Tuesday Rockpile: What Jim Tracy on an "Indefinite" Contract Truly Means

It took less than a day of Spring Training before the first big story set the Rockies faithful abuzz. After an offseason purge of half the roster due to "accountability," the manager who steered that sinking ship got an extension. Not just an extension, but a "handshake agreement" on an extension. And not just an extension, but an "indefinite" extension. It is all very confusing, led by those two words, indefinite and handshake, that almost never appear in contract announcements. Let us sort this out.

After a horribly disappointing 73-89 finish, Jim Tracy was on the final year of the three-year deal he was given after earning the 2009 Manager of the Year Award. We know Dan O'Dowd did not want Jim Tracy's hot seat to be a hot button issue and distraction during Spring Training. He said as much. The only true way to squash those questions is to offer a contract extension, so O'Dowd did just that, but not really. Kind of.

First, look at the "indefinite" term.
Indefinite: "not clearly defined or determined; not precise or exact"
That does not mean forever or infinite. It does not mean anything really.

Then the handshake. In announcing a handshake deal, very little has truly changed. Dan O'Dowd has squashed potential distractions of Tracy contractual talk this spring without even offering an official extension. The only thing we really learn from this is just how much the Rockies want Jim Tracy to be the right guy and how much Jim Tracy wants to be the Rockies guy. From Troy Renck's article:
"Basically what I am saying is that I should never have this conversation with you again. To say it extends just beyond 2013 would not do justice to Jim. It could be until he's using a cane and having trouble getting onto the field. Quite honestly, it can be for whatever number of years Jim wants it to be for." - Dan O'Dowd

"It's very, very flattering given the love affair I have built with this organization...This is where I would like my career to end, in this place." - Jim Tracy
These are the quotes that scare many Rockies fans today, but despite their strength, they signify desire more than guarantees. Minds can be changed. The question is where that line is. For some perspective, Jim Tracy is 230-210 as Rockies manager. He has finished with a winning record in 6 of his 10 career seasons. He has the best record of any Rockies manager ever, by far.

After over a decade of time with the Rockies and a National League pennant, Clint Hurdle was fired. The line can be reached. His line was a 92-116 record (.442 WP%) after that World Series appearance. After winning the Wild Card in 2009, Jim Tracy's Rockies are 156-168 (.481 WP%) from 2010-2011. To reach Hurdle's post-World Series level, the 2012 Rockies would have to open the season 0-30. Or finish 58-104.

Surely if it gets to that point, Dan O'Dowd will tear up that handshake agreement and look elsewhere. Surely if the Rockies win their first ever division title in 2012, fans will care less who is managing the team. What remains to be seen is how this plays out under more likely circumstances, that the team is mediocre again. If that happens, then worry.

It all boils down to this. Yesterday morning, Jim Tracy was the Rockies' manager until October 2012, at which point the Rockies could decide to move on or offer a new contract. He could be fired at any time.

This morning, Jim Tracy is the Rockies manager until the Rockies decide otherwise or he retires. He can be fired at any time. In both cases, he can be fired. In both cases, he is the Rockies manager until the Rockies decide he should not be. All that changed is a publicized desire, one which has no guarantees of staying power. This isn't a marriage so much as a promise ring.

Still confused? I don't blame you. For more reading:

Rockies leave door open for Tracy indefinitely - Joey Nowak covers the story for MLB.com

Jim Tracy talks about "handshake" extention with Rockies | On the Rox — Colorado Rockies news — Denver Post A two minute video on Tracy's reaction. If you're playing the "Special" drinking game, you better have your cup ready as soon as you hit play.

Jim Tracy Is Sticking Around, For Short Or For Long - Baseball Nation Jeff Sullivan has written a better story on this than I have. Give it a read. Whereas professional writers have jumped off the deep end with this story, Sullivan is measured, articulate and fair.

***

Yesterday was the first day of Spring Training workouts for most clubs. After the typical offseason dry spell, reporters churned out stories by the minute from the desert. Take the jump for over a dozen links. You must read all of them.

Off-Topic

More Rockies

Jhoulys Chacin's fastball command is major focus at Rockies camp - The Denver Post Weight is no longer being discussed as the issue with Chacin. He certainly appears fit as ever, not overweight or fat.

