Baseball Toaster Bad Altitude
Clint Hurdle Tries to Get Noticed, With Ugly Results
2007-03-17 20:59
by Mark T.R. Donohue

I haven't mentioned the fact that Jeff Francis got thrown out of a spring training game a few days ago for throwing at a batter because the moment I see any blog post describing the activity from a fake baseball game, my eyes glaze over. But when stupid managerial decisions in the spring come back to hurt a team in the actual games, the silence must be broken.

Francis has been suspended for five games -- five regular season games -- because Clint Hurdle forced him to throw at Kevin Kouzmanoff. This means that the first time through their rotation in April, the Rockies will be forced to skip Francis, and they'll also be unable to fully take advantage of a light early-season schedule with enough days off to let them get away with not overexposing their fourth and fifth starters.

I wrote a few weeks ago that there are only three kind of managers, bad ones, indifferent ones, and indifferent ones who are good interviews. In the last year of his contract, Hurdle already seems dead set on moving from the indifferent category to the bad one. What is he trying to prove? Both the Rockies and the Padres had already received the dread "warning to both benches" when Hurdle made Francis throw a purpose pitch. Of course, it being mild-mannered Jeff Francis on the mound, the "purpose pitch" when released barely had enough juice to reach all the way to its target. But still, Hurdle should have known better than to assume that because it was a spring training game he could "show his resolve" without there being any real-season consequences. Highly dumb, and it's already cost the Rockies at least one ticket sale. I was planning on buying a ticket for the second game of the year (I already hold one for Opening Day, when I assume Aaron Cook will be starting) to see Francis pitch; now I won't be going, since Rodrigo Lopez does nothing for me. Of course, the Rockies will get my money on the other end when Jason Hirsh (who but for the Francis suspension would have started his season on the road against San Diego) goes on Wednesday the fourth, but...I dunno. I'm still mad.

Clint: Given that you have held your job for as long as you have, the Monforts are clearly not holding you to particularly stringent standards. Quit drawing attention to yourself. Fill out the lineup cards, pat players firmly on the rear when you come in to make pitching changes, stop bunting before the late innings, and knock it off with the vendetta nonsense. No one is questioning your manhood. We're beginning to question your common sense, but as long as you've got that classy soul patch your macho bona fides are safe.

2007-03-17 21:35:22
1.   joejoejoe
I thought Hurdle was a better player than his stats show - he got a ton of hype when he was young and then never panned out. Maybe the chip on his shoulder comes from the fact that the pinnacle of his baseball life came at age 22. Not many managers get to manage 750+ games winning .447 percent of them. Hurdle acts like he's going to win back the 84 games he's under .500 in Spring Training. Not gonna happen.

The Rockies should have gone after Joe Girardi for manager.

FYI - You can sponsor Clint Hurdle's page for $15 on Baseball-Reference.

2007-03-17 22:05:30
2.   Mark T.R. Donohue
1 I was holding out for Jody Davis, but it looks like somebody beat me to him.
2007-03-17 23:00:40
3.   joejoejoe
2 Does Girardi have a good reputation in Colorado? I think he did a great job in Florida last year and thought he would be a good fit in Colorado having been your first catcher.

It's funny you mention Jody Davis - he's the manager of the minor league team that has a ballpark less than a mile from my house, the Daytona Cubs (A-ball).

2007-03-17 23:11:49
4.   Mark T.R. Donohue
3 I tried to get the ball rolling for the Rockies to fire Hurdle after '05 and go after Girardi, but obviously that project was a non-starter. I think the difficulties Girardi had with his GM and owner in Florida has put a red flag next to his name with a lot of the more conservative organizations in baseball, among whose ranks you can certainly include Colorado. The Monforts have a lot of faith in Dan O'Dowd and they would never hire a guy who might potentially try to undercut him. Especially if a large financial commitment was involved.
2007-03-17 23:45:51
5.   joejoejoe
4 I did a quick glance at the records of basebal managers on B-R and it's not easy to find many with worse records than Hurdle. My guess is if you did a study of managers with 788+ games (Hurdle's current total) he is in the bottom 10% of all managers in the HISTORY OF BASEBALL, maybe in the bottom 5%.

And if any team finds Joe Girardi 'radical' then they should just openly say they want a Yes Man as manager. Joe Girardi makes Captain America look like Hugo Chavez. The guy is a straight arrow's straight arrow.

2007-03-18 00:06:53
6.   Mark T.R. Donohue
5 Yeah, and the Marlins' owners are quite clearly penny-pinching so-and-so's. But that's the reality of being a Rockies fan in the post-Hampton age. Better to not spend money, ever, than spend money on the wrong guy.

In Hurdle's defense, most of the time he's been manager, the organization hasn't really been trying to win.

2007-03-18 01:00:57
7.   joejoejoe
6 I was looking to see how large a population the Rockies could draw from for their fanbase and they are in the bottom third of the league in potential fans in the metropolitan area (as opposed to just Denver). A good benchmark for the Rockies success would be the Indians - who have about the same size metro population at about 2.2 million. The Indians spend $56M to the Rockies $41M in 2006.
2007-03-18 01:47:35
8.   Mark T.R. Donohue
7 I don't know if that's a fair comparison or not. The Avalanche and Broncos are incredibly successful with ticket prices at the very top level for their respective leagues. Metro Denver is a good deal more affluent and white-collar than is metro Cleveland, and there's barely another big league team within a day's drive of Coors Field (Phoenix and Kansas City being the closest).

The Rockies still hold the major-league single season and single game attendance records from their two years at Mile High, when they averaged over 50,000 and got as many as 70,000 to some games. I don't think that those days are ever coming back again, but they do explain why Coors Field's upper deck is so oversized.

Ownership has committed to raise the payroll to $70 million in the next few years, and I don't see any reason why the Rockies can't compete and draw fans as a midlevel team. I don't think Denver is like Pittsburgh, Tampa/St. Pete, and Kansas City, where it may not be economically possible to field a competitive team. It seems ridiculous to me for one city outside of Canada to be at once a major market for the NHL and a micro-market for MLB. Had the team not been managed by incompetent boobs for the better part of its first decade of existence, we never would have come to this.

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