Saturday, October 31, 2009

Arnsberg's track record

So let's take us a look on this Saturday morning at how Mr. Arnsberg's teams have performed whilst employing him as their Pitching Coach, shall we?

We'll begin with the 1994 Charleston River Dogs, as this was the year preceding Arnsberg's first Pitching Coach gig.

1994 Charleston River Dogs: 4.20 ERA/1.44 WHIP, 926K:548BB, 0.7 HR/9, 1.69 K:BB
1995 Charleston River Dogs: 4.11 ERA/1.41 WHIP, 1032K:509BB, 0.6 HR/9, 2.03 K:BB
1996 Charleston River Dogs: 3.89 ERA/1.34 WHIP, 958K:501BB, 0.6 HR/9, 1.91 K:BB

The 1996 River Dogs had Ryan Dempster on the roster.

And again, we'll begin with the 1996 Tulsa Drillers, the year before Arnsberg arrived:
1996 Tulsa Drillers: 4.38 ERA/1.40 WHIP, 721K:403BB, 0.9 HR/9, 1.79 K:BB
1997 Drillers: 4.64 ERA/1.44 WHIP, 850K:445BB, 0.8 HR/9, 1.91 K:BB
1998 Drillers: 4.15 ERA/1.36 WHIP, 963K:540BB, 0.7 HR/9, 1.78 K:BB

Again, beginning with 1998, the year prior to Arnsberg's arrival...

1998 Oklahoma City Redhawks: 4.45 ERA/1.39 WHIP, 938K:419BB, 1.0 HR/9, 2.24 K:BB
1999 Oklahoma City Redhawks: 4.65 ERA/1.46 WHIP, 900K:456BB, 1.0 HR/9, 1.97 K:BB

In 2000, Arnsberg joined the staff of the Montreal Expos as the bullpen coach and was later promoted to pitching coach. So let's begin with the 2000 Expos:

2000 Expos:
For the 2000 Expos, who went 67-95, the rotation was anchored by a 23-year old Javier Vazquez and 24-year old Carl Pavano, who combined for 19 wins.

This team also was the youngest pitching staff in the NL, at 26.1 years old, and gave up the third-most runs/game at 5.57. (who was the worst? That's right, your Houston Astros), with the fourth-worst ERA and fourth-worst WHIP in the league.

5.14 ERA/1.51 WHIP, 1011K:579BB, 1.1 HR/9, 1.75 K:BB

2001 Expos:
Vazquez again anchrored the rotation, going 16-11 with a 3.42 ERA, and a pre-murderous Ugueth Urbina got 15 saves as the Expos went 68-94, but the pitching staff did see some improvement as the runs/game plummeted to 5.01. The ERA was again fourth-worst, but at a more respectable 4.69 and a 1.42 WHIP.

4.69 ERA/1.42 WHIP, 1103K:549BB, 1.2 HR/9, 2.10 K:BB

Now let's skip ahead to Arnsberg's work with the Blue Jays (yes, we're completely going to gloss over the fact that Arnsberg was dismissed with Jeff Torborg - who was the manager in Montreal - the season that the Marlins won the World Series.)

Arnsberg joined the Blue Jays (penchant for Canadian baseball much?) in 2005. So let's take a look with a chart at the 2005-2009 Toronto Blue Jays, and we'll lead off with 2004, the year prior to Arnsberg's arrival (ranks are out of 14 AL teams):










YearERA (Rk)WHIP (Rk)K:BB (Rk)HR/9 (Rk)Runs/gm (Rk)
20044.94 (13)1.49 (12)956:608 (14)1.15.11 (8)
20054.06 (6)1.33 (6)958:444 (6)1.24.35 (6)
20064.37 (5)1.37 (6)1076:504 (5)1.24.65 (5)
20074.00 (2)1.29 (2)1067:479 (5)1.04.31 (2)
20083.49 (1)1.24 (1)1184:467 (1)0.83.77 (1)
20094.47 (10)1.42 (11)1181:551 (7)1.14.76 (11)


It's pretty well-documented that the 2009 Toronto Blue Jays were decimated by injuries to their pitching staff, and the four years of pitching dominance in the AL can be directly attributed to Roy Halladay - who will make any pitching coach look like a genius. So how much of this can be attributed to Arnsberg? The effectiveness of a pitching coach can't very often be quantified, but it looks like we can look at better K:BB ratios and less HR/9 rates, as well.

What do you think?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Astros re-sign Blum

Deep within JJO's piece on the moves today, we see that the Astros have signed Geoff Blum to a $1.5m deal with a $1.65m mutual option for 2011.

And the staff is almost finalized

With the hiring of Brad Arnsberg as Pitching Coach, the Astros have finalized their coaching staff.

(Update: Steve is correct. There's a bullpen coach remaining to be hired.)

Arnsberg has been the pitching coach for the Toronto Blue Jays since 2004. A timeline, if you will:

1994: Player/coach with the Wei-Chen Dragons of the Taiwan Professional Baseball League.
1995-96: Pitching Coach for Charleston in the South Atlantic League (Texas' affiliate).
1997-98: Pitching Coach for Double-A Tulsa
1999: Pitching Coach for Triple-A Oklahoma City
2000-01: Bullpen Coach/Pitching Coach for the Montreal Expos
2002-03: Pitching Coach for the Florida Marlins (until May 10, 2003 when he was dismissed along with then-manager Jeff Torborg)
2004: Pitching Coach for the Toronto's Triple-A affiliate in Syracuse
2005-October 30, 2009: Pitching Coach for Toronto Blue Jays

Remember that last name? Brad's brother, Tim, played in the Astros' organization from 1985-87. You better believe we'll be dissecting this in the next couple of days. For now, just rest easy, and enjoy your Friday night.

Some hirings and a declining

So of course nothing happens all morning, and then I go to the doctor and that's when all of today's news happens. Maybe.

The Astros have announced that Brad Mills has hired Al Pedrique on as the Bench Coach, and Bobby Meacham as 1st base coach.

Yesterday we noted that the Phillies had granted permission for the Astros to talk to Meacham. That must have been one short conversation. Meacham comes to the Astros from the Phillies' Class-A Williamsport team.

So here's your coaching staff for 2010:
Manager: Brad Mills
1st Base coach: Bobby Meacham
3rd Base coach: Dave Clark
Hitting Coach: Sean Berry
Pitching Coach:

Nope. No pitching coach yet, but Brian McTaggart says that announcement could come by the end of the day.

And in other roster moves, the Astros were faced with a decision with Doug Brocail:
1) Pay the 42-year old $2.85 million in 2010
2) Buy him out for $250,000.

They made the right choice and bought him out.

Ed Wade:
"I've got great respect for Doug. He's a tremendous competitor and has great makeup. I talked to him this morning to tell him we're not going to exercise his option and he was very professional about it. At this point in time, it behooves us to give some of these young relievers a greater chance to be with us for the coming season. I don't envision us heading back in that direction from a playing standpoint, but we did talk about the potential of staying involved in the organization in player development, and Ricky [Bennett] is going to have conversations on that."

Brocail:
"It's one of those things I will talk over with the powers that be and see what they have to say. I won't rule it out. As of right now, I'm just trying to heal up and see how I'm going to feel over the next two or three months."
-
After Ed Wade exercised Moehler's $3 million option, instead of buying him out for $250,000, I was nervous about the looming decision on Brocail. He's a great competitor, he tried some wacky crap to come back and make a contribution, and he seems like a good guy. But this was the right decision.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Saguaros keep it rolling

Jon Gaston was 1x4 with another triple and another RBI as the Saguaros blanked Phoenix 4-0 today.

