Colorado Rockies Manager Walt Weiss called a team meeting earlier this week to discuss the woes that have befallen his team. The Rox limped home from a road trip that resulted in the worst ten game streak in club history. “One and nine is not good, if you’re going to have a talk, that’s the time to have it,” said Michael Cuddyer when asked about the team meeting. Weiss, who has been in similar situations in his past with the Braves, the A’s, and the Marlins called the meeting a system of “checks and balances.” He also said it covered “pretty basic stuff” and that “we’ve got to figure it out.”
There is one thing I have waited for Walt Weiss to do during this skid, and following his comments it appears he’s still yet to do it. When is he going to be a leader? When is he going to call out his team? When does the taste of losing become too much for him to continue to quietly say polite things to the media? And if Walt Weiss is unable to do so, when does one of the players step up and take that role on? All these questions remain unanswered.
Look at some of the fiercest competitors in sports history and you’ll find they were not afraid to say what needed to be said. When Doc Rivers coached the Celtics, he frequently called out his team for being too soft. Larry Bird, the President of Basketball Operations for the Indiana Pacers called his team out this past postseason. Good coaches will use their position to call out their team in an effort to rally them in times of defeat or turmoil. In Bird’s case, it is rare for a front office executive outside of Brian Cashman to step into those kinds of affairs. And you certainly won’t find the Rockies front office saying anything.
So if Walt Weiss won’t do it and the front office keeps quiet, there is one last place on a team to look for a leader. Interestingly enough, you’ll never find a championship team in any sport without one of these, yet again in Colorado it seems to be missing; a player who not only carries the title of captain, but acts on it. When times are tough and teams are struggling, how many times do you hear a player call out his team? No, not calling them out by throwing them under the bus like Dwight Howard. I mean standing up to the microphone or putting a quote in print that accepts responsibility for his team’s lack of performance and then challenges them to work harder, dig deeper, and be better.
Where is veteran Todd Helton? Where is superstar Troy Tulowitzki? These two seem to be the likely candidates to assume this position and yet they remain quiet. If not them, then who will step up to become the leader of the Colorado Rockies? Every team needs one. Whether its high school basketball, college football, or Major League Baseball, anyone who knows sports will tell you a team needs a leader and a championship team needs a great leader. For the Rockies, an example isn’t too far away. Look down the road to Mile High Stadium and you’ll find one of the best leaders around. Peyton Manning is known for his role in accepting responsibility and rallying his team to be better. He doesn’t throw any particular player under the bus. He doesn’t throw his defense or special teams under the bus. Everything he says is we, us, team. But back in the Rockies clubhouse all you hear is, “we’re not playing very good” and “we’ve got some things to figure out.”
The role of a leader is missing in the Rockies clubhouse and in the Rockies organization. Never has it been more apparent than now. As the Rockies try to right the ship, not just this season, but the direction of an organization as a whole, they do so without a leader. They do it without the manager who steps up, accepts responsibility for the recent struggles, and then demands more of his team. They do it without the guy who busts his tail down the line after hitting a comebacker to the pitcher, not just showing he’s still in this season one hundred percent, but he’s in this game, this at-bat. They do it with a front office who continues to accept average baseball. They do it without one of the most important aspects to any winning team. Which is why Rockies fan everywhere wonder if they ever will turn it around?