Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Jim Tracy fits the makeup of the Colorado Rockies well

When the Colorado Rockies brought Jim Tracy in to be the bench coach for the 2009 season, there was no doubt that he was a fall back plan in case Clint Hurdle couldn't get the Rockies off to a quick start.

After a disappointing 2008 season in which the Rockies made their previous run to the World Series look more like a fluke than a rise to dominance, Hurdle was on the hot seat. Despite the front office's love for Hurdle and their similarities in terms of character, they knew that it might take a change at the top in order for the club to be successful.

While Tracy being named manager at the end of May was not a surprise to many, few would have predicted at the beginning of the '09 season that he would be the National League Manager of the Year. After sparking the Rockies to a wild card berth, and within a weekend of winning their first-ever National League West title, Tracy was a no-brainer for the award.

There is no doubt that some of Tracy's on-field moves can be questioned, over a 162 game season, there isn't a manager who pushed all the right buttons all the time. However, one reason that the Rockies were so quick to hand him the reins was due to his character. He fits right into the mold that the club works so diligently to keep.

I recently read an article that was written by David Franco from The Next Level Ballplayer. He had a chance to interview Tracy and dug deeper than normal with his questions. Below is the interview.

Special thanks to Franco for allowing me to use his insightful interview with Tracy on RockiesReview. His blog, The Next Level Ballplayer, is very insightful, it is designed for the baseball player who is looking to improve his game. He interviews top college coaches, as well as big league players, coaches and scouts.

Jim Tracy, 2009 NL Manager of the Year talks baseball and gives us a glimpse into his mindset as a MLB head coach.

Every time Jim Tracy walks in and out of his Colorado Rockies office he sees the Vince Lombardi quote on the back of his door.

“We are going to relentlessly chase perfection, knowing full well we will not catch it, because nothing is perfect. But we are going to relentlessly chase it, because in the process we will catch excellence.”

Those are the words that continually motivate Coach Tracy, one of the top coaches in the Bigs. I recently had the privilege to meet Coach Tracy and hear him speak. He touched on many different topics ranging from managing his bullpen to stealing signs. The rest of this article consists of nuggets of wisdom from a great baseball mind. Enjoy.

Jim Tracy on…

Failure

“Too many players these days play not to fail. Those are the guys that never reach their potential. Felipe Alou would always tell his players, “I don’t want you to play the game afraid.” When the hard work has been put in and its game time- Let it fly!”

Great Players

“Body language tells me lot about the player. The great players always look the same. They play full bore with a straight face. Whether their team is up 10 or down 10, their demeanor is the same.”

Views on the Bullpen (from the coaching perspective)

“I look at pitching from the 9th inning back. There are so few complete games thrown these days that you have to know how your bullpen plays out from the 9th inning back to the 1st inning.”

Pitching (from the coaching perspective)

“You need to identify who your pitchers are. Are they a sprinter or a starter? You take a guy like Eric Gagne who I coached in LA. He was up and down as a starter for his first few seasons [Gagne was 11-14 in his first three seasons as primarily a starter]. My coaching staff and I noticed he would look good early in games and then tire. Once we moved him to the bullpen he thrived. He was a sprinter. And he made me look good when shortly after we moved him to closer he put together that amazing streak of 84 straight saves. I don’t think that record will ever be broken.”

The hardest thing to do at the Big League level

“Being a role guy. Someone who comes off the bench in the 7th, 8th, or 9th after not playing for a week. And it’s almost always a spot were the team really needs a hit. It’s the coach’s job to find opportunities to get his role players into games on a semi regular basis. It’s the role player’s job to stay mentally sharp and always know the game situation so he’s ready even before the coach calls his name.”

Stealing Signs

“I don’t ever watch the opposing coaches and try to steal signs. I just watch the runners. Base runners tell on themselves all the time. I’m always watching for them to take a little bigger lead, or crouch a little lower, or look a bit more focused. Most guys will do something different if they are stealing that pitch. It’s the same thing with some middle infielders. They’ll tip pitches by how they move before the pitch. For example, If the SS sees the catcher call for a change up to a right handed batter, he might cheat a step towards third to cover the hole. I’m always trying to gain information by watching players on the other team.”

A current player whom you think will someday make a great manager

“Hands down Alex Cora. He was one of the best field managers I’ve ever been around. When I had him and Cesar Izturis with the Dodgers, people would come to the ballpark just to see them turn double plays. It was like poetry in motion. Alex has a great mind for the game and I think someday he will be a great manager.”

Making out his NL lineup

“First off, I won’t sacrifice defense in the middle of my field (ie C, SS, 2B and CF). I’m lucky to have 2 of the best young offensive players in the game at SS and CF (Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez), but they both are gold glove caliber fielders as well. Joey Amalfitano used to say, ‘The worst thing that can happen in baseball is when, for whatever reason, the extra hitter in the inning comes up when he shouldn’t.’”

What I look for in my line up

1 Hole- I need a catalyst that can get on base and run.
2 Hole- My smartest offensive player. A guy who understands the game and can get on base for our 3 and 4 hitters.
3 Hole- My best hitter
4 Hole- Someone with pop who can drive in runs
5 Hole- Hits for power and provides some protection for 4 hole hitter
6 Hole- Cleans up for 3, 4, 5 guys and knocks in runs.
7 Hole- My second 2 hole hitter. He’s an action guy who can hit & run and handle the bat.
8 Hole- Has good plate discipline and does all he can not to let the pitcher lead off.
9 Hole- Pitcher

2 comments:

  1. This is good stuff. Tracy makes me bounce my head off the wall sometimes with in game overmanaging and overuse of certain relievers, but there's no doubt the man understands the game, his players, and his style meshes well with this team.

    I like the buttons he's pushing with Ian Stewart, challenging him to get back on the field and get himself on track. It shows that he's not ignoring the obvious and is willing to push a player that clearly needs the motivation. Hopefully it works.

    Real good work here, David.

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  2. Mark- Thanks for reading, and thanks for the comment. I completely agree with you. Sometimes Jim Tracy's over-thinking drives me crazy, but he does seem to have the respect of the team, which is a huge step ahead of many managers in baseball. I would like to see a more consistent lineup and better use of the bullpen, but I guess no one is perfect.

    Good example with Ian Stewart. I thought the same thing when I read about that. It seems that he is telling Stewart it is time to toughen up, and not necessarily physically, but mentally.

    Thanks for the comment, and keep up the good work yourself!

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