Saturday, September 26, 2009

Astros honor minor-league MVPs

So perhaps hoping to make everyone forget about how awful this season has been, the Astros honored the MVPs of Eddie's Farm: Tommy Manzella (who was in attendance, but probably had mustard on his jersey because, you know, he's not playing), Drew Locke, Koby Clemens, Brian Pellegrini, Barry Butera, Jose Altuve, Enrique Hernandez, and Hector Rodriguez.

This was funny, from writer Ben DuBose on Manzella, with a quote from Dave Clark:
Manzella, for his part, earned a September callup to the Astros, where he's had one hit in five at-bats. Penciled in by many as a potential starter for the 2010 club, he's likely to get more opportunities as the season draws to a close.

"It's an audition," interim manager Dave Clark said. "It's an opportunity to step up and give us something to build on for next year. We'd like to have somewhat of an idea going into Spring Training as to what we have."


Because nothing tells you about a player like garbage ABs with a week left in the season. That's the true barometer of a future starter.

Bobby Heck, on Koby Clemens, who will be coming to a Whataburger Field near you in 2010:
There are players that are prospects because of their God-given skill set, who separate themselves because they look different and do things different. Then there are other guys that are more grinder types, who do have a combination of tools and skills, but they just learn and go through level by level improvement, like Koby. He's on the radar."

Heck:
We feel real good about what we've done so far. The credit goes to our scouts; to get 25 of the first 26 players we drafted signed within two weeks, that's huge. The important thing is that the kids are out playing, because if they're out playing they have a chance to get here sooner. It's not going to be fixed in two Drafts. As excited as we are about some players right now, some are going to break our hearts. But if we get enough depth and quality through the Draft, we'll have some surprise, as well."

RIP, RISP

So I got a little curious, again, not sexually, but about the Astros' batting average with RISP over this period of absolute ineptitude, with 11 losses in 12 games. Let's take a gander:

Sept 26 vs. Cincinnati (10-4 L): 2x8
Sept 25 vs. Cincinnati (10-4 L): 0x6
Sept 23 vs. St. Louis (3-0 W): 3x11
Sept 22 vs. St. Louis (11-2 L): 1x7
Sept 21 vs. St. Louis (7-3 L): 1x4
Sept 20 @ Milwaukee (6-0 L): 0x7
Sept 19 @ Milwaukee (7-2 L): 1x5
Sept 18 @ Milwaukee (3-2 L): 1x5
Sept 16 @ Cincinnati (6-5 L): 0x8
Sept 15 @ Cincinnati (5-4 L): 3x6
Sept 14 @ Cincinnati (3-1 L): 1x7
Sept 13 vs. Pittsburgh (2-1 L): 0x7

Want the math? That's 13x81 = .160. That's how you lose games.

Recap for G154 - Reds @ Astros

Just to put this in perspective, the Astros have lost nine straight against the Reds - dating back to April 28. Houston is 3-12 against Cincinnati this season. Oh, I guess maybe by now it's obvious that the Astros lost, again, 10-4 to Cincinnati. And here's something: Since sweeping the Phillies, the Astros have lost 12 of 15, taking themselves from a team three games under .500 to a team 11 games under .500. Let's do the thing:

Paulino: 5IP, 9H/8ER, 3K:4BB, 14/27 first-pitch strikes, 23/58 non-contact strikes (10 called:13 swinging)
Brocail: 1IP, 1/3 FPS, 2/7 NCS (2c)
Byrdak: 1IP, 1K:1BB, 2/3 FPS, 2/7 NCS (2c)
Gervacio: 1IP, 1H, 3K, 4/4 FPS, 7/10 NCS (2c:5s)
Fulchino: 1IP, 2H/2ER, 1K, 3/5 FPS, 9/15 NCS (2c:7s)

Paulino was able to recapture former Ugly in his worst outing since the San Francisco game that got his rear end demoted, allowing 13 baserunners to 15 outs. Surprising stat of the night: Brocail, with his scoreless inning, has lowered his ERA to 2.87. I still don't think it's enough for the Astros to exercise his option, where I think they'll instead go for the $250,000 buyout.

After throwing in six games from Sept 12-19, tonight was Fulchino's third game from Sept 20-present. Whatever. Francisco-Nix-Miller (#6-8 in the lineup), went 5x11 with three runs and seven RBI. That's brutal. Little Corky Miller raised his average to .192.

Offensively, it was pretty much Tejada. 4x4 with 2RBI. Otherwise, there were a whole bunch of 0-fers: Lee (0x4), Blum (0x4), Matsui (0x4) - and in a forlorn look at Whatmighthavebeen, Edwin Maysonet, in a ridiculously limited sample, got himself another hit, and is hitting .308. His batting average is 56 points higher than Matsui's, and his OBP is 42 points higher. I know. We're talking about a much smaller number of plate appearances, but it is worth noting that we're also talking about a difference in $5.1 million in salary. The following players are currently hitting below .260: Blum (.250), Matsui (.252), Quintero (.240), Erstad (.194), Coste (.225), Michaels (.238), and Keppinger (.257).

The Astros were 2x8 with RISP, with both hits coming from Tejada, and Lee and Berkman going 0x2 with the opportunities for the big hits.

Man of the Match: Miguel Tejada. Tonight was his 5th 4-hit game of the season, his 18th 3+ hit game, and his 54th multi-hit game of the season. He's making this really difficult.

Goat of the Game: Felipe. Paulino.

Phil Rogers apparently knows the early front-runners

Rogers, of the Chicago Tribune, has this regarding the early race for the Manager:

Astros general manager Ed Wade is expected to take his time hiring a full-time replacement for fired manager Cecil Cooper. Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio could get interviews, but the early front-runners are Tim Bogar and Manny Acta.

Really.

Pedro Gomez drops some knowledge

Gomez has this nugget about Tejada's durability:

He's played more games this decade (1,572 through Friday) than all but two other big-leaguers in any previous decade. Pete Rose leads the list with 1,604 in the 1970s, followed by Brooks Robinson with 1,578 in the 1960s.

Justice: What about Ted Simmons

In the absence of baseball news (it's almost as if the Astros recognize Saturdays are for college football, and thus do nothing interesting), Justice asks for some input on the managerial search. Today's name? Padres bench coach Ted Simmons. Regard:

He's a bench coach for the Padres, but has done almost everything in his career except manage. He's very, very smart. He's also a workaholic. He has expressed an interest in the job, but having no managerial experience at either the major league or minor league level is a huge, huge, huge negative, maybe a killer.

He has a strong personality and probably won't be tolerant when one of the fellows jogs down to first base. A guy that knows him well told me he'd get to the ballpark at 8 a.m. for a night game and be there until 3 a.m.

He was offered the Milwaukee job last year but wouldn't take it because he didn't think Ned Yost had been treated fairly. He would have been hired by the Rockies this year if GM Dan O'Dowd had been allowed to offer a multi-year contract, and he'll probably get the San Diego job if GM Kevin Towers is forced to pull the plug on Bud Black.

LaHawk will be in Prosper, if you need him

LaHawk, whose career has been given a jumpstart since coming to the Astros from New York last season, is willing to resign with the Astros this off-season, but he's not in a hurry. LaHawk:

"I'll just sit and wait. I'm not in a hurry, and they're probably not in a hurry, either. I'm not going anywhere. I'll be four hours away from here in Prosper, Texas. Chilling."

Dave Clark:
"I really and truly don't understand why he got let go by the Yankees, but their loss has been our gain. He's a true professional, and he goes about his business the right way. He's a true leader down in the bullpen, along with Valverde and Brocail. That what we need down there, stability and guys who have been there before."

Of the three (Valverde, Brocail, LaHawk), my money is on LaHawk returning and the other two hitting the road.

Astros Younguns to Face Strasburg

Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg will pitch in the Florida Instructional League next month, and will make his second career professional start on October 10 against the Astros.

Recap for G153 - Reds at Astros

So this is 5th place. The Reds absolutely handled the Astros and Brian Moehler for a 10-4 win, and sole possession of 4th place. It took five pitchers, and 181 pitches to get the Reds to make 27 outs - with Moehler needing 77 pitches for 7 outs. It was Moehler's lowest game score since the Apr 8 game against the Cubs, in which Moehler gave up seven earned in 1.2IP. Let's just do the thing:

Moehler: 2.1IP, 8H/7ER, 2K:1BB, 16/16 first-pitch strikes, 18/49 non-contact strikes (7c:11s)
Wright: 2.2IP, 3H/1ER, 3K:1BB, 6/11 FPS, 10/24 NCS (7c:3s)
Lopez: 2IP, 6H/2R (0 ER), 1K, 3/12 FPS, 6/17 NCS (3c:3s)
Byrdak: 1IP, 1K:1BB, 1/5 FPS, 4/10 NCS (1c:3s)
Paronto: 1IP, 1K, 1/3 FPS, 4/7 NCS (1c:3s)

You read that correctly. Moehler threw a first-pitch strike to every batter he faced. Of those 16 batters, Moehler then threw a second-pitch ball to ten of them. That said, in PAs in which Moehler had two strikes, the Reds were 6x11 with a walk.
On the brighter side, Chad Paronto threw a perfect inning in relief, his first appearance this season (out of five) in which he didn't give up a run, lowering his ERA from 18.69 to 15.19. You gotta build on something.

