Woody Paige Column: Weiss shouldn't be fired, but shuffled, by Rockies

Posted at 3:38 PM, Aug 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-15 23:37:15-04

DENVER -- Walt Weiss should not be fired.

In the words of the immortal Charles Barkley, when asked about a provocative passage in his autobiography: “I misquoted myself.”

On 7Sports Xtra with Sports Director Lionel Bienvenu and Broncos insider Troy Renck Sunday night, I answered a question by saying Weiss had to be fired because he didn’t know how to handle a pitching staff. Moments later I tried to qualify the statement by saying Weiss should be promoted to club president, and owner-president. Dick Monfort should step away.

So, my true belief is that Weiss should be removed from the Rockies’ managerial position and moved into another position, possibly as club president.

Honestly, anything to get a new manager in Denver and get Monfort out of the role as key leader of the Rox.

The new manager must be a former pitcher. In the club’s history, which is quickly closing in on the quarter-century mark, the Rockies never have hired a pitcher or a catcher as their manager. Six ex-infielders and outfielders (and one mostly designated hitter) have manned the managerial spot.

What are the three biggest issues with altitude baseball?

1. Pitching.

2. Pitching.

3. (See Nos. 1 and 2).

For the club’s entire life, they’ve had awful pitching.

We can’t blame it all on the manager, or the general manager, or the owner, or the scouts, or the lousy pitchers who have come through the system. Pitching at a mile above sea level is hard. That’s the fact, Jack.

The humidor concept invented by former general manager "Dealin’" Dan O’Dud was supposed to help the serious dilemma. It did somewhat. Mostly, though, the humidor kept the ball from flying as far as it used to, and as often. 

One of the greatest attributes in baseball was: “Willie Mays’ glove is where triples go to die.”

Coors Field is where doubles and triples go to live.

The outfield is so mammoth. It’s never really been about the home runs in the Yellowstone of parks. Because outfielders play so deep, balls that would be cans of corn — simple outs — in other stadiums fall in, and balls that normally would be caught deeper in the stadium end up being wall-banging doubles, triples and the random inside-the-park home run. “I always wanted to play shallow,” former Rockies outfielder-turned-good-TV-analyst Ryan Spillborghs tells me. “Guys play too deep here.”

The only manager who came to Denver and understood was Atlanta's Bobby Cox. He stationed his leftfielder in left-center and brought his outfielders closer to the infield. When I asked Rockies managers about the strategy, they (especially Clint Hurdle, always the smartest man in the room, he thought) would scoff and say: “You never played the game.” All of us played the game on some level, and we’re not talking about being a NASA scientist, anyway.

So, pitching is the problem.

Weiss was a great shortstop in The Show and is a smart baseball mind. But he wasn’t a pitcher and really doesn’t understand pitching — having spent his career either facing pitchers or standing behind them.

Early this season, when I brought up starter Jon Gray and some adjustments he had made at the end of the spring, Weiss said he didn’t really know what they were, and I should go ask the pitching coach and the bullpen coach. I did ask Darren Holmes, who I always felt was the best overall Rockies’ reliever. He could break a curve ball all in this thin air, and he was tough as 2-penny (or $1.50) nails.

A year ago in Tucson, I brought up the Rockies had developed into a team that would not allow starters to go beyond 100 pitches in a game. “It’s not a hard-fast rule,” Walt said.

I believe it is. I watch a majority of the Rockies games in person or on TV (because I have no life), and so rarely does one of the Rockies’ starters throw more than 100 times. Oh, there’s the occasional 105-pitch count.

When was the last time a Rockies pitcher, one who has a three-hitter or a shutout going, made it to 110 pitchers or even the eighth inning?

The Rockies’ complete game number for pitchers this year is: 0. Zero.

I’m totally sure that the organizational rule (decided by Monfort, vice president Jeff Bridich and Weiss) is: “That Shalt Not Hurl 110 Pitches.” They don’t announce the max number, and their lackeys on radio and TV never bring it up (because you Root, Root, Root for the home team, and even put a name on your station to prove it). The Post’s Patrick Saunders wrote a couple of months ago in a mailbag about the pitch count, and said he thought I was the first to bring up the 100Max.

