Rockies oust Hurdle; Tracy takes over
DENVER -- The Colorado Rockies fired manager Clint Hurdle on Friday, less than two years after their incredible "Roctober" run to the World Series, and replaced him with bench coach Jim Tracy for the rest of the season.
Without reliable hitting, pitching or defense, the Rockies stumbled to an 18-28 start and were 14½ games behind Los Angeles in the NL West heading into Friday night's action.
"It was been a tremendous ride. It has been life lesson after life lesson," Hurdle said. "And I will tell you this, the last seven weeks I have said the serenity prayer more times than I did in the last seven years."
Hurdle, who had been Colorado's manager since replacing Buddy Bell three weeks into the 2002 season, was 534-625 for a .460 winning percentage in his seven-plus seasons.
"Obviously, he takes the sword for us," first baseman Todd Helton said in a subdued clubhouse. "He didn't have any bad at-bats, he didn't throw any bad pitches. He's the same manager he was two years ago. So, we realize that ultimately we're the reason he got fired."
Hurdle, who has been with the organization for 16 seasons, was offered a job in the club's front office but didn't address that opportunity at a news conference Friday in which he answered no questions.
"I'll be pulling for them from afar," he said in wishing the Rockies well.
Since the Rockies' one and only trip to the World Series in 2007, where they were swept by the Boston Red Sox, Colorado was 24 games under .500 with Hurdle at the helm.
Hurdle said general manager Dan O'Dowd told him in a meeting Friday morning that the organization wanted a change.
"I've always been all-in. I'm all-in now," Hurdle said. "I wish Jim Tracy nothing but good luck, good fortune, good health and success with the ballclub. I wish the players the same."
Tracy has a 562-572 managerial record with the Los Angeles Dodgers (2001-05) and Pittsburgh Pirates (2006-07), with a division title in 2004. He joined the Rockies' staff this winter at the behest of O'Dowd.
Tracy said he wouldn't make wholesale changes and had great respect for Hurdle.
"I want all of you to understand and realize that in no way, shape or form will I try to undue anything that this man has done for this organization," Tracy said. "[Sixteen] years to this organization is an eternity in the business today. He's done some wonderful things."
Colorado Springs Sky Sox manager Tom Runnells will fill Tracy's spot as bench coach.
Hurdle, who was in the final year of his contract, was hamstrung this season by the loss of his best hitter and his best pitcher as the Rockies got off to their second straight slow start, which affected attendance.
Slugger Matt Holliday was traded to Oakland in November after refusing a contract extension, and ace Jeff Francis was lost for the season with shoulder surgery this spring -- not that Hurdle ever used that as an excuse.
Hurdle was never one to complain about the club's cost-conscious ways, which likely helped earn him a longer leash from ownership than many fans would have liked.
Except for that magical month at the end of the 2007 season, when the Rockies won their first NL pennant by going on an unfathomable 21-1 run-up to the World Series, Hurdle's teams never were very good.
Aside from their 90-73 record in '07, the Rockies owned nothing but losing records under Hurdle -- he's the only manager in major league history to begin his career with five consecutive losing seasons and not get fired for it.
Ownership stuck by their man for years because of his loyalty during the long rebuilding process when the Rockies pulled in their financial reins following some embarrassing and costly mistakes.
"We're an organization that values stability more than we value change," O'Dowd told The Associated Press. "Clint is someone who's been a part of everything we've done here. He deserved the benefit of the doubt until it got to the point where we realized we needed to do something."
O'Dowd said he would meet with Hurdle soon to talk about a front-office role.
As for Tracy, O'Dowd said he'll be evaluated at season's end but stressed that his future won't hinge solely on wins and losses.
"I'm not unrealistic. I don't expect miracles here," O'Dowd said. "I think [what will be weighed] is the caliber of how we play and how we establish an identity, more those types of things."
Hurdle was asked in the offseason to change his approach and juggle his coaching staff, bringing on Tracy and hitting coach Don Baylor. He set a more disciplinarian tone at spring training. Yet, the Rockies seemed to get away from that when the season started, and they struggled on the field and at the gate.
"This is not just a reflection of Clint," O'Dowd said. "He's been a special person for our organization and community and hopefully he'll be in a position to lead our club in other ways."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
MORE MLB HEADLINES
- Agent: Lester didn't tell Sox contract terms
- Cain to meet with Dr. Andrews about elbow
- Cobb fans 12 as Rays win 11th of past 12
- Dodgers' Scully will return for 66th season