Offensively, the Astros just aren't built to come back (ha!). But the Astros did have a lot of time to try, as it was 7-1 when Moehler left in the third. Three of the four Astros runs came off the home run - one by Matsui and a 2-run shot by Berkman in the 8th. I got a nice little text message from a Reds-fan buddy who said "Tejada cost you a ton of runs. Your vets have quit." Which is succinct, but accurate, I suppose.

The offense was 0x6 with RISP, including in the 3rd when, down 7-1, Coste led off the inning with a double, Wesley Wright struck out trying to bunt, Bourn struck out trying to get a hit, and Tejada grounded out. They were 3x12 with a sac fly with runners just on base.

Tejada was 1x4 with a run in his PAs last night, seeing a total of seven pitches. Chris Johnson was 0x1 with a strikeout in his pinch-hit spot, but saw a total of seven pitches. Anyhow, Lance's two-run homer was his 24th of the season, while Carlos Lee sits at 26 (last hitting one at Cincinnati on Sept 16).

Man of the Match: Kaz Matsui. Two hits, a run, an RBI. And he's hitting .312/.346/.481 in September. Any takers?

Goat of the Game: Miguel Tejada. It didn't show up in the box score, but he nutted this game.

Friday, September 25, 2009

More on Norris

And now we get some word on the decision to shut Norris down.

Dave Clark, saying it's "precautionary":
“It’s the smart thing to do to shut him down, because we believe this kid is going to be a big part of our future. He understands that we’re not looking at the next six days. We’re looking toward the next six years.”

Norris:
“They’ve got my health as their first interest, and it’s good to know that they’re really worried about it and taking my health into consideration. We’re not in a race right now. I’m glad to have gotten off on a good foot with my last start."

Wait. The Race to Beat the Reds doesn't count? Continue:
"I want to work hard in the off season and come back better next season to throw more innings.

I'm guessing Norris comes back as SP3 next year, slotted in ahead of Moehler. Or not.

Lineup for G153 - Reds @ Astros

And here's your lineup:

Bourn CF
Tejada SS
Berkman 1B
Lee LF
Pence RF
Matsui 2B
Keppinger 3B
Coste C
Moehler P

Maybe they've had the flu since July 24

And now we find out that approximately 11 Astros have the flu, and Jose Cruz has left the team with an unknown illness. It's not swine flu, but Astros County is awaiting confirmation that the cause is bat flu.

Norris shut down; Lopez to start

Conflicting reports from the Astros.com Tweeters on Bud Norris, who has been shut down.

Let's check in with Brian McTaggart, who was first:
Bud Norris shut down with arm fatigue

And then Alyson Footer, seven minutes later:
Bud Norris done for year..not injured. Just playing it safe. Has pitched more innings than ever and club is erring on side of caution.

A minute later we read that Wilton Lopez will get the start in Philadelphia next week. But this has to be the smartest move the Astros have made all year.

More on Chan-Jong Moon

The 18-year old prospect was signed to a minor league contract by Pacific Rim scout Glen Barker, who also signed Chia-Jen Lo. Which worked out pretty well.

Barker:
He's a high-energy player with solid fundamentals. His ceiling for growth and improvement is high, and I feel he will be a solid Major League player down the road. I'm really excited for him to start his journey to the Major Leagues."

He'll report to the Instructional League in Kissimmee directly.

We first talked about this on August 20, when it was noted that his signing bonus was $350,000.

Astros sign Korean infielder

McTaggart is tweeting that the Astros have signed 18-year old infielder Chan-Jong Moon. More later.

Justice knows what the Astros need

Pitching and defense, as if he has the market on knowledge cornered.

Anyway, it's kind of a wild blog post, goes on about what a great guy Drayton is, how stand-up Lance is, how the Astros need pitching and defense, etc.

He expects the Astros to make a run at an inning-eating starter, but also assumes LaHawk and Valverde will be back with the team in 2010.

They could make a run at Randy Wolf. Justin Duchscherer, Rich Harden, John Lackey, Carl Pavano, Joel Pineiro and Jarrod Washburn are on the free-agent lists I've seen.

Unless Dave Duncan is the manager, I'm out with everyone but Lackey, who will be too expensive for the Astros' wallet (velcro, with a chain). If Carl Pavano is in an Astros uniform come April, I might eat my tongue.

Manager?
The biggest decision the Astros have to make is on a new manager. He has to be smart and passionate, and he has to set the proper tone to bring young players through the ups and downs of a season. He has to surround himself with a great coaching staff.

I'm OK with giving Dave Clark the job. He certainly has a passion for the job and seems to have people skills, too. But it's easy for me to recommend someone since my job isn't riding on it.

Eeyore thanks you for noticing

John Royal (now known as Eeyore), of the Houston Press, talks managerial candidates:

If you're like me, you're just dreading this Astros off-season because you know, just like I know, that Drayton McLane is going to make nothing but bad decisions. The worst decision to be made will probably involve the manager position where the favorites for the job appear to be Jim Fregosi -- an old guy who is a pal of Ed Wade and is awful with young players -- and Dave Clark who so far, as interim manager, has not impressed.

So far, as in, "three games against the eventual division champions in which the Astros went 1-2."

Eeyore speculates that Nolan Ryan probably will not be a part of the new Rangers ownership group, so it's possible he'll return.

Your closing lines:
McLane might also want to talk to people involved with the Florida Marlins and Minnesota Twins, both teams that, despite small-market status and low payrolls, seem to find a way to compete every year.

But who am I kidding? None of that is going to happen. Not while Drayton McLane is in charge.

Person Familiar With Astros Plans speaks up

Jon Heyman's column today has some news for Astros fans, after scaring the bejeezus out of us by announcing the Cardinals will try to lock up both Holliday and Pujols this off-season.

ANYway, on the managerial search:
A person familiar with the Astros' plans says they will interview Manny Acta for their managerial opening. But if the Houston Chronicle's candidate list has any legs, he'll have plenty of company. It's a veritable potpourri of former Astros stars and current Astros coaches and decision-makers.

Always nice when the national media questions the validity of the local media.

Heyman first lists Jim Fregosi, but intriguingly enough, Barry Axelrod - Bagwell and Biggio's agent - declined to comment until "real contact" was made by the Astros.

And then, out of absolutely nowhere:
The other possibility, and it's probably a long shot (though the possibility has been rumored), would be to hope La Russa and Duncan bolt the Cardinals and they can steal that vaunted tandem from the best team in the NL Central. That would be a coup, as it's hard to imagine La Russa ditching a great situation in St. Louis for a team with troubles.

This would rock the very foundations of my soul. Thoughts?

Astros on the App League Charts

Astros 1st Round pick Jiovanni Mier was named Baseball America's 2nd-ranked Appalachian League prospect, just behind the Braves' RHP Julio Teheren.

BA, on Mier's bat:
Mier has the quick hands and the coordination to hit for average, though his bat slowed noticeably as the summer wore on. He'll improve offensively as he learns to use the opposite field. With knowledge of the strike zone and few other threats in the Greeneville lineup, he took his walks when pitchers worked him carefully.

Though he projects as more of a gap-to-gap hitter, he did show home run juice to left and center field. He tied for the league lead with six triples, and once he fills out, he could deliver 10-15 homers per year.


On his glove:
Mier is a classic shortstop defender who shows great instincts and maturity on the field to go with above-average range and arm strength. His quick feet and impressive technique, combined with average speed, make him a rare high school shortstop who projects to stay at the position as a pro. A need for more consistency in turning double plays and in making strong throws on routine plays were the only critiques of Mier's defensive play, but they're not long-term concerns.

On his approach:
Mier models his game after Derek Jeter's, and his natural leadership skills and energy reminded observers of the Yankees captain. And despite his youth and first-year status, Mier served as a vocal leader for Greeneville.
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Pitcher Juri Perez made the list, as well, at #10:

Greeneville manager Rodney Linares credited Perez with having the best changeup in the league. Thrown with deceptive arm speed, it bottoms out as it reaches the plate. Batters seldom put the changeup in play, driving up Perez's pitch counts.

With a fastball that ranges from 88-93 mph and sits at 91, Perez is more than a one-trick pony. With the savvy and poise to mix his primary weapons, he needs only to refine his below-average curveball, which he resists throwing at this stage, to profile as a mid-rotation starter.

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And Jonathan Meyer ranked in at #18:

A high-energy player, Meyer has the strong hands, bat speed and the gap power to hit as he moves up, though he may never be a significant home run threat. He led the league with 36 walks, displaying uncanny patience for a high school player.

On defense, Meyer has the first-step quickness and range to profile as a plus defender at third base. He touched 92 mph off the mound in high school and also spent time at catcher, so he has more than enough arm for third. He's not much of a runner but has average speed underway.

Hey, remember when Cooper was hired?

