Jim Tracy took over for Clint Hurdle and was an immediate success. He brought stability to a lineup that changed everyday and roles for a bullpen that was consistently a fluid situation.
That Jim Tracy is gone.
In his postgame press conference after the Rockies were defeated 3-2 by the Padres, Tracy was asked why he decided to go with Manny Corpas in the 8th inning and Franklin Morales in the 9th.
Tracy went on for two minutes about how he does not want to put Rafael Betancourt in a game changing situation. He referenced the fact that Betancourt has struggled his last few times out. He went on about how Betancourt will eventually work his way back to the eighth inning role, but until then, he needs to get back to himself..
Tracy's comments are baffling. Not because they aren't correct, Betancourt is indeed struggling, but rather, because of the fact of who Tracy continues to put out on the mound in high leverage situations.
While Betancourt is struggling, the blatantly obvious, sticking out like a sore thumb problem is not Betancourt, it is Franklin Morales.
Morales has the stuff to be a closer. He could be as dominant as anyone in that role. However, his worst enemy is himself. The lefty did what he does best on Tuesday night in the 9th inning. He walked the leadoff batter. For a closer, the cardinal sin is to walk the leadoff batter. The key is to go out and pound the strike zone.
Pounding the strike zone is something that Morales simply cannot do. For weeks he has struggled to locate his fastball. He misses his spot not by inches, but by feet.
In picking up his third loss of the season, Morales put together the latest in a long string of circus-like 9th innings. He walked Lance Zawadski to lead off the inning, then got an out as Tony Gwynn Jr. laid down a good sacrifice bunt. From there Morales got David Eckstein to fly out, but faced the big problem of being right in the middle of the Padres lineup.
Morales pitched around Adrian Gonzalez, putting him on first base. Up to the plate came Rockie-killer and Colorado native Chase Headley. Headley had grounded into a double play to end the inning in the 8th and the feeling was that he wasn't going to fail twice.
After a slider in the dirt, it was clear that Morales did not want to get down 2-0. He put a fastball down the heart of the plate and Headley did not disappoint. He lined the ball deep to right-center field, winning the game for the Padres.
Morales has been anything but a shutdown closer. He has struggled to find the strike zone every single time he has taken the mound.
When will Jim Tracy realize that Morales is the one who does not belong in high leverage situations? The sooner he realizes that, the sooner the Rockies will start to win more games.
Morales has all the talent in the world, but until he has the mentality that he needs to be a closer, he should be pitching nowhere near the 9th inning. Until that happens, Jim Tracy will continue to cost the Colorado Rockies baseball games.
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