This is a day where I sit back and think about people who so impacted who I am and what I have been able to do, but aren’t here anymore for me to continue to say thanks.
Hope it’s a good day up in heaven for my dad, Tracy Sr., my mom, Lena, my first editor, Jim Flinchum, and a man who had great patience in helping me try to understand baseball, Dick Howser.
Dad was run over by a train when he was six, Lost his left leg at the base of his body. Never asked for favors. Asked him once why we didn’t get a handicap parking spot. “Those are for people who need it,” he said.
Mom taught me the importance of putting as much effort into enjoying your job as you do your free time. “Everything you can afford to do you owe to the job you have,” she said.
Mr. Flinchum taught a 17-year-old kid who was a one-man sports staff on a six-day a week daily in Cheyenne that as a writer you cover an event, and NEVER think you are important enough to put yourself into the event.
And the skipper Howser, he spent 30 minutes with me every day of the season for three years, privately talking about the previous game and helping me try to understand the thoughts behind what happened. He was so confident, so intelligent and such a dang good manager.
“Dick, you don’t ever get upset at being second guess,” I said one day.
“Second-guessed? Never been second-guessed,” he said.
“Yeah right, you worked in New York, you were second-guessed,” I said.
He smiled, “No, never second-guessed, just given a chance to educate the unenlightened,” he said.
He was the only man who walked away from Steinbrenner and was strong enough in his conviction he couldn’t be swayed back by money any of the three times I know about that Steinbrenner tried to rehire him. He taught me about having values and not compromise them for any price.
In closing, I am very thankful that I still have Don Baylor to lean on. He taught me the values of life. And that is such an all-encompassing lesson. People would ask me how good a manager he is. “I think he is pretty good,” I would say, “but what I can assure you, he is the best person you will ever meet anywhere you go in life.”
Oh, and thanks for my wife Jane, who can put up with my love of baseball and the Wyoming Cowboys and accepts the priority they have in my life; my daughter Laramie, who continues to learn each day of life, like the rest of us, and my grandson Scout. Jane says he’ll grow up to play the piccolo. I’m betting on him being a middle linebacker in Brown and Gold.
Even better for Maddon is that he has four years remaining on the five-year, $25 million deal he signed a year ago with the Chicago Cubs.
Security is not a by-product of being selected as the top manager by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Oh, Maddon did win the honor twice in the American League as well, when he was with Tampa Bay, and he’d still be with the Rays if he had not opted out of his deal a year ago, which led to his hiring by the Cubs.
Maddon, however, is the exception.
In the 33 seasons since the BBWAA began selecting a Manager of the Year for the NL and AL in 1983, there have been 55 men who have won the 67 awards (Joe Torre and Johnny Oates shared the honors in ’96), counting Tony La Russa three times for winning with the White Sox, A’s and Cardinals, and several others twice for winning with two teams.
Read more: Manager of Year, Fleeting Fame
George Genovese was 41. After a 12-year playing career that included getting into three big-league games – two as a pinch-hitter and one as a pinch-runner – he had spent 10 years managing in the minor leagues, and was coming off only his second losing season in the eight previous years.
A friend offered him some advice.
“Managers always get fried,” Genovese would later recall. “If you become a scout, you’ll have a job as long as you can see to drive.”
Of, in Genovese’s case, longer.
At the age of 93, Genovese was still at the ballpark last summer, a special scouting consultant for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
He won’t, however, be showing up to evaluate players in the coming season.
A man whose resume for finding talent is unchallenged in baseball died on Sunday at St. John’s Hospital in Burbank, Ca., the victim of sepsis.
There are baseball scouts.
And there was George Genovese.
In 20 years as an amateur scout with the Giants, he signed at least 39 players who made it to the big leagues, including the likes of Bobby Bonds, Ken Henderson and Ollie Brown before the draft began.
He had his first-rounders, like Gary Matthews (1968), John D’Acquisto (1970), Randy Moffitt (January 1970), Matt Williams (1986), Dave Kingman (second phase 1970) and Royce Clayton (1988). In 1968 the Giants 1-2-3 picks were Genovese signees – Matthews, second-rounder Garry Maddox and third-rounder George Foster.
And he had his finds, like Jack Clark in the 13th round in 1973, and Chili Davis in the 14th round in 1977.
Several of Genovese’s peers didn’t care much for Clark, complaining he was too slow of a runner.
“When you hit the ball as far as he does you just have to trot,” Genovese said.