Jose Vallejo and Jason Castro were back in the lineup, and were 0x3 and 0x4, respectively.

Two pitchers got in the game, with Wilton Lopez throwing 4IP, 1H/0ER with 2K and the win, while Chia-Jen Lo threw 1IP, 1H/0ER, 2K:1BB.

Hoooly crap

Following up on Alyson Footer's tweet about "one reporter" playing up Ed Wade's job security is this tweet:

Not Justice. I was speaking of the article written by Ortiz.

Cardinals' MLB.com reporter Matthew H. Leach asked Footer:
And who would that be?

To which Footer responded:
Incompetent ppl trying to portray others as incomp is as laughable as the bb coverage this city has been subject to this yr.
(Note - this tweet has been removed)

Been a bad day for ol' JJO...

Drew Locke update

Citizen Warren sent a question to the ol' inbox (astroscounty@hotmail.com) today:
How about an update on Drew Locke? Will he be ready to play winter ball and will he start the next season in Triple-A? Any chance in a look by the Astros in Spring Training?

Excellent questions, all of them.

Back on September 1, we heard from Ricky Bennett that Drew Locke's broken hand would preclude him from playing Winter Ball.

That flat-out ain't true, as Locke is currently playing for Aguilas de Zulia in the Venezuelan Winter League. Locke has played in three games for AdZ beginning on October 24, had three hits in his first eight ABs, and went 0x4 yesterday. Wladimir Sutil also plays for AdZ, and he's hitting .306/.327/.367 in 14 games, and seven errors.

I would imagine that, after tearing up Double-A and given that he'll be 27 on Opening Day, he would find himself in Round Rock. The Astros don't have the best track record of promoting to the Majors based on a hot Spring, but if he shows well in Winter Ball and follows it up with a good Spring, he could be on the short list for a look by the Big Club, maybe for a September call-up.

Unfortunately for him, he's an outfielder, and the Astros are pretty well set at OF for the time being, with fatty Lee's fatty contract and Pence/Bourn being young. Take this for what it's worth, as this is completely speculative.

JJO is getting it handed to him this way. And that.

Remember the hyped-up article JJO promised us, and then alluded to this being a make or break year for Ed Wade?

Well, Alyson Footer sets that thing straight:
On another note, for those wondering if Ed Wade's job is in jeopardy, the answer is no. The perception being built by one reporter is false.

Ohhhh.

Saguaros defeat Surprise

Peoria jumped all over Surprise in AFL action yesterday with a 9-0 win.

Jon Gaston was in the lineup and got himself a two-run triple with a run and 3Ks.

Evan Englebrook was the only pitcher to get in the game, and he threw 1IP, 2H/0ER, 0K:1BB. His ERA is now down to 5.40.

Astros granted permission to speak to Meacham

The Philadelphia Inquirer is reporting the Astros have been granted permission to speak to minor-league coach (and former Yankees third-base coach) Bobby Meacham for a position on the major-league staff.

Is this the fabled article?

This is it? This is the article that was promised us? Surely not. Jose de Jesus' Ortiz' article on the national perception of the Astros, and what we see is this:

SI.com national baseball writer Jon Heyman, an analyst on the MLB-TV network, has even named his Worst NL Executive award the “Ed Wade Award.” Heyman gave that honor this year to Cubs GM Jim Hendry, whose team finished three spots ahead of the Astros in the NL Central.

“Too bad it can't go to Wade himself, but there are other more deserving candidates this year,” Heyman wrote earlier this month.


That's it. Sure, Tejada has been embarrassing, and we do get a quick look at how 2010 is Ed Wade's final year on his current contract:
With that said, he gives votes of confidence to president of baseball operations Tal Smith, general manager Ed Wade and assistant GMs Dave Gottfried, Ricky Bennett and Bobby Heck.

“Ed has one more year,” McLane said. “That's different from what some think. If people do good work, they're making progress, they're producing, that is no problem. Tal has been with me for 16 years on a one-year deal, and he'll certainly be back next year. ... We've had some problems, and we made some progress last year. It was the latter part of the season that made us have the tumble.”


But that's it. Nothing else really of note. If you tease along a blockbuster column for four days, come through with something more...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

World Series Game 1 Live Blog!

More Francona on Mills

Terry Francona appeared on WEEI's Dale & Holley Show, and spent some time talking about Brad Mills. Here's part of the transcript:

It’s interesting that the general manager in Houston now was the general manager in Philadelphia when you guys were there. Do you think that worked to his advantage?

I think it got him an interview. I think Millsy had to kind of take it and go from there, which is good. Ed Wade’s a good guy. We’ve been through a lot together. Shoot, he had to fire me, and that’s not easy for him and it wasn’t a whole lot of fun for me. But we’re still really good friends. And I think a lot of Eddie. He’s a solid, solid guy. Cares about people. I think he and Millsy are a very good match together.

What kind of manager do you think he’ll be?

You know, I don’t know. I know one thing, he’s cheap. He’s not going to pay for any cabs for his coaches. You’re going to have start working on that. [Laughter] You know what, this will be interesting, because he’s always kind of had to formulate his feelings around how I felt. I mean, that’s what a bench coach does. You give your opinion, but the decisions come down to me. Now, he’ll be making those decisions. The game won’t be going too fast for him. He’s been doing this his whole life. He’s got a great feel for baseball. He’s a very good person. He’s got a combination of a lot of good things that should help make him successful.

I was surprised that Houston Astros owner Drayton McLane spoke so glowingly of a phone call you made to Drayton McLane to give your endorsement for Brad Mills. He was pretty open about how important that was to him.

Well, he actually called me and I was really impressed. So many times in this game people make calls to maybe cover their backside or just to say they did it. He came armed with questions — and good questions. And I actually really enjoyed it. We had a fun conversation. In fact, toward the end of the conversation we both kind of commented that we were ready for spring training. He’s a really likable guy, got a lot of personality. And again, you’re talking about Brad Mills, one of my favorite people in the the world, so, yeah, I told him how I felt. And I hope it did help. That was the whole idea.

Is it possible or likely you’re going to have to find somebody else as well? Is somebody going to go with Mills to Houston?

I think Millsy is in the process today of trying to get some thoughts together on his staff. I think it’s a possibility but I don’t think it’s a probability.


Interesting...

Baserunning bloopers and blunders: a 2009 Astros retrospective

The baserunning mistakes of 2009 were well-documented in roundabout terms. Today, we break those down and get into specifics of how bad a baserunning team the Astros were.

Note: This took a ridiculously long time. I went game-by-game through the play-by-play on Baseball Reference. So keep in mind there's a chance that I missed something, some of the numbers might not quite add up, so I'll give this a 90% chance of being 100% accurate.

