By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
Hired as a McLane yes-man (the only way to get a job with the Astros), Cooper quickly proved incapable of basic communication skills that did not involve saying "Yes, sir" to the boss.
To say he lost his clubhouse is like saying Joe Lieberman has left-wingers slightly disenchanted. At various times of the season, Astro players texted criticism of Cooper to reporters during games, outright mocking his managerial moves as they occurred, and it seems just about every pitcher on the staff — including low-key fan favorite Roy Oswalt — accused Cooper of lying to them at one time or another.
"The story from May 2008, where Roy Oswalt told reporters that he asked to be removed from a game after the sixth inning and Coop indicated he thought Roy could still go, was a harbinger of things to come," says Sean Pendergast, co-host of 1560 The Game's afternoon drive show and Houston Press sports blogger. "The next 15 months would contain a litany of stories involving miscommunications or no communications between players and manager, so much so that when Coop actually had a meeting with Russ Ortiz to discuss his removal from a game the previous day, it was news."
Cooper's endless baffling decisions on when to pinch-hit or try to steal a base will be only part of his legacy; Astro fans who endured Phil Garner have gotten used to scratching their heads during games.
The Buddha-like silence from the manager will be what people really remember. On May 20, it reached its peak with what is more or less known as the Line-Up Card Incident.
"He actually happened to do his then-weekly visit on the show that afternoon," says Charlie Pallilo, afternoon host on 790 The Sports Animal, "and I asked him about any lineup tweaking and he said words to the effect of, 'Actually, yes, I'm changing up this and that tonight.' And then [he] wrote out the card wrong."
Cooper submitted a lineup to the umpires that somehow didn't match the lineup he gave his team. So after lead-off hitter Michael Bourn singled, he was called out because he had batted out of order.
That wasn't the worst part, though. The worst part came as Bourn, quite naturally, got upset at the call. Since the official lineup card had Bourn batting second, he had to stay on the field to bat again after being called out.
The crowd watched as Bourn had a mini-meltdown, wondering why he'd been called out after a perfectly fine single. And Cooper remained glued to the bench.
Amazingly, it fell to one of the players — veteran Geoff Blum — to walk out onto the field and calm Bourn down by explaining what had happened.
Leadership takes many forms, none of them being anything like what Cooper did that night. It was an utterly baffling performance, and he lost whatever respect he had in the locker room.
But although no one could have predicted that incident, they pretty much figured Cooper would find some way to mess things up this year.
As Lance Zierlein of 1560 The Game so eloquently puts it: "He was just a fuckup in general."
But at least he knew how to say "Yes" to Drayton.
Turkey Entrepreneur of the Year:
Willie D was, for many, the keystone to Houston's Geto Boys. And as hardcore as the group was, D was known for the positive messages in his music.
So it came as a shock to fans this year when he was arrested at Bush Intercontinental and charged with an eBay-based wireless-phone scam.
It seems after all he was just another blinged-out, Glock-wielding rapper ready to give up his career with a pointless burst of gunplay and viol — Say what now? Wireless phones? eBay?
This might be the whitest court proceeding for a rapper since Vanilla Ice was sued by Queen and Bowie.
Willie, whose real name is William James Dennis, is accused by the feds of ripping off international customers who wanted to buy cell phones from him. He "established his credibility" with them through eBay sales, the feds say, apparently not realizing he, as a rapper, was instead establishing "cred" with them. Through eBay.
And then how did things go down in these mean streets? The official release from the U.S. Attorney's office describing events is a harrowing glimpse into the depths of the reckless, violent world of hardcore rap:
"When the buyers complained about not receiving their purchases, Dennis allegedly claimed he had filed a complaint with the U.S. Postal Service or hired carrier and that he could not refund their money until he knew where his goods were. Eventually, Dennis would cease communication with the victimized parties."
Yo, man: Come strapped or don't come. Don't want no shit, don't start no shit. Oh, and keep your receipts.
People who thought this was possibly the Least Gangsta Crime ever committed by a rapper failed to realize, however, that Willie D had rejected several other diabolical criminal plans.
Bootlegging Stephen Sondheim albums. "Excuse me, Mr. D, but this CD says the title is Into the Woodz. I don't think that's correct."