If you have read much at all of my baseball writing, then you know I have a deep, unassailable affection for the Rockies of old, particularly those of the first few seasons. I feel privileged to have been a Rockies fan from the get-go, and one of my favorite things about that is that friends who are fans of the Yankees, the Phillies, the Giants, etc., were born into a fan tradition that already existed. I love that I helped create one. And so the first Rockies, the inaugural Rockies, are close to my heart.
Knowing that, you can imagine my thrill to learn that the 6th manager in Rockies history will also be the first who formerly played for the club, and played with it almost from the beginning. Walt Weiss joined the Rockies in their strike-shortened second season, and was a member of the franchise’s first playoff team, the 1995 Wild Card winners. My ratty old caricature T-shirt from back then features a long-nosed Weiss cheesing from the back row. I love this shirt and everyone on it. They can all work for the Rockies whenever they want as far as I’m concerned.
Now, nostalgia aside, will Weiss make an impact with the club? Some would say that the front office’s recent ways of doing things preclude a manager from having much power at all. This may be true. I would hope that, at the very least, those in general management will show respect for the fact that Weiss has been a part of the Rockies longer than any of them have. On the other hand, maybe that’s a liability, since around here we seem to keep our friends close, and our really good friends closer, no matter how well they perform.
To the point that he’s never managed before, I say, fair enough. However, what I liked about him as a player – namely, his defense – will hopefully translate to good managerial skills. Weiss sees the whole field, and as a shortstop he commanded it. The Rockies were incredibly weak on defense last season, so perhaps they need a coach like Weiss to bring them back up to standard on that. Also, due to his weaknesses as a hitter – most notably, rarely leaving the yard – I have to think he will choose a hitting coach wisely and carefully, one who will complement him and make up where he lacks. And let’s not forget what other first-time managers have been able to do recently. Robin Ventura took the White Sox to within three games of the AL Central title this past season, and Mike Matheny‘s Cardinals got all the way to the NLCS.
In the end, a fresh start is what I’m most happy about. Something had to give, and one by one, the entire coaching staff gave. I respect them all, but what they were doing wasn’t working. The Rockies need some time to get back to their fighting weight, and I don’t foresee a postseason appearance in the near future. I do, however, see fewer than 98 losses in 2013, and that is an improvement.