Lance Berkman - 9 baserunning outs
Doubled off first (1)
Caught stealing second (2)
Caught stealing third (2)
Thrown out at home (3)
Out stretching double into triple (1)

Geoff Blum - 3
Doubled off first (1)
Caught stealing second (1)
Thrown out at home (1)

Aaron Boone - 1
Thrown out at home (1)

Michael Bourn - 19
Caught stealing second (6)
Picked off first (2*)
Picked off second (1)
Picked off third (1)
Out stretching single into double (2)
Out stretching double into triple (1)
Out at third on groundball (1)
Caught stealing third (3)
Doubled off first (3)
(* - safe in one instance on error by pitcher)

Chris Coste - 1
Thrown out at home (1)

Darin Erstad -3
Caught stealing second (2)
Out at third on ground ball (1)

Jeff Keppinger - 3
Picked off second (1)
Caught stealing second (2)

Carlos Lee - 9
Caught stealing second (2)
Thrown out at home (1)
Out going first to third (1)
Out stretching single into double (3)
Out advancing to third on sac fly (1)
Caught stealing third (1)

Kaz Matsui - 4
Doubled off second (1)
Caught stealing second (2)
Picked off first (1)

Edwin Maysonet - 1
Thrown out at home (1)

Jason Michaels - 5
Picked off second (1)
Out stretching double into triple (1)
Doubled off first (1)
Thrown out at home (1)
Caught stealing second (1)

Roy Oswalt - 1
Out stretching single into double (1)

Hunter Pence - 15
Thrown out taking extra base (1)
Out stretching single into double (1)
Out stretching double into triple (1)
Caught stealing second (9)
Caught stealing third (2)
Thrown out at home (1)

Humberto Quintero - 1
Thrown out at home (1)

Ivan Rodriguez - 2
Caught stealing second (2)

Miguel Tejada - 7
Caught stealing 2nd (2)
Out stretching single into double (3)
Thrown out at home (1)
Out advancing to third on groundball (1)

From this list, I counted 74 outs made on the basepaths, 12 of those made at home plate. It makes sense that Bourn and Pence would be the top two players with baserunning outs as they're the fastest, and youngest, on the team. I also noticed that in the second half of the season, they made far fewer baserunning outs than in the first half. And April was just brutal. What happened there? Trying to be aggressive at the outset, pressing to have a good first month of the season? Giving up in the second half? Arguments could be made from all of these...

LIVE BLOG TONIGHT!

Stop by Astros County tonight for a World Series Game 1 Live Blog with Robert Flores, SportsCenter anchor and Astros fan. Coverage will begin at 6:45pm Central time.

We'll chat about Brad Mills, the Houston Astros, make fun of the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies (though how we could possibly make fun of them remains to be seen), and we will NOT be talking about Steve Phillips. So don't even try.

Come on over tonight. Show your support of Astros County, the only Astros blog that matters

Francona and Mills is one of baseball's great love stories

WEEI's Alex Speier talked to Mills and Francona's coach at Arizona, Jerry Kindall, about Brad Mills' new job, continuing to do a better job at covering the hiring of Brad Mills than the Houston media (save for McTaggart):

“I think it was inevitable in my mind [that Mills became a manager]. When he was here at the university, Brad was so serious about the intricacies of baseball. He would make notes on practice plans. During the game, he kept a book on all the pitchers we faced. He was so alert to absorb everything that he could. He wanted to be a coach.

I hoped that someday we could put him on our staff here at the University of Arizona. We would discuss him in the coaches meetings: ‘Maybe we should bring him in here with us and listen to him.’ We were half-joking — just half-joking. We could have used his counsel at the time.

"It’s a little more surprising that Terry has ascended to be one of the top managers. In college, he was so happy-go-lucky. He was such a fun guy. He played hard all the time, but he was a practical joker and had that wry sense of humor. He’s very self-effacing. He doesn’t seek the limelight or center stage. He’s just a genuine guy.

As a college player and student, he was just one of the fun guys to be around. He was very dependable but also enjoyed everything so much that I didn’t know if he could get serious enough to be a manager. He sure did — he sure has.”


What about the progression of Francona/Mills' relationship?
“They gravitated together right away. They hung around with each other, rather than partying with some other folks like they might have.

“I think the two of them have rubbed off on one another. I can’t say one more than the other. But they have filled each others’ weaknesses to make a combination or duo of great strengths. The two of them helped each other in such a way that it was really a blessing to watch them develop as individuals, as ballplayers, as students and as husbands. They strengthened one another. In Boston, they’ve been complementing one another very, very well.”

The journey of the two of them, it’s a great story — starting way back in 1978. I got to see that develop. I am so privileged. They really are so genuine, so real,” Kindall said. “This is the great culmination of two guys working together to become leaders — to lead ballclubs.”

The Cost of Discipleship: Brad Mills

So what are we in for having hired a "disciple of Terry Francona?" The Red Sox blog Over the Monster has some bullet points:

-First and foremost, you defend your players no matter what. No. Matter. What. They can do whatever the hell they want, say whatever their brains spew out first, and your TF baseball coach will be backing said player up like they're blood brothers.

-Secondly, you need a lot of chew. A looooot of chew. And you need to say you're going to quit every season, even though that's really unlikely. In the case there is a quitting scenario, have a lot of bubble gum handy. A looooot of bubble gum.

-Thirdly, you must charm the hell out of the media. Even if you're defending the player who recently got caught beating up women on a 'roid rage, you have to make a joke. Show me a member of the media who hates Terry Francona, and I will show you an atheist.

-Finally, to finish the ensemble, killer glasses. Glasses that are so killer that most people are convinced that you don't even need the glasses for purposes other than pure aesthetics. And you can't tell me that Millsy doesn't fit this mold.

It's the World Series, where every connection makes sense

Why in the world would Ken Davidoff of Newsday be asking Craig Biggio about A-Rod? Why not!

I tried to pull a quote that makes a logical connection. But I can't.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

And tonight I leave you with this

I've had a couple of emails asking what Astros County's opinion is on the hiring of Brad Mills. And that makes sense, because I tucked it into a post responding to JJO's "Mills isn't a sexy pick" post.

So I'll reprint it here:

The 2009 Houston Astros had a problem in that the players I love in a completely heterosexual manner showed themselves to be absolute jackass punks. Under Cecil Cooper, the players were petty, inane, and played without a lick of fire. I’ve had bosses who I have not cared for, but you know what? That happens. I never had the forum or the platform to run to someone else who would leave me anonymous to let me piss and whine about it. And in this professional situation, I did my job and earned my paycheck, and supported the authority that was in place ahead of me. Because I respected my employer, and I respected myself.

That was totally lost this season. Cecil Cooper didn’t help himself any, and Ed Wade could have stepped in and done something. But he didn’t – whatever. I’ll go ahead and call out Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt in this open tirade. The Astros haven’t had any outward sign of leadership since Biggio and Bagwell left, and Lance and Roy have had the chance to step up and fill that void, and they have not done that, at least publicly.

Cecil Cooper couldn’t do it. Dave Clark may have been able to do it, but he was also in a leadership position within this team, and the problem remained. Phil Garner didn’t manage the team when Biggio wasn’t on the roster. So that’s a different consideration. But what truly concerns me about this team is that, with the impact of a manager up for debate, under Cecil Cooper the Astros acted like he was a college senior subbing in 10th Grade Chemistry. It’s preposterous to think that the players need someone to keep them motivated and playing hard, and they allowed whining and pettiness overshadow their play.

Brad Mills has dealt with whiny and he’s dealt with a complete lack of responsibility on a player’s behalf (see: Ramirez, Manny.) And you know what? They won two World Series. The talent level of the Red Sox in 2004 and 2007 were such that they could slide with that, and the Astros don’t have that luxury. But Mills deserves this chance and I’m not going to qualify it with any ridiculousness regarding the national perception of the Astros, or rate the “sexiness” of this pick.

I’m happy Brad Mills is the new manager, and hope he can rein in the runaway clubhouse that has become the Houston Astros.

-
Don't miss Deputy Jason's take here.

