This is the first article in a series that looks at the five best players at each position for the Colorado Rockies. In this installment are catchers and managers.
Baseball fans in Colorado had several false starts before finally getting a franchise. A challenge to the Major Leagues called the Continental League never materialized in the 1960s and the Pirates and Athletics were both rumored to move to Denver in the 1980s, but nothing came of either.
Finally, in 1991, Colorado got its team under the ownership of Ohio-based beverage distributor John Antonucci and drugstore chain owner Michael Monus. However, even that did not go as planned. An embezzlement scandal the following year involving the Phar-Mor drugstore ruined both Antonucci’s and Monus’ reputations, and both sold their stakes in the franchise, which was rumored to be moving to Tampa Bay before even taking the field.
Tracking company executive Jerry McMorris led a group that purchased the Rockies and led the franchise through its early years. However, McMorris’ poor relationships with his other investors and the failure of his business led him to sell the team in 2005 to current owners Charlie and Richard Monfort, brothers who worked as executives for the ConAgra food packaging company and owned a meatpacking distribution firm.
Fans turned out in droves for the Rockies in their expansion season. Their first home game on April 9, 1993, was attended by 80,227 people, and nearly 4.5 million fans entered Mile High Stadium during the season, with both totals still recognized as records. Colorado responded with a 67-95 record, the best by a first-year team since the Expansion Era began in 1961.
On the field, the Rockies have had limited success. They have made the playoffs just five times in their 31-year history and have never won a division title. Colorado fell in the Wild Card round in 2017, lost in the Division Series three times and made a surprising run to the World Series in 2007. That year, Colorado went 90-73 and defeated San Diego in a one-game tiebreaker (in 13 innings) just to qualify for the postseason. From there, the Rockies swept the Phillies and Diamondbacks before getting swept by the heavily favored Red Sox for the title.
Overall, the Rockies have had just eight winning seasons and none of their managers has had a winning record during their time in Colorado.
The Best Catchers and Managers in Colorado Rockies History
Honorable Mentions – Charles Johnson was a two-time All-Star and a four-time gold glove winner with the other 1993 expansion team, the Florida Marlins. He was also a starter on their championship team in 1997. He spent two years with the Rockies at the end of his career (2003-04), hitting 20 home runs and driving in 61 runs in 2003.
Tony Wolters spent five seasons with the Rockies (2016-20), totaling 256 hits, seven home runs and 123 RBIs in 391 games. He went 2-for-3 with an RBI as Colorado reached the Division Series in 2018.
Nick Hundley put together two solid seasons in Colorado (2015-16) despite only playing in 186 games. His best year offensively was 2015, when he set career highs with a .301 average, 45 runs and 110 to go with 10 home runs and 43 runs batted in.
5. Joe Girardi – He was Colorado’s catcher in its first game, and the future Yankees and Phillies manager went on to play three seasons in the Mile High City (1993-95). Overall, he hit .274 with 302 hits, 15 home runs and 120 RBIs in 304 games and also went 2-for-16 in Colorado’s Division Series loss to Atlanta in 1995. Girardi was selected to his only All-Star Game as a member of the Cubs in 2000.
After his career as a player ended, he won the Manager of the Year Award with the Marlins in 2006, despite being fired after the season. Girardi also won a title during a 10-year run as a manager of the Yankees and had a three-year stint with the Phillies before he was fired early in the 2022 season.
4. Yorvit Torrealba – He spent five seasons with Colorado (2006-09 and 13), putting up career highs with eight home runs and 47 runs batted in while hitting .255 and helping the Rockies reach their only World Series in 2007. Overall, he hit .256 with 319 hits, 23 homers and 168 RBIs in 373 games. In 15 playoff games with Colorado, Torrealba had 15 hits, six runs, four doubles, two home runs and 12 RBIs.
3. Wilin Rosario – The two-time MLB Futures Game participant (2010-11) spent five seasons with Colorado (2011-15). Rosario had back-to-back 20-homer, 80-RBI seasons and even received some Rookie of the Year consideration in 2012. He hit .273 with 204 runs, 413 hits 71 home runs and 241 RBIs in 447 games. Rosario is a Major League free agent who has bounced around to Korea, Japan, China and Mexico since leaving the Rockies.
2. Chris Iannetta – He had the longest tenure of anyone at the position, playing eight years with the Rockies in two stints (2006-11 and 18-19). Iannetta’s best season was 2008, when hit posted career highs with a .264 average, 88 hits, 18 home runs and 65 runs batted in. The 2005 MLB Futures Game participant won the fielding title in 2008. Overall, Iannetta had 435 hits, 80 homers and 293 RBIs in 620 games with the Rockies. He did not appear during Colorado’s run to the World Series in 2007 and was hitless in nine career postseason at-bats with the franchise.
