Ed Andrieski/Associated Press file photo
Ed Andrieski/Associated Press file photo
DENVER – Walt Weiss is making the rare jump from the high school dugout to the big leagues.
The Colorado Rockies hired the former major league shortstop late Wednesday night to replace manager Jim Tracy, who stepped down Oct. 7 with one year and $1.4 million left on his contract rather than return to a club where its assistant general manager had moved into an office in the clubhouse.
The 1988 AL Rookie of the Year with Oakland, Weiss played shortstop for the Rockies from 1994-97 and was a special assistant to general manager Dan O’Dowd from 2002-08.
He left to spend more time with his family and last season coached Regis Jesuit High School outside Denver in Aurora to a 20-6 record and the 5A semifinals of the state championship. Weiss’ son, Brody, is in his senior year at the school.
The Rockies made the announcement after owner Dick Monfort and top officials deliberated at the general managers’ meetings in Indian Wells, Calif. – held at a hotel Monfort owns, the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort & Spa.
Weiss didn’t return a phone message and email from The Associated Press. A team spokesman said Weiss would be introduced at a news conference today at Coors Field.
“It was a lot of different things,” general manager Dan O’Dowd said before suggesting senior vice president of major league operations Bill Geivett speak about Weiss’ hiring. Geivett didn’t immediately return phone messages.
Weiss and Arizona coach Matt Williams were the finalists to replace Tracy, who quit after the worst season in franchise history. Rockies bench coach Tom Runnells and first baseman Jason Giambi also interviewed, with Giambi saying he would retire as a player if he got the job.
The 48-year-old Weiss spent parts of 14 seasons in the major leagues, also playing for Oakland (1987-92), Florida (1993) and Atlanta (1998-2000). A .258 career hitter, he was an All-Star in the 1998 game at Denver’s Coors Field.
Colorado had more familiarity with Weiss than with Williams.
“He would take trips in the minor leagues. He was always around with the major league club at home as well,” Geivett said earlier Wednesday. “I know Walt pretty well.”
Williams, a five-time All-Star third baseman, has been Arizona’s third base coach the last two seasons after a year coaching first base. Before that, he was a Diamondbacks’ broadcaster for five years.
“I played against him in college when he was at UNLV,” Geivett said. “No real personal contact.”
Weiss is just the sixth manager for the Rockies, following Don Baylor (1993-98), Jim Leyland (1999), Buddy Bell (2000-02), Clint Hurdle (2002-09) and Tracy (2009-12).
Colorado went 64-98 last season under Tracy, who was promoted from bench coach to manager in May 2009 and was voted the NL Manager of the Year after guiding Colorado into the playoffs that season.
The Rockies started strong in 2010 but faded at the finish, and they ended up going 294-308 under Tracy, who also had worked with Geivett in Montreal and Los Angeles.
Energized by the young players and the challenge of fixing things, Tracy repeatedly said toward the end of last season that he wanted to fulfill the final year on his contract in 2013. But he changed his mind after meeting with Geivett after the team’s last-place finish in the NL West.
Things dramatically changed for Tracy on Aug. 1 when Geivett, the assistant general manager, was given an office in the clubhouse and began focusing on roster management, particularly as it related to the pitchers, and evaluating the coaching staff and the rest of the players. Tracy’s responsibilities were narrowed to game management and meeting with the media.
“I thought we worked together fine,” Geivett said after Tracy’s surprise resignation last month.
Geivett had said that structure will remain in place next season, but he didn’t think that would be an issue in his search for a new manager.
In addition to altering their front office, with O’Dowd focusing his attention on the minor leagues and player development, the Rockies last summer reacted to Coors Field playing like its prehumidor days by adopting a radical four-man rotation and a 75-pitch limit with several designated piggyback relievers, a much-derided experiment that lasted two months.
Geivett has said the Rockies will return to a traditional five-man rotation next season with pitch limits determined on a case-by-case basis.
Tracy was given an indefinite contract extension last spring, but it guaranteed only his 2013 salary of $1.4 million as field manager and really just represented the club’s desire to keep him in the organization in some capacity.
AP Sports Writers Ronald Blum in Indian Wells, Calif., and Pat Graham in Denver contributed to this report.