Justice's advice to Mills

Justice has been busy! In yet another blog post, Richard Justice says this:

Mills must set standards. He can't tolerate Carlos Lee loafing or Lance Berkman showing up whenever. He must lighten the mood, too. He absolutely, positively must figure a way to make Berkman and Roy Oswalt enjoy the game again.

If he surrounds himself with smart coaches, if he shows that he's competent and communicative, it'll be a step in the right direction...

...Brad Mills deserves that same chance. He may be a great manager, and he may be a complete failure. He was hired for the right reasons. Now the Astros must do the right thing in giving him a real chance.


The thing that continues to baffle me is the bone the Houston media is willing to throw to anyone and everyone that Berkman, Lee, and Oswalt's motivation has to be external. If no one can show them how to have fun playing baseball, then they'll pout, and we'll be looking for our fifth manager since the beginning of 2007 because they can't enjoy the game for what it is. Drives me crazy...

Oh, and want to hear a bunch of non-answers? Read Justice's interview with Drayton.

Let the massaging of the other two candidates begin...

Sam Khan, Jr has a great article on the reaction of Phil Garner and Dave Clark. Well, the reaction of Phil Garner, and Drayton's reaction to Clark.

Garner:
"I'm happy for Brad Mills. It'll be his first managerial job. It's always exciting. It's a terrific opportunity for him and it's a fabulous organization he's coming into. It's one of the things that, when you look back on managerial careers, the ability to be in a good organization is what can help develop you into a great manager. You can be a great manager in a bad organization and not get very far."

Oooohhhh. Did he really say that? If the Chronicle prints it, it must be true. Continue:

"Sure, I'm disappointed. I had put my name in the hat because I felt I fit the criteria they put out there so in the end, yeah, I'm disappointed. In my case it doesn't change my life. I'm headed to the golf course right now and I'm going to play some golf. But I would have looked forward to the challenge. That's why I made the decision to get back into it. If it's not to be then it's not to be - that's OK."

And Drayton on Clark:
"I can't say enough good things about Dave Clark. Dave Clark is going to be a winner. I talked to him on the phone after we made the decision. I told him 'You're going to be a winner, you're going to be a major league manager. The only thing you need is a little more experience at the major league level.' That's the only ingredient that's missing with him. You know, it's just like a great medical student that graduated. He's not ready to go to the operating room. He has to be an intern for three years and get experience. And that's the only ingredient that Dave (needs). We're very anxious for Dave to continue to be with the Houston Astros. He's a winner."

That's a lot of "winner"s.

Mills speaks!

In an expanded article on Mills' press conference, these nuggets were said:

Wade:
Millsie, with the exception of the Major League manager experience, checks off all the boxes in what we were looking for. The big separator in this thing is the chair he's sat in in Boston for the last several years. He's coached in 45 postseason games and two World Series and has more World Series rings than anybody in this room...

...It comes down to players, and I made the point last year during the season, both privately and publicly, that I've been around along enough to know sometimes managers don't lose their job because of losing games, they lose their jobs because they lose the clubhouse. And I think this guy, with the consistent message and the way he will use his coaching staff and the way he was a part of a cohesive unit in Boston, I expect that to be the case when he gets the opportunity here."


Mills:
"This organization and this city, as I have said many times in this process, has a very good name in Major League Baseball." That's probably not true, but what else is he going to say? Continue...

I'm thrilled and excited to be involved in it and get on board and help keeping us going in the right direction. (My) experience is going to aid mightily in helping this organization move forward and become winners as well."

What happens when the Lollygagging starts?
"We're going to try to stop those issues right before they even come up. I think there's a lot of things we're going to be involved in and we're going to try to find out right away."

Who will be his pitching and bench coach?
The names Ed and I have thrown around already have me really excited. These guys have had experience not only in the Major Leagues, but in the Minor Leagues, and whoever we wind up getting it's going to be pretty exciting. I look for a guy that has experience, a passion for the game and a lot of energy, and the players see that."

Oooh! Oooh! Pick me!

Further Astro reaction

In a larger McTaggart piece on the reaction from the Astros themselves, we hear from:

Berkman:
"Certainly I'd love to get together with him before we get started at some point to meet him and talk to him and see kind of what he's all about and that sort of thing. It's weird because at least with the other managers we've had, going into the season we knew a little bit about him. He's kind of an unknown to me, but I'm looking forward to getting to know him. I've heard great things."

Hitting coach Sean Berry, who lives close to Mills:
"He's got everything you need to be a successful manager and bringing those intangibles and that experience from Boston, that should really help him."

Bud Norris, who played with Mills' son in the AFL:
"He had a good demeanor and good approach. It's good to hear him say the fact he appreciates the veteran guys and he's going to push them and it sounds great because I know he's going to push me, too, and I liked to be pushed. If we can fill in those last pieces in the lineup card, we should have a good outlook for next year."

Hunter Pence:
"We all have to get to know each other and really get on the same page and get started winning and get a winning attitude and mentality. It's the first time since I've been here a manager has come in from outside the organization, so I'm just looking forward to seeing what he's going on. Ed Wade and Drayton and all the Astros management believe in this guy. He must have something going on and he was with a winning ballclub in Boston. It's exciting to have a leader like that."

Coste out

Brian McTaggart is reporting that, in the hoopla surrounding Mills' hiring, Chris Coste was outrighted to Round Rock, whereas he refused the assignment and has become a free agent.

Unless Mike LaValliere says he's available in the offseason for cheap, look for Towles and Quintero to open the season C1 and C1a, and for a candle to be lit for Jason Castro for every day he's in Round Rock.

Francona's reaction to Mills' hiring

Seems the Boston media is putting in more work than the Houston media on the Mills hiring.

Terry Francona:
"He's wanted this. I'm so proud, not just of him, but for him. He's not going to shortchange anybody on effort. He embodies so much of what's good in our game. I'm so happy for him. This meant a lot to him, as it should. I'm so thrilled for him. How much we're going to miss him, sure, but it's so far outweighed by happiness."

How will Mills approach his new job?
"Attack is a good word. He's got a lot of skills that are going to help make him a successful manager. He understands communication. He respects the players. I think he'll make the players be accountable, all the things we've talked about for six years in Boston. He's a smart baseball person and he's a very good person. That's a pretty good combination. We've been friends for 30 years. You can't replace that. He got his chance to do his own thing. We're so happy for him, but replacing him won't be easy, that's a given."

And apparently Ed Wade is a bit of a prankster:
Ed Wade called to tell Francona of his decision to hire Mills, but didn't exactly come straight out with the news. Wade, who had fired Francona from his spot as the Phillies manager years ago, tried to get Francona to think that Mills hadn't been chosen, before finally coming out with the truth.

And in this MLB.com article, we see that Drayton was impressed by Terry Francona, whom he immediately tried to send to Tampa Bay:
I've never seen an endorsement like Terry gave Brad.

Mills:
"I just left an organization, the Boston Red Sox, that I owe a lot to, starting with [principal owner] John Henry, [chairman] Tom Werner, [president/CEO] Larry Lucchino and everybody in that organization," said Mills. "They were very special to me the six years I was over there. [General manager] Theo Epstein and his staff, they were absolutely outstanding. And it goes without saying, Terry Francona. The experience that all of them and Terry were able to give me helped set me up for this today. I am deeply proud to say that I was involved with them at that time, and I appreciate it, and I want to thank them very much."

