This isn't why it was important to start off hot in April. The reason wasn't so that the team could blow that lead in May.
The offense clearly is struggling, and is the predominant reason for the lack of production leading to losses. However, in spite of a lackluster offense, the team has been in games, hence three-straight walk-off losses. The reason the Rockies are losing is because of the captain of the ship.
Jim Tracy is an easy man to fall in love with. He is media-friendly. He gives great quotes. He knows the game inside and out and he believes in his players.
The problem is, believing in his players comes with a cost. Instead of being realistic and seeing flaws, he sees each one of his players as his own child. When a parent looks at their own kid, they generally see a much more talented version than the rest of society sees.
Tracy is also extremely meticulous. He thinks about every last detail. Not just in baseball, but in life. It is hard not to like him. However, it will be tough to find a single Jim Tracy fan in all of Colorado when the sun rises on Sunday.
Tracy painted himself into a corner once again on Saturday night in San Francisco. It is a well-known fact in baseball that righties hit lefties better, and lefties hit righties better. However, that does not mean that a lefty can't get a righty out, and vice-versa.
The Rockies manager prides himself in playing for the win in nine innings, and then figuring it out from there. However, on Saturday, Tracy didn't try to win in nine innings, he tried to win in eight. It seemed to be working out well, until that stubborn old rule popped up again. Yep, that's right, the umpires enforced the rule that the game has to go nine innings.
In the seventh inning, Tracy brought in Matt Belisle to replace an extremely effective Clayton Mortenson. The Rockies were tied at two, after the offense finally got the bats going against Madison Bumgarner.
Belisle is a work-horse. In 2010, he logged 92 innings. That was probably about 15 too many, but he did a great job for the club, and was able to work out of many different roles. On several occasions, he went two innings.
So on Saturday it was baffling to see Tracy walk out of the dugout after Belisle had retired the first two Giants. Tracy signaled for the lefty Matt Reynolds to face Giants shortstop Mike Fontenot. Reynolds proceeded to give up a double to Fontenot, walked Buster Posey, then was able to strike out Aubrey Huff.
(For a great recap of the game, and always great Rockies opinion, visit Mark Townsend's Rockies blog, Heaven & Helton)
The Rockies got out of the inning, but Tracy had wiped two pitchers off the books in order to get three outs.
What that meant is that Matt Lindstrom got to pitch the eighth inning, then the Rockies, still looking to break the tie, only had Felipe Paulino, Franklin Morales, Rafael Betancourt and Huston Street left in the bullpen. Street would be saved for if the Rockies took the lead, and Betancourt threw over 30 pitches on Friday, so the choices were Paulino or Morales.
Pick your poison.
The only one surprised to see what happened next was Tracy. The loss was almost not a heartbreaker, because the reality of Paulino and Morales combining to get the job done was slim-to-none. Sorry, but neither has been an effective reliever. Morales has been better in 2011, but does anyone trust him to throw one strike, let alone three? Does anyone really believe that Paulino is going to get outs in a high-leverage situation?
The Giants immediately got two runners on base off of Paulino. Tracy then went to Morales, who sailed a pitch to the backstop, allowing the winning run to reach third with no outs. Morales did not delay the inevitable. He grooved a pitch to Fontenot, who drilled it to right, deep enough to score the winning run.
Tracy has to take responsibility for the loss. However, so does Dan O'Dowd. Matt Daley has been phenomenal at Triple-A Colorado Springs so far. He has big league experience, and has proved to be an effective reliever. Paulino has not. Despite the lack of options on Paulino's contract, Daley should be up, and Paulino nowhere to be found in a Jim Tracy bullpen.
The other issue is Morales. Although he has been better, the Rockies have a lefty in Colorado Springs who has been everything that was advertised in Rex Brothers. The sandwich pick in 2009 looks to be ready for the big leagues, and sorry to the remaining Morales fans, but he isn't going to come around. He isn't a pitcher. He is a thrower, and if that hasn't changed by now, it never will. He can't consistently hit the strike zone, and pitching in the big leagues is impossible without command.
The loss is frustrating. Frankly, the offense needs to decide to show up. They need to decide that they are going to be better than mediocre, or they will continue to scuffle against good pitchers all year long. It has nothing to do with mechanics, it has nothing to do with pulling too many balls, it has everything to do with their mindset. That is what needs to change.