The relationship between Black and Espy goes back to 1991 when Espy was managing the Pacific Coast League’s Phoenix Firebirds and Black, then a member of the San Francisco Giants, was sent to Phoenix to pitch on a rehab assignment.
“A big-league guy doing a rehab start. That’s not actually managing,” Espy laughed.
It may not have been, but, 26 years later, the duo is together, working to solve Colorado’s recent offensive woes.
When Black became Colorado’s manager last season, one of his early moves was to bring Espy back for his second stint as the Rockies hitting coach, a position he held under Clint Hurdle from 2003 through 2006.
“Duane has been a very long-standing, highly regarded baseball man. He’s been with the Rockies for over a decade and he’s done great work,” Black said.
This, however, could be one of Espy’s toughest tasks. A Colorado team with high hopes for the season finds itself scrapping for runs … and struggling to stay above .500. Sure, Charlie Blackmon has missed time with injury. Yes, Nolan Arenado is currently suspended for his role in a brawl against the San Diego Padres. However, even with both of them in the lineup, Colorado has scuffled this season.
Espy says there are no short-term fixes.
“It would be great to look at today and find out something where we all get hits and all do great,” Espy said. “But if we have to find something else tomorrow, that’s not it for me.”
We throw out acronyms like BABIP and WPA and REW and Espy is aware of those. But he’s more concerned about the bottom line of what’s going on with his offense.
“I try not to pay attention (to sabermetrics) in the sense that that’s not what we’re trying to do,” Espy said. “We’re trying to score runs and win games.
“I guess it’s hard for people to understand, but the other day (Friday in Washington) we won 2-1 and that doesn’t upset me. It doesn’t upset me that we got five hits and we won 2-1. If we would’ve won 2-1 on Saturday with one hit (Charlie Blackmon’s two-run homer), we win. There is no satisfaction for me to get 17 hits if we lose 12-11. I don’t walk around going, ‘We’re really swinging the bats well.’
“For me, the game is about finding a way to win. That being said, all things are stat-driven now. I know people look at it differently but, to me, you functionally hit and score enough runs to win or you don’t.”