Shouting "Fire" in a Crowded Dugout

Drayton McLane spoke to


scribe Jesus Ortiz


, vowing to answer some of the tough questions that had been submitted by the fans.

He must not have got my questions to answer, because there were no responses to any of the ones that I submitted. But I’m going to ignore those, and instead address what McLane did say.

First, there’s been no thought given to the firing of General Manager Tim Purpura or manager Phil Garner: “You have to work through what the problem is,” McLane told the Chron. “Firing a bunch of people is not the solution. We need to get people playing. That comes through leadership from the general manager and the manager.”

Well, I’m not a rich man, but I think I can work through what the problem is: Adam Everett, Jason Lane, Morgan Ensberg, Craig Biggio, Luke Scott, Orlando Palmeiro are not hitting, and they are all getting major playing time. I can further work through this and tell you that the problem is that there are those in the organization who, knowing that these guys didn’t hit last year, or in the instance of Biggio, Everett, Lane, Ensberg, and Palmeiro, haven’t hit in several seasons, set up a roster that was dependent on these guys hitting: “McLane admitted he and his management team had hoped Adam Everett, Jason Lane, Luke Scott and Morgan Ensberg would rebound and be better offensively this year.” (Emphasis mine.)

A team’s not going to win when it goes into a season hoping that four guys who will be getting major playing time are going to do something that they haven’t been able to do in the past.

I can further work through this problem by pointing out that it doesn’t help when the management has guys who can hit but are regulated to the bench for a good part of the season because management is still hoping that various guys are going to learn how to hit once again.

And I’ll further work through the problem and say that maybe the fault should lie with those who built a roster of guys who can’t perform offensively. Thus, I’ll conclude the problem solving by concluding that, in this case, firing a bunch of people could actually be the solution, especially if the guys responsible for creating a roster needing Everett, Scott, Lane, Ensberg, and Biggio to perform at far superior levels than what they’ve been performing for the team to succeed are those who are fired.

In other words, Drayton’s got to fire someone other than the pitching and hitting coaches.

But, and I can’t believe that I’m about to write what I’m about to write, I don’t think that firing Purpura or Garner is going to help this team this season. The firing of Jimy Williams made sense in 2004 because that team had some offensive firepower and a high-priced pitching staff, but the team wasn’t performing. Something needed to be done to light a fire under the team, and Willliams getting sacked was just the right thing.

There’s nothing that indicates that this particular Astros team is underperforming. Carlos Lee is hitting. Hunter Pence is living up the hype. Roy Oswalt is doing what’s expected.

Also performing as expected are Craig Biggio, Adam Everett, Jason Lane, Morgan Ensberg, Luke Scott, Brad Ausmus, Wandy Rodriguez, Brian Moehler, Rick White, and Brad Lidge.

Firing Phil Garner’s not going to make Biggio perform like a 37 year old. Nor is firing Garner going to cause Brad Lidge to regain his confidence. Jason Lane’s not suddenly going to become Matt Holliday. Morgan Ensberg’s not going to become A-Rod, and Adam Everett’s not going to morph into J.J. Hardy.

Garner’s not doing anything differently this season than he’s done in the past. He’s still making idiotic pitching changes, and as became evident when facing Barry Zito the other night, Garner’s not even bothering to read the scouting reports, which said that Zito, a left-hander, was being killed by left-handed batters, but Garner went with the conventional wisdom and started an all right-handed hitting line-up. But Garner’s been making these kind of boneheaded moves since he started managing the Milwaukee Brewers way back in the early 90s.

And firing Purpura’s not going to help this season. The only Astros worth trading are the only Astros worth keeping. Brad Lidge might still have some trade value, but do you really think that any of the remaining guys have any trade value? Yeah, let’s trade Everett for A-Rod. I’m sure that Steinbrenner will go for that.

This house does have to be cleaned, but it’s going to have to wait until this season has ended. And Drayton’s going to have to do something that he’s not done in a long time, he’s going to have to look outside of the Astros system. He’s going to have to look for someone who can look at this team with a clear vision. Someone who doesn’t have a vested interest in the success of Everett, Lane and Ensberg. Drayton really needs to be talking to the people in Oakland and Minnesota and seeing if they’ve got any young guys just itching for the chance to run things.

Oh, and Jesus Ortiz, I don’t think that “[t]he division is just bad enough that the Astros might look good once they play more teams in the division.” I hate to tell you this, but the Astros spent most of the first month and a half of the season playing teams in the division, and, except for the Reds, the mediocre teams of this mediocre division beat up on the Astros. So, stop giving me the whole the National League Central division is mediocre so the Astros can still win the thing excuse. It’s just not going to wash.

And this has been what seems to be my daily Astros rant. I’ll now return all of you to your regular programming. -- John Royal

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