I got bored, so I did some Google searching on the response to Cooper's getting hired back in August 2007.

Cooper, on his strengths and weaknesses:
"I'm pretty comfortable with the players when it's just moving around with them and talking one-on-one. What I have difficulty with is when it's a big group. I struggle with that a little bit, but those are things I have to get through and work through. The more I do it, the better I'll get."

Berkman:
"Not that the manager has zero impact, but I think many times, the manager gets too much credit for success and too much blame for as poor a season as we're having."

Interestingly enough, Berkman said the exact same thing on Coop's departure.

Continue, Lance:
"He's been around a long time and, in my opinion, he's a borderline Hall of Fame player. He understands how a team works and what makes a team successful. I think he's deserving of a shot to be a manager. The fact that he was an outstanding player certainly helps when it comes to dealing with us in here. Cooper's been here as long as Phil has. We know him really well. I don't see it as going to be a really huge change in philosophy or way we're going to operate in the clubhouse. From that standpoint, the transition is not going to be a difficult one."

Chris Burke:
"I see a lot of leadership, I see a lot of poise and ability to relate to the players. Those are a lot of good qualities right there."

Cooper, on what needed to be fixed in his tenure:
"We have to play with more excitement, more fire. This is not a criticism of anyone, but we have been really flat, particularly in the last week or so, and we need to pick it up. Sometimes, you just look at the team in general and things are just not clicking."

Ed Wade:
"I'm became very comfortable, very quickly being around Coop. I look forward to a long association."

Drayton:
"Cecil is a perfect fit for the managerial job based on his leadership and experience. We look forward to his influence on our team as we move forward on our quest to bring a World Series championship to Houston. We feel he is the most qualified person to help us accomplish that goal."

Players like Dave Clark, until they throw him under the bus

McTaggart's new blog post tells us that the Astros players themselves like Dave Clark:

After talking with many players in the last few days, there is a tremendous amount of support for Dave Clark to take over the job on a full-time basis. I know Clark will be in the mix, but I see Ed Wade bringing someone from the outside. I don't think many people would have a problem with Clarkie, though.

USA defeats Cuba, Castro gets a hit

Jason Castro got himself an RBI in a 5-3 win over Cuba, and will likely play Cuba again on Sunday for the Gold Medal

Roy will work out, then rest, then be fine

Roy got his second opinion in Dallas yesterday, and it was the same as the first opinion. Roy will exercise, rest, and be ready to join up in Kissimmee come February. Anyone worried about how this is something of a recurring issue?

Ed Wade talks in generalities

Richard Justice's article this morning discusses how Ed Wade will learn from the past to plan for the future (which, one who was a history major, pleases me).

Oh, and Justice also says that Easy Eddie and Tall Tal (I have no idea if he's tall or not, I just like the sound of it) begain considering to replace Coop before they fired him. Anyhow, Wade presented some of those candidates to Run-DMc on Wednesday:

"We just talked in generalities. But nothing of great consequence took place. I presented some names to (McLane) and Tal. We didn't get a lot of time to talk about it. It was really a first look at things. We'll continue to discuss names going forward. … We're in the process at this point of putting names together and establishing a criteria.”

What is he looking for?
“It's safe to say we would prefer to have a manager who has extensive experience at the minor league level or managerial experience at the major and minor league level. It's important with this selection to bring somebody in who has managerial experience. We're going to end up with a lot of candidates, people expressing interest. It's important for us to focus on guys who meet the criteria that we have set.”

Justice points out that this qualifies Dave Clark and Tim Bogar, who will come with a high recommendation from Terry Francona. But Wade also ends with a note of caution:

“No decision is going to be universally saluted. The exercise isn't to try to find a guy everybody embraces. That's mission impossible. The task is to find the right guy for our club today and the years to come.”

Thursday, September 24, 2009

On winning streaks

The Astros, as you may well know, have only been able to string four wins together at a time. This is bad, as you well know.

The last time the Astros had a season in which their longest win streak was four or fewer games...? 1982.

What about all of Major League Baseball in 2009? Only one team has put together their longest win streaks of 4 games or fewer: Toronto. That's it. The Astros and Blue Jays have the shortest longest win streaks in all of baseball. And the Blue Jays currently have a three-game win streak going.

Even the Nationals had an eight game win streak. And just because the math is free here at Astros County, that means that the Nationals won 15.3% of their games in an eight-day span.

Footer breaks down the candidates

Pure speculation on her part. Alyson Footer breaks them down in three groups:

Most Likely to Score an Interview
Jim Fregosi
Bobby Valentine
Manny Acta
Willie Randolph

Local Boys Who Don't Stand A Chance
Jeff Bagwell
Brad Ausmus
Craig Biggio
Jim Deshaies
Phil Garner

Interesting Options
Dave Clark
Bill Ripken (he's my vote, if only for the nickname possibilities)
Tim Bogar

Honorable Mention
Kirk Gibson
Tim Wallach

Think you're having a tough day?

The Astros' coaching staff is probably worse.

Problem is, nobody knows who's coming back. And Easy Eddie told everyone to go ahead and start looking for jobs, if they want (which is like your landlord saying, "Go ahead and pack up, and you can leave if you want.").

Hitting coach Sean Berry:
"It's a tough time for us, because of the uncertainty. It's a tough time on your families and stuff like that. That's the worst part about this game. This is a pressure cooker up here. That's the unfortunate thing. You work to get to the top and over the years, there's probably been some warranted and some unwarranted decisions that are made, but that's the nature of the business. The problem is there are so few jobs. It's one of the tough things. I grew up with some of these kids that are now men, from Hunter [Pence] to all these guys, really. I would rather stay here the rest of my career, but that's tough to do. There are few situations in baseball where it happens, and those are some of the most successful situations."

1st base/outfielder coach Jose Cruz:
"I'm going to wait just like everybody else and see what happens. I've been here 13 years [as a coach]. This is a tough job, and I'm just happy doing what I'm doing, coaching the outfielders and coaching first base."

Pitching coach Dewey Robinson:
"I guess it's just part of the business. There are rewards for having a job like this. It's very rewarding, but at the same time, you know it can be very temporary, so you just try to take the good with the bad. All I'm trying to do is get my name out there in case I don't come back, so that I do land on my feet. I've got to pay bills. I hope I get a chance to come back, but I also understand the uncertainty of things where the manager should have the right to hire his own pitching coach and hitting coach, because those are very important positions. I'm very thankful to Ed and Tal and Coop for giving me a chance in his position... I'm glad my wife has a full-time job.

Off-Day Polling

So we're taking stock of the Astros organization in the final off-day of the 2009 season. Some of you may have answered the Drayton McLane approval poll, and I'll ask you to do it again, with some other approvals/disapprovals to hand out.











Armando Benitez released

I didn't even see this, and I was paying attention. The Astros have released Armando Benitez.

Benitez signed with the Astros last month, and I thought he may be in the mix for the closer spot in the Spring once Valverde sods off somewhere else. I thought wrong.

Stark busts on JJO

In his Rumblings and Grumblings column, Stark says this:

Any speculation you hear about the next manager in Houston is going to be all guesswork, because the Astros don't even have a shopping list yet.

This in stark contrast to JJO's posit that there is a 2+ page list. Keep reading, please:

The vibe, from folks who have spoken to the Houston brass, is that the Astros strongly prefer a manager with experience. So here's some guesswork from this bleacher seat: Don't discount Jim Fregosi, who has interviewed in Houston before and has ties to Wade from their days together in Philly.

Meanwhile, how did Coop keep his job for so long?

It's become more and more clear that only owner Drayton McLane stood in the way of Cooper getting fired months ago. Astros players have told friends that at least one player went to McLane as long ago as spring training to tell him Cooper had lost the clubhouse. And there have been indications the baseball people wanted to change managers in May, but McLane wouldn't sign off on it. (Emphasis his).

Who has that close a relationship with McLane? Roy. Lance. Maybe someone else, but I doubt it. This doesn't look good for Run-DMc, but at least I'm confident that the next manager might outlast Wade.

As expected, Astros still have worst Organizational Ranking

Baseball America came out with its minor league Organizational Standings for 2009.

Predictably, the Astros ranked 30th with a cumulative .420 winning percentage (320-442). But with a disclaimer:

Intuitively, it would seem a more difficult task for an organization to stock seven minor league clubs with talent. And we see that only the Mariners among the lucky seven managed to crack the top half of the standings. Note that the Astros and Rays each added a GCL affiliate for this season.

The newly formed GCL Astros had the 2nd-worst winning percentage in all of minor league baseball at 18-38, and the Tri-City ValleyCats clocked in at 6th-worst with a 27-48 record.

How many managers fit on a two-page list?

Because Ed Wade's list of managerial candidates apparently runs more than two pages.

And in the first paragraph of the story, Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan denied any interest - at least until the season ends. Duncan:
“My interest right now is to be the best pitching coach for the St. Louis Cardinals for the remainder of the season and through the postseason. I don’t really want to get distracted with anything that’s going to take away from that. I’m just going to concentrate on doing my job right now and finishing the season...

