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Friday Rockpile: More Management Pondering In a Losing Season

Esmil, do you like movies about Gladiators?
Esmil, do you like movies about Gladiators?

So yesterday, Jim Tracy started Eliezer Alfonzo for the 4th game, a day game, against the Cincinnati Reds.

Normally were the Rockies closer to the chase, I'd be all up in arms, citing Alfonzo's terrible line, the pure luck nature of his batting line thus far, and a bunch of sarcastic remarks about lineup construction and Jim Tracy's seeming random lines of reasoning when it comes to who plays when. Sometimes it's the platoon splits. Sometimes it's pitcher/batter history. Sometimes it's SPLITTING UP LEFTIES WITH YOUR AAAA BACKUP CATCHER.

So this leaves us in an awkward position with the manager, still (I envision this being a recurring theme throughout the remainder of the season). On one hand, it was a regular rest day for Helton, Tulowitzki asked for the day off, so that bound Tracy's hands a bit in regard to who to put in the critical lineup spots. On the other hand, Eliezer Alfonzo has 5 career PA in the cleanup, 4 of which came yesterday.

I don't mean to just harp on this one move and use it as my smoking gun of Jim Tracy incompetence or something. It just stands out because...well, it's Eliezer Alfonzo, and it's really funny. But, c'mon, Alfonzo batting cleanup is pure manager stupidity, right?

Yeah, it is. 

There's been a lot of other manager stupidity coming from the Rockies dugout this season and last, and it has a lot of people calling for Jim Tracy's job, his head - hell, Tom Runnells was seen accepting 30 pieces of silver from Mark Kiszla. 

in 1913, John McGraw's New York Giants went 101-51 and won the NL Pennant. The next year, they went 84-70, finishing 2nd in the Sr. Circuit. The following season, 69-83, finishing 8th in the NL. How many boneheaded mistakes do you think McGraw made? I mean, come on, how do you leave Fred Merkle, he of the .261/.315/.373 (100 wRC+) batting line, at 1B for 153 games while Utilityman Tillie Shafer's .287/.369/.398 (124 wRC+) line rotted on the bench? In fact, Shafer retired after the season from mental duress:

"I have satisfied every ambition in a baseball way. Now I want to forget I was ever in it. It is an episode in my life that I am trying hard to forget."


Look at that. Worst manager ever. Drove the man to quit by playing him in CF. Boneheaded move there, putting a 3B in CF, John.

Casey Stengel is another illustration there. Between 1934 and 1943, Stengel managed 3 different teams, finished above .500 once, and never finished above 5th in the standings. He then gets hired on by the Yankees after managing the PCL Oakland Oaks (and remember, at this point in time, the PCL wasn't a minor league - it was a legitimate competitor to the AL and NL), wins 5 consecutive WS (7 overall) and 10 AL Pennants. 

How many boneheaded decisions do you think Stengel made between the Dodgers, Bees, and Braves? Take a look at his 1942 club - his 3rd best hitter was starter Jim Tobin. I have no doubt that Boston Braves fans were regularly calling for Stengel's head, citing that he'd lost the team, was overly "strategic", and probably should have been run out on a rail.

"I became a major league manager in several cities and was discharged. We call it discharged because there is no question I had to leave."

Einstein, Charles (1968). The Third Fireside Book of Baseball. New York: Simon and Schuster. p. 434.

(Oh, and just FYI, after his tenure with the Yankees, he moved on to the Mets, whose inaugural season went 40-120. 1 above-average player in that lineup.)

The point of all this isn't to say "Look, Jim Tracy's decisions aren't awful because HoF managers were terrible too!" Tracy's decisions range from neutral to "is he actively TRYING to lose?" Seasons like this push me farther in the direction of the "Managers are neutral at best, detrimental at worst" mindset.

It really boils down to the players though. In those miserable McGraw and Stengel seasons, the teams that were trotted out on the field just weren't very good at all. Like, awful. It's no wonder they lost a million games. But at the same time, when you looked at those squads preseason, like we looked at the Rockies preseason, expectations were set. The pragmatists probably said "I don't think the team is good enough" and expected a poor finish to the season. The optimists probably said "If they can all reach their potential, this team could go places". I'm sure the optimists were cursing McGraw and Stengel's names, while the pragmatists were a bit more "meh, I saw this coming".

The underlying thought in all of this isn't "Well Jim Tracy = Awful so Jim Tracy Fired" or what have you. It's also not "Other managers have sucked, so keep Tracy." I've never really liked Tracy, given some of his playing time decisions and how he handles certain types of players that he's clearly unfavorable towards. But how much of the actual record do we blame on Tracy, and how much on the Rockies players? I'd make the case that the onus still lies with the players. Tracy can only do so much with them. In fact, I'll even go as far as to say that a manager of a "winning" club makes little to no difference. The only managers worth a damn are the guys like Clint Hurdle, whose jobs really aren't to throw out a winning club, but rather to transition minor leaguers into major leaguers.

So to conclude, I guess ... I guess I really don't have much of a conclusion. Rag on Tracy if you want. Defend Tracy if you want. Either way, you can probably make a strong case.

Wait, wait, I think I have it:

Managers of Lousy Teams make Lousy Decisions.

I think it just comes with the territory.


Here's a few fresh and informative links:

Hot streak turned frigid - The Denver Post

The Rockies are terrible when the other team scores first. They're terrible on the road. They're outscored in the first. The Rockies have trouble scoring runs this season.


Rockies' Street still sore, hoping to avoid placement on DL - The Denver Post

Huston Street might end up on the DL. Betancourt would be the closer if Street does get DL'd. Jason Giambi will be rejoining the team today in St. Louis. Tulo is learning his human limitations (esp that of a shaky quad) and requested the day off.


Chacin's efforts not enough for Rockies in 2-1 loss at Cincinnati - The Denver Post

Chacin pitched really well, showing signs of pitching maturity that endear him to us and the team. Johnny Cueto was just that much better, and has a 1.94 ERA to show for it.


Rockies waste Chacin's gem, lose 2-1 to Reds - The Denver Post

Same as the other game recap.


Colorado Rockies at Cincinnati Reds - August 11, 2011 | COL Recap

Chacin good, bats bad.


Chacin pitches complete game but Rockies lose 2-1 | Inside the Colorado Rockies

Yep. That seems to be the news today, folks.