The Next Ex-Manager of the Colorado Rockies

The joke that was the 2012 Colorado Rockies season grew quite a bit funnier late Wednesday night, when the organization announced the hiring of Regis Jesuit High School head coach Walt Weiss to serve as manager on a one-year contract. In spite of my admiration for Mr. Weiss and my misguided hope for the improved future prospects of the Local Nine, the organization’s managerial hiring can only be received with skepticism, disgust, and doubt.

As a seven-year old raised in Northern California, my favorite local organization was the Oakland A’s and my favorite player was Walt Weiss. Down in the dilapidated basement of the Casa Casablancas, I store a baseball collection that must have at least ten Walt Weiss baseball cards, undoubtedly cumulatively valued at 35 cents. Weiss and I moved to Colorado for good in 1994, and his contributions to the Rockies are well documented. I admired Weiss’ steady defense, quality at-bats, and contributions to winning franchises at every stop. I expect that Weiss will find great success as manager, someday. Sadly, it will either require him to move to a new location, or return to the friendly confines of Regis Jesuit.

Nonetheless, the Rockies managerial search, hiring decision, and contract structure is nothing short of laughable. For all of Weiss’ baseball acumen, character, and leadership, the circumstances of his hiring are suspicious at best, horrific at worst. The Rockies enjoy the luxury of stewarding one of only 30 major league baseball franchises. The ostensible lack of experienced professional managerial candidates on the Rockies radar is a sad commentary on the state of affairs at 20th and Blake.

The Rockies plan to manage the manager with day-to-day supervision from newly minted Director of Major League Operations Bill Geivett may well be a worse farce than the competitive record of the team since September 2010. Former manager Jim Tracy left some tactical skill to be desired on his way of town, but what he lacked as a tactical leader was minimized by the principles that led him to resign and walk away from $1.4 million in order to avoid the un-tented circus in LoDo. The Rockies did put some lipstick on their managerial search, floating the idea that they would interrogate interview more than one potential manager with substantial Major League coaching service. Their final choice of Weiss undid any and all of those false promises.

The decision to hire a high school coach as Major League manager, albeit one with discernible baseball acumen, pales in comparison to the frailty of the decision to leverage Mr. Weiss into signing a one-year contract. The success of the franchise is dependent on a gargantuan philosophical shift that cannot be achieved by a novice manager who could lose credibility before the summer solstice of his first year. In order for the Rockies to succeed, they must improve both player development and personnel acquisition. Further, the day-to-day in-season success of the franchise is dependent upon the daunting task of harnessing pitching talent (on a team that lacks much of it), thriving at altitude in Coors Field, and acclimating to win games at sea level. The short leash that the Rockies have publicly bestowed upon the neck of Mr. Weiss clearly diminishes the likelihood that he will be in charge when and if this ever happens again.

With all due respect to Mr. Weiss’ merits as a successful, beloved player and his potential as a professional manager, the managerial discretion of the Colorado Rockies can only be questioned on this fateful late fall day. The built-in excuse of granting a first-year manager, with limited professional coaching experience, is palpable. Given the downward spiral of the organization since the early fall of 2010, the managerial hiring decision can only be expected to pour gasoline on the dumpster fire that percolates in Denver’s Lower Downtown. That, I assure you, will not be funny.

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