...Earlier in my career, I think I had a desire to manage more than I do now. I don’t think that you go into the job like that without making a really strong commitment. And usually it has to have some length to it. So my interest right now — you know, I’ve been around a long time, and I don’t know whether I’d have the same desire to make that type of commitment than I might have in years past.”


With a two-page-plus list, I would imagine that every bench, 3rd base, and pitching coach is on Wade's Pro/Con list.

I wonder if Towles was afraid of getting punched in the face

So this is what Clark means by providing some leadership (and I like it). Clark pulled Towles aside after Tuesday's game for not checking the runner at 3rd base before throwing to second. Let's let JJO set the scene for us:

Down 2-0 with a man on third, Yorman Bazardo threw a pitch in the dirt to Matt Holliday, prompting Pujols to take off to second. With Colby Rasmus primed to break home from third, Towles attempted to throw Pujols out at second.

Pujols then hesitated and extended a rundown between first and second base long enough to let Rasmus score before the Astros finally tagged Pujols out to end the inning.


Dave Clark:
“I explained to J.R. (Tuesday) night, and so did Eddie (Romero), in a situation like that when you first come up, when a catcher comes up to throw is to peek at third base. (Tuesday) night if he had peeked he would have realized the guy was off third base quite a bit. He could have probably gotten the out at third. That was taken care of as well. I was that young player before. And I made some mistakes, physical and mental. When I had a manager or coach come up to explain to me, I made sure it didn't happen again. Those are things that you never forget.”
-
We also read that JJO seems to have taken exception to Pam Gardner laughed off "blatant false advertising" (JJO's incarnate words, not mine) for not taking more swift action to prevent Spanish-language radio stations from running ads that the Astros were playing the Rojos de Cincinnati, and not the Medias Rojas (de Boston).

Gardner initially joked that it was to get more fans in the seats (funny), but JJO got all huffy (not funny), getting an apology from Gardner. Maybe Gardner just figured that Spanish-speaking Astros fans were smart enough to realize that there was no possible way the Red Sox would be playing in Houston in the last two weeks of the regular season. Just a guess.

Recap for G152 - Cardinals at Astros

This is the first time I've seen the Astros in the first five minutes of SportsCenter, in which we learned that the Cardinals had to make room in the clubhouse for 25 cases of champagne. Good news is that the Korbel has to stay on ice for another day, and the Cardinals will have to wait for a little while, Dave Clark got his first managerial win, and the Astros avoided their first ten-game losing streak since 2007 with the 3-0 win over St. Louis.

Let's do the thing:

Norris: 6IP, 6H/0ER, 3K:2BB, 14/24 first-pitch strikes, 27/61 non-contact strikes (12called:15 swinging)
Fulchino: 1IP, 3K, 2/3 FPS, 7/9 NCS (4c:3s)
LaHawk: 1IP, 1H, 3/4 FPS, 6/11 NCS (5c:1s)
Valverde: 1IP, 2K:1BB, 2/4 FPS, 6/12 NCS (4c:2s)

Norris, obviously, was effective, especially at limiting damage. He only had one 1-2-3 inning (the 5th), and the Cardinals had a runner on second in each of the first three innings, and The Troof got out of it with nary a runner advancing to third.

The bullpen got their crap together, at least for one night, allowing just one hit and a walk in three innings - with Fulchino getting three swinging strikeouts in one inning. And I'll look forward to seeing him in 2010.

Yes yes, the Astros won. However, they still only scratched out three runs. And in this little 1-9 stretch, the Astros have only scored 23 runs. Of their six hits, Tejada and Lee provided two hits each, with Matsui and Norris getting the other two. The Astros were 3x11 with RISP (Tejada, Lee, Norris). That said, Carlos Lee's two RBI put him at 98 for the season, and he should be the only Astro - by a long shot - with 100 RBI this season.

Brutal note: J.R. Towles was 0x2, and is now 1x21 in September, for an .048 average.

Man of the Match: Bud Norris. Did what no other pitcher has been able to do in this little stretch - be (mostly) perfect. The only way the Astros were going to win another game this season was if the other team didn't score a single solitary run, and that's what The Troof did.

Goat of the Game: I think this one's going to Hunter Pence. 0x3 with a walk, and three strikeouts, ending the inning twice. Pence, while hitting .311 in Setpember, has three hits in his last 17 ABs.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Update on earlier post

Earlier today Asher Chancey of the Dugout Doctors wrote a post detailing the ten reasons Cooper got fired. I ripped it apart. After writing this post, I started to think, "Maybe this was sarcasm," and did some checking. After all, most of the reasons had to do with Ed Wade.

Turns out, after trading some emails with Mr. Chancey, it was sarcasm. And do you know what that means? That is the most genius post I've seen in quite some time. I hereby apologize for my insolence.

Jose Cruz doesn't want to manage these guys

Brian McTaggart is tweeting that Jose Cruz doesn't want to manage the Astros, and he's content being the first-base coach.

It's a pretty easy gig, after all. You really only have to talk to Lance once a game. Bourn, maybe twice.

Want to go fishing with LaHawk?

Well, you can!

Go to the Academy on the Northwest Freeway (290 before FM1960) between 6pm-7pm, get an autograph (and get a picture with a Proof of Citizenship. I'll be your best friend), and register for one of five trips to Hawk's Big League Bass Classic benefiting Lifeline Youth and Family Services.

If a Citizen wins, please please please get pictures.

Lineup for G152 - Cardinals at Astros

This is the lineup that lost the season for the Astros, and this is the Astros that will help the Cardinals clinch the NL Central:

Bourn CF
Tejada SS
Berkman 1B
Lee LF
Blum 3B
Pence RF
Matsui 2B
Towles C
Norris P

Funny story. True story. The tweet to which I have linked has all names/positions running together - no punctuation (which, in a 140-character limit, is excusable). So when I first saw this, I read it "2B Towles." And I immediately hammered out a 1,500 word post on how monumental this development is. Thankfully, I proofread, and check my source twice. Then I noticed. I might just post it, anyway...

Justice takes the stand as a character witness

Justice's morning blog post offers some defense of Drayton McLane. Some nuggets as to what Run-DMc got wrong:

-Cecil Cooper should have been fired months ago. Drayton knew this guy was a disaster both in the clubhouse and on the field, and yet because he wanted to try and be fair, he couldn't bring himself to do it.

-Not understanding Gerry Hunsicker's importance to the franchise. I'm not sure whether he fired Gerry or shoved him toward the door, but this was a bad day for the Astros. On the other hand, there's plenty of blame to go around. Bad relationships are a two-way street. They'd come to despise one another.

-Instead of understanding that the Astros needed a full-scale overhaul, he tried to patch it together and keep the franchise competitive. He had the money to spend, so he spent it. In hindsight, Carlos Lee, Miguel Tejada, Woody Williams, Pudge Rodriguez, Mike Hampton, Russ Ortiz, Kaz Matsui and Jason Jennings were all mistakes. But the Astros didn't have major league talent available and they wanted to stay competitive.


So what are the lessons Justice alleges Drayton has learned?

I think they've gotten Drayton to understand the importance of player development. In the past, he might have thought spending $1 million on draft pick was foolish, but spending $100 million on Carlos Lee was smart. Now he understands the opposite is true.

He can also look at the Astros and understand there needs to be larger thinking, a big-picture approach. Everything begins with the farm system, and while it's right to give Tommy Manzella, Chris Johnson and Jason Castro an opportunity to play next year, there's no guarantee they'll be any good. There's also no choice.


So the question lies in the approval rating of Astros County:

Jim Caple provides a reason to keep watching the Astros

In a highly entertaining look at why we should keep following the non-contenders, Caple gives us reason to watch the Brick Red:

There may be only 11 days left in the season, but that means Houston could still change managers 11 times, and maybe more if someone doesn't look good taking out the lineup card.

Profile on Sean Barksdale

Temple Grad and Astros' prospect Sean Barksdale had a nice little write-up in the local paper, following surgery on a torn meniscus.

Barksdale, on Draft Day - specifically, the 38th round:
“I was biting my nails hoping someone would take me until I got picked. The Astros called me right after I saw my name. It was exciting. I didn’t care about the round. I didn’t care what round I was chosen in or with what pick. I didn’t care about the team. As a senior, you have no leverage. I just wanted to play. I knew I was signing right away.”

What's it like, going from college to the minors?
“It’s like extended college, and not just because of the food. You’re living on your own. You’re traveling for games, though the bus rides aren’t too bad for the New York-Penn League because the longest trips are from New York to Maryland or Massachusetts. You’re living in an apartment with two or three other guys. The game’s just faster, and everyone here is as good as you or better. It’s about development, not necessarily about the numbers.”

Temple coach Rob Valli:
“It’s easier to get drafted than it is to get to the Big Leagues. The toughest thing is the fact that for the first time in your career, you don’t get to play every day. The teams rotate their lineups and play different people in different games because they’re not necessarily concerned with winning games. They’re trying to develop young players. But Sean has the mental toughness to handle his injury and the grind of a Minor League season, and he can put together some big numbers.”

