When the Colorado Rockies organization went off the tracks sometime during the 2012 season, the former front office regime decided it would be a good idea to begin micromanaging the on-field process, one that is usually left to the devices of the manager. That person in 2012 was Jim Tracy, who saw the writing on the wall and stepped down following Colorado's 98-loss campaign.
The Rockies prior to the 2013 season hired Walt Weiss to serve as the sixth manager in club history. In Weiss' two years at the helm, Colorado has started hot but tapered off just as quickly, leading to a pair of finishes at or near the bottom of the National League West. Injuries have played a large part in the Rockies' inability to remain in contention past June, but Weiss isn't free of blame, either.
The field manager
It's hard to judge managers by anything other than wins and losses. It just is. And Weiss certainly fails in that department with his 140-184 record in two seasons in Denver. It's especially hard to rate his performance because we don't know to what extent former co-general manager Bill Geivett was sticking his nose in the club's daily on-field, and maybe even in-game, operations. Geivett and fellow former GM Dan O'Dowd were, by most accounts, largely responsible for the pitch count that Weiss had to adhere to, and the manager was also hamstrung by needing to find days to rest hobbled stars Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez.
There are some things we can pin solely on Weiss, though. As noted in this year's Baseball Prospectus annual, the Rockies finished second to last in the league in stolen base percentage, but that didn't stop them from attempting enough steals to finish in the top half of all teams in that area. Weiss also over-managed his bullpen, which led baseball in a appearances of two or fewer outs.
The biggest knock on Weiss is his insistence on bunting. You won't be hard-pressed to find recent articles and interviews that discuss the Rockies' lack of "small-ball" execution. Yet, that didn't stop Weiss from wasting outs with great regularity. Colorado position players laid down sacrifice bunts at a higher rate than all but one other NL team. That approach certainly didn't help on the road, where outs should be at a premium given the Rockies' struggles with putting the barrel on the ball.
Weiss' shortcomings aside, he deserves a chance to show what he can do without Geivett constantly breathing over his shoulder. If the Rockies fail to take a step forward in the areas under Weiss' control in which they've struggled, one of the widespread changes the third-year manager predicted in that scenario should be his removal from the dugout.
The general manager
Jeff Bridich takes over the reins of an organization that is a disaster at the top but has promise at the levels beneath that. His first offseason has been a rather quiet one, much to the chagrin of Rockies fans and local media types. There are a few reasons why what Bridich has done (or, perhaps more accurately, what he hasn't) makes sense.
For as bad as the Rockies have been, they're not the post-Barry Bonds Pirates, pre-Mike Rizzo Nationals or whatever it is the Cubs have been throughout most of their existence. Colorado's struggles aren't as easily quantifiable. Two of the better hitters in the game, along with Gold Glove talent all over the infield and a few pretty good starting pitchers, have occupied spots on the Rockies' roster in recent years.
The talent is there, the health and other things dependent on decent luck are not. It's hard for Bridich -- or anyone else, really -- to know exactly what the Rockies have year after year. Perhaps I'm giving him too much credit, but it appears Bridich's strategy involves sitting back and examining exactly what kind of team he has before any rash decisions are made. Are the Rockies bad because of poor health and subpar luck, or are they bad because their roster isn't constructed well? I think it's a little bit of both, but that's up to Bridich to decide during and after the coming season.
I've spent plenty of time writing in this space about how moves to improve the team's future will be there to be made. The first sign of any sort of plan Bridich might have as the Rockies' GM will likely surface once one or two of those moves are set in motion. Until then, I'll reserve judgement.
For better or worse, we're stuck with Dick Monfort. Last season, I found myself for the first time ever actually, legitimately wondering if Monfort has any real interest in winning. I really do think Monfort wants to win, it's just pretty clear that he has no idea how to do it. Monfort is great at providing a mix of family-oriented and young adult-centered entertainment for a good price at a tremendous ballpark that is still getting better with each passing year. Monfort is awful at figuring out why his baseball team is miserable. The opportunity was there for him to hire an experienced baseball person to take over as club president and provide an honest, accurate assessment of the state of the organization, but Monfort failed to capitalize.
Maybe Bridich is the guy to take this franchise out of the depths of misery and back to some sort of relevance and success. Maybe he's not. Either way, the least Monfort can do is give Bridich every opportunity to do so, because it's clear that the owner's input on the baseball side of his business isn't working. At all. And that, folks, is the real problem with the Rockies.
That and winning on the road, anyway.