The Dugout Doctors have a story with the 10 reasons Coop got canned.
10. Foolishly relying upon Roy Oswalt. Surely Cooper could have had the foresight to see that Oswalt is a paper-tiger. Sure, the first eight seasons of his career were amazing, but Cooper should have seen through Oswalt’s decade of dominance and realized that he was on course for a return to earth in 2009.
This may be true. But Roy has been the ace for years. Not relying on him is more ignorant than trying to anticipate a down year. If Cooper had not run Roy out there, he would have been fired months ago. Verdict? Invalid.
9. Bringing Mike Hampton in for a Reunion Tour. What was Cooper thinking here? Hampton was ten years removed from his Cy Young runner-up season with the Astros in 1999 and five years removed from the last time he pitched over 100 innings in a season, and he gave Hampton a spot in the starting rotation.
Ed Wade brought Mike Hampton in. Had Coop not trotted him out every five days, it would have made the GM mad, and thus resulted in an earlier departure. This isn't Coop's fault. Verdict? Invalid.
8. Playing Miguel Tejada at Shortstop. Surely Cooper should have realized that Tejada has lied about his age, lied about using performance enhancing drugs, and was never that good of a defender even in his prime. Why did Cooper sign Tejada and put him at shortstop?
Tejada has had, arguably, his best year in at least three seasons, and was - at one point - hitting .380. Cooper had to put the "extra-curricular activities" aside. Cooper didn't sign Tejada. Ed Wade traded for him. Verdict? Invalid.
7. Failure to Develop Minor League Talent. Cooper failed where his predecessors did not – he never could develop young talent into legitimate major league players, relying instead upon cast-offs and failed prospects from other organizations. The Astros next manager really needs to develop talent throughout the system better.
Sure, it does not seem as though Cooper gave two craps about starting Maysonet, Johnson, or Manzella (the latter two after the Astros were well out of the race). But there has not been much minor league talent to develop, of late. Wesley Wright was a "failed prospect" from the Dodgers. Drew Locke was a "failed prospect." But I doubt the manager has the ability to look at the Double-A roster and order a player to be brought up to Round Rock. Verdict? Invalid.
6. Letting Lance Berkman Get Off to a Bad Start. Somehow, someway, Lance Berkman has never had any trouble succeeding in the early months of the season until this year. Last year, Lance was one of the elite hitters in the National League. This year, he was so-so. Shame on you, Cecil Cooper.
This is the first "reason" that can be attributed to Cooper. Lance was awful in April and May. However, since June 1, Berkman is hitting .296/.419/.533. The fact that he did not have a history of poor starts is exactly why he should have been left in the lineup. It's not Coop's fault that Lance had a career-worst year. Verdict? Invalid.
5. Signing an Aging and Inadequate Catcher to Play Full-time in the National League. There was a time when Ivan Rodriguez was an elite defensive catcher who called games very well and could hit a bit. He is no longer any of those things, and Cooper should have known it.
Again, this one's on Ed Wade. But we should give credit to Wade for spinning Pudge for two prospects when a bag of squid would have been an acceptable trade. Verdict? Invalid.
4. Putting Together the Oldest Lineup in the National League.
How are the Astros supposed to succeed when Cecil Cooper sent out a lineup everyday with an average age of 31.7 years old, the worst in the league? Plus, some of their oldest players were at key defensive positions. I would have expected Cooper to manage the roster better.
Now, could Cooper have managed the roster better? Absolutely, but if the reason he got fired is "putting together the NL's oldest lineup," then that's on Ed Wade, as well. Maysonet should have been at 2B most of the season, but he wasn't. The guy who made $5.5 million was. Verdict? Semi-valid.
3. Allowing Russ Ortiz and Felipe Paulino to Start a Combined 28 Games. These guys went 5-16 with an ERA over 5.75 and a WHIP over 1.60. How did Cooper not make sure he had better pitchers in camp before starting the season with these guys.
Felipe Paulino has been good since he stopped getting jerked around from the bullpen to the rotation, from Round Rock to Houston. So Paulino's year is directly attributed to Cooper. Russ Ortiz went through the same thing - getting jerked from bullpen to rotation. Coop's management of the pitching staff is one of the Main Reasons he got canned. Verdict? Valid.
2. Stocking the Bench with Jeff Keppinger, Chris Coste, Humberto Quintero, Jason Michaels, and Darin Erstad. If I had the oldest starting lineup in baseball, I sure would hope to have some solid bats on my bench. But between these five reserves, the only ones with 100 or more plate appearances after the starters, the Astros have a batting average under .250, an on-base percentage under .300, and an OPS well under the league average. I hope Cooper plans to have more depth at his next stop.
Again, attributed to Ed Wade. Cooper can only play the guys he has on the roster. Verdict? Invalid.
1. Playing in the NL’s Toughest Division with the NL’s Thinnest Roster. Facts are facts, people: the NL Central has six teams, which is more than any other division. So, to compete in the NL Central, a team needs to be better than five teams, not just four or three. And when three of those teams are the young up-and-coming Milwaukee Brewers, the cash-flush Chicago Cubs, and the ingeniously-run St. Louis Cardinals, you gotta come to the field with more than just Carlos Lee and Miguel Tejada. You have to have guys who can pinch-hit, who can get on base, who can field the ball, and who can pitch six innings a game without giving the game away. The Astros didn’t have that this year.
Again, Cooper can only play the hand he was dealt. Saying that Coop got fired because of the division is really attributing blame to Bud Selig and alignment. Verdict? Invalid.
I'll say this. This is more like an assembly of reasons why the Astros were a wreck this season, and if the extension of that is firing Cecil Cooper, okay. Cooper was guilty of Starting Quarterback Syndrome (SQS), in which you play the guys who make the most money, not the guys more deserving of taking the field. ("Who's the Starting QB? Player X, because he makes $10 million, and Player Y is playing for league minimum.") But these ten are not the reasons that Cooper was fired.
UPDATE: If this article was intended to show that the Astros are blaming Cooper for front office problems, then this is genius. And I withdraw any intended criticism.