How's that knee?
“It’s a little sore right now, but I’m recovering. I still don’t really know how I injured it. I was just warming up before a game, and it locked on me. But the doctors said there’s no way I tore it that day, that it had to have torn before then. Once I’ve recovered, I’ll go work out and go hit with the guys at Temple.”

Reddehasse called up to Round Rock

Who is this Garrett Reddehasse? Well, formerly, he was the award-winning Texas League Turf Manager of the Year, field superintendent at Whataburger Field in Corpus Christi.

Now he's the field manager at Dell Diamond in Round Rock. Congrulations, Garrett.

Bourn "one to watch"

Fine journalism from USA Today in which they break down the players to watch in 2010. Michael Bourn made this list:

Michael Bourn has benefited from a .372 average on balls in play, but that alone can't explain an improvement of more than 60 points in batting average from last season. And, of course, he leads the league in stolen bases.

Tanner Bushue is Prospect #9

Captip to Zach Levine, Baseball America announced their Top 20 prospects in the Gulf Coast League.

The Astros' 2nd round pick, Tanner Bushue (shut down with stress fractures in his back), made the list at #9.

Olney on the next Astros manager

Buster Olney chimes in with a take on the Astros' managerial situation:

I don't know who the right choice would be, but I do think this: both Buck Showalter and Bobby Valentine would be strong choices, because they would come with established credibility and generate interest in the team, at a time when the Astros are probably going to need at least a two-year cycle of restructuring because of budget issues. Jeff Bagwell has always been known as a tremendous person, but I don't know how any team can hire someone as manager without knowing he can handle a pitching staff, which is arguably the most important thing that a skipper does.

10 Reasons Cooper got fired

The Dugout Doctors have a story with the 10 reasons Coop got canned.

Let's look:

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.

Thank God, something to talk about other than the Big Club

Nice article on Jordan Lyles, from his hometown paper.

What was the difference for Lyles in 2009?
“I think the biggest difference this year was really just learning how to pitch and learning how to scout an opposing team. I was used to playing every day in high school. Now I have five days between starts to sit in the dugout and watch the other team hit. After a while, you start to learn where you want to attack certain players and where you want to stay away from others. About a quarter of the way through the season, I made it a point to utilize both sides of the plate. Before, I hadn’t gone inside too much. I think that was one of the things that really started to keep the hitters off-balance.”

Legends' pitching coach Travis Driskill:
“Jordan has a special fastball. It almost seems to speed up as it comes to the plate. In reality, it’s just maintaining a constant speed from the mound to the plate. But movement and location are what make it so effective. Even when Jordan throws it for a ball on purpose, he still gets hitters to swing.”

Lyles, on his curve:
“I didn’t really have too much of a curveball to begin with. It was one of those slow, looping curves that just gave the batters something different to look at. But after a while, I was able to tighten up the spin and speed it up a little. Now I’m pretty comfortable using it as an out pitch, too.”

Driskill, on where Lyles will be in 2010:
"I'm 99.9% sure he'll be at Lancaster next year, or maybe even Corpus Christi. Jordan’s grown a lot this year as both a player and a person. I’m sure he’s not too far off from realizing his big-league dream.”

Clark, on his managerial style

McTaggart has a profile on interim manager Dave Clark, and we learn about his style.

Clark:
"My message was that we're going to continue to play hard and play the game the right way. You're dealing with a veteran ballclub, so you have guys that do that. You want a different type of attitude to be established around here, and that's what happens when you know there's someone new at the helm. I think I bring more of an unbeat, aggressive-type attitude. The players know that and expect that."

When it comes to handling his pitching staff, Clark wants to give the starting pitcher a chance to pitch deep into games.


"Deep," apparently meaning 3.2IP and 56 pitches (I know, I know. Bazardo was getting shelled.)

And on not playing the young'uns? It's because Clark is afraid the Cardinals will take their per diem.
"Not to say these kids aren't going to be good players, because I really and truly believe they are, but it's going to take some time and maturity and take running them out there to see what they're capable of doing. I'm not going to do that against a team like the Cardinals. They will be given that opportunity [to prove they can play]," he said. "Do they have the ability? Yes they do."

Astros are cheap: Exhibit Q

David Coleman had an interesting post linked to by Rob Neyer (Coleman 1, Astros County 0) about the Astros' tendency to low-ball their draft picks.

Coleman:
Out of those five seasons, the Astros have spent the least amount of money on draft picks of any team. That's dead last. I took the average of the median bonus spending in each of those five drafts and the Astros aren't even within a million dollars of that average. In fact, there are only four teams that are over 1 million short of the league average for slot spending: the Angels, the Mets, the White Sox and the Astros.

Read the whole thing.

Wade, on managerial search; Roy, and Arias

Ed Wade made some comments on the managerial search. Namely, interviews might start before the season ends.

“We haven't really sat down and had the in-depth internal conversations with regard to candidates. In all candor, I don't envision this process beginning before the end of the season. Now don't call me a liar if by some chance if we end up interviewing somebody in the interim. I just don't think it's going to flow at that pace. We'll have our internal discussions and try to come up with a manageable list and then begin the process at some point there after.”
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Roy Oswalt, shut down since last week, will head to Dallas to see a back specialist for a second opinion on his jacked up back.

Wade:
“I don't know if you'd call it arthritic changes or just the changes in his back. He's just going to go see. I don't think he's looking for a contrary position but just more information.”

It's still not considered a surgical situation, because that procedure runs the risk of Roy losing feeling in his left leg.
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Arias will have arthroscopic surgery on his knee today, to remove a piece of the bone, alleviating the rubbing of a tendon running to his hamstring.

“I'm a bit nervous. I've never had surgery. They're going to remove that little bone right there. I'll be ready to pitch in winter ball in the Dominican.”
-

We could be seeing a celebration tonight

But it won't be the Astros doing the celebrating. St. Louis can clinch the NL Central tonight with a win over a team somewhat resembling the Houston Astros.

Dave Clark:
“You know what, you don't ever want that to happen in your own backyard. It's one of the reasons why I'm playing the guys that I'm playing. We're not going to just make it easy for anyone. Really and truly that would be embarrassing to the game, and we're not going to allow that to happen.”

I can think of a lot of things about this team that are embarrassing, and letting the Cardinals dance on the pitcher's mound might actually send the message to Drayton. That wouldn't be embarrassing, that would be what they call in education a "teachable moment."

Clark continues:
“The biggest thing that I'm impressed with is that the guys aren't quitting, probably one of the easiest things to do. But they're not going to quit. They're going to continue to go out and play hard. And right now that's basically all we could ask for. But a win wouldn't hurt.”

Tejada echoes:
“I'm not quitting. I always say I respect all my fans. I respect everybody who came to see the game and wear the uniform. I've been professional all my career, and the last thing that I would do is quit.”

Recap for G151 - Cardinals at Astros

This is getting old. The Astros have now scored nine runs in their last five games, after getting smoked, 11-2 at the hands of St. Louis. The Astros have now lost nine straight for the first time since 2007 (10 straight). Let's just do the thing:

Bazardo: 3.2IP, 6H/6ER, 2K:2BB, 14/18 First-pitch strikes, 14/35 non-contact strikes (9c:5s)
Wright: 1.1IP, 2H/1ER, 1K:1BB, 3/6 FPS, 6/15 NCS (5c:1s)
Brocail: 1IP, 2/3 FPS, 3/8 NCS (3c)
Byrdak: 1IP, 1H/1ER, 1K:1BB, 4/5 FPS, 4/8 NCS (2c:2s)
Paronto: 1IP, 4H/2ER, 5/7 FPS, 6/16 NCS (5c:1s)
Valverde: 1IP, 2H/1ER, 4/5 FPS, 4/14 NCS (4s)

Astros pitchers threw first-pitch strikes to 32 of 44 Cardinals batters. And Bazardo actually started this game off dealing - getting the first seven Cards he saw, throwing first-pitch strikes to four of the six batters. Ahh, but then in the third, three runs scored on three hits and two walks. In the fourth, three more runs scored on four hits. It's amazing how quickly this outing imploded for Bazardo, but it's also not as if the bullpen came in and shut the Cardinals down, as St. Louis went ahead and scored five more runs in 5.1IP.

The key to this game could have been in the fourth for the Astros. St. Louis had a 6-0 lead, and if the Astros wanted to make an immediate statement, it would have been here. Miguel Tejada led off the inning with a double. Berkman worked a walk, and Carlos Lee got a single. That's bases loaded with nobody out. Blum hit a sac fly to score Tejada, Pence struck out swinging, and Keppinger grounded out to second to end the inning. Six plate appearances, one run.

Let's give some credit to Darin Erstad, who had a 10-pitch pinch-hit strikeout.

Man of the Match: Miguel Tejada, who went 3x4 with an RBI, and a run scored.

Goat of the Game: Yorman Bazardo. Started strong and completely fell apart. A living, breathing metaphor.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Arias done for the year

McTaggart and Footer are tweeting that Alberto Arias is done for the year after he has knee surgery tomorrow.

And Oswalt is going to get a second opinion on his back.

The Houston Press has your vote of confidence...

