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T.J. SIMERS

Micro Manager is working wonders with the Rockies

Former Dodgers manager Jim Tracy has Colorado in the thick of things in the National League West.

August 26, 2009|T.J. SIMERS

FROM DENVER — Now this is fun, the old Micro Manager rearranging the furniture on seemingly every pitch, Manny Ramirez juiced when it really counts and the Rockies keeping alive the best story in baseball.

Folks around here are so excited, the Denver Post assigns columnist Dave Krieger to cover the game rather than a Broncos practice. And almost nothing is more important around here than a Broncos practice.

It's such a big game, bigger than any Nuggets game against the Lakers, that's for sure, never any doubt who wins those games.

This is so BIG, I ask Manny Ramirez when he arrives in the clubhouse whether he's going to play, and he yells, "What kind of question is that?"

I'm thinking it's such a BIG game the Dodgers will play their best players, or at least those hitting better than .185 in their last nine starts.

Just a friendly Page 2 wake-up call.

No way, of course, the Rockies belong on the same field as the Dodgers in a big game at this point of the season and especially after Colorado's roster-depleting, 14-inning win a night earlier, but this is how far the Dodgers have slipped.

And right now they are no match for magic, while in danger of completing the biggest nose dive in major league history.

The Rockies were 15 1/2 games behind the Dodgers. They had lost 10 of 12 to the Dodgers. Now they are two behind with two to play here.

"After this, there's what, five weeks to go," Manager Joe Torre says before the game, and maybe so. But right now, it's looking as if this season is going to be five weeks too long.

The Rockies will start Josh Fogg tonight, who hasn't started a game all year and wasn't much as a starter when given that opportunity a few years back.

Guess that makes the Rockies prohibitive favorites tonight.

This one goes sour as soon as Torre decides to walk to the mound. It's 2-2 in the seventh inning when he asks Clayton Kershaw for the ball and hands it to Ronald Belisario, who then allows Clint Barmes to hit a home run.

Clint Barmes!

What happens when he hands the ball to Belisario with Albert Pujols due up, or one of the Phillies' bombers?

The Rockies add another run in the eighth because the Dodgers' bullpen remains shaky, and take a 4-2 lead into the ninth. But the Dodgers rally. Shocking, I know.

They trail, 4-3, have the tying run on third base with one out and Andre Ethier and Ramirez due up. Ethier already has three hits in the game.

How bad off are the Rockies? They just finish a pressure-packed series with the Giants, get them again in the weekend and have the rump end of their rotation ready for the Dodgers.

The Dodgers get to feast on the Reds over the weekend.

It gets worse for the Rockies, who lose their leadoff hitter to the disabled list and start a guy looking for his first major league hit. They're also forced to play without closer Huston Street, who needs a rest.

The Dodgers should be pulling away from the Rockies.

The Micro Manager has to go to former Dodgers pitcher Joe Beimel, and you remember what that was like, but miracles happen here and he strikes out Ethier.

The stage is set then for entertainment of the highest order, Ramirez up, two outs, tying run on third and what's the Micro Manager going to do?

When he manages the Dodgers and he's faced with pitching or walking Barry Bonds, he wiggles four fingers and Bonds trots to first. This time he calls for right-hander Matt Daley.

That's how far the Micro Manager thinks Ramirez has slipped.

Ramirez takes two called strikes, giving him the chance to take a called third strike to end a second consecutive game. But Ramirez singles to right, his second hit of the game in speaking of miracles, and the score is tied.

Now the worst thing that can happen to a team playing 14 innings a night earlier is working overtime, but do you remember what that 2004 season was like under Jim Tracy?

He had the Dodgers believing they could win, Jose Lima going so far as to pitch a shutout in a playoff game, and so the Rockies win this one in 10 innings.

James McDonald takes the loss, and keep in mind he wouldn't have been tagged with the loss had the Dodgers been successful in trading for Cliff Lee, McDonald one of four players who would have gone to Cleveland. I'm still not over that.

As for the Rockies, they are all out in center field right now hugging each other. It's easy now to understand the Rockies' motivation and winning ways, Tracy saying before the game his guys "can't even spell the word 'quit.'"

If you're not that bright, you better keep winning baseball games, because there's probably not much out there in the way of another job.

And yet it's still hard to believe the Rockies were 18-28 when Tracy took command, asking for an hour to think about the job before accepting it.

"I'm thinking if this doesn't work out, is this my last chance?" he says. "I took it because I thought there were a lot of good players here who were underachieving."

He specializes in those kind of players while in L.A. because that's what he got from Kevin Malone, Dan Evans and Paul DePodesta. Talk about strike one, strike two and hanging in there almost for strike three.

"Quite frankly, we didn't agree on how to structure a successful team," he says of his falling out with DePodesta.

Then it was on to Pittsburgh, because someone has to manage the Pirates and coach the Oakland Raiders.

"It was a challenge," he says, and later admitting when it all goes sour, "it was painful."

He spent the next year visiting his sons and playing golf and those poor people who own homes on the course where he played.

And now this, maybe the most improbable manager-of-the-year campaign in baseball history, the Dodgers playing their part and how sweet it must be for the Micro Manager.

--

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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