About 12 hours after Manny Acta confirmed that he is one of the managerial candidates coming to interview, Richard Justice says Jim Fregosi is the man.
He's not the only competent person the Astros are going to interview. He has a longer résumé and probably is held in higher regard inside the game, but a case could be made for Manny Acta, Don Baylor, Bob Melvin, Ned Yost and others.
It's just that Fregosi brings so many things this franchise badly needs. First, there's his mere a presence, a calming presence, a confident presence. His oversized personality fills up a room and has the power to sweep others up and to make them believe good things are possible.
He brings something else the Astros desperately need. That's his professionalism, and more importantly, his intolerance of those who do not care as much as he does. If Lance Berkman doesn't run hard to first base or if Carlos Lee gets himself stupidly thrown out on the bases, they will hear about it.
“We need a guy that will get the best from our veteran players,” Drayton McLane said Friday. “We haven't been getting that.”
This is absolutely true. And while I think it's important to hire a manager who knows how to deal with veterans, I would also like to know that the veterans know how to be adults. Maybe you noticed, maybe you didn't, but if you watch Game 2 of the Cards/Dodgers series, James Loney ended up on second base on the Holliday error. Would Berkman or Lee have been in the same position?
My guess is Acta will be the next manager of the Astros, and he'll probably do a tremendous job. He has spent most of his professional career with the Astros and has a passion for the franchise that rivals anyone in the clubhouse or management.
But Jim Fregosi is worth a long look. He's what the Astros need in terms of credibility, confidence and leadership. Players need a guy who believes in them, and they need someone with the guts to hold them accountable. Fregosi isn't the only candidate capable of doing this, but none of the others would do it better.