The Colorado Rockies parting ways with manager Walt Weiss was not a surprise.
Glenallen Hill being a candidate to replace Weiss should not be a surprise, either. The Albuquerque Isotopes manager has paid his dues in 14 seasons as a manager and coach in the Rockies organization.
Of course, managing at the Triple-A level versus the Majors is completely different. Or is it these days? Minor-league managers are beholden to the wishes of the front office, which sets many of the player usage standards, from where prospects are in the batting order to the positions they play on the field. Pitch counts for starters and the specific innings pitched for relievers are also managed at a level above the actual manager.
The ongoing evolution of the general manager/manager relationship at the major-league level is now moving closer to what Hill has already experienced. Jeff Bridich could install someone who already knows exactly what his boss wants from game to game.
There are other reasons Hill could work as Rockies manager, as well as reasons he might not. These will all be for Bridich and his staff to consider as they go through the hiring process this offseason.
Pro: Hill's calm demeanor. Baseball can be an emotional roller coaster for everyone, from players to fans to the media. Hill has long maintained an even keel. That can be huge for a young team, which the Rockies will be fielding. Younger players take their cues from the manager more than veterans. Even in the midst of the longest losing streak in Isotopes history back in June, Hill never changed his approach.
Con: Hill's calm demeanor. For some fans and local columnists, this could drive them crazy. Hill was never ejected by an umpire for arguing in two seasons. If the Rockies stumble, or a player does something exceptionally stupid on the field, people could jump all over Hill if he just keeps on keeping on. Sometimes people want to see some fire out of their manager, though that is usually fans/columnists who remember the Earl Weavers/Lou Piniellas of the world.
Pro: Hill knows the players. He has already managed many of the Rockies in the minors, helping them reach Denver. He knows who needs a stern talking to, or a pat on the back, and so on. The learning curve as far as the clubhouse would be shorter than a manager coming from outside the organization.
Con: Hill is old school. Don't alert Brian Kenny, but Hill does tend to stick to a lot of traditional moves during games. Yes, he bunts. A lot, like most other old-school National League managers. If a lefty hitter is coming up, he will go for the same-sided matchup more often than not, even if a right-hander available is a far better pitcher. Of course, this assumes that Bridich would not have him adjust to a more sabermetric-friendly or modern approach.
Pro: Hill is a players manager. Toward the end of the year, when the Isotopes were winning a lot of games, Hill let his players have a lot of postgame fun in the clubhouse. He allowed his veterans, such as Chris Nelson and Brandon Barnes, police the youngsters and keep things light hearted. This is another aspect of how Hill knows how to keep things from getting too tense during a playoff chase.
Con: Hill vs. the media. It took Hill a season-plus to truly warm up to the media here in Albuquerque. That media consisted of me and the rotating reporters from the Albuquerque Journal, not the much larger contingent he will face in Denver. He prefers to keep his postgame media sessions to about four minutes in length, and for all questions to be quick and direct. Hill does not have a ton of patience for long-winded questions or what many would consider ones with obvious answers (or ones that everyone knows he cannot answer). The local TV media here barely covered the team outside of showing game highlights. Encountering a more aggressive media contingent, or TV reporters seeking banal soundbites, could be tough on Hill, a soft-spoken and more thoughtful man than some of the more media-savvy managers in the game.
Final call: Hill deserves and will likely get an interview. He should deserve a lot of consideration, especially considering that he is a known commodity to Bridich. Of course, getting inside the head of the Rockies' GM to actually discern what he's thinking has proven to be rather, um, difficult. Hill would almost scream "safe choice!" to a lot of people. If Bridich cannot find anyone outside the organization, though, Hill might be in the best in-house candidate.