Francona:
"[We were in touch] a little bit. Eddie, he did a good job. He asked a lot of good questions, but personally, I think it's a good fit. I know both of them. I have a lot of respect for both of them, and I think it's a great fit. I've probably taken it for granted that everybody is where they're supposed to be because he's so good at it. We'll certainly have to make some adjustments. But his gain far outweighs any adjustments we have to make. Millsy embodies so much of what is good in baseball. For him to get an opportunity, it sure is nice. It sure is exciting for all of us. I think he's ready. He's been ready. That's subjective, but he's been working his whole life toward this. When he was second in charge, he did a great job. Now he's going to be making the decisions, and he'll do a great job. You can't find a better guy. He deserves this opportunity. Again, I hope he takes it and runs with it. I'm thrilled for him."

Deputy Jason: Brad Mills, Value or Just Cheap?

Deputy Jason has been laying low lately, and has chosen now for the time to strike with his thoughts on the hiring of Brad Mills:

What do we know about Mr. Brad Mills? Not much. We can reasonably deduce that he is going to be very similar in personality and style to Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona, whom Astros GM Ed Wade has a serious man crush on. (Side Note: Up front this seems like EZ Eddie did a real sell job on this hire to Drayton McLane. Drayton I’m sure would have liked a little more major league managing experience but he wanted to let his baseball people make the baseball decisions.) Francona is widely considered to be a good game manager and a favorite of the players. Hopefully, Brad was taking mental pictures, because while it's one thing to ride the team bus; it’s another to honk the horn.

The training wheels are now off for Coach Brad. The fans will likely focus on how he brings along the young guys and how he gets the vets to buy into his philosophies. We do know that the stern guidance of Cecil Cooper did not mesh well with our teams collective personality, so seemingly going the other direction might just be the best fit (fingers crossed). Brad has some legitimate All Star level major leaguers at his disposal, so success will no doubt be expected again this season by fans and ownership alike.

To that end, his coaching staff will be important in his transition to Chief AstBro. Most new managers tend to have a seasoned managing veteran on their staff, and ours likely will be no different. He’ll need someone that can give them the heads up on the daily nuances of his new job. Whether that’s dealing with the media, using the bullpen or making a lineup card with no DH. Bringing in a Don Zimmer type is what I’m envisioning.

The business side of this decision no doubt played a large role in picking Brad. If he’d asked for 3 years like Manny Acta, we wouldn’t be talking about him today. Drayton got a man who is a baseball lifer, coming from a top organization and on the cheap. Either this move will pay off by getting a good guy for very reasonable salary, or it will go bad. In that case Ed Wade signed his own ticket out of town by hitching his wagon to this horse. Only time will tell, so here’s hoping the baseball guys made the best baseball decision.

Joel Roza's open letter to Mills

Corpus Christi Caller-Times' Joel Roza has a letter to Brad Mills:

Old, bad and boring would be the ode to the current Astros. The Texas Rangers are more exciting than them; the Houston Texans are more exciting than them. Even the injury-riddled Rockets can generate more excitement than a lame duck baseball team that continues to screw up when it counts the most. Even former Washington Nationals manager Manny Acta won’t come here.

Brad, I’m not sure what Ed Wade, Tal Smith and Pam Gardner have you told you about your new boss, but patience is not really one of his virtues. You’re the fourth Astros manager since the start of the 2007 season. You’re the sixth this decade. Loaded with talent or not, Drayton McLane expects results and you’ve got a little over a year to do it. The Astros passed on Acta because he wanted an extra year of job security and some patience with this team from the front office. Obviously, you’ve taken this position feeling as though you can do the job in accordance with the win-soon or else mandate. It’s certainly not impossible for the Astros to be a contender in two years, but it’s highly unrealistic. You’re hedging your bets on Jason Castro, Tommy Manzella and Chris Johnson panning out as successes, Berkman and Oswalt playing with confidence and swagger again, not to mention just staying healthy, Carlos Lee hustling and second base somehow not being the same black hole that it’s been since Biggio hung em up.

In other words, you’re inheriting a mess...

...Brad, I hope nothing but the best for you. I hope you get to live out every last second and every last dollar of your brand spanking new multi-year, multi-million dollar contract. I hope you become as hallowed and legendary a manager as the Astros have ever known. I hope you make that front office look like geniuses again. I don’t expect much out of you right off the bat, so don’t get down whenever the fans get a little restless with a team that’ll be largely fresh and young in comparison to last season’s senior citizens club. You’re the new manager now and the city of Houston, and everyone else in Astros Nation, welcomes you to town. Even if the popular pick was Phil Garner and the organization’s preference was Acta. It’s all good. Just relax, shape your team, shape your coaching staff and bring in some of that Red Sox mojo if at all possible.

We’re all behind you… until you get fired and we’re all back here again.

Well, that didn't take long

Eeyore is back at it.

...So Brad Mills, the Red Sox this is not. The Astros are not a very talented team. The farm system is pretty empty. And the owner, though not understanding baseball, likes to interfere with the baseball people and make important decisions...

...Mills might be lucky. The fans are more concerned with choo-choo trains than they are with winning. The owner doesn't understand the game. And as Jose de Jesus Ortiz writes, Mills is a pal with Ed Wade and Tal Smith, so maybe he will have a bit more protection than Larry Dierker, Phil Garner, etc. had.

But then again, this is the Astros. A team which has quickly become one of the worst in baseball. So I offer up my condolences to Mills. He's got his wish. He's a big league manager. And I wish him the best of luck.

Bogar, on Mills

Brian McTaggart has some Boston reaction to the hiring of Brad Mills, from candidate Tim Bogar:

"He's put in his time and diligence in being a bench coach for [Francona] for a long time and learned quite a bit from him and also his time with the Expos and all the way back to Philly. If there's one guy who deserves a chance to run a team, it's Brad Mills. Having a chance to run the Astros is going to be perfect for him. Not only is he a capable manager, but also one of the best teachers I've been around.

"With the situation on the left side of the infield and the catching situation [and playing youngsters], he's going to be perfect for those young players. Being in Boston and being round veteran players, he knows how to handle them and knows how to do things to compete and he obviously understands the pitching aspect of it.

"I think they made a great hire, and Brad is going to be everything everyone is looking for as a manager. He may not be a huge name, but you can't ask for a better quality individual."

Response on Twitter

In a series of tweets by Alyson Footer and Brian McTaggart, we have some preliminary response from the Astros themselves:

Dave Clark, who will apparently remain 3rd base coach in 2010:
I'm going to give this guy every ounce of energy to make this ballclub better. Classy.

Lance Berkman:
He’s kind of an unknown to me, but I’m looking forward to getting to know him. I’ve heard great things.

Tim Bogar:
Brad is going to be everything everyone is looking for in a manager.

Hunter Pence:
I’m excited to look at the next chapter of the Astros and our season and hopefully we get moving in right direction

ESPN.com's Amy K. Nelson:
When I spoke to Mills on day after the Red Sox were eliminated, you could tell how excited he was for the chance to manage. Good for him.

Terry Francona:
Millsy embodies so much of what is good in baseball. For him to get an opportunity, it sure is exciting for all of us.

One of Alyson Footer's Red Sox Writer friends:
(He's) probably most organized coach I've ever been around. Had every day of Spring Training plotted out weeks in advance of camp. Big help to Francona on bench helping pitchers with pick off moves, aligning the defense."

Alyson Footer:
If they have someone who can align the defense they're already light years better off than they were in 2009. Light years.

