Clint Hurdle's Rocky Tenure: A Scapegoat for Poor Upper Management

Mordecai BrownerAnalyst IMay 31, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO - MAY 02:  Manager Clint Hurdle of the Colorado Rockies walks off the field during their game against the San Francisco Giants on May 2, 2009 at AT&T Park in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Most write-ups regarding the firing of Clint Hurdle can't help but focus immediately on the improbable great baseball the Rockies played in September and October of 2007, and who could blame them considering it's his only accomplishment in seven years. They also talk about how unpopular and duplicitous he was with his players.

But such emphasis is dishonest. The real story of Hurdle's tenure isn't that he was fired 18 months after a World Series, or disgruntled players, but rather how he was still managing in 2007 after five years of atrocious baseball.

An axiom many in the game believe is that a great manager cannot really improve a team, but a lousy one can make a great team bad.

It's true in business, and it's true in baseball. Ultimately, the product is measured in results.

And for most of the last decade, the Rockies have produced a dismal product.

The recipe has been simple: four or five solid everyday players, a respectable pitcher or two, and a bunch of hopefuls and cast-offs.

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In the Associated Press' article about Hurdle's departure, the truth of the situation emerges deep into the prose, as often happens.

"Hurdle was never one to complain about the club's cost-conscious ways...'We're an organization that values stability more than we value change,' [General Manager Dan] O'Dowd told The Associated Press."

Translation? They were going to suck. 

Upper management knew they were going to suck and hiring Connie Mack's ghost wouldn't have fixed it, so they stuck with the loyal foot soldier, who they now want to put in their front office.

I know Hurdle's players generally disliked his ways and felt they made the World Series in spite of his leadership. That might be true.

But what's also true is he never really had a good product to sell, and they still don't.  Hurdle was nothing more than a mask, a fall-guy for inept upper management.

In the decade of Dan O'Dowd's service as general manager, the Rockies' attendance has dropped from first in the league (as it had been for seven years) to being in the bottom half for the last 10 years.

The highlight was a World Series appearence in a year when no National League team dominated by any stretch of the imagination and they made the playoffs by the skin of their teeth.

Hurdle probably deserved to be hired, but who else would have performed better over the last seven years? Don Baylor? Buddy Bell?

The truth is the guy who really needs to be reviewed is the one who hired him, the one who assembled the pitching staff with the .282 batting average against and the 4.85 ERA and the one who appears to have overseen a severe decline in Denver's love of baseball.

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