Davis was a native of Jamaica, who went to high school in Los Angeles and played on Genovese’s winter team of amateur players. Genovese flew with Davis to Arizona so Davis could work out for Giants officials. On the flight, Davis mentioned he was experimenting with switch-hitting.
During the workout, Davis took his swings, from the right side, and the Giants officials thanked him for his time. Genovese interrupted, and advised his bosses that they still needed to see Davis hit left-handed.
Foster, who Genovese convinced the Giants to take with that third round pick, even though scouts with other teams didn’t have reports on him because Foster didn’t play baseball his senior year in high school. Genovese, however, worked Foster out every day in the winter, and was convinced he could play.
And then there was this high school shortstop he got to know and convinced to become a catcher. He didn’t sign Mike Lieberthal, the Phillies denied him that chance by making Liberthal a first-round choice, the third pick in the 1990 draft, 12 selections before the Giants were on the board. It was, however, Lieberthal who was one of the last people to visit Genovese in the hospital on Sunday.
An eye for talent?
Twice the Giants opened a season with a 25-man roster that included 10 players signed by Genovese. Two other times there were nine Genovese signed players, and one year eight.
In the seventh inning of the Giants Sept. 13, 1973 Giants against the San Diego Padres, Gary Thomasson took over at first base for Willie McCovey, and at that point seven of the ninth players in the Giantslineup were Genovese signs.
The only exceptions were shortstop Chris Speier and second baseman Tito Fuentes.
Genovese would later point out that his older brother signed Fuentes, and Genovese himself managed Fuentes in the minor leagues.
The respect of his peers was evident in 2003 when the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation created the George Genovese Lifetime Achievement Award.
“Baseball wasn’t just a sport of business to this guy,” said Dennis Gilbert, a long-time insurance executive, former player agent and now executive with the Chicago White Sox, who played on Genovese’s youth teams before embarking on his own minor league career. “It was his way of life.”
And it remained that way until the day Genovese died.
The Astros lost 416 games the last four years, including 111 games two years ago.
They beat the Yankees in the wild-card playoff on Tuesday and open the NL Division Series at Kansas City tonight. These Astros are only the seventh team to advance to the post-season two years after losing 100 games.
The first six:
1914 Boston Braves. In last place on July 4, the Braves won 70 of their final 89 games, won the NL by 10 1/2 games over the Giants and swept the Philadelphia A’s in the World Series. The franchise did not win another pennant until 1948.
1967 Boston Red Sox. Dick Williams made his managerial debut and the Red Sox won a pennant for the first time since 1946, rebounding from eight second losing seasons. The Red Sox made two key August deals, acquiring catcher Elston Howard from the Yankees, and signing right fielder Ken Harrelson after he was released by the The White Sox.
1969 New York Mets. Having compiled losing records in their first seven seasons, the expansion Mets opened the season 18-23, but won 82 of their next 121 games, including 38 of thier final 49. They were 9 1/2 games out of first on Aug. 13, but won the NL East by eight games in the first season of divisional play. They swept Atlanta in the NLCS and needed only five games to win the World Series against Baltimore.
1987 San Francisco Giants: After a July 4 loss to the Chicago Cubs, the Giants were in third place in the NL West, 4 1/2 games out of first. That day, however, they made the first of three significant in-season trades. They sent Mark Davis, Chris Brown, Keith Comstock and Mark Grant to the Padres for Dave Dravecky, Craig Lefferts and Kevin Mitchell. Then came two August deals with the Pirates — acquiring Don Robinson for Mackey Sasser and $50,000, and Rick Reuschel for Jeff Robinson and Scott Medvin. They went 51-32 from July 5 on and won the division by six games. They lost to the Cardinals in a seven-game NLCS.
1981 Oakland A’s: In Billy Martin’s second season as the team’s manager, the A’s won 17 of their first 18 games of the season and claimed the first half AL West title in the strike-interupted season. Charlie Finley had sold the team prior to the season to Walter Haas, who owned Levi Strauss, after initial indications the team could be sold to Marvin Davis, who would have moved it to Denver. The A’s swept the Royals in a best-of-five series that featured the first-place teams from the pre-strike and post-strike portions of the season, but were then swept by the Yankees in the ALCS.