Mills not sexy, says Ortiz

JJO's blog post has some reaction to the hiring of Brad Mills:

If you were paying close attention when they fired Cecil Cooper, you would have heard when Wade said that his good friend Tal Smith loves to point out that everybody does well in an interview. I've always interpreted that thinking as "we're going to bring a guy we're close with and we will never think outside the box or our friends in baseball." When was the last time the Astros' organization hired somebody who wasn't their pal?

That's not to say Brad Mills won't be a good pick.

He needs a chance, and that's all he wants, really. Is he the sexy pick? No, but who cares? The Astros don't need sexy. They just need a leader. They also need a guy that the general manager trusts...

...Now at least, Drayton can start the evaluation process he promised the fans who are wondering why his organization has become a laughinstock throughout the industry the last two years with more embarrassing national headlines than positive ones? Other than Aaron Boone's return, can you remember a positive national or local Astros story the last two years? Can you think of some embarrassing moments?

For a story I'm doing on the national perception of the Astros, one prominent national baseball writer who works for a major magazine said he couldn't comment because he didn't want his thoughts to appear as though he was being mean. You know it's bad when your organization's standing throughout the majors the last two years had fallen so low that even critics pass because they don't want to appear too mean.


There's that tease again. I seriously can't wait for the "No one likes the Astros" story. But read the whole thing, this is one meandering post (JJO's. Not mine.)

Deputy Jason will chime in with his take momentarily. Here's mine:

The 2009 Houston Astros had a problem in that the players I love in a completely heterosexual manner showed themselves to be absolute jackass punks. Under Cecil Cooper, the players were petty, inane, and played without a lick of fire. I’ve had bosses who I have not cared for, but you know what? That happens. I never had the forum or the platform to run to someone else who would leave me anonymous to let me piss and whine about it. And in this professional situation, I did my job and earned my paycheck, and supported the authority that was in place ahead of me. Because I respected my employer, and I respected myself.

That was totally lost this season. Cecil Cooper didn’t help himself any, and Ed Wade could have stepped in and done something. But he didn’t – whatever. I’ll go ahead and call out Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt in this open tirade. The Astros haven’t had any outward sign of leadership since Biggio and Bagwell left, and Lance and Roy have had the chance to step up and fill that void, and they have not done that, at least publicly.

Cecil Cooper couldn’t do it. Dave Clark may have been able to do it, but he was also in a leadership position within this team, and the problem remained. Phil Garner didn’t manage the team when Biggio wasn’t on the roster. So that’s a different consideration. But what truly concerns me about this team is that, with the impact of a manager up for debate, under Cecil Cooper the Astros acted like he was a college senior subbing in 10th Grade Chemistry. It’s preposterous to think that the players need someone to keep them motivated and playing hard, and they allowed whining and pettiness overshadow their play.

Brad Mills has dealt with whiny and he’s dealt with a complete lack of responsibility on a player’s behalf (see: Ramirez, Manny.) And you know what? They won two World Series. The talent level of the Red Sox in 2004 and 2007 were such that they could slide with that, and the Astros don’t have that luxury. But Mills deserves this chance and I’m not going to qualify it with any ridiculousness regarding the national perception of the Astros, or rate the “sexiness” of this pick.

I’m happy Brad Mills is the new manager, and hope he can rein in the runaway clubhouse that has become the Houston Astros.

The most honest reaction is a knee-jerk reaction

Part of the Houston Chronicle's coverage (written by Jim Davis. Not JJO. Hm.) is obviously the Comments section. Which is always funny. All of these are considered sic'ed.

Unclebug:
Don't unpack your bags. The Astros do not have a very good history of retaining managers.

OhNooo:
I was hoping Phil would be back! Too bad...

TexTao:
I wonder if he minds being the second choice? It's no secret that Acta was their first choice; but turned them down.
Garner should have never been fired. As much as I would have liked to see him rehired, that would mean Uncle Drayton had to admit making a mistake in the first place - like THAT would ever happen!


FoRealVanilla:
Drayton sucks! Phil Garner was the best choice and the fan favorite... Good job Astros Mismanagement! Setting another up for failure!

Fasundrani:
Stupid decision by a stupid organization. We fired an inexperienced manager to replace him with another inexperienced manager. GREAT MOVE on picking the inexperienced manager over the ONLY MANAGER that was able to get his team to win a PLAYOFF SERIES, and the ONLY MANAGER to get you the WORLD SERIES. Looks like this organization is headed in the right direction! (Caps obviously not mine)

Turtle13:
WHO???????????? must have chose him for his signability. ( he is cheap ). Move the Team to Temple Drayton. you are loosing your fan base hear, fast.

Astros hire Mills

While I was busy screwing around with Tanner Bushue's stats, the Astros have hired Brad Mills as the new manager of the Houston Astros.

McTaggart:
Mills managed 11 seasons in the Minor Leagues with the Chicago Cubs (1987-92), Colorado Rockies (1993-96) and Los Angeles Dodgers (2002), moving into managing immediately upon the completion of his playing career. He's coached 11 years at the Major League level, including the last six as Boston's bench coach.

And while we're at it, let's welcome the national media to the Houston Astros. Normally, they don't pay attention unless Miguel Tejada has been indicted or Roger Clemens is found with a syringe in his caboose. Hiring someone from Boston is the other way to get some national play.

GCL Astros - Tanner Bushue

The final starting pitcher with five starts for the GCL Astros is the injured Tanner Bushue. Back on August 6, Bushue was shut down for the season with stress fractures in his back. But that didn't stop him from being listed as the 9th-best prospect in the GCL. Is 22.1 innings pitched enough to make any sort of comment? Absolutely not! Has that ever stopped the blogosphere? Keep reading...

Tanner Bushue
How did he get here?: Drafted 2nd round, 2009 draft
Stats: 6'4", 180 lbs, Throws: Right
Age as of April 1, 2010: 18

On the season: 5 starts, 1-0, 2.42 ERA/1.03 WHIP, 19K:5BB, .220 against, 2HR

Splits:
vs. LHB (7.1IP): 1.23 ERA/0.55 WHIP, 5K:0BB, .160 BAA,
vs. RHB (15IP): 3.00 ERA/1.27 WHIP, 14K:5BB, .246 BAA, 2HR

Home (12.1IP): 2.19 ERA/0.97 WHIP, 9K:2BB, .227 BAA, 1HR
Away (10IP): 2.70 ERA/1.10 WHIP, 10K:3BB, .211 BAA, 1HR

Bases Empty (13.2IP): 1.17 WHIP, 13K:4BB, .226 BAA, 2HR
Runners on (8.2IP): 0.81 WHIP, 6K:1BB, .207 BAA, 0HR
w/RISP (5.1IP): 0.75 WHIP, 4K:1BB, .167 BAA, 0HR

June (1 start, 2.2IP): 3.38 ERA/1.50 WHIP, 0K:1BB
July (4 starts, 19.2IP): 2.29 ERA/0.97 WHIP, 13K:4BB

K/9 Rate: 7.7
BB/9 Rate: 2.0
Groundout/Flyout Rate: 0.96
K:BB Ratio: 3.80

What can we learn here? Not much, but what little we can discern is encouraging. We really only got one month of starts to look at, but in those starts, we see a WHIP under 1.00. Also encouraing is the locking down of baserunners as the situation gets more tenuous. WHIPs running from 1.17 with the bases empty, 0.81 with runners on, and 0.75 with runners in scoring position.

