SPORTS WATCH | From High School to the Majors: Is Walt Weiss Ready?
by Gus Jarvis
Nov 15, 2012 | 1247 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Is the Colorado Rockies Owner/Chief Executive Officer Dick Monfort being cheap or does he really have faith that Walt Weiss, who was named the club’s new manager last week, can turn this fledgling team around?

I hope to eat these words next year if the Rockies become successful again, but it seems like a pretty cheap move to me. This is not to say that I dislike Walt Weiss or that I think he’s going to be a terrible manager, I just don’t understand the selection.

The finalists for the job also included Matt Williams, who is a known juicer from Arizona, Rockies current bench coach Tom Runnells, and the great Jason Giambi, who up until last season was playing out the twilight years of his career in Denver.

The Rockies brass decided that Weiss was the best choice. Monfort and Co. decided that Weiss’ demeanor on the field when he played shortstop for the Rockies was what the team needs coming off its franchise-worst 64-98 season. Hopefully, Weiss hasn’t lost his major league attitude, because it’s been awhile since he’s had to think and perform at that level.

As a shortstop, Weiss was a great fielder and played 14 seasons with Oakland, Florida, Colorado and Atlanta. While he was with the A’s, he was named the American League Rookie of the Year. According to The Denver Post, he brought a veteran presence to Colorado’s clubhouse back in 1994 and then, in 1999, Weiss helped the braves make the World Series.

Despite an impressive playing career, Weiss has never managed a Major League team. Prior to taking this job, his only coaching position was at Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora, Colo., where he led the team to a 20-6 record and an appearance in the state semifinals last spring.

When I first heard that Colorado selected Weiss as its new manager and that his prior coaching experience was at the high school level, I have to admit it worried me. Why couldn’t we hire a manager with at least some experience. Coaching high school baseball is great but I’m not sure it counts when it comes to taking a job at the Major League level. Perhaps Monfort and Co. have seen the classic baseball movie Major League one too many times? Remember, the Indians GM calls Tire World to offer one of its employees, Lou Brown, the job as manager of the Indians?

GM: “How would you like to manage the Indians this year?”

Lou Brown: “Oh, I don’t know…”

GM: “What do you mean you don’t know? This is your chance to manage in the big leagues.”

Brown: “Let me get back to you will ya, Charlie? I got a guy on the other line asking about some white walls.”

I wonder if this was the same sort of conversation between Monfort and Weiss. For the on-screen Indians, the selection of Lou Brown worked out pretty well. They went on to a storybook ending and won the American League pennant. I hope the Rockies can find that kind of film magic with Weiss, but somehow I don’t think it will be that easy. I have to keep reminding myself that Major League was just a movie. Hopefully Monfort is able to produce a Hollywood ending.

Anyway, I digress. I remain confused as to why the Rockies next manager has no real managing experience. Weiss is asking himself that question as well.

“There is no question the pink elephant in the room is I haven’t done this before,” Weiss told The Associated Press after signing a contract for one year. “This is a job that I’m going to have to figure out on the fly.”

Even though he doesn’t have the managerial experience, he said he plans to incorporate Tony La Russa’s “vision” of the game and Bobby Cox’s ability to create a winning culture into his own style. At the same time, he plans to talk to Pittsburgh Manager Clint Hurdle for friendly advice every now and then. In the end, though, Weiss plans on being himself.

“There is a blueprint there for me, on how to deal with players and develop that trust,” he said. “But when it gets down to it, you have to be yourself. When you try to be someone else, it's fake. And fake doesn't work, especially with the players.”

Since being hired last week, Weiss has already made some personnel moves, first by rehiring Runnells as bench coach and then hiring Blake Street Bomber Dante Bichette as the team’s new hitting coach. And while I really like the move to hire Bichette, I wonder if Giambi’s getting lost in all of this.

Giambi, who has been a positive presence in the dugout over the past few seasons, really wanted the manager job. He said he would retire as a player and then manage the Rockies. Now that Weiss has been hired, Giambi’s name was thought to be in the ring for hitting coach. Now that position’s been filled. What’s next for Giambi? Here’s a guy that really wants to be a part of this organization and has the respect of everyone on the team, yet the Rockies can’t seem to find a place for him.

If we lose Giambi and he goes to another team because of a damaged relationship, I’ll be pissed. Maybe it’s the fan in me, but I love Giambi as a Rockie and I think I would have given him a one-year contract before I would have given Walt Weiss the contract. Like I said, that’s the fan in me. (I would have at least liked Weiss to have taken his high school team to a state championship last year. Is that too much to ask?)

Of course, I’ll look forward to next year’s Rockies with great interest. I hope the best for Walt. I hope he can turn this team around. He has to do it and has to do it quick. Monfort and Co. only have enough faith in their decision to give him a one-year contract. (Now that’s real confidence!)

If Weiss can turn this team around, I’ll be the first to admit I was wrong. If the Rockies continue their downward trajectory as one of the worst teams in baseball with Weiss, you better believe I’m going to continue to bitch and moan in all the worst ways.



Twitter: @gusgusj

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