Patrick Saunders covers a lot of ground in his latest mailbag, from Jeff Hoffman to Ben Paulsen, so it’s worth the read. He spends a lot of time talking about Walt Weiss because I’d guess he gets more letters in his mailbag on Weiss than any other single topic. After all, his contract is up after this season and lame duck managers on losing teams are an easy scapegoat. And, lest we forget, Jeff Bridich didn’t directly hire Weiss, so his chair is that much more wobbly.
Saunders brings up a good point, that Weiss seems to get a disproportionate amount of the blame for the struggles of the team. But I disagree that this all comes down to who Weiss has had to turn to in the bullpen or on the bench. Yes, the Rockies bullpen has been catastrophically bad over the past couple of months, and the players need to bear the blame. But it is a poor craftsman who blames his tools and this has been the defense of Weiss since his second season, when he led the 2014 Rockies to a 66-96 record (one year after going 74-88). With four more wins, Weiss will be back on the safe side of 90 losses for just the second time in his tenure. Far better managers have been fired for far less.
The bullpen may have sunk this team, but it isn’t even the biggest problem with Weiss at the helm. The sniff of contention they had in July and August was a welcome surprise, but that they’ve fallen out of it shouldn’t be a surprise, even if how they’ve fallen out is. According to Baseball-Reference, this is the youngest team the Rockies have had since 2005. One could make the argument that Walt’s biggest strength is how he’s helped young players adjust to the major leagues (and the clubhouse support he has seems to back that claim). But with the contention window opening, the Rockies are shifting from developing good young talent to needing to win baseball games, and he hasn’t even really used that young talent to its fullest, often starting inferior catchers, first basemen, and outfielders when better, younger options exist. That and Weiss’ dependence on small ball tactics in the ballpark that least rewards small ball tactics tells me that he doesn’t have the tools necessary to make that shift from development to contention with the team. He who can be trusted with little can be trusted with much. Weiss hasn’t proved that he is trustworthy with the little he’s had, so he does not deserve to be trusted with much, namely a contending Rockies team.
As far as alternatives go, Saunders has another brilliant suggestion: former Padres manager Bud Black. Could the Rockies convince him to take on the challenge of altitude with a talented young roster? Cubs bench coach Dave Martinez has been a popular name around baseball for some time, but can he be convinced to leave Joe Maddon’s side? Tough to say. But the Rockies are in a position to find out.
David Dahl hasn’t played much over the past few games, dealing with some soreness in his elbow. Such is the case when you’re talking about September baseball; everybody is dealing with something to varying degrees of seriousness. It’s especially hard for players playing into the season’s sixth month for the first time, like Dahl. It’s especially especially hard when you consider that Dahl has already played 20 more games than he has in any previous professional season.