The Denver Post reports today that Rockies manager Clint Hurdle will be fired and likely replaced, on an interim basis, by bench coach (and former Dodgers manager) Jim Tracy.
2:45 p.m. update: It’s confirmed. From the AP:
The Colorado Rockies have fired manager Clint Hurdle less than two years after their incredible “Roctober” run to the World Series. He was replaced by bench coach Jim Tracy.
Without reliable hitting, pitching or defense, the Rockies stumbled to an 18-28 start and were 14 1/2 games behind Los Angeles in the NL West heading into Friday night’s action.
Hurdle, who had been Colorado’s manager since replacing Buddy Bell three weeks into the 2002 season, was 534-625 for a .460 winning percentage in his seven-plus seasons.
Since the Rockies’ one and only trip to the World Series in 2007, where they were swept by the Boston Red Sox, Colorado was 24 games under .500 with Hurdle at the helm.
Tracy has a 562-572 managerial record with the Los Angeles Dodgers (2001-05) and Pittsburgh Pirates (2006-07), with a division title in 2004. He joined the Rockies’ staff this winter at the behest of general manager Dan O’Dowd.
Hurdle, who was in the final year of his contract, was hamstrung this season by the loss of his best hitter and his best pitcher as the Rockies got off to their second straight slow start, which affected attendance.
Slugger Matt Holliday(notes) was traded to Oakland in November after refusing a contract extension, and ace Jeff Francis(notes) was lost for the season with shoulder surgery this spring–not that Hurdle ever used that as an excuse.
Hurdle was never one to complain about the club’s cost-conscious ways, which likely helped earn him a longer leash from ownership than fans would have liked.
Except for that magical month at the end of the 2007 season, when the Rockies won their first NL pennant by going on an unfathomable 21-1 run-up to the World Series, Hurdle’s teams never were very good.
Aside from their 90-73 record in ’07, when they won the wild-card in a memorable one-game playoff against San Diego, the Rockies owned nothing but losing records under Hurdle–he’s the only manager in major league history to begin his career with five consecutive losing seasons and not get fired for it.
Ownership stuck by their man for years because of his loyalty during the long rebuilding process when the Rockies pulled in their financial reins following some embarrassing and costly mistakes. Until the roster was refurbished and the young core of players seasoned, Hurdle was as much fan ambassador as manager.
Many expected Hurdle to get fired last year, when the Rockies started out 20-38 and never recovered. He stuck around but after the season, he was asked by the front office to change his approach and juggle his coaching staff, bringing on Tracy and hitting coach Don Baylor.
He set a more disciplinarian tone at spring training. Yet, the Rockies seemed to get away from that when the season started, and things quickly went downhill. O’Dowd, who also is in the final year of his contract, gave Hurdle a vote of confidence earlier this month, as did co-owner Dick Monfort.
The Rockies continued to struggle at the plate, on the mound and, consequently, at the turnstile.
The Dodgers outscored them 31-13 in a three-game sweep at Coors Field this week that proved to be Hurdle’s last hurrah. After losing 8-6 in front of a sparse crowd on a beautifully sunny Wednesday afternoon, several players blamed themselves for the bad start but sensed Hurdle’s time was up.
“I think we think about things like that,” Todd Helton(notes) said. “We know what’s at stake.”
The Rockies have been at a loss to explain their inconsistent play.
“I think it’s only natural to start pressing a little when you aren’t winning,” Helton said. “You expect to have ups and downs throughout the season, but we still should be playing better baseball than this.”
Earlier this week, Hurdle spoke about the team’s litany of troubles in all phases of the game but said it really came down to this: “We haven’t played good baseball. So many times in society, and even in sports, we try to make things more complicated than they are.”