2008 Tampa Bay Rays: Having suffered a losing record in each of their first 10 seasons of existence, the Rays started an image makeover in the off-season. They changed their nickname from Devil Rays to Rays, and changed their colors to Columbine blue, Navy blue and gold. Then they changed their image on the field. In Joe Maddon’s third season as manager, the Rays, who had finished in last place in the AL East in the previous 10 seasons, won the AL East. They then knocked off the White Sox in four games in the AL Division Series, and Red Sox in seven games in the ALCS before losing a five-game World Series to the Phillies. Evan Longoria made his debut, getting called up on April 11 after initially being sent to the minor leagues.
Walt Weiss is returning to manage the Rockies in 2016.
Give the Rockies credit.
They are not looking for an easy way out after another disappointing season. They are not make Weiss a scapegoat.
Weiss’ three-year tenure has been a challenge. The Rockies are 208-278. They have finished last twice and fourth place in the NL West once.
But instead of a knee-jerk reaction and firing Weiss just to do something the Rockies spent time evaluating where they are and why, and they were honest enough to try do something – like fire the manager – just to say they have done something..
It’s an attitude that has been consistent throughout the franchise’s existence ever since, by ownership’s own admission, it reacted too quickly in the dismissal of the franchise’s original manager, Don Baylor.
Baylor took the Rockies to the post-season in 1995, their third year of existence and the first year of the wild-card. They had a winning record again in 1996 and 1997, success no previous expansion team had enjoyed.
But then they slipped to 77-85 in 1998, and general manager Bob Gebhard convinced ownership to fire Baylor.
It was a decision the ownership came to regret to the degree that a year later when then Cubs general manager Andy MacPhail was about to hire Baylor to managed the Cubs he called the late Jerry McMorris, the Rockies general managing partner at the time. McMorris gave a gushing recommendation.
MacPhail asked McMorris, “If you thought so much of Don why did you fire him?’’
McMorris said he replied, “because we fired the wrong guy. We should have fired Gebhard.’’
Consider the four managers between Baylor and Weiss:
- Jim Leyland replaced Baylor in 1999, signing a three-year, $6 million deal, but walked away from the final two years of the deal, resigning after one season. His family never moved west from Pittsburgh, and the challenges of Coors Field did not fit Leyland’s managerial style. The organization wanted him to stay but Leyland knew he wasn’t a good fit.
- Buddy Bell was hired by general manager Dan O’Dowd, who replaced Gebhard in the aftermath of Leyland’s departure. Sixteen games into the 2002 season, his third with the Rockies, Bell was fired, but only after he had gone to team President Keli McGregor, and said he couldn’t work with O’Dowd, who had declined to discuss a new contract for Bell until after the season.
- Clint Hurdle was promoted from hitting coach to manager in place of Bell. He survived five losing seasons before taking the Rockies on a late-season run in 2007 that resulted in the team claiming the NL wild-card and then sweeping the Phillies in the NLDS and Diamondbacks in the NLCS en route to the franchise’s only World Series appearance. In his first 486 games the Rockies won 215, only seven more than they have won under Weiss. The Rockies, however, lost 88 games in 2008, failing to build off the success in 2007, and then opened 2009 losing 28 of 46 games. With the players not responding the decision was made to replace Hurdle with Jim Tracy, who had been brought in as a bench coach at the start of the season.
- Tracy rallied the Rockies in 2009 for a third wild-card and post-season appearance. After 2012, with a year left on his contract and the Rockies wanting him to return, Tracy resigned. He felt there was too much interference with the move of front office exec Bill Geivett into the clubhouse to oversee the daily operation. Geivett became a clubhouse presence late in 2010, when the team was a game out of first place. They lost 13 of their final 14 games that season, and were 138-200 under that revised management structure at the time Tracy resigned.
The Bottom line?
The Rockies have, over time, attempted to evaluate the overall picture instead of firing mangers just to make it look like they were doing something.
Things have not gone well in the last three years, but the problems are deeper than the manager.
The Rockies 208-278 record is the second worst composite record in the big league sin the last three years, one victory better than the Astros (207-279), and one win less than the Phillies (209-278).
The staff has the highest ERA (4.77) in the big leagues the last four years, including a highest-in-baseball 4.91 for the rotation. They lead the majors in walks with 1,627, including a major-league leading 985 by the rotation, which worked the fewest innings (2,643 1/3) of any big-league rotation.
The Rockies have used 27 different pitchers in a starting role during Weiss’ three years. Jorge De La Rosa has made a team-high 88 starts. Only two other pitchers have started more than 32 games and neither is still with the franchise — Juan Nicasio (45) and Jhoulys Chacin (42).