And it's tucked, somewhere. The HP headline is "Your next Houston Astros manager should be..." But there's only who it shouldn't be. And I'm sure this is what Drayton means when he says the Astros have the best fans in baseball:

Seeing as it's Drayton McLane doing the hiring, I'm sure that no matter who gets the job it will be the wrong person.

In the worthwhile portion of this post, Royal crosses names off the list.

Dave Clark: Clark's primary qualification for the job seems to be that the players really, really, really like him. His other qualification seems to be that he's been the team's third-base coach, and he's sucked as badly as a third-base coach as Cooper sucked while he was Phil Garner's bench coach. So while it's okay to let Clark run out the string, it's probably safe to say that if this guy is managing the team in 2010 then this team will probably suck just as bad as this current team.

Jim Fregosi: Fregosi led the then-California Angels to their first playoff spot in 1979, and he led the Philadelphia Phillies to the World Series in 1993 -- he was also the guy the Angels traded for Nolan Ryan. But he's not known for his ability to develop young players, and he's also known as a guy who tends to let the players run the clubhouse, and I would think the Astros are tired of guys like Carlos Lee leading the clubhouse.

Manny Acta: Acta had the misfortune of managing the Nationals, who have been one of the worst teams in baseball since moving from Montreal to Washington. This was more the fault of a bungling front office than it was Acta, but seeing as how the Astros' front office has been a bunch of bungling fools since Gerry Hunsicker left, and seeing as how the Astros seem to be as bereft of talent as the Nationals, then Acta is the wrong guy. This guy might be able to win with talent, but he's proven that he can't win with old, washed-up veterans and a non-existent pitching rotation.

Al Pedrique: Pedrique seems to be under consideration because he's already part of the Astros system. And frankly, seeing how awful the Astros organization has been this decade, that should be an automatic disqualification.

Jeff Bagwell/Craig Biggio: Jeff Bagwell has given no indication that he wants to manage...And watching Craig Biggio's "me first" form of playing should be evidence that he shouldn't be a major-league manager. Besides, except for Biggio with a bunch of high school kids, none of these guys has any managing experience. We're talking Drayton McLane here, so their lack of managing experience doesn't matter because he probably thinks -- and is probably right -- that there would be enough fools out in the city who would buy tickets for Astros games because one of these guys was managing.

Brad Ausmus: I think Ausmus would be a fantastic manager. Some of the best current managers are former catchers -- Mike Scioscia with the Angels, Joe Girardi with the Yankees, Joe Torre with the Dodgers, and Bruce Bochy with the Giants are just four that I can think of. But I also think he needs to actually earn a managing job. Let him go to the minors for a couple of years, or work as a bench coach. But his first job upon retiring as an active player shouldn't be as the manager of the Houston Astros.

Back on September 8, Royal put forth Frank Robinson as an option for Coop's replacement. He is also someone who would punch Lance Berkman in the mouth (but he'll have to get in line). Royal said:
He has never managed a team to the playoffs. So he appears to be just another manager who has been given the opportunity to fail with multiple managing jobs. But it's for this reason that he's the best possible manager for the Astros next season...Robinson was able to get Alfonso Soriano to stop pouting and to make an effort when he was forced to change positions, so think of what he could with the likes of Carlos Lee. And if Robinson couldn't command the respect of the Astros clubhouse, then it's just not possible to tame that clubhouse and massive changes elsewhere need to be made.

Lineup for G151 - Cardinals @ Astros

So I've kind of mailed it in as far as the matchups go. If there is screaming and hollering, I'll bring it back for the last 10 games of the season. If not, well, we'll do it again for G1 - Giants @ Astros in 2010.

Anyhow, McTaggart has your lineup. Matsui has himself a seat, and Towles gets the start, presumably for catching Bazardo this season in Round Rock.

Bourn CF
Tejada SS
Berkman 1B
Lee LF
Blum 3B
Pence RF
Keppinger 2B
Towles C
Bazardo P

Coop's hometown paper weighs in

Richard Bray, Sports Editor of the Brenham Banner-Press, reflects on Brenham native Cecil Cooper:

"It’s possible that the Astros can find a manager who will turn things around, maybe even one who can inspire this core group of players on to the playoffs next season.

But the Astros won’t find someone with a greater appreciation for the game of baseball, or anyone who could match his dignity.

He may not have gotten that World Series ring for the Astros, but Cooper represented that team and his hometown as well as anybody could have asked. He truly is one of the nice guys in baseball, and that shouldn’t be lost in the disappointments of the Astros’ 2009 season."

AC on Baseball Reflections

Check out a post I wrote this morning for Pete at Baseball Reflections on Coop's firing. Give him some hits.

Ken Rosenthal: Astros are "tone-deaf"

"As usual, the Astros were tone-deaf to their players, and tone-deaf to the situation that they were in."

Rosenthal puts forth Bagwell's name as a possibility, but notes, "More likely the Astros will go for an experienced manager, like Manny Acta...or Jim Fregosi...

...Frankly, it doesn't matter who the next manager is until the Astros realize they need to tear down and build back up again. And that's not something Drayton McLane wants to do."

Are the Astros interested in Gary Sheffield?

Or is it the other way around?

Mark Miller has some rumors pertaining to Gary Sheffield, who will turn 85 this offseason. Miller notes a Kevin Kernan NY Post report that Sheffield has narrowed his list of clubhouses he would be willing to screw up to five times.

And yes, the Astros are in there.

He's not closing the door on the Mets -- they'll have to close it on him, and that's probably going to happen. If it does, he could land with one of the Mets' biggest rivals, a return engagement with the Marlins. If not the Marlins, the Tampa native would love to sign with the Rays or even the Astros or Rangers.

Ringolsby: Houston has always been cheap, and stupid

Nothing like kicking you when you're down. Tracy Ringolsby takes some time in Baseball America to discuss the draft, and specifically the 1992 draft, which AC has discussed. What happened in 1992? That was the non-Jeter draft, but we get some insight as to how that went down.

When Derek Jeter became the all-time Yankees hits leader in September, it underscored the failures of other teams.

Jeter was no secret. He was not a matter of the Yankees outbidding anybody else. He slipped to the Yankees because four other teams did not understand the value of the investment they could have made in drafting Jeter.

If the late Hal Newhouser, a Hall of Fame pitcher turned scout, had gotten his way, the Yankees would have never had the chance to draft Jeter. Newhouser was an area scout for the Astros in Michigan in 1992, when Jeter was drafted out of high school.

The Astros had the No. 1 pick in the draft. Owner John McMullen set a $700,000 limit on the signing bonus. While the word among scouts was that Jeter, who had a scholarship to Michigan, would take $1 million to sign, Newhouse lobbied for the Astros to draft him and claimed he could sign Jeter for $750,000.

That was $50,000 over the Astros' self-imposed limit, so they instead drafted Phil Nevin, prompting Newhouser to quit.

Nevin became a solid big league player—though after the Astros essentially gave up on him. No knock on that. But Jeter has evolved into an eventual Hall of Famer, a team leader in addition to an excellent shortstop with offensive ability.

And he would have been an Astro if the organization had been willing to invest in adding the best young players available. New­houser knew that. Nobody in Houston, however, would listen.


Weep, friends.

Rosenthal is mean, again

In Ken Rosenthal's column this morning, he has not nice things to say about Manager 18:

Good luck trying to predict which unlucky soul Astros owner Drayton McLane will hire as the team's next manager. General manager Ed Wade and club president Tal Smith will offer significant input, but McLane, as always, will have the final say.

The Astros, after firing Cecil Cooper, are more likely to opt for an experienced manager than another first-time selection, according to a source with knowledge of the club's thinking.


The hard part?

The Astros' next manager must navigate a tricky balance — the team is starting to infuse youth but also includes a number of declining veterans. McLane refuses to permit a complete overhaul, limiting his franchise's upside.

Justice's Managerial Front-runner

Richard Justice has a name at the top of his list:

Former manager Jim Fregosi is there, though Dave Clark, Manny Acta, Tim Bogar, Jeff Bagwell and Brad Ausmus are on his list, too.

He worked with Wade during six years as manager of the Phillies, was the manager when the Phils won the 1993 National League pennant and has remained close to him.

Ed would have to sell Drayton on the choice. Fregosi may be a little too opinionated and a little too profane for Drayton. He's also 67 years old and hasn't managed a big league game in nine years.

He has remained close to the game working as a scout and is held in high regard by people at all levels of the game. He was a six-time All-Star during an 18-year playing career. Perhaps the biggest selling point is that he would bring a toughness the Astros need.

Ed Wade and Tal Smith want an ingredient of toughness in the next manager, and they'll be closely watching to see how Dave Clark handles certain things these next two weeks.

For instance, if Carlos Lee doesn't run hard to first base, does he ignore it? Does he confront him? Does he remove him from the game?

There's a feeling in the front office that too many things were allowed to slide, and that the next manager must establish a way to play in terms of effort...

... This search should be the last one the Astros conduct for a long, long time. This is where the organizational chaos must end. They've had four managers and three general managers since the 2004 All-Star Break. No other team in baseball has had such change.

