By Brian VanderBeek (Beat Writer covering the Modesto Nuts for the Modesto Bee)
|Bill Geivett moved his office into the Rockies clubhouse one year ago.|
I’m free to write pretty much anything I want because I have assumed control of this blog post.
In other words, I have much more freedom to express myself on paper than a manager in the Rockies’ organization has when he puts pen to lineup card.
Now, to a man, I really like the people I’ve met in the Colorado system, and in covering the Rockies’ High-A team since it relocated to Modesto for the 2005 season, I’ve met the majority of the decision-makers.
I appreciate that some of them have felt free to have frank discussions about players, organizational approaches and attitudes with me, holding close the confidence and trust that nothing we discuss will reach print. I’m not going to threaten that trust here.
So what I’m writing here is an opinion that I have shared with some people within the Rockies’ organization, and let’s just say the overwhelming majority of these always-cordial chats have ended with an agreement to disagree. That’s absolutely cool with me, because the Rockies always have shown respect for my right to express my opinion and I certainly respect their decision-making authority.
But after covering the minor leagues for 17 years and baseball at the major league level off and on since 1979, I’m not only convinced that Colorado was dead-wrong to create a Director of Development position within its minor league clubhouses, but is paying the price for having done so.
We’re very close to the one-year (Aug. 1) anniversary of the day Colorado AGM Bill Geivett moved his desk into an office inside the Rockies’ clubhouse.
Geivett is one of the most likable, accessible and easy-going men I’ve met in baseball (and he owes me dinner since I smoked him in our 2005 spring training weight-loss challenge) yet the mere moving of his furniture usurped the authority of Jim Tracy, a great baseball man whose tenure in Colorado may or may not have been hastened by seeing an organizational superior take root in his clubhouse.
At the very least, Tracy no longer was perceived as the undisputed clubhouse authority, which is a power and perception every baseball manager must have.
The Rockies then took this new Big Brother approach to an extreme by installing a “Director of Development” in the clubhouse of each of its minor league affiliates.
I’ve been told that a heated telephone rant by Joe Mikulik after being told of plans to add this new supervisorial position in his clubhouse was part of what prompted the Rockies to show him the door after 13 seasons and 938 wins in Asheville.
And I saw first-hand how Lenn Sakata’s disdain of what he saw as a babysitter (the position itself and not the people sent to handle the job - Zach Wilson, then Fred Nelson upon his recovery from back surgery) was part of the reason the most successful manager in the history of the California League (684 wins, three league titles) was shown the door after a July 6 road game.
Tracy, Mikulik and Sakata. Three outstanding baseball people with track records longer than the Rockies have been in existence. Three major assets to any organization. The Rockies were fortunate, no, lucky, to have all three on the side of the Purple.
I have gained some understanding as to why Colorado reinvented the developmental wheel with this director position. Among other duties, the Rockies want a person on site to make sure the developmental plans in place, as they apply to both team and individual players, are followed. But until the moment this position was created, following those plans was a major part of the manager’s job description. The mere creation of the position undermines the vital communication between manager and front office.
In years to come, perhaps this will be seen as a stroke of genius and the Director of Development will become a position other organizations will choose to install.
I sincerely doubt such will be the case.
Since before the time baseballs began to grow red stitches and with few exceptions, team owners have hired managers and trusted them with the authority to organize, inspire and direct the players.
The position of Director of Development is a violation of that basic trust and will hurt the Rockies’ future efforts to lure top-notch minor league coaches and managers into their system.
It’s already cost them three excellent baseball men.
-- Brian VanderBeek, a staff writer for The Modesto Bee, has a regular, in-season Modesto Nuts blog that can be found at modbee.com/blogs and all of the Modesto Bee's coverage of the Nuts can be found at modbee.com/Nuts. Feel free to follow Brian VanderBeek, @modestobeek.