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Walt Weiss hired as Colorado Rockies manager

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Walt Weiss hired as Colorado Rockies manager

DENVER (AP) 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 Wednesday night to replace manager Jim Tracy, who resigned 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 e-mail from The Associated Press. A team spokesman said Weiss would be introduced at a news conference Friday 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 following 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 said repeatedly 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 following the team's last-place finish in the NL West.

Things changed dramatically 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 pre-humidor 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.

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AP Sports Writers Ronald Blum, in Indian Wells, Calif., and Pat Graham contributed.

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Follow AP Sports Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter:http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

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Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

The pre-draft workout process can be an exhausting journey for players, with so many flights, hotel rooms and NBA arenas that they can all blend in together. Michigan big man Moritz Wagner, though, may have felt a sense of comfort in Washington for his pre-draft workout for the Wizards on Wednesday.

It was just over a year ago that his Michigan Wolverines cut down the nets at Capital One Arena as champions of the Big Ten conference.

"It was good memories, man. Never gets old," he said while glancing around the stadium.

Wagner, 21, will be seeing a lot more of Capital One Arena once he joins the NBA ranks and it is conceivable he ends up in Washington. They hold the 15th pick in the first round and the 44th pick in the second round and Wagner could be within their reach.

Wagner had an impressive workout in Washington and could provide what the Wizards need. He is a big, mobile and can spread the floor. Wagner was terrific at stepping out to hit threes off pick-and-rolls at Michigan and that ability would work well with Wizards All-Star point guard John Wall.

Wagner measured in at just under 7-feet at this month's NBA Combine, fifth-tallest among those who attended. He averaged 14.6 points as a junior this past season and made 39.4 percent of his threes on 4.1 attempts per game.

With three years of college experience and an NBA-ready jumper, Wagner believes he can step right in and help the Wizards.

"I think what we did at Michigan, sharing the ball and playing as a team, very organized basketball, that can help big-time," he said. "It's basically pro basketball I was playing on a different level."

As Wagner will tell you, he is very confident in his abilities. He is comfortable in his own skin and that includes openly discussing his faults. He feels good about his ability to score at the next level. Defense is where he needs to prove himself.

Despite his size, Wagner wasn't much of a rim protector in college. He averaged just a half-block a game as a junior. The Wizards need rim protection badly and he likely would not provide that.

Wagner, though, believes he can bring more to the table defensively than the numbers would suggest.

"I think I've been an offensive guy all of my life, but the more that you mature as a player, you understand that both sides are important. Without defense, you aren't going to play at any level," he said.

"I think the most important thing that I wasn't able to show in college is that I'm able to switch the ball-screen, especially with the way the league is going. Switch on everything and stay in front of guards as a big guy."

Wagner is from Germany and looks up to Mavs legend Dirk Nowitzki, who is entering his 21st season and will be in the Hall of Fame someday. Nowitzki's game has always been built around shooting and, though he developed into a decent shot-blocker in his prime, was never an elite rim protector.

Wagner hopes to follow in his footsteps playing a similar style.

"He was my MJ. He kind of shows you 'okay, this is possible and this is doable.' It's just basketball," Wagner said. "It gives you a lot of hope. It gives you a lot of belief and motivation."

Hear more from Wagner in his one-on-one interview with Chris Miller in our latest Wizards Tipoff podcast. His interview can also be found in the video above:

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Believe it or not, this isn't the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup

Believe it or not, this isn't the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup

In what is perhaps the most unexpected Stanley Cup Final pairing in recent memory, the Washington Capitals and the Las Vegas Golden Knights are going to make history this year.

Either it is going to be the first expansion team to win a title in their first season, or it will be a team looking to end a 27-year title drought for one of the biggest cities in the United States.

But what it will not be is the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup.

Going even farther back than the Capitals last Stanley Cup appearance (1998), the Georgetown Hoyas and UNLV Rebels met in the 1991 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Sin City took the first, and up until now, the only postseason bout between these two cities. The Larry Johnson-led University of Las Vegas squad powered right past the Hoyas in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament.

[D.C. sports and Second Rounds, I know right?]

Coming fresh off the NCAA title in 1990, UNLV waltzed right to the Final Four before meeting their demise against Duke. It also ended up being the last game for Dikembe Mutombo in a Georgetown uniform.

While in all likely-hood this will not be the final game/ series for Alex Ovechkin rocking the red, it may be his last and only chance for him to play this far into a postseason.

In the past two seasons, Vegas has gone from zero professional teams to having a Stanley Cup contender, a WNBA franchise, and lined up to take over the Oakland Raiders in 2020. 

Now time for the Golden Knights' Cinderella story to come up a little bit short. 

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