Baseball Toaster Bad Altitude
Cook Up Hurdle Down
2008-07-04 13:54
by Mark T.R. Donohue

What Rockies fans were talking about a day or two ago, Aaron Cook's magnificent 79-pitch complete game torching of the Padres, has faded in the background as we're now experiencing the first stirrings of Clint Hurdle's inevitable firing. The Rockies actually made the "Pardon the Interruption" discussion the other day because of Hurdle's alleged swipe at Colorado fans. Following the story more closely in the Denver Post, it seemed as if the ESPN folk were making mountains of molehills. It's hard to say exactly which media source is to be trusted, seeing as most of ESPN's TV branch and the entirety of the Denver Post sports section are massive tools, but if you read the long transcript of what Clint said, he was more frustrated than anything else. And one can see why.

I don't feel insulted by Clint's saying that Rockies fans ought to stay home if they don't like the product on the field, but I still think -- and I have for a while -- that Hurdle needs to be fired. The man clearly has Tracy Ringolsby syndrome and believes that everything that there ever was to be learned about the game of baseball was absorbed in or around 1968. Hurdle regularly appears among the league leaders in managers ordering bunts, despite playing half his games at the freakiest offensive incubator in baseball. He's obsessed with speed to the degree that he often puts two guys who can't hit right at the top of the lineup and one or two more near the back. He manages the bullpen as if an incompletely written algorithim makes all of his decisions for him, and then when one cog in the machine breaks everything goes haywire. It's maybe a stretch to criticize him directly for the rash of injuries the team seems to go through every season on his watch, but there have to be some better conditioning techniques the Rockies can employ to deal with playing in the thin air. Perhaps they need to try someone who's gotten some new ideas from the Japanese leagues, like Kansas City's Trey Hillman.

Whether Dan O'Dowd should be the guy to stay on and hire Hurdle's replacement is another question. He's drafted well and he's been sharp in getting valuable veteran production for almost nothing, like Josh Fogg last year and Matt Herges this year and last. To the extent that O'Dowd is handcuffed by the Rockies' greedy, shortsighted owners, maybe he is doing the best he can. But it's difficult to look at the performance of the Rays this year -- no, really, the Rays -- and think that Colorado could be in a better position given how many years of high draft picks they've had. The Rays have ace pitching and a well-rounded offense, while the Rockies just shut down Jeff Francis and may have broken Franklin Morales, and their offense can't take a walk to save their lives. (Brad Hawpe and Todd Helton, as always, excepted.) The Rockies in their rush to compete down the stretch last season may have won the battle and lost the war.

I was watching the A's and the Angels the other day and I saw Bobby Crosby score on a very awkward half flop/half slide into home plate. I used to be a big fan of Crosby's; I have his jersey and everything. His career has been one disappointment after another, with the injuries dovetailing with the failure of his power and his hitting for average to develop. Watching Crosby slide, I was seized with the fear he was going to fracture his hipbone or something. I think the fear was mixed with recognition: could Troy Tulowitzki be the next Bobby Crosby? He was compared to him a heck of a lot coming out of college, which was perhaps inevitable since they both went to Long Beach State. I hope Tulo's major league career does not mirror Crosby's any further. An awful second year is probably to be expected -- "sophomore slump" is an aphorism for a reason -- but from here on out it would be best for all parties involved if Tulowitzki could stay healthy. And keep hitting home runs.

We were so close, and now we're further away than ever. At least this time we can legitimately claim to be rebuilding. Upon further reflection, I do think that it might be best if O'Dowd went with Hurdle. If massive restructuring is going to be necessary to compete again, and after this season's trade deadline it will be, the organization might as well divest itself of its last links to its long and only intermittently competent previous field leadership team. If we could get a GM with a fresh new vision in in time to make those deadline trades, so much the better. The Rockies need radical new ideas, because O'Dowd and Hurdle's doctrine of incremental progress simply isn't going to bring the success their fans deserve. If we wait another fifty or one hundred years, what happened in 2007 might happen again. Most of us are not blessed with that much more time to live.

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