All these changes tell you is that Drayton McLane has seen the Astros as one player or one managerial switch away from being back in the playoffs. He saw his franchise for what he hoped it was instead of what it actually was....

... I'm absolutely convinced of two things. One is that Drayton now understands the importance of the draft and player development. The Astros have done an extraordinary job getting their picks signed and in uniform the last two years. It'll be awhile before we know how good the players are, but the early returns have been good.

Second, I don't think Drayton is going to talk about being a champion anytime soon. He may speak of it as an organizational goal and all of that, but he understands that the Astros have holes now and are going to have more holes next year.

The 2010 Astros are going to be significantly younger, but there's no way of knowing if they'll be significantly better. They may sign some veteran free agents, but there won't be any long-term, big-ticket signings...

...What the Astros need to do for the new manager is make a long-term commitment. They need to conduct a thorough search and then back the new guy 100 percent...

...Jeff Bagwell will be getting a call to judge his interest, but Dave Clark's six years of minor league managerial duty, gives him a huge advantage. If Bagwell were passionate about the job, he probably could have it, but I'm just not sure he wants it.

Tim Bogar will be getting a call too. He's the third-base coach for the Red Sox and a former Astro. Like Dave Clark, he's held in high esteem.

Mainly, this hiring is the start of a new day. It's not about a splashy hire or a popular hire. It's about making the right hire.

Ed Wade made two managerial hires in Philadelphia and got both of them right. Terry Francona and Charlie Manuel are among the top 10 managers in the game. If Wade sells Drayton on someone as good as those two, the Astros will be in good shape.

JJO: Let the bodies hit the floor

JJO brings the pain:

Cooper wasn't the best manager. Heck, he wasn't even a decent manager. A decent man, but not a decent manager.

Yet, there's no way the people who fired Cooper can honestly tell the fans they put out a winning product. Pitching wins in baseball, yet Drayton McLane, Tal Smith and Ed Wade have failed to bring a quality pitcher to help Roy Oswalt and Wandy Rodriguez carry the burden.

The fans were suckered into paying quality prices for a horrible team.
I think very highly of McLane, but unfortunately he hasn't provided a quality product for the fans. If I were McLane, I wouldn't just fire the manager of this horrible team.

I'd ask serious questions and ask why the heck he's paying $107 million for such a bad team.

If Drayton really wants to gain the fans' confidence, Cooper and his coaches won't be the only one fired for this mess.


We do get some good insight as to how this all went down. Let's let Drayton fill us in:
"We waited until he arrived at the clubhouse early this afternoon and Drayton, Tal and I went down and informed him of our decision. Then I met with Dave and made him aware of what was going on and met with the coaches, and then we just finished a team meeting with the players a couple minutes ago."

When will the Astros make a decision?
"I would like to go ahead and spend the next couple of weeks or several weeks trying to really lock down a list of candidates that makes a lot of sense. From a time constraint, we're going to be probably looking at post-World Series before we get this thing done. And that's why we felt it was important to talk to our coaching staff today to make them aware of where this thing was, because I don't want them to get caught short at the back end if we decide to make changes on the coaching staff. So there are a lot of decisions to be made; we had one decision to move on today, and that was relieving Coop of his duties as manager of the Astros. We've got a lot of other decisions to make going forward, and we're going to use every amount of time to make sure we're evaluating candidates and to make sure what we're doing is not for cosmetic purposes, but for the betterment of the Houston Astros."

Levine's take

We get some beef from Zach Levine on why Coop was canned:

My biggest complaint about Cooper's strategy in his first year in office was how liberal he was as a base stealer on behalf of his club. He either green-lighted or didn't red light players who had absolutely no business going.

To me, the nonchalance about sending runners and strict adherence to his mantra of aggressiveness demonstrated a lack of understanding of the true values of outs and extra bases, overvaluing the latter and undervaluing the former...

...Where I think he hurt the team, literally and figuratively, this year was in bullpen management, which brings me back to the Gervacio item.

Cooper very often used a variant on the talking point win today's game and then worry about tomorrow, and I never really thought he could really believe that in a 162-game sport until I think about his bullpen use.

Cooper was very reliant on his best middle reliever, Chris Sampson, who got worn down and had to have his workload seriously reduced in the minors. Then it was Alberto Arias, who picked up the slack and not necessarily relatedly was injured.

Other injuries and the fact that the Astros didn't win a lot of games were probably the only thing that saved LaTroy Hawkins and Jose Valverde...

...Part of the wearing out had to do with short outings from the starters, and I thought some of that was the manage-for-today philosophy. I'm not going to take exception to every 4-5 inning start when the hurler was struggling, but I thought there were a few in the beginning of the season, especially involving Wandy Rodriguez, when it would have been more beneficial to leave him in than to further wear down the pen.

Putting in Gervacio to keep the Brewers from kicking the extra point on their touchdown lead struck me as another example of managing for today, and this time there was no tomorrow.

Berkman worried about getting jacked in the face

Seriously.

Berkman:
"I think the guys respect him. If anybody mouths off to him, he'll punch him in the face because he's a Golden Glove boxer, and we all know that."

Wade:
"That's why we selected him, because we see how he goes about his business. We saw how he handled himself at the minor league level, and we've seen how he conducts himself at the big league level with the rapport he's created with the players and his stand-up personality."

But the Astros don't need to go 2-10 in their last ten games to get rid of Clark, either. Wade:
“The reality is it's going to come down to the players. Clark will be able to apply his managerial style for 13 days, but it's going to fall on the players to step up and put their best foot forward.”

Clark:
“You're dealing with a veteran-type ballclub. The only thing that you can basically change is the attitude for the most part. I've always been that guy who firmly believed that the team takes on the attitude of the manager — of the leader of that team — and of the coaching staff. If I can bring that attitude here, that's what I'm going to do.”

Bourn:
"We just move forward and try to play hard for our next manager and finish out strong."

Pence:
"It all rests on us, all of it. We're the ones out there playing; we're the ones that have a chance to make a difference."

Dave Clark will run some things by Wade

If you thought, like I did, that Clark just copied a previous lineup because of short notice of actually being the manager, you're wrong.

Just because Cooper is gone does not mean that you'll be seeing Chris Johnson, Tommy Manzella, or Edwin Maysonet.

"We're going to try to mix them in whenever we can. Right now, we're going to try to win ... against the Cardinals. We've got three games against those guys that we're going to try to win starting tonight. Whatever I decide to do with the lineup, of course, I'll talk it over with the staff and with Ed (Wade) and we'll make a decision accordingly. But right now, my main concentration is (Monday's) game."
-
And fare thee well, Billy Sadler. Sadler was sent home with the shoulder dyskenesis after being placed on the 60-Day DL. He pitched in one game.

Our problem is that we win too much

It's the same linked article as the previous post. But Drayton tells us our problem:

"Part of our problem is that we've become accustomed to winning, this franchise has. But isn't it true that almost every college team, high school team, pro team, they go through cycles. Nobody wins all the time."

And Ed Wade says the manager really doesn't matter much to fans, anyway:
"Anybody who follows baseball is fickle. You have to be. In a 162-game season, we all have a chance to fall in and out of love with teams and players and favorites. We live in the highs and lows. We recognize that. I don't think anybody buys a ticket to watch the manager manage or the third-base coach wave baserunners home. They come to see the players. Talent rules the day, and performance rules the day...

...Some of the most successful clubs in baseball history were ones where they absolutely hated the manager and the manager was the antithesis of the type of person they wanted to hang around. Other clubs couldn't give enough hugs to managers who went home every September (rather than to the playoffs)."


Berkman, however, makes it personal:
"The bottom line is that we didn't get it done on the field,” Berkman said. “I feel personally responsible for it. It's not a fun day."

No, it's not a fun day, and yes, Lance, you should feel some responsibility for this.

Why yesterday?

So the question today is why did Coop get fired yesterday, of all days?

David Barron:
Some fans thought the Astros were trying to force their way back into the headlines in the wake of the Texans' win Sunday. Others took the opposite tack — that the Astros opted for cover of darkness in the wake of the Texans' victory.

Regardless of the reason, Ernest Moreno, the night's ranking Little Puma, said he believes Cooper was made the scapegoat for failed decisions and substandard performances that were outside his control.

“It's been an accumulation of things — one bad decision after another, like thinking we can put a team together with retreads like Mike Hampton and Russ Ortiz,” he said. “I'm sorry, but that's not how you build a team.”


I'll disagree with trying to do it under the radar. Or that they were trying to compete with the Texans for headlines. I'll agree with Moreno that it was one bad decision after another, some outside of Coop's control.

Here's what I'll say: The Astros were technically in contention until Sunday, when their sixth straight loss mathematically eliminated them from the NL Central title. Couple that with how terrible the Astros have been since sweeping the Phillies (still the most improbable series of wins this season), and coming home for a little homestand, and you're down a manager. But I think there is something else at play. I take Ed Wade and Run-DMc at their word when they say that Coop is a good baseball man. So when Coop comes home after a long losing streak to face a team the Astros have little chance to beat - even in baseball - I think the Astros made that move yesterday while Coop's managerial record was above .500 at 171-170. They threw a bone to a good man who did a bad job.