Yes, because it’s so obvious.

What’s the point?

The Rox are afraid of tiring out their starting pitchers before the September run. There never is a September run. The August run ran out.


And they’re afraid of the big baseball bugaboo — Tommy John surgery. And other injuries.

Let’s be clear here: Pitchers hurt their arms all the time. The body was not intended for throwing an object overhand. That’s why I like submarine and sidearm pitchers, like Steve Reed, who used to pitch for the Rockies. They don’t stress their arms, and they can pitch almost every day.

Nevertheless, we start the blame process with Bridich, in his second year as general manager after being, ahem, Dan O’Dowd’s protegee.

He’s made some excellent free-agent signings, and I don’t fault him for a lot of things.

But his relief pitching decisions stink.

I challenged the off-season signings of Jason Motte and Chad Qualls. They’ve generally been average late-inning relievers. This year they’ve been worse than mediocre, and are on the DL.

The trade for Jake McGee was terrible. He couldn’t handle being the closer for the Rockies, and now is a seventh- or eighth-inning setup or wash-up guy.

Carlos Estevez was too young and inexperienced for the closer’s role.

Finally, he was removed after two blown saves.

He and McGee have combined for seven blown saves and 10 losses.

The Rockies would be in the thick of a postseason chase without the blowups of those two.

Overall, the Rockies have 19 blown saves.

Now, Weiss has to work with who he has on the roster, but he doesn’t work that well with them.

And at the trading deadline, when the Rox still had a glimmer, other teams went out and obtained closers and other relievers, and the Rockies, as usual, did nothing. They think their minor league players are gold. A majority are fool’s gold. And Monfort doesn’t want to spend any more money. He probably can’t sleep at night because of the cash they owe Jose Reyes.

Spread the blame around to the pitchers themselves, the handling of the pitchers by Weiss, the 100-pitch limit (wouldn’t it be nice to see one of the youngsters complete a full game or at least get to the ninth?), the acquisitions by Bridich, the presidency and ownership, the altitude, the lack of good young relievers in the organization, the scouting and, even blame me for carping and complaining.

But the Rockies are under .500 at home, and that’s a disgrace for a club that should have the best home field advantage in baseball. Under Weiss, in his fourth season, the Rockies are 130-170 at Coors Field. I rest my case.

Totally unacceptable.

As Weiss and everyone else says, the Rockies must win 60 percent in Denver

The Rockies are out of the running. They can’t pass the Dodgers, the Cardinals, the Pirates, the Mets or, ye gads, the Marlins — especially when you’re losing 7 of 9 and have a 4-9 record in August, with two division leaders, Chicago and Washington, coming to town. Both have closers. And openers. The Rockies have 25 games remaining against playoff contending teams. They'll probably end up with 75 victories. That's not playoff worthy.

Why not wait until the end of the season to talk about Weiss’ future?

Well, if you want a pitcher as a manager, and it’s the only sensible way to go, you can’t wait. Bud Black, who was manager of the year in the National League not long ago before the Padres fired him, is working for the Dodgers, and will be working for the Braves as manager next year if the Rockies don’t grab him when they can.

Bud Black is a good manager AND a former good pitcher. He knows how to handle pitchers at all altitudes.

And I’m giving you another choice — Dave Righetti, pitching coach of the Giants. He’s a twofer. The Rockies could hire an excellent ex-major league pitcher (remember him with the Yankees and as rookie of the year), who will be hired by somebody this off-season, and they could take away from the Giants the pitching coach who has three World Series rings in San Francisco.

I think Bridich, who didn’t name Weiss the manager, will be ready to pull the plug at the end of the season if he can persuade the loyal-to-a-fault Monfort. He could do it then with Righetti or now with Black.

And Walt Weiss should be promoted to president of the team. The owner should fire the current president.

And I’m not misquoting myself on that one.