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Rockies Review: Nice guys, winners, and principles of mutual exclusion

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Well, we won a one-run game today, but I'm fairly sure we did it by accident. In the top of the eighth, with the Rockies clinging to a 3-2 lead, Wes Helms torched a hanging slider from Alan Embree and only missed a homer because the axial tilt of the earth and the intersection of the sunlight combined to tear a small hole into the antimatter and release two particles of cosmic dust, that swirled on a breeze into Coors Field, hooked onto Seth Smith's jersey, and enabled him (along with the pixies that live in Todd Helton's beard) to time his leap correctly to catch the ball.

Okay, maybe it wasn't THAT much of an accident.

In any case, the guys did avert a sweep, which will have all of us feeling decent until they lose on Tuesday. We're wired to tentatively hope that maybe every win will inaugurate the turnaround, but, of course, the answer is it won't. The question du jour flying around the Row has to do with our feelings on whether Clint Hurdle should be fired. And what's the answer?

Yes. Yes, he should.

WolfMarauder and GoRoxGo have crunched some numbers over on the FanPosts, and everyone and his brother has chimed in on why it's time to give MLB's fourth-longest-tenured manager (and certainly least successful out of that group) the boot. Herein, I'll attempt to explain why firing Hurdle is a start, but certainly not the answer, without ploughing too much previously charted ground, and do my best to judge the prevailing sentiments of Rowbots on this issue. Thus.

This is long. I apologise for that. Had some things I wanted to work out. Skim if you want, but there will be a test at the end.


From all appearances, and certainly everything to judge by, Clint Hurdle is a really nice guy. He certainly could have had himself a helluva career at a human relations firm, but through one of those quirks of fate known as "damn," is instead sitting on the bench, wearing #13, chewing gum to give Brady Quinn a run for his money, and calling the shots for our beloved baseball team. He's even-keeled. He doesn't throw coolers. His philosophy is, you win some you lose some. He makes the guys feel good about themselves. That, I expect, is why they like playing for him.

It is also why he is vastly unsuited to be a MLB manager.

Thing is, if Hurdle really wants to win, wants to damn the torpedoes and get it done, he's done an Oscar-worthy job at hiding it. This isn't his fault alone -- it's a malaise that runs organisation-deep. As I've touched upon in previous Rockies Reviews, the team isn't built to be a deep-pockets, high-risk, high-talent outfit. It's built to be decent. Good, if everything breaks right. And if nothing does, completely and resoundingly mediocre. The question has been begged, is this good enough for the triumvirate? They stumbled across a wildly successful month and yeah, that was cool, but who did they first sign and then have start Opening Day 2008?

Uh-huh. Kip Wells. There's your winning mentality at work, boys and girls.

NOTE: Franchise26 has pointed out in the comments that this may be an unfair tact to take, as we did not sign Kip Wells to be our ace and Opening Day starter. I'll agree that it probably is. But I'm not entirely sure what it says about the team that Kip Wells was the number-one alternate choice.

Now, I take serious leave to doubt that the Monforts are actually evil secret agents working to dismantle our beloved baseball team and calculating ways they can personally piss in YOUR cornflakes. I just don't think that building a consistent winner is that high on their agenda. They like going the reclamation project route. Drafting those guys with "good character," you know. But character doesn't win you baseball games and those reclamation projects have names like Jorge Julio, Elmer Dessens, Mark Redman, the aforementioned Kip Wells, etc. etc. The thing about Hurdle is that he encapsulates both of these problems, and he feels no pressure from the front office to adjust his managing style. Which has been roundly criticised, for good reason. This is a problem that goes deeper than the guy on the bench.

I also think it's important to distinguish between "not caring that much about winning" and "wanting to lose." I seriously doubt anyone affiliated with the organisation is actively trying to lose. I think they all want to win -- like I want to win the lottery, buy a Maserati, and a million-dollar home and never have to work another hourly wage job in my life. We'd all like that. Similarly, the Rockies want to win in that kind of way. But they don't seem to want to do the things that lead to winning, the same way I don't want to have to make my money by going to work every day and putting in the 9-to-5. I want it to come to me. As far as I can tell, that's the approach the Rockies are taking to hope that the course corrects itself.

Hurdle wins kudos for being a good "player manager" and "low-key," which is all well and good, but how much is that true? I've noticed that he can publically throw his players under the bus to the media after a bad performance, which I suppose comes part and parcel with giving honest answers to questions, but who does that really help? Deal with these things in-house, Clint. If you can. Everyone's giving the expected snippets about "know we need to step it up" and "we need to do more things right," things which Rowbots identified, and complained about, about five or six games into the season. Probably the sixth, since that was when we lost to the Phillies to drop back to .500 and squander a 3-1 start.