Recap for G150 - Cardinals at Astros

Different game, different manager, same lineup, same result. The Astros have lost seven straight, after getting shelled by the Cardinals, 7-3.

Dave Clark put Berkman back in the #3 spot, and he responded with two of the Astros' six hits, but Wandy let the game get out of hand before the Astros had a chance to get going. Wandy gave up three extra-base hits in a losing effort. Let's do the thing:

Wandy: 5IP, 9H/6ER, 5K:0BB, 9/23 first-pitch strikes, 26/57 non-contact strikes (13c:13s)
Paronto: 1IP, 3H/1ER, 1K, 5/6 FPS, 8/13 NCS (4c:4s)
Gervacio: 1IP, 2H, 1/3 FPS, 2/7 NCS (1c:1s)
Lopez: 1IP, 1H, 4/4 FPS, 3/8 NCS (2c:1s)
LaHawk: 1IP, 2/3 FPS, 1/4 NCS (1c)

Wandy only threw 9 first-pitch strikes to the 23 batters he faced, nine of which got on base, six of those scored. That said, the bullpen only allowed one run - Paronto gave up DeRosa's second homer of the game - over 4IP.

Tejada and Berkman each hit solo homers, their 12th and 23rd respectively. And that was pretty much it. Quintero was 1x1 with RISP, the only Astros hit of that nature, in a 2x3 night.

Pitch Count Hero: Michael Bourn - 17 pitches in 4 PAs (0x4)

Pitch Count Punk: Humberto Quintero - 4 pitches in 3 PAs (2x3, RBI)

Man of the Match: Jeez. How about Lance Berkman, just by default?

Goat of the Game: Sorry, Wandy. It was 3-0 by the time the Astros came to bat, and the Astros just aren't built to overcome three-run deficits (cap tip, Coop).

The thing that will interest me the most today will be the lineup for tonight's game. Dave Clark had about three and a half hours after it was announced that Coop was gone to get ready for the game (I don't know if he was given a heads-up). So I'm guessing the lineup was basically the same to provide a little stability in an unstable day. Let's see if it changes today.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Wade: Firing Coop now is more convenient

Seriously! He said it!

Wade:
"I thought it was going to be awkward to go all the way to the end of the season, come back from New York [following the final game] and make a move. I think the practicality of it didn't make sense to me, and the fact we can put Dave in place, we can have a different set of circumstances working for two weeks. Albeit a short period of time, but we may find some things out and hopefully this creates a spark and gets us on a run so we can finish on a high note."

Wade, on the coaching staff:
"We told them if they felt after the season was over they wanted seek other jobs that they were free to do that. I have great respect for what the coaches have done for us here, but realistically we feel that it's appropriate to give the new manager the ability to evaluate his staff and have some input into its composition."

Wade, on Clark:
"The fact that he's going to have the reins for 13 games is for his advantage from the standpoint of establishing his style. I had a chance to see Dave at the Minor League level before he joined the big league staff, but not nearly enough to make any evaluation. I think it's important for him to put his first foot forward and for us to recognize what he brings to the table in that short period of time, but not to use that as the sole criteria for making a decision. I think we have to be opened-minded. We'll have a list of people we want to talk to and hopefully make the right decision. If it turns out to be Dave, then that's great. But we'll try to make the right decision."

Dave Clark:
"This is really bittersweet for me. I enjoyed my time with Coop, and you hate to see anybody lose their job. He brought me along to be his third-base coach, and here I am replacing him. It's not a real good day for me in that perspective. But the opportunity and chance I'm getting to manage the next two weeks is outstanding."

Davidoff: Want stability? Fire Drayton

Ken Davidoff tears his unwavering gaze away from the Mets and Yankees long enough to weigh in on Coop's firing:

The Astros, who have now fired four managers since 2000, desperately need some organizational stability. Alas, that probably won't be happening as long as owner Drayton McLane is heavily involved. The irony is, playing in the weak NL Central and armed with some payroll muscle, the Astros can still contend every other year or so.

Berkman has some change we can believe in

What a surprise. But JJO breaks it off strong with his lead paragraph:

Cecil Cooper was fired Monday as Astros manager, falling victim to an underachieving, injury-plagued team with a bloated payroll and one of the worst starting rotations in baseball.

Berkman:
“We haven’t been to the playoffs in four years. It seems like we’ve been on sort of a gradual downward spiral since we made it to the World Series (in 2005). And I think you can’t just point to one thing. There are several factors involved in that. If there was ever an environment for sweeping reform or change this would be it...

...I don’t know what the organization plans on doing, where they plan on going from here. Certainly the way we’re playing now and the things that have gone on here over the last three or four years are not getting it done. I think, again, players have to take ownership for that because we haven’t performed on the field like we’re supposed to. Ultimately I think managers get too much credit for the success of the ballclub and too much blame when it goes in the other direction. I think it boils down to our performance between the lines, and it hasn’t been good.”


Wade:
“Coop is a very solid baseball guy and gave his heart and soul for this organization. Unfortunately, I got to a point where it was appropriate to make this change and make it now. It gives us a couple of weeks to go ahead and evaluate some other facets of our operation at the field level and hopefully use that time to try to make the right decisions going forward.”

Drayton:
“If you'll look, this is the most expensive baseball team the Houston Astros have ever had. It's a huge investment we've had here. It's over $100 million. And we invested it in players that we thought could be championship players. Some of our key players, because of injuries or difficulties, haven't had great seasons. You can't predict all of that. But it was the judgment we had when the team was put together in December and January and we were willing to invest financially to have by far the most expensive team we've ever had...

..."You've heard me say many times everyone's evaluating, including myself. The evaluators can't predict the injuries, the difficulties, the problems that we've had this season, or why some of them haven't been able to perform at the level that they have in the past. The injuries and circumstances were different. We'd like to all go back and start from the beginning last year, but this is why we made the decision today so some real decisions can be made. Everyone will be evaluated.”


Carlos Lee:
“I’ll tell you, you just got to have a good balance and a competitive team. If you see the team across the hall right here, the St. Louis Cardinals, they find a way to do it. They’re not a big-market team. They don’t spend that much money. I guess just find a way to do it. That’s what we got to do, just find a way to do it.”

JJO puts forth some candidates, and some of Ken Rosenthal's candidates:
Clark, former Phillies, White Sox, Blue Jays and Angels manager Jim Fergosi, former Nationals manager Manny Acta and former Diamondbacks interim manager Al Pedrique, who was promoted to be Clark’s third-base coach from field coordinator, are some potential candidates to replace Cooper. Brad Ausmus, who is currently playing for the Dodgers, Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio, are former Astros who could be candidates if the Astros go for box-office appeal.

Maybe Ken Macha isn't so easy to work for

Given that his entire coaching staff says they would be interested in helping the Astros beat their employer next year. Willie Randolph, Ken Macha's bench coach, is interested in anything and everything regarding MLB managerial positions:

"I think everybody knows I'm interested in any job. I want to manage again. I won't actively solicit that kind of thing, but I feel like if they feel I'm a fit and they're serious about it, they'll give me a call and we can talk."

Adam McCalvy also mentions Dale Sveum, the Brewers' hitting coach, who managed the Brewers for the last three innings of the season, as a possibility.

At least SI tried to leave a voicemail

Hey, at least SI tried to leave a voicemail, which is more than I have done:

Cooper did not answer calls to his cell phone and his voicemail was full.

And Ted Keith's article doesn't give Coop's replacement much of a chance, either. Regard:

Cooper's dismissal is not surprising but it is instructive, just another example of the hot-coal walk that is managing in the big leagues. Even if you make it across to the other side, you're bound to get burned, and Cooper was. Burned by a poorly constructed team that never had a real chance to compete in its division. Burned by financial limitations that kept the Astros from being a player in the free-agent market. And burned, most significantly, by a clubhouse that included several players, it's been reported, who either didn't respect him or his decisions as a manger.

Note: We'll assume that Keith meant "manager," and not the structure in which our Lord and Savior was born. Please continue.

If Cooper was not necessarily a great fit, neither was this team. The Astros are old and it shows. They have only two position players younger than 29, and when veterans like Miguel Tejada and Lance Berkman stopped producing as they did in their prime, their offense was rendered largely punchless. The pitching staff is in a similar spot. Wandy Rodriguez has turned in a fine season, but aside from him and Roy Oswalt, the Astros don't have a single starter with either a winning record, an ERA below 4.80 or even 100 strikeouts. Their payroll is north of $100 million, but they don't have much to show for it...

...Both Oswalt and Berkman have started talking openly about retirement and Jose Valverde, their quality closer, will be a free agent at year's end and may not return. That means the burden for next season and beyond rests more with the front office, and whether or not they can restock the team with quality players, than it does with the field manager, whoever it may be.

This year's manager couldn't get a team this ill-fitting to win in 2009. It's doubtful anybody will be able to any time soon, either.


Sure hope Drayton is reading...