But what to make of these stress fractures? Physioroom says that a full recovery can be made, but that he'll have to be real careful:

Sporting activities should be practiced on grass if possible. Compared to Astroturf and concrete, grass has some degree of 'give' in it that reduces the forces that are transmitted through the spine. Competitive games should be limited to 30 each season and practice sessions should be monitored and extended gradually in frequency, duration and intensity. It is important that adequate rest periods are taken between training sessions and matches, and practices should not be overdone, particularly when participating in activities such as taking throw-ins in football and fast bowling in cricket.

So there you go.

Justice brings his weekly heat

I'm a Richard Justice fan. I know there are many AC readers who aren't, and that's fine. I can certainly understand and appreciate that. And I know all the reasons why I shouldn't like him. But I do.

In his blog post this morning, Justice has the following nuggets:

Drayton seems to be sliding farther and farther from reality almost everytime he opens his mouth...

...Baseball's worst franchise? Yes, that's where the Astros are at this point in their history. No other franchise combines such a perfect storm of bad. The Astros are bad at the big league level. They're bad at the minor league level. They're financially trapped as well. They've got too much money wrapped up in too few aging players, and their owner is going to lower the payroll...

...Incidentally, anyone that tries to tell you this mess should be laid at the feet of Tal Smith and Ed Wade either is clueless or has an agenda.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Wade, on Bourgeois' signing

Ed Wade had some things to say to Brian McTaggart on the future of Jason Bourgeois in Houston (who, because of his waiver status, was added to the 39-man roster, as we do it in Houston):

"We like his speed and versatility. We like the fact he plays multiple positions, and more than anything, we like his speed."

Let's just stop there. That is copied and pasted from McTaggart's article. Ed Wade said the same sentence, in reverse order, consecutively. In case you have a deficiency in context clues, Bourgeois is: (1) versatile and (2) fast. Some say he's (1) quick and (2) plays a lot of positions. Got that? Let's continue:

The feedback we got is he has a good make up and has an option remaining, so he provides us some roster flexibility as well. I would see him in our situation battling for an outfield slot."

McTaggart did mention that some see him playing at 2B. Nevertheless, this probably isn't good news for Jason Michaels or Darin Erstad. Of course, 2B is handled by Matsui and, hopefully, Maysonet. Keppinger, sometimes. Most likely, though, he's headed to Spring Training and ultimately Round Rock. Because the Astros don't have the best track record of rewarding a good Spring with a 25-man roster spot (see: Scott, Luke; Abercrombie, Reggie).

And Rob Neyer chimes in on Acta

In Rob Neyer's new blog post today, he talks about the Astros' front-office disconnect between Run-DMc and Eddie:

If you don't trust your baseball people to choose your manager, you should get new baseball people.

If you think it's silly to give a manager a three-year contract but don't mind throwing $100 million of your ill-gotten gains at Carlos Lee, you probably need to have your head examined (though of course something similar might be said of half the owners in the majors).

It's not likely that failing to hire Manny Acta is debilitating, because it's not likely that Manny Acta is a great manager...

...What's debilitating is a sense of the organization, both within and without, that the owner and his top lieutenants aren't on the same page. Whether that characterization is fair or not, often the perception becomes the reality.

Garner still in it?

Although Clark and Mills will be brought in to Minute Maid Park tomorrow, and Garner doesn't seem to be, he's telling MLB.com that he has been told he's still in the mix.

I'm guessing that this conversation will start, "Look, you're a really nice guy, but..."

Waiver wire action

Brian McTaggart is reporting the Astros have claimed Brewers' prospect Jason Bourgeois off waivers.

Bourgeois, who will be 28 in January, has spent time in the Rangers, Braves, Mariners, White Sox, and Brewers' systems, and is a career .279/.340/.386 hitter in 10 minor league seasons.

He has played all over the place, with 540 career starts at 2B, but spent all of 2009 playing OF for the Brewers' Triple-A Nashville.

A quick look at the stats indicate that he's selective at the plate - 588 Ks in 4601 plate appearances - but doesn't walk much, either (346 BBs). He's also quick, stealing 66 bases in 84 attempts in the last two full seasons in Triple-A.

He got into 24 games (40PAs) for the Brewers in 2009, going 7x40 (.189/.250/.270) with one homer and 7K:3BB.

Bourgeois was a 2nd round pick for the Rangers in the 2000 draft.

Mills flying to Houston today?

JJO is reporting that managerial candidate Brad Mills will fly to Houston today to meet with the Astros for a third time.

But Uncle Drayton won't get to Houston until tomorrow. Don't count that against Mills, though, says JJO:
McLane says he won't arrive in Houston until Tuesday, which isn't a knock against any of the candidates in town because he wasn't in Houston either when negotiations broke off while Acta was in Houston on Saturday negotiating the offer he turned down of two years plus an option when it was presented by president of baseball operations Tal Smith.

I would like to point out that this is one of the longest sentences you'll ever read in a newspaper. In this sentence, JJO has an .016 punctuation:word count average, with more contractions (3) than punctuation marks (2).

Meanwhile McTaggart is reporting that Mills and Clark will interview again tomorrow at Minute Maid Park.

McTaggart: Mills' phone keeps on ringin' on

According to McTaggart's latest blog post, Brad Mills has been contacted again by the Astros.

As of late Sunday, Garner said he had yet to hear anything from the Astros, while Mills had been contacted again by the Astros. Mills certainly falls in line with what the Astros are looking. He tons of experince managing in the Minor Leagues and has extensive experience on a Major League coaching staff. He served as the bench coach under Terry Francona for six years, and we all know how much Ed Wade respects Francona.

So, will we have a new manager by tomorrow evening?

Keith Law says what we're all thinking, but don't want to say out loud

On ESPN's Rumor Central, Keith Law addresses Manny Acta's hiring and non-hiring. And it ain't pretty:

"This is just another piece of evidence on why Drayton McLane is the worst owner in baseball, and the one for whom people in the game would least like to work. His front office chose an excellent managerial candidate, arguably the best of the ones they interviewed, and McLane let him get away because he refused to guarantee the third year of a deal. That sort of meddling and the implied lack of autonomy for the GM makes Houston a lousy place for executives to work - and will continue to hamstring the team going forward as they attempt to rebuild. (It's also an example of why the media and the industry still respect Mark Shapiro even after two disappointing seasons. They make solid, sensible moves, built around good people whose value is evident even to outsiders.)"

How long has it been since the Astros made the national radar for something that made them look good, smart, or pretty? I think we'd all take "slutty" as an adjective over "unrealistic," "ignorant," or "hamstrung."

Winter Ball stats update

Got some updated Winter Ball stats for you...

