Tracy's time should be up

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Even an idiot can take a look at the Pirates' mess on this final day of the baseball season and tell you that one more big change still needs to be made.

So here goes:

There's just no way manager Jim Tracy and his coaches should be back.

It wouldn't be an issue with just about any other franchise, not after the team lost 90-plus games in each of Tracy's two seasons and not with a new president and general manager in town, presumably looking to bring in their own man. But, as we are painfully aware, the Pirates aren't your typical franchise. They are universally regarded as a bad joke, because of their staggering run of 15 consecutive losing seasons and because of their frightening consistency in making awful decisions. The owner clearly is more interested in big profits than wins. That might make Robert Nutting a terrific businessman, but it also makes him a rotten owner, the worst in all of sports.

That's why it wouldn't be totally shocking if the Pirates bring Tracy back next season rather than eat the $1 million they owe on his contract.

Heaven help us.

The one hope is that new president Frank Coonelly and general manager Neal Huntington won't stand for it and received clearance from Nutting to fire Tracy before they took their positions. They have talked about creating a "culture of success and excellence" around the team. Tracy failed miserably in that regard.

The Pirates hit a new low this season, not in losses but in public perception. It was hard to say the team underachieved under manager Lloyd McClendon before Tracy. There merely were too many bad players. The same is true of Gene Lamont's teams before McClendon. But this group of Pirates clearly underachieved. It was never going to be a championship club -- or even a winning club --but it has better talent than the 68-91 record it dragged into the weekend. That's a poor reflection on Tracy and his staff.

Tracy and his coaches can argue they shouldn't be blamed for Jason Bay having a bad season, Adam LaRoche and Ronnie Paulino having horrendous first halves, Chris Duffy busting as the center fielder, Salomon Torres spitting the bit as the closer and Zach Duke failing as a starting pitcher. All that is true, although it would be nice to know where Duke's career would have gone if pitching coach Jim Colborn hadn't fussed with his mechanics in the spring of '06. Colborn, who was built up by Tracy to be God's gift to pitching, turned out to be no more effective than Spin Williams before him.

But what also is true is there never seemed to be any accountability under Tracy. He never seemed to get mad, never seemed to challenge his players. Apparently, he never even did it behind closed doors. LaRoche told the Post-Gazette's Dejan Kovacevic the other day that Tracy is "so laid-back that I think he can be taken advantage of." LaRoche blamed the players for not being more responsible, but it was damning indictment of Tracy.

Just another of many, actually.

"You've got to give them credit ... I don't think we did anything to embarrass ourselves out there," Tracy said earlier this month after the Pirates were swept in four games in San Diego.

If that's not condoning losing, what is it? Isn't losing four in a row embarrassing all by itself

It's hard to say if Tracy even was embarrassed after the Pirates left San Diego and went to Chicago and lost three more games, getting outscored, 30-13, and outhomered, 10-2, to go along with four errors. It doesn't matter. Everybody else was embarrassed by his team's lame effort.

What's ironic is that Tracy tried to get tough at the end of the season -- far too late -- and it backfired on him. He ordered Torres and Jack Wilson to rejoin the team after a brief paternity leave. He was not out of line. Sure, it inconvenienced the players, but Torres made $2.733 million this season, Wilson $5.4 million. We all should be so inconvenienced. There also was the integrity of the pennant races to consider, as Tracy pointed out. And, really, it wasn't that long ago that players were given no time to be home for the birth of their children. Managers didn't leave the club for their kid's high school graduation and star pitchers didn't skip trips. If you were on the team, you did what the team did.

Anyway, Torres and Wilson went behind Tracy's back and asked interim general manager Brian Graham for more time at home, citing minor complications with the births. Graham was in a tough spot. In the end, he gave Torres and Wilson the extra time, totally emasculating Tracy in front of all the players in the process.

Considering the way Tracy ran the team in his two seasons, that's probably what he deserved.

Ron Cook can be reached at .


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