Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Rosenthal gets Cooper in his sights

So Ken Rosenthal put good ol' Coop squarely on the hot seat, though Coop's seat has been warm all off-season.

It was thought that, with a slow start, Coop could be in trouble, especially as this is the last year of his contract, and no overtures have been made (in public, anyway) to sign him to an extension. Remember, Ed Wade did not hire him - Purpura did.

I argued against firing Coop. He made some mistakes last year, handled some things poorly, and even within the last couple of weeks was taken to task by David Newhan over his communication skills.

This is a job with a steep learning curve, and is obviously a very public one, too. So I would say Coop has done well - within the limitations of the situation he has been given. He's tried numerous lineups, put players in different spots, shuffled things around enough to give players time to adjust. But Cooper can't go out there and hit (and I believe he would) with runners in scoring position. It's not Cooper's fault that Moehler got lit up like a sorority girl. Cooper didn't sign Mike Hampton. Or Pudge. He might have even given Towles more of a chance than necessary at the beginning of last year. Coop's doing what he can with what he has.

Then there's the issue of who in the world is available that would do a better job. Rosenthal says this:

The Astros lack an obvious in-house replacement for Cooper. Buck Showalter, highly detail-oriented, might be the perfect choice to set the team on the right course. But he might not want to work for McLane.

Rosenthal goes on to light in to the Astros organization - which is encouraging, because I wasn't actually convinced he knew a team in Houston existed:

The Astros' 86-75 record last season was an illusion; the team was outscored by 31 runs. Payroll considerations forced the team to part with left-hander Randy Wolf and third baseman Ty Wigginton. The late signing of free-agent catcher Ivan Rodriguez was McLane's way of saying, "Look, fans, we're trying!"

Say this for the Astros — they routinely start poorly, then charge. Firing Cooper would not be unreasonable, particularly if McLane replaced him with someone like Showalter. But the owner is sadly mistaken if he thinks his team is ready to contend.

I'll take issue with the poke at Houston's record last season - it was hardly an illusion. You win games that you win. Run differential, while a helpful statistic, does not a season make. Win close and lose big, that's been the Astros M.O. for a long time, but it doesn't account for the whole season. On August 1, 2008, the Astros run differential was -52. That means in the final two months of the season, the Astros actually had a +21 run differential. You can spin (most) statistics however you want. But the 2008 Astros were hardly an illusion.

I'm not happy with the Astros right now, either, but it's hardly Cooper's fault. There was a closed-door meeting following Monday's game, where I hope they drove out as a team to rural Pennsylvania and took turns hitting broad sides of barns - that would be a start.

I think Cooper is still the man for the job. But I'm afraid I'm in the minority.