Arizona Fall League

Jason Castro:
5x23, .217/.379/.348, 1XBH-3RBI, 5K:4BB

Jon Gaston:
5x22, .227/.414/.318, 1XBH-1RBI, 12K:6BB, 2SB

Jose Vallejo:
3x17, .176/.250/.176, 1RBI, 5K:2BB, 3SB

Evan Englebrook:
4 games, 5.2IP, 7H/4ER, 2HR, 7K:1BB, 6.35 ERA/1.41 WHIP

Chia-Jen Lo:
4 games, 7.1IP, 3H/2ER, 1HR, 9K:1BB, 2.45 ERA/0.55 WHIP

Wilton Lopez:
2 starts, 6IP, 9H/2ER, 0HR, 4K:1BB, 3.00 ERA/1.67 WHIP

Danny Meszaros:
4 games, 3.2IP, 5H/6ER, 3HR, 4K:2BB, 14.73 ERA/1.91 WHIP

Venezuelan Winter League

Drew Locke:
3x8, .375/.444/.625, 2XBH-2RBI, 3K:1BB

Wladimir Sutil:
15x45, .333/.354/.400, 3XBH-4RBI, 1K:1BB, 1SB

Dominican Winter League

Yordany Ramirez:
4x18, .222/.263/.444, 2XBH-2RBI, 2K:1BB

Fernando Abad:
2 starts, 10IP, 7H/2ER, 6K:3BB, 1.80 ERA/0.90 WHIP

Erick Abreu:
2 games, 4.1IP, 4H/1ER, 5K:2BB, 2.08 ERA/1.38 WHIP

Jose Capellan (two teams):
4 starts, 17IP, 19H/6ER, 14K:8BB, 3.18 ERA/1.58 WHIP

Jose Duran:
1 game, 1.2IP, 0H/0ER, 2K:0BB, 0.00 ERA/0.00 WHIP

Wesley Wright:
1 start, 5IP, 2H/0ER, 6K:4BB, 0.00 ERA/1.20 WHIP

Olney: Mills is front-runner

Within Buster Olney's blog this morning, he has some insight re: the Acta Situation (starring Matt Damon):

The knock on Acta, in his last year in Washington, was that he was too soft with players, that he didn't challenge them and call them on their mistakes enough. It may be that Acta didn't do that because, well, he saw they weren't very good. One way or another, he's going to have a better team in Cleveland, and we'll see how it goes...

...Look, if they really wanted Garner to come back, they would've already offered him the job, rather than Acta; Mills is the clear favorite now.


I think it was Sides the other day who commented that the Astros really wanted Acta or Mills, and were going through the motions out of respect/appearances for Clark and Garner. And it certainly looks like that's spot-on.

Bray Day - Episode 6

Aaron Bray was the 27th round draft pick for the Astros in last June's amateur draft. He was also the winner of the Astros County Adopt-a-Player contest. Each week, Aaron will write a column for Astros County detailing his off-season. Check the sidebar for archives.

Astro fans,

Hope all is well this week. I had a nice relaxing weekend, I am going to go to the Carolina Panthers game today. Hopefully they can win and get back to .500. I'm excited about being able to watch the ALCS tonight, I hope LAA gives the Yanks a run for their money. I hope all of you have a great week.

(Ed Note: Rough day, huh? Carolina lost to the Bills, and the Angels...well.)

Who was your favorite player growing up, and who do you pattern your game after today?

Growing up I was a huge Nomar Garciaparra fan. I got to see him play when he was in the minors and I followed him ever since. When I was younger I collected all his cards, I just liked the way he played the game.

As for modeling my game after anyone I guess it's a mixture. I like going on YouTube and watching Manny Ramirez swing. He is one of the best hitters in the game, so why not learn from the best? As for defense I played third and second at school, so I watched Cal Ripken Jr. and Orlando Hudson and Brandon Phillips. They are some of the best defensive players in the game. They all play the game hard, I just try to take a little but from everybody.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Garner out?

According to Smiley Rosenthal, maybe so.

One source suggested that Mills would be the choice, saying it would be "a surprise" if the Astros went back to Garner. A second source, however, said that Clark remains under consideration...

...The Astros would like to reach a decision before the start of the World Series on Wednesday, but their search remains a "work in progress," one source said. The team might even consider candidates other than Mills, Garner and Clark.


Que interesante.

Cleveland not so sure about this Acta fellow

Cleveland.com's Terry Pluto just isn't so sure.

Here's what think of the Indians hiring Manny Acta -- I just don't know...

...They are counting on him to be an impact manager, to finish off prospects at the big-league level as Acta will have one of the majors' youngest teams coming off a 65-97 season that led to the firing of manager Eric Wedge.

After Acta was fired, some Washington players said he didn't bring enough discipline to the team. He also was known to rarely publicly criticize his players. Acta's defenders say he wanted to take some action to bring more order, but a front office in flux that led to Bowden being fired failed to support him.

Several successful managers had rocky starts to their careers, including Torre and Terry Francona. That's why it is a mistake to simply write off Acta based on what happened in Washington. Now, Acta gets another chance to manage, and the Indians are counting on him to make the most of it.


And in a separate poll, as of 6:07pm only 14% of Cleveland.com readers say that hiring Acta is a good move. And most of them preferred Bobby Valentine. Oooh.

So what say you, Astros fan?

JJO plans to turn the whole system on its head

JJO's blog post today promises retribution, plague, war, rage, and famine. Once the Astros hire a manager, that is.

The farm system is a mess, and the Astros owe the next manager a long deal to let him have the freedom to know he's not going to be blamed for the lack of talent the front office gives him. (Hey! We agree!)

Once the Astros hire a manager, I'm going to finish a story I've been working on regarding a phone interview I had with Drayton McLane regarding the fans' disappointment with the front office leadership under Tal Smith.

I can't wait for this...

What the heck!?

You take a long ol' nap and wake up and all hell has broken loose.

Long story short: Manny Acta turned down the Astros' offer to become the next manager, and has accepted an offer to become the Indians manager on a three-year contract.

So what happened, especially as it looked like Acta was going to be The Man for the last month?

Richard Justice:
There's no use surgarcoating what happened these last 48 hours. Drayton McLane refused to offer Acta a three-year contract. He offered two with a one-year option, and even the Cleveland Indians offered three, he held firm.

This is the first time McLane has ever attempted to hire a manager or general manager that was being sought by other clubs, and he refused to get into a bidding war.


Brian McTaggart has this quote from Drayton:
"We sure talked to him a couple of times, but never reached a decision. I just don't think it's appropriate to comment at this time. Just give us till not later than Wednesday. We had narrowed it to four good candidates and we're in the process of finding one of those."

The three remaining candidates are, presumably, Phil Garner, Brad Mills, and Dave Clark.

So what to make of this? I liked the idea of Manny Acta being manager of the Astros. I liked the idea of Acta being the manager more than I like the idea of Dave Clark being the manager. And Phil Garner. I'm still intrigued by Brad Mills. But Acta has a history with the Astros' organization, it sounded like he wanted to be here, and he is well-respected within the game. Manny Acta being manager or not being manager isn't what concerns me.

What concerns me is that Drayton wasn't willing to give a manager three years. That is the minimum length that should be extended. If Drayton is stung by having to give $800,000 to Cecil Cooper next year, then he shouldn't have picked up his option four innings into 2009. But don't let that bad decision influence the next decision and make it worse.

Three years. That's to the end of the 2012 season. At the end of 2012, Berkman is a year removed from his current contract. Carlos Lee and Roy Oswalt are free agents.

Ed Wade's next contract is up at the end of next season So is Drayton's offering of two years a way of tying Wade and this hiring together? Be competitive next season and get an extension? Lose 85 games and it's 2007 all over again, where the Astros attempt to be just like the Yankees. Only it's the 1980s Yankees.

Two years is not enough time to fix this team. I think most of us can agree it's going to be 2012 before the Astros are competitive, the earliest in which Lyles/Seaton/Bono/Dydalewicz might contribute. All signs point to the fact that the Astros aren't going to be very good in 2010 or 2011. So to give the manager two years makes absolutely no sense. If I was Manny Acta, I wouldn't take the job, either.

If I was Phil Garner, or Dave Clark, or Brad Mills, I would be on guard about how talks proceed over the next two days with the Astros. Because the overall long-term health of the organization is not behind this latest piece of news, in which Drayton flexes Maximus Stupidus.