1. Elias Diaz – He signed with the Rockies from the Pirates before the COVID-shortened season and has been the primary starter ever since (2020-present). Diaz has 289 hits, 42 home runs and 166 RBIs in 354 games so far. He is in the midst of his best season in 2023, hitting .271 with 110 hits, 13 homers and 62 RBIs. This year, Diaz became the only Colorado catcher to ever be selected to the All-Star Game, and he made quite an impression. His two-run homer in the eighth inning gave the National League a 3-2 win, its first since 2012, and Diaz became the first Rockies player to earn game MVP honors.
5. Walt Weiss – The Rockies have only had seven managers in their history and Weiss gets the nod over Jim Leyland a former Pirates manager who finished last in the National League West in his only season with the Rockies (1999) and Buddy Bell, who could not get Colorado higher than fourth in three seasons at the helm (2000-02). Weiss went 283-365 in four seasons (2013-16), with the team’s best finish being third in 2016 after posting a 75-87 record.
4. Jim Tracy – He replaced Clint Hurdle early in the 2009 season, going 74-42 to get the Rockies into the playoffs, where they lost in the Division Series. The team finished with a franchise-record 92 wins that season, and the performance earned Tracy the Manager of the Year Award, He responded by leading Colorado to an 83-79 record the following year. However, the loss to the Phillies was the only foray into the postseason for the Rockies during his tenure. Tracy finished 294-308 in four seasons at the helm (2009-12).
3. Bud Black – The longtime Padres manager began his run in Colorado with two winning seasons that resulted in playoff appearances, starting with a loss to the Diamondbacks in the 2017 Wild Card Game. After going 91-72 and losing a tiebreaking game to the Dodgers for the division title in 2018, the Rockies beat the Cubs in the Wild Card Game before getting swept by the Brewers in the Division Series. Colorado has steadily declined since that point, and the team is 49-83 so far in 2023. Black has a 466-536 record in his seven seasons with the Rockies (2017-present).
2. Don Baylor – The club’s original manager had a 440-469 record in six seasons in the Mile High City (1993-98). Baylor led the fledgling franchise to its first playoff appearance in 1995, earning the Manager of the Year Award as a result. The Rockies became the first franchise to earn the Wild Card spot in baseball’s new playoff format after finishing a game behind the Dodgers at 77-67, then falling to the eventual champion Braves in the Division Series. Colorado posted identical 83-79 records in each of the next two seasons but finished in third place both times and never went back to the postseason in Baylor’s tenure. He passed away in 2017 after a battle with multiple myeloma (cancer).
1. Clint Hurdle – The next time the Rockies went back to the playoffs after that brief run in 1995 was 12 years later. Hurdle, a former outfielder and first baseman during a 10-year playing career, took over for Bell early in the 2002 season. Colorado finished close to the cellar in each of Hurdle’s five seasons before finally breaking through in 2007.
The Rockies beat the Padres in a one-game playoff for the Wild Card spot then swept the Phillies in the Division Series and the Diamondbacks in the NLCS to reach their only World Series to date. However, Colorado found out what it felt like to get swept when the club fell to the dominant Boston team. Despite a 90-73 record and the deep playoff run, Hurdle finished just third in the Manager of the Year voting, although he did get to lead the 2008 National League All-Star team. He finished his Rockies tenure with a franchise-best win total (534-625) over eight seasons (2002-09).
Colorado Rockies First and Third Basemen – coming soon
Colorado Rockies Second Basemen and Shortstops – coming soon
Colorado Rockies Outfielders – coming soon
Colorado Rockies Pitchers – coming soon
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Cleveland Guardians Catchers and Managers
Cleveland Guardians First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters
Cleveland Guardians Second Basemen and Shortstops
Cleveland Guardians Outfielders
Cleveland Guardians Pitchers
A look back at the Cincinnati Reds
A look back at the Chicago White Sox
Chicago White Sox Catchers and Managers
Chicago White Sox First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters
Chicago White Sox Second Basemen and Shortstops
Chicago White Sox Outfielders
Chicago White Sox Pitchers
A look back at the Chicago Cubs
A look back at the Boston Red Sox
A look back at the Baltimore Orioles
Baltimore Orioles Catchers and Managers
Baltimore Orioles First and Third Basemen
Baltimore Orioles Second Basemen and Shortstops
Baltimore Orioles Outfielders and Designated Hitters
Baltimore Orioles Pitchers
A look back at the Atlanta Braves
A look back at the Arizona Diamondbacks
Arizona Diamondbacks Catchers and Managers
Arizona Diamondbacks First and Third Basemen
Arizona Diamondbacks Second Basemen and Shortstops
Arizona Diamondbacks Outfielders
Arizona Diamondbacks Pitchers
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