COMMENTARY | When the Colorado Rockies introduced Walt Weiss as their new manager on Nov. 9, it was no surprise the announcement came with mixed reactions. A fan base teased by a success in 2007 that led to a World Series appearance has been waiting for the Rockies to make a meaningful move.
Now they have.
The hiring of Weiss, who spent 14 seasons in the big leagues including four seasons in Denver, is exactly what the organization needed to get back on track.
In Weiss, who replaces Jim Tracy, who stepped down after a franchise-worst 64-98 season, you have instant credibility with players, coaches and fans. Having gone through the grind of the major league season 14 times gives him the insight of knowing what his players are going through, and can help him stay connected and keep his guys locked in during the long, hot days of summer.
But his only head coaching experience is as a high school coach?
At his press conference at Coors Field, Weiss addressed the issue right away.
"There is no question the pink elephant in the room is I haven't done this before," Weiss said. "This is a job that I'm going to have to figure out on the fly."
Weiss spending last season at suburban Denver private school Regis Jesuit means he has a unique perspective on the game. He has succeeded at motivating pimple-faced 17-year-olds whose minds are cluttered with girls, homework and reality television. That is no simple task.
When I sat down with Weiss last July at the USA Baseball Training Complex in Cary, N.C., he discussed some of the complexities of coaching at the high school level.
"At the high school level it's a little bit different," laughed Weiss. "But I've enjoyed it. I've enjoyed the age group I'm working with. The kids are old enough, at the high school varsity level, to absorb some of the finer points of the game, but their young enough that their dreams are still in front of them, still alive, and you can be a part of that, and help them get to the next step."
Even then, Weiss wasn't afraid to talk about how 14-years in the major leagues can benefit a coach.
"I think you get instant respect and credibility," said Weiss. "But, that only lasts so long. Then you have to care for (the players) and earn their respect the rest of the way.
"I think my experiences, the things I can share and the people I've been around carries a lot of weight when talking to the younger guys."
And it is younger guys he will have in his clubhouse when spring training kicks off next February. Weiss inherits a young, talented roster that is some pitching short of being a force in the NL West.
He will have a, hopefully, healthy Troy Tulowitzki to anchor around, who when not battling injuries has proved to be the best all-around shortstop in baseball. In Tulowitzki's absence last year, 23-year-old Josh Rutledge emerged as a blossoming star in the middle infield, while third baseman Jordan Pacheco, just 26, hit .309 in 132 games. Carlos Gonzales, Dexter Fowler, Tyler Colvin and Michael Cuddyer present a great problem in the outfield for the new lineup card writer.
A healthy Jorge De La Rosa combined with break out seasons from Drew Pomeranz, Alex White, Jhoulys Chacin, Christian Friedrich or Juan Nicasio would make the Rockies legitimate contenders to reigning World Series champion, San Francisco Giants.
Weiss knows what he has to do to be successful in the top job for the Rockies.
"There is a blueprint there for me, on how to deal with players and develop that trust," he said in his press conference. "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.
"Players love real -- they know it and they can smell it."
The Rockies have given him just a one year contract. As is typical for professional athletes, they shine in their "contract year." Expect Weiss to be no different. He's not concerned about his contract.
"If you don't do the job, you're gone," Weiss said. "So, that's of no concern for me. I have to do the job. I have to get a club to play hard and play the game right. That's all I'm focused on. I could care less about the terms of my contract, to be honest."
Walt Weiss will make a difference in the Rockies clubhouse. He brings a fresh perspective to a franchise in need of rejuvenation.
Now we will just have to wait for the results.
Cody moved to Denver the same year the Rockies debuted as a franchise and has been a fan ever since. He interviewed Walt Weiss in July 2012 as part of his work with USA Baseball.
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