Occasionally, the guys actually show up, do some hitting, and win in a big margin. And then the next day they lose by a run. This is supposed to mean they're getting unlucky. What it means is that they're less predictable then a serial killer on Valium. Which means that Dan O'Dowd has said he "doesn't know" which team is going to show up, but thinks that it's too early to hold anyone to account (?!) Which means, if you are anyone else than Dan O'Dowd, that there may be a problem with the team that rearranging the deck chairs won't fix. And boy, is there a lot of rearranging. A few days after saying Dex had essentially won the CF job, Hurdle sat him. And then he trotted out a few more lineups. And then a few more. And he finally happened to notice that Ground Outkins wasn't doing too well. But, well, give him a few days off and let him "work things out." Panacea. Right?

Which leads me to my next point: firing Hurdle in and of itself won't be enough. The lack of accountability runs all the way up the food chain. They like each other. They have prayer meetings. That's great. But it still isn't helping them win baseball games. Which, you may think, is the reason for getting into the business. But not in this case. And, to be fair, the Rockies aren't the only team in MLB that doesn't really seem to want to commit to it. But they're certainly the one that's most affecting our blood pressure and general quality of life. As I've also said before, the expectations that fans have for this team is quite a bit different from what's in the front office. Unfortunately, it's the front office that matters. They're not blind. They realise there's a problem. But they figure it'll work itself out. You know.


Does that mean that firing Hurdle will be a wash? No. The problem with Hurdle is that he's comfortable fitting into this mold and isn't champing at the bit to shake up the status quo. The guys don't like doing badly, but they know there won't be any direct consequences if they do. They'll go sit for a few games and then get out there again. If you can get someone in there who's willing to enforce, to lay down the gauntlet -- no matter how painful it may be -- and if this is the person who has direct contact with the players, then things could change. If you get a guy in there who fits less well with the front office's take-it-or-leave-it mentality, then you're breaking up the chain of yes-manning. It might be a useful spark.

(And then he'll get fired for not bunting enough. You know it'll happen).

Those that say "Who else but Hurdle?" are setting up a false choice. Managers that can consistently steer a baseball team to an underachieving sub-.500 record probably aren't as rare as hen's teeth. The change might (and here's the part where the wishful thinking comes in) spark a fire under a few lagging posteriors. There's choice within the organisation already. Tracy. Baylor. Weiss. Castilla. Hell, get Larry Walker on the horn. Make the Toddfather a player/manager. Even Dinger. While he's waddling out there to make a pitching change, the other team would be too busy laughing themselves silly to notice our EVIL SCHEMEZ.

(Besides, I'm pretty sure that even Dinger knows not to give Manny Corpas or Matt Belisle any high-leverage innings).

Which comes around to the overarching point of a Hurdle firing: Show the Colorado Rockies that the product they've put on the field isn't acceptable. We as fans can vote with our wallets. I -- and everyone else, I imagine -- really love going to games at Coors Field. I've said multiple times before that it's one of my favourite places on earth, and it is. I would hate to give up that experience. But I'm also getting pretty damn tired of going, spending $50-odd for tickets, parking, drinks, dogs, etc., and watching the offense underperform, the starting pitching underwhelm, and the bullpen require the Heimlich. Nothing has really changed. We have high expectations because of a three-week streak of unworldly luck. They talk up returning to fundamentals. And where does that leave us? 2-for-28 with RISP for the Marlins series. And winning a game only thanks to the aforementioned dark matter miracles. Yeah, it feels good. But it's lipstick on a pig.

I like Clint Hurdle as a person. I wish him the best. Just not managing a baseball team that I love enough to regularly stay up until 4am, watching them lose on Gameday from the other side of the Atlantic. And until he goes, I don't have any expectations for the team. I'll still watch them. I'll still root for their success. I'll still make all kinds of snarky remarks and furiously defend my dear Greg Reynolds against anyone who (rightly) complains that we should have drafted Lincecum or Longoria instead. But until the Rockies organisation as a whole shows that results matter to them by making Clint Hurdle the sacrificial lamb, I won't really expect anything different.

With that said...

Today is Mother's Day, as no doubt everyone remembered (RIGHT? RIGHT?) I would like to take this opportunity to extend condolences to a favoured member of the purple cadre, Ryan Spilborghs. This is his first Mother's Day without his beloved mother, Essie, who died in spring training. I imagine it was pretty damn hard for him, no matter his cheerful demeanour and ability to face down anything with a funny remark. Because we care for Spilly, and we know that he Spillied his mother very, very much, we're sending him nothing but good thoughts today. Enough even to excuse that first-pitch groundout to end the inning with a guy on third. Because it is, after all, just a game.