Incredibly, Jim Tracy’s winning percentage of .417 over two seasons in Pittsburgh was even lower than Lloyd McClendon’s (.430) over 5. And while Tracy finds himself jobless this weekend, the Post-Gazette’s Dean Kovacevic (citing the team’s fondness for card games) surmises “there was little leadership from the players. Maybe even less from the manager’s office.” (link swiped from Baseball Think Factory)
When Tracy called a July summit as his Pirates were early in a 2-14 nose dive, he summoned seven team leaders — nearly a third of the active roster — to set goals for the second half. That could have meant that the team really had no leaders, or that Tracy was too out of touch to identify them, or that he went the all-inclusive way for fear of offending anyone.
He also would go out of his way to excuse his players’ glaring lapses in effort, even to extremes. On May 11, 2006, when a reporter questioned Tracy about Jeromy Burnitz jogging to first on a grounder, Tracy replied, “Did you think he was going to be safe?”
Quite curiously, the shortcomings that Tracy had in personnel or instructional matters seemed to originate from his never-ending emotional tie with the 2004 Los Angeles Dodgers, the $100 million team he managed to the West Division title.
Before Tracy had donned a Pirates uniform, in the winter of 2006, he met with center fielder Chris Duffy and told Duffy he should play like Dave Roberts, the Dodgers’ leadoff man, even though all Duffy and Roberts had in common was being fast. Among the instructions: Duffy, a line-drive hitter, was told to pound the ball into the ground. He failed miserably, quit baseball for a month and has yet to recover.
Tracy told shortstop Jack Wilson, a three-time runner-up for the Gold Glove, that he did not like his approach to ground balls, that it should be more like Cesar Izturis of the 2004 Dodgers. Wilson had his worst defensive year in 2006 and, at Tracy’s behest, Izturis was acquired from the Chicago Cubs this past July. It was at Tracy’s urging that Wilson nearly was traded to Detroit in late July, after which Wilson batted .401 in the season’s final two months.
There was more: Jose Castillo was told to be like Adrian Beltre. Bench players were told to be versatile like Jose Hernandez, who also was acquired. Even Tracy’s batting orders were modeled based on profiles of the 2004 Dodgers.