Over the past few weeks, I have seen, and read about, much discussion as to the merits of our lovely manager. Why did he make that move?, is he even watching the game?, why doesn't O'Dowd fire him already?. These are the comments I have seen most often. While I am not going to defend some of his decisions (Barmes loyalty for one), I do think it is fair to say that Clint is a man capable of managing quite successfully if given the necessary ingredients.
So where does that leave us? We have seen four managers try to win here in Colorado. The only one that has tasted success was Don Baylor. Up until this season, the other three have failed miserably. Baylor spent the first couple of seasons learning how to manage a baseball team at altitude. He proved quite successfully in the third season that making the post season in Denver could be done. He successfully was able to convince his players to use Coors Field to their advantage, and let it intimidate the opposition. After the post season in 1995, I recall many Atlanta Braves players and coaches saying publicly they were extremely lucky to have survived the first round playoff battle with the Rockies. That is the year, of course, that Atlanta won their only World Series of their incredible playoff run. After 1995, Baylor had two years where the team played over .500 baseball. In 1998, the year he was fired, the team finished 4th at 77-85.
So, why was Don Baylor fired? The reason was simply that our idiotic General Manager Bob Gebhardt convinced our equally idiotic owner Jerry McMorris that the only way the Rockies were ever going to win the World Series was to fire their quite capable manager Baylor and hire the one year removed from the Series win Jim Leyland. Leyland came in with all of his fancy theories and cigarettes, and we all fell into the trap of expecting a Series title of our own. Well, when the theories didn't pan out in Coors, Leyland wimped out on his signed contract and took his smokes home to sit on his butt until Detroit came calling. Our next manager of course, was the hapless Buddy Bell, progressing on to the hitting coach that had been through it all Clint Hurdle. Of course, during all this, Gebhardt was let go, and McMorris hired Trader Dan, but that is another subject. It is my argument that the firing of Don Baylor set the Colorado Rockies on a multiyear path of changed plans, bad trades, and general ineptitude.
Fast forward a couple of years. Clint and Dan have spent a heck of a long time figuring out how to win here. The team has shown flashes of being outstanding, the pitching has never been better, and I feel we are one or two seasons away from making a real run. This of course assumes that the front office makes some astute player personnel decisions as well. As far as the manager goes, I think we are essentially in the same situation we were in with Baylor. I feel that if the media and the fans keep pressuring the Rockies to fire Clint, then that will put us right back where we were with Leyland. That is to say the new guy will have to spend at least two seasons learning how to deal with pitching here, how to manage the bench here, etc. What if he fails at this? The team loses, the kids we are all so excited about don't build confidence, the team loses some more. We would be set on another five year rebuilding plan, which means we would essentially be the Pirates and the Royals.
Hurdle has figured out what it takes to win in Denver. He knows how to massage the pitchers, get the bench playing time, get them to win on the road, etc. Even though the team is under .500, he has managed the team to win some great ball games this season. I also feel he has proven this year that he is capable of adapting his managing style as the kids grow while searching for the piece that is going to stick. I say we give him one more season to prove he can do it. If in September, 2007 we are still stuck in last place, then yes, bring in a new skipper. But for right now, let's respect him and support him and see if he can't get us to 0.500 ball and into third place before the season ends. I think he deserves at least that.