The Colorado Rockies recently made the decision to bring Walt Weiss back as the team’s manager on a three-year deal. Prior to that he coached for the 2013 season on a one-year deal coming off of his time as a high school coach.
Weiss was not going to be a viable candidate for any other job. This was a hire based on familiarity and preference. Many took that to be a sign that Weiss is a “company man” in the truest sense, and sometimes to a fault. After all, this was on the heels of Jim Tracy‘s resignation under the weight of a heavy-handed management structure in which the GM set up shop in the clubhouse. It was not unreasonable to think that Weiss conceded on some basic areas of authority because he was under-qualified for the job, at least as far as his resume is concerned.
If there is a consistent area of discontent among Rockies fans, it is the current ownership/front office group. As such, hiring a manager who is perceived to be a company man, even if he insists otherwise, is not the most popular decision. But the Rockies value loyalty and stability. It would appear that they want their players to be in a situation where there is no question who the manager is. Whether or not you agree with that philosophy or not, recent days have shown that teams are less likely to find that stability with high profile or big name hires.
Start with Kirk Gibson, manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Without doing so much as continuing to start his off-season routine, he was linked to the vacant managerial position for the Detroit Tigers after Jim Leyland announced his retirement. Sure, the team insists that he is not going anywhere, and so there is probably nothing to see here. Still, it is an unwelcome distraction. And nobody can really know if Gibson’s loyalty is genuine or if he is quietly assessing the grittiness of the Tigers from afar…
Stay in the division and see the mess in Los Angeles for another example of the pot holes that come about with notable managers. Don Mattingly, the subject of firing rumors galore in the early months of 2013, finds himself on shaky ground after his team rebounded to win the division and make it to the NLCS. Even with that success and the ability to print money, Dodgers management is not willing to commit to Mattingly beyond a one-year deal. Feeling the heat of that big market and the fact that his name is always in the news, Mattingly isn’t too happy about the situation (quotes from MLB.com):
It puts me in a spot where everything I do is questioned. Because I’m basically trying out, auditioning to say, `Can you manage a team or not manage?’ It’s a tough spot. To me, it gets to that point where three years in you either know or you don’t…
“When you’re put in this position, the organization basically says, `We don’t know if you can manage or not.’ That’s the position I’ve been in all year long. So, that’s not a great position for me as a manager. That’s the way the organization wanted it last year. That’s fine. At this point, it is what it is…
“I’ve dealt with a lot as a player and with everything I’m feeling, hopefully I get a chance to speak with everyone — Ned, [chairman] Mark Walter, Magic [Johnson], Stan, and speak to them about how I feel.”
Shortly after he expressed those concerns, his good friend and “hand-picked” bench coach Trey Hillman was fired by management. Maybe that’s a shot at Mattingly, and maybe it isn’t, but either way this is shaping up to be a dispute that plays out in a public forum.
That’s exactly the kind of situation the Rockies seem committed to avoiding. Such as it is, they would rather stick with a low profile guy like Weiss than deal with the drama. Both of these situations in their own division serve as perfect examples of why.