward the end of last season was that Tracy had not been offered an extension. 2012 was to be the last year of his contract and, many of us hoped, the beginning of the end of his time in purple pinstripes. My assessment of Tracy has always been that he fixates on things and isn’t able to get outside of his own box. Last season, his fixation was the lineup and constructing the perfect one. He could not accept that the perfect one really didn’t exist, and the only way to get anybody on a decent streak was to give him a consistent role. Who knows how many games were lost because nobody did the same thing twice?
I don’t know what Tracy’s box will look like in 2012, but I have no doubt there will be one. He’s working with a very different roster, and I’m just not confident that he’ll manage it any better than he did last year’s. Lineups and bullpen use will continue to be problems. Spring training will tell us a lot about whether he’s learned anything about how to coach his players on baserunning and situational hitting, but I did not like what I saw in those areas last year. Bottom line, if it were up to me, Jim Tracy would not be the Rockies’ manager for the long term.
In Renck’s article for the Post on the new contract, he expounded on O’Dowd’s comments. This is the one that is most alarming to me: “It could be until he’s using a cane and having trouble getting onto the field. Quite honestly, it can be for whatever number of years Jim wants it to be for.” Uh, what? DOD, there is no tenure in baseball. Except maybe for Tony La Russa. In general I’ve appreciated this organization’s commitment to its people and the fact that someone is given a number of chances before he’s put out on the street, but to give someone an indefinite opportunity to get it right is not going to work. And I thought DOD understood that seeing how he cut so many homegrown players loose this offseason. But it appears his love affair with Tracy is eternal.
I understand the fact that he doesn’t want Tracy to question his job security every time the team hits the skids. That kind of anxiety would not help him manage better. But there’s a difference between trying to prevent that anxiety and saying that someone can work for the organization as long as he likes. Where’s the incentive to make the appropriate changes when they need to be made?
What does seem abundantly clear is that Tracy’s players like and respect him. I won’t deny that that’s important. I’m also encouraged that Tracy has shouldered at least a little bit of blame for last season, which is progress. But what I need to see in 2012 in order to feel good about this “indefinite” contract is better coaching, better tactical managing, and more accountability for everyone. I’m not entirely sure that handing someone a blank check is the way to achieve that.