Friday, May 29, 2009
Colorado Rockies Forever Indebted To Clint Hurdle
Clint Hurdle was fired as the manager of the Colorado Rockies on Friday. It was a move that was long anticipated, and frankly, long overdue.
The club struggled throughout all of 2008, never regaining the form that landed them in the World Series just months prior. 2009 was supposed to be a fresh start for the club. Instead, the tailspin continued, and entering play on Friday night, the Rockies are 14-1/2 games out of first place.
The move was made on the heels of a three game sweep at the hands of the Dodgers. The series showed how the two teams are headed in the polar opposite direction.
Hurdle's overall record with the Rockies was 534-625, a winning percentage of only .461. However, when history looks back on Hurdle's tenure with the Rockies, the record should not tell the whole story.
In fact, his record should tell how loyal Hurdle was to this ball club.
Hurdle took over for Buddy Bell in April of 2002. The team was 6-16 and just beginning to realize the mistakes that were made with the signings of Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle.
Hurdle was made aware of the fact that his first stint as a Major League manager would come at the very beginning of a long rebuilding process. He knew that his record would suffer as he watched the Rockies field teams that included names such as Royce Clayton, Jose Hernandez, Ron Villone, Brent Butler, which are just a few of the many names that Hurdle was forced to write on a lineup card day in and day out.
It was at this point in Rockies history that the franchise realized that in order to compete they could no longer try and sign big name free agents to long-term deals. They could not afford to take the risks that they had in the past with Darryl Kyle, Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle. If they wanted to win, they would have to take a small market approach and grow a young team.
This would take time, and Hurdle knew it. Never once did Hurdle complain that he was being handcuffed by ownership or that his reputation was being run through the mud.
Hurdle was the exact opposite of that. He climbed on board and became ownerships biggest fan. He, along with Todd Helton, suffered through the tough times as the franchise's best talent was playing in front of just a few fans wearing uniforms that said "Tourists" or "Dust Devils" instead of "Rockies." They were playing in cities that most Americans have never heard of.
Finally in 2005, the talent started to arrive. Names like Matt Holliday, Brad Hawpe, and Garrett Atkins and Brian Fuentes were showing up at Coors Field and displaying their potential. At this point however, potential was all that they really had.
Hurdle was very instrumental in the development of that potential in '05 and '06. He was patient as these budding stars learned to play the game in the Major Leagues.
Most expected the team to finally reach its potential in 2008, but after a rough start in '07, Hurdle was able to defy the odds and help the team to a regular season finish that saw the club win 14 out of 15 to capture the National League Wild Card and would go on to a surprise World Series appearance after sweeping the Phillies and Diamondbacks in the playoffs.
Hurdle's mantra through the run was as cliche as it gets. After every game he would give the media the same speech. Something along the lines of everyday "we play we have a chance to win, and we think that we can win that day."
The leadership inspired the young Rockies to truly believe that they could win everyday, regardless of what happened the night before. Hurdle had the team believing that they belonged in the playoffs.
Without Clint Hurdle, it could be argued that the '07 Rockies would never have made the playoffs. He was a driving force behind a team that was supposed to be a year away from competing.
Without Hurdle, Rockies fans would never have the play-in game against the Padres, they would never have the division series sweep of the Phillies or the NLCS sweep of the Diamondbacks. They would never have the picture of Todd Helton finally shedding the monkey off of his back as he caught the clinching out. Without Hurdle, the term "Rocktober" would not exist.
While Hurdle's management style may have passed this team by, the team and it's fans should realize that the fingerprint of Clint Hurdle will be on this franchise for years to come.