The Rockies know their pitching situation has to be addressed, and took a major step in that direction a year ago with the hiring of pitching coach Steve Foster, and bullpen coach Darren Holmes, an original Rockies reliever.
The two of them began changing the mindset last year. They eliminated excuses and gimmicks that just created a bigger mental challenge for pitchers trying to survive at Coors Field.
They have emphasized fastball command and change of speeds, basic concepts of successful pitching. They even allowed pitchers to throw curveballs again.
That was a step in the right direction, and so is the decision to have Weiss return as manager for a fourth year.
Joba Chamberlain was in the big leagues with the Yankees after just 18 games in the minor leagues.
Now, with his 30th birthday approaching, Chamberlain is back in the minors, battling to get back to the big leagues.
Just some thoughts:
- Okay, Jose Reyes isn’t excited about being with the Rockies. Remember, it’s not like he was a key to the Troy Tulowitzki trade because the Rockies wanted him to play shortstop.
- Why was Reyes acquired? Money. Blue Jays demanded Rockies take Reyes and two years he has left on his contract to offset the five-year commitment of Tulowitzki’s contract.
- Key for Rockies was the three quality pitching prospects they received.
- Reliever Miguel Castro, 20, 1-0 with a 1.64 ERA in nine appearances at Triple-A Albuquerque, allowing five hits and seven walks while striking out eight in 11 innings.
- Starter Jeff Hoffman, 22, is 0-2 with a 3.41 ERA with Double-A New Britain. He has allowed 31 hits and seven walks, striking out 28 in 37 innings.
- Starter Jesus Tinoco, 20, is 4-0 with a 0.96 ERA at Low-A Ashville. He has allowed 21 hits and six walks, striking out 28 in 28 innings.
- Just my opinion, but the Rockies shortstop job in 2016 is Trevor Story’s to lose. But please, people, don’t compare his every move to Tulowitzki.
- Contrary to one report there is no deadline of Aug. 31 for Reyes to be dealt. Aug. 31 is significant only because a player has to be in an organization by that date to be eligible for inclusion on a post-season roster.
- Can someone explain why there is a growing excitement of BABPIP? Last time I checked strikeouts are a part of the game. Old school, I guess, but I want to know what a player is capable of doing in every plate appearance, not just the ones when he makes contact.
- Oh, and the debates over length of home runs? Does it really matter how far a ball travels or what the “exit speed” of the ball off the bat is. There are no bonus points. As long as the ball clears the fence in fair territory it is a home run.
- Blue Jays folks are raving about the impact LaTroy Hawkins has had on the mentality of the bullpen in the month since he was acquired as part of the Tulowitzki deal. No surprise to anyone who has ever spent two seconds with Hawkins.
- Great that he was dealt and given a chance to advance to the post-season. He, after all, is retiring after the season and given what he has meant to baseball I hope he gets a chance to go out on top. Total professional as person and player.
There are 18 teams within five games of a post-season spot on Monday morning.
There are four teams coming off losing seasons — most of them multiple losing seasons — among the 10 that would be in the playoffs if the season had ended on Sunday.
If the wild-card is designed to provide races down the wire and hope for folks in all markets then it is working
Rockies lefthander Chris Rusin had to adjust his delivery with bases loaded in his Saturday start. He got away with what MLB determined was deception in his 5-0 victory against the Padres at Coors Field last Sunday. In the sixth inning, with the bases loaded, he was called for a balk by second base umpire John Trumpane. Trumpage was called up from the minor leagues that day to fill in for crew chief Dale Scott, who went home to be with his ailing brother, who has since passed away.
That would have scored a run, but the call was reversed following a meeting of the umpiring crew, which agreed that Rusin was in his windup. In reviewing the play, however, Major League Baseball felt the balk should have stood, and Rusin will have to adjust his delivery.
The catch is that Rusin takes his position on the mound with his left foot parallel to the rubber whether there are runners on base or not. In Sunday’s game, he would stop with he hands chest high before delivering a pitch with a runner on first or second, but the one time he had a runner on third he did not stop in the delivery.
MLB ruled that because Rusin’s foot is parallel with the mound he is pitching out of the stretch at all times, and unless there is nobody on base he will have to pause.
Dave Dombrowski was a realist.
He knew he couldn’t ignore the future.
And he addressed that concern last week.