When the Rockies made the playoffs in 2009, Jim Tracy was in tears on the field as he said that it was the “proudest moment of his baseball career.” He loved those players and he was proud of their astounding turnaround to earn a wild card berth. As he should have been; his leadership was a huge part of their success. To me, the snapshot of that moment is his emotional embrace with the humble and softspoken ace, Ubaldo Jimenez.
Oh, the breathtaking impermanence of it all…
Things have changed quickly for both of those men. When it comes to Ubaldo, my choice to include him in that description is a shameless excuse to mention, once again, that he is flopping in Cleveland with 17 losses this season. HA.
As for Tracy, he has gone from laudatory praise to scathing criticism in less than three years. For his part he has gone from a hands-off approach that promoted lineup stability to an approach that includes constant tinkering, double switching, and over-managing. For those of us who write about the team or comment in any other way on what happens, he has become a well-worn punching bag. With his career record as a manager and the truly dismal state of the Rockies, it is not unreasonable to say that he deserves most of it.
Troy Renck, the national baseball writer for the Denver Post who Buster Olney once referred to as a “super beat writer,” wrote yesterday that it would not be appropriate to make Tracy the fall guy for this team’s ineptitude. He points out the failures by Dan O’Dowd and management in the player personnel department and writes the following:
“It’s hard to advocate firing or reassigning Tracy based on the past two seasons. Here’s why: He was given a poor roster and managed the Rockies to records befitting their talent.”
The point is well taken. Besides the obvious disaster in the pitching department, they have lacked depth in the position player department, as Renck also points out:
“Thursday in San Francisco, the Rockies had a catcher at first base, plus rookies at shortstop, behind the plate and, after Carlos Gonzalez’s hamstring injury, in both corner outfield positions.”
Of course part of the way to build an organization the way the Rockies claim they want to moving forward is to give those players experience on the big league level. But even if it is not appropriate to blame Tracy for losses with a roster in rebuilding mode, it is still appropriate to question whether or not he is the best manager for that situation moving forward…because he absolutely, positively, without question, without a shadow of a doubt, is guilty of over-managing and over-tinkering, both with his lineups and with his in-game moves.
Near the end of his piece, Renck notes the following about Tracy’s future: “For Tracy to remain in charge, he must be ego-less.” Does anybody believe he can do that? I don’t mean that as a shot at Tracy. Can you reasonably expect any Major League manager to be ego-less? For better or for worse, whether you love him or you hate him, Tracy shows signs that he has trouble putting his ego to the side. He tries to make his mark as the manager. He tries to make smart moves that add victories for his team. There might be a situation where that style of managing works, but the current situation for the Rockies, with all the rebuilding they have ahead of them, is not it.
Renck is right to point out that it is not fair to blame Tracy for the Rockies’ problems and to direct that criticism towards the front office. But just because Tracy should not be fired as a “fall guy” does not mean the Rockies should not relieve him of his duties for different reasons. They need to find a different manager for this garbage dump of a situation, because Tracy’s history shows that he cannot be ego-less, whether you are referring to the ability to manage with one of his bosses (Bill Geivett) in the same room or the ability to let things play out on the field without making unnecessary managerial moves.
If the Rockies fire Jim Tracy, it doesn’t have to be because they are blaming him for the worst season in their history. It can be because he is not the right man moving forward.
That is exactly what they need to do.