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Colorado Rockies sticking with manager Walt Weiss and his staff, for better or worse

These guys aren't the problem. But are they the solution?

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

After losing 88, 96 and 94 games during his first three seasons as a major league manager, it's hard to imagine Colorado Rockies manager Walt Weiss having a ton of supporters regarding his retainment for a fourth season.

Fortunately, for the longtime big league shortstop-turned-skipper, the two players who hold the most clout on the team at 20th and Blake had good things to say in spite of all of the losing.

"It's tough on him because you don't have the guys any manager would ask for rotation wise," star outfielder Carlos Gonzalez told reporters last September, after the Rockies' final home game of 2015. "There's always a different guy pitching. I can't imagine how hard it would be for a manager. But at the same time, he's handled it very well."

Despite Gonzalez's 40 home runs and torrid second half, pitching wasn't the Rockies' only problem in 2015. The team's offense was sluggish for most of the season, particularly when it came to getting on base away from Coors Field. And though the defense passed the eye test, most metrics -- including Baseball Prospectus' defensive efficiency rating -- said otherwise of Coors Shield, which gradually turned to Coors Yield as the season progressed.

That's not on the man perched upon the top step of the dugout, though; in fact, Weiss deserves some credit for playing good soldier.

Behind a new front office that used an increasingly analytical approach, Colorado upped its infield shifting tendencies more than any other team in the league in 2015. Weiss also experimented with his lineup in interesting -- and even logical -- ways that we hadn't seen before. The amount of position player sacrifice attempts decreased for the third consecutive season, and the Rockies weren't quite as reckless on the base paths as they were in 2014, though the improvement was only marginal.

Bullpen management is still not a strength of the Rockies' skipper; Colorado once again finished with the second-most occurrences of relief appearances of fewer than three outs in the National League. But with that rotation, how much blame should Weiss be expected to shoulder, as Gonzalez said?

"We weren't very good this year," fellow All-Star Nolan Arenado admitted after that same late-September contest. "The blame doesn't go to [Weiss]. He puts the best guys out there and we need to go perform. We weren't able to do that this year."

"Hopefully we'll have some guys next year ready to play and give him a better chance to win," Arenado added.

We've covered in previous installments for this series the players added by the Rockies this offseason. It would be farfetched to say that those players will give Weiss much of a better chance to win, as Arenado put it, but that shouldn't be the main concern of Rockies management, either.

CarGo alluded to what needs to be the main focal point for Weiss and Colorado's coaching staff.

"All the guys who had an opportunity to pitch in the big leagues are doing a tremendous job," Gonzalez said. "That's all you can ask for from a manager."

"When he's not giving up, he's showing you he wants to win every night," CarGo added.

Those are the money quotes -- and the areas for which Weiss really needs to be judged in what might not necessarily be a pivotal year for the team, but could very well be for him.

The Rockies are entering a season in which young, high-ceiling prospects such as Jon Gray and Trevor Story -- and possibly Jeff Hoffman, Kyle Freeland and others -- could make their first big impact at the major league level. Those players are vital to any future success the Rockies might have, so having the right person leading them day in and day out is of the utmost importance.

If CarGo's opinion is any indication, Weiss might be the right guy for the job. That would be a welcome development given the team's long odds of winning much of anything immediately. Bullpen management issues and other tactical errors would be easily forgiven if Weiss gets this "developing the future" thing -- the one expectation he should meet or exceed -- right.

The rest of the coaching staff should have the same expectations. Having third base coach Stu Cole, a long-time minor league manager and coach, aboard once again should help. It remains to be seen how well hitting coach Blake Doyle and bullpen coach Darren Holmes are acquitted in their roles, but both didn't do anything last season that warranted any changes to be made. And pitching coach Steve Foster, who played a big role in developing a young pitching staff that eventually led the Kansas City Royals to back-to-back World Series, is certainly worth a long look as the Rockies attempt to reach similar lofty heights over the next few seasons.

First base, baserunning and outfield coach Eric Young helped the Rockies improve drastically in the realm of stolen bases, though the team is still arguably far too aggressive in that department. Their stolen base percentage went up from 64 percent to 69 percent, and the club led the NL in taking extra bases after finishing tied for second-to-last in 2014.

All that is well and good, but the biggest challenge for Colorado -- aside from hitting on the road -- is and always will be pitching effectively regardless of venue. Weiss and his staff are well aware.

"We always talk about being aggressive," Weiss told reporters on Wednesday, when Rockies pitchers and catchers reported to Salt River Fields. "We've certainly walked too many hitters the last few years. There's going to be a lot a talk about that; we've been talking in those terms since I've been here."

They can talk all they want, but it's going to have to start reflecting in the team's performance on the mound. The talent is there -- or, at the very least, it's coming. How Weiss, Foster, Holmes and the like get that talent to prepare for and respond to the club's unique conditions will be key.