Fire Phil Garner

In my Brad Lidge post last week, one of the commenters jokingly picked up on a meme that Richard Justice and others at the Chron have been passing around: Phil Garner shouldn’t be fired because it’s not his fault that this is such a lousy team.

To which I say: True, this is a team without much talent. And Phil Garner’s not the one at fault for that lack of talent. But I do not agree that Phil Garner shouldn’t have to pay a price for the suckitude that is the Houston Astros.

I’ve heard it said that a good manager puts his team in a position to win. Is there anybody out there who thinks that Phil Garner does this on a daily/nightly basis? Would a good manager have kept Morgan Ensberg in the starting lineup for as long as Garner did? Just how did that put the Astros into a position to win? Would a good manager keep the Jason Lane/Luke Scott combo in the lineup every night when Lance Berkman could play in right and the bat of Mike Lamb could be in the lineup? Would a good manager keep turning to Brad Lidge night after night after night?

And, frankly, would a good manager allow team management to dictate his lineup? And if management hasn’t been directing Phil Garner to continuously bat Craig Biggio lead-off, it can’t be argued he’s a good manager.

The Astros are sitting in fifth place in the NL Central. The Pittsburgh Pirates are in fourth. Does anyone really think the talent on the Pirates, a team that has lived around the last place mark for most of the past decade, is really better than the Astros? They’re ahead of the Astros because manager Jim Tracy puts what talent he does have in the best position to win every night. And what about the St. Louis Cardinals? Yeah, I think the “Tony LaRussa is a genius” thing is a bit blown out of proportion, but the Cards are in third place with LaRussa’s best pitcher, Chris Carpenter, having missed most of the season so far, with a converted closer Braden Looper becoming a staff ace, with Albert Pujols having a Lance Berkman-type of shitty season, and with Scott Rolen hitting at a Morgan Ensberg pace.

So, what I’m getting at is that there are teams with worse talent than the Astros who have better records than the Astros because their managers have found the best way to put their teams in the best position to win night after night.

Does anyone really think that Phil Garner’s done that?

Or that Phil Garner can do that?

In 2005, Morgan Ensberg hit. Jason Lane hit. Lance Berkman hit. Clemens, Pettitte, and Oswalt were having really good seasons, and Brad Lidge was Lights Out Lidge. Yet the Astros barely made the playoffs. And he’s got a mediocre career managerial record.

So, I’ll give you the fact that Tim Purpura’s handed a shitty team to manager. But let’s not overlook the fact that other managers with equally shitty teams have managed their teams to better records.

If you don’t want Phil Garner fired, that’s fine. But don’t use the excuse that he can’t be blamed for having a bad team to manage. If Tony LaRussa and Jim Tracy can lead their teams to better records with worse talent, then Phil Garner should, too. – John Royal


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