It may get old to hear, but the fact is, for every button that Tracy pushed correctly in 2009, he is pushing a wrong button in 2010.
On Friday night as the Rockies dropped the opener of a three-game series against the Dodgers 6-2.
Were there other factors in the Rockies loss on Friday? Of course. However, the reason Colorado lost came courtesy of one decision from the Rockies dugout.
After ace Ubaldo Jimenez had pitched seven scoreless innings and was staked to a 1-0 lead, Tracy trotted him out there for the 8th inning. The rising-star had already thrown 114 pitches, 44 of which came in the first two innings.
Jimenez went out in the 8th and allowed two men to reach. That is when pitching coach Bob Apodaca trotted to the mound for what seemed like a time-buying gimmick so lefty Joe Beimel could get a couple more tosses in order to be loose. Instead, Apodaca turned and went back to the dugout and Jimenez faced Andre Either, who promptly lined a double to right-center field, scoring the tying run.
At that point, Tracy went to get Jimenez, who was showered with cheers as he reached the Rockies dugout, once again failing to pick up his 18th win.
Matt Belisle, who has been nothing short of phenomenal for the Rockies, got an out before giving up a grand slam to Casey Blake, giving the Dodgers a 5-1 lead.
Obviously hindsight is 20/20. It is easy to look back and say that Tracy made a bad move. But this time, it was evident before Tracy made the decision.
Jimenez, who has shouldered quite a load in 2010, had pitched seven beautiful innings. The Dodgers had threatened, but failed to score on the right-hander. At 114 pitches, there would be very little chance that Jimenez would get through the 8th inning with less than 130 pitches, leaving one inning of baseball left to be played.
Although a one-run lead is difficult to maintain, the Rockies bullpen has shown that it has the capability to get that sort of job done. Instead of coming in with a clean slate in the 8th inning, Belisle was forced to start in a jam. He was able to get a ground out before giving up the slam to Blake. However, the story might have been quite a bit different if he had been able to start the inning.
With his pitch count where it was, there really was not much of a possibility that Jimenez was going to go the distance. Throwing 140 or more pitches is simply not going to happen. So why not let the bullpen finish the job? After all, if they can't get six outs and protect the lead, the Rockies really don't have any business playing in the post season anyway.
The move shows something that Rockies fans had only heard about when Tracy was named manager. He is stubborn. He lost his job in Los Angeles because of it, and was given his walking papers in Pittsburgh for the same reason. He gets something stuck in his head, and keeps at it, regardless of the situation.
In this case, Tracy was convinced that since Jimenez had an extra day of rest with an off-day on Thursday that throwing 125 or more pitches would be fine. Even though he has one of the most reliable bullpens in baseball who might be hurting slightly, but just received two fresh arms from Colorado Springs in Samuel Deduno and Franklin Morales. There is no reason the bullpen shouldn't have been handed the ball in the 8th inning.
Before the game on Wednesday, Tracy said Huston Street was available if he absolutely needed him even though he had pitched in four of the last five games because Street said he was ready to go. In his post game press conference on Friday, Tracy was asked why Jimenez was asked to go back to the mound in the 8th despite his high pitch count. Tracy's response? He said that Jimenez told him he was good to go.
It is a very good thing that Tracy believes in his players. That motivates them to be great when they have their manager behind them. However, there is not a single ace in baseball that, with his team in need of wins to get back in the race, would tell his manager that he is tired, or that he feels like he needs to come out of the game. Same thing for Street. What closer in baseball would actually be able to watch a one-run game being pitched by a setup man in a playoff race simply because that closer said that he wasn't good to go that day.
The fact is, Tracy is a manager for a reason. He is the one who needs to make executive decisions on how good a guy is feeling based on what his pitches are doing. He needs to be able to spot fatigue and tell his ace that despite feeling good, he is going to go to a fresh arm in the bullpen.
The Rockies loss on Friday night could prove costly to a team that needs to win as many games as possible, especially at Coors Field. As far as this game, the buck stops with Jim Tracy.
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