Arenado young, restless; Moyer competitive at 49 - The Denver Post Jamie Moyer has lived Nolan Arenado's full life span twice over, plus an additional childhood through kindergarten for good measure. Yet both are intriguing Spring Training storylines as each vie for an unlikely roster spot.

Cuddyer knows Rockies can overachieve | ColoradoRockies.com: News Joey Nowak touches base with the man who signed the richest free agent contract for a position player in franchise history. Hey, he thinks the Rockies are a lot like the Twins, for whatever that is worth.

Rockies need good early season from closer Rafael Betancourt - The Denver Post Troy Renck points out that, while Rafael Betancourt's second half in 2011 led to him entering 2012 as the closer, a repeat of his first half will leave many fans incredibly uncomfortable.

BaseballAmerica.com: Prospects: Rockies' Juan Nicasio Continues Road To Recovery We should not be stunned by anything Juan Nicasio accomplishes. Every hurdle in his recovery gets leapt over as if it were a small pothole. From last Wednesday:

He was scheduled to pitch two innings, but because they were easy and he hadn't worked from a stretch, Nicasio pitched a third inning.

He is reaching 97mph. His control might not be fully back, and he still needs to develop a plus offspeed pitch to be a top of rotation pitcher, but I don't think anyone will complain with what he will produce in 2012.

***

NL West

D-backs' Saunders stronger, tougher ... sexier - Yes...that is what that says. Apparently Joe Saunders has a sexier butt this year. I don't even....

TrueBlueLA - Yes, that is just the front page of the Dodgers' blog, but it might be worth checking out during spring training. Eric Stephen arrived in Glendale last night and will be there, credentialed, for six weeks. Spring training is covered. Maybe we can get him to interview Tracy.

San Francisco Giants have made a number of puzzling roster moves in the last year - MLB - ESPN - Dan Szymborski cannot comprehend the sudden frugality of the Giants, as they have done essentially nothing in the past two offseasons following their World Series victory.

Baseball America | Blog | Baseball America Draft Blog | 2012 Aggregate Bonus Pools - Jim Callis has provided a handy table to show how much all 30 MLB teams spent last season on the amateur draft, both with the first ten picks and full draft. More importantly, he has calculated the "draft pool" allotment each team can spend in 2012's draft. I went one step further to include a term illustrating the net increase or decrease in available cash a team may spend in the draft, at maximum. Below, the table is whittled down to the five NL West teams.

Draftbonuschangesnlwest_medium

Shown here, the Rockies get the largest benefit in the division. This is largely due to their relative poor finish in 2011, resulting in a much higher draft slot. The Dodgers also will have more allowable spending money, though their figure is skewed due to ownership issues forcing them to spend the minimum in 2011. The Diamondbacks, despite being a small market team, are hurt significantly from last year's draft. Granted, two top seven picks pushed their spending skyward, but essentially here, a small market team is directly penalized for making a playoff run. The Yankees get to spend more than Arizona. That makes a ton of sense.

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Around Baseball

Baseball America - It hasn't posted yet, but sometime today, Baseball America will reveal their much anticipated Top 100 MLB prospects list. Nolan Arenado, Drew Pomeranz and Wilin Rosario are sure to make appearances. Check to see if Chad Bettis and/or Tim Wheeler show as well.

An Invisible Menace: Big-leaguer Buchholz describes battle with depression | pennlive.com This is a difficult read for many Rockies fans, as the "Lemur" was definitely a fan favorite in Colorado. He was surprisingly DFA'd in September 2010 while recovering from Tommy John surgery. Clearly, the Rockies saw something that didn't give them much hope, and it had very little to do with Buchholz' arm.

Sam Fuld on the Tampa Bay Rays' win over the New York Yankees in Game 162 of the 2011 regular season - Grantland Grantland went CBake on us in a large scale. A must read, penned by the man who was removed from the game in favor of eventual hero Dan Johnson.

Bad Spring Training Twitpics - Fans are giddy with the thought of baseball, and they demand photos of everything from their beat writers. Said writers are happy to oblige, but that Arizona/Florida sun tends to beat good judgment right out of their heads. For an endless supply of blurry photos, awkward poses of unidentified men and parking lots, give this tumblr a whirl.

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