"It was philosophical differences between a manager and a general manager and a pitching coach. I don't want to get into the details. It's just been kind of rearing its ugly head the last two, three weeks, and I guess they felt like they had to make a move for the betterment of the club and the staff. I take it like a man." -- Former Astros pitching coach Brad Arnsberg on the phone with MLB.com
In the last ten days or so, the Astros have cut their starting second baseman because he wasn't any good, plummeted to the bottom of the MLB overall standings, been bandied about as a sacrificial pawn to the American League in a plan to even out the number of teams in baseball's two leagues, and yesterday they fired pitching coach Brad Arnsberg.
Soon to be Astros owner Jim Crane must be chomping at the bit to take the reins on this mess. Imagine agreeing to a contract on a house with a closing date a month out, and then getting phone calls from the current owners every couple days for that entire month about another appliance breaking or another crack in the foundation.
You get the call, digest the news, hang up and go pour another scotch on the rocks. That's Jim Crane's world.
In the small window that is June 2011, Arnsberg had to go. In the big picture, though, it really solves nothing.
Philosophical differences would imply that Arnsberg differed with general manager Ed Wade and manager Brad Mills on things like how and when to use pitchers on the staff, and that may have been true.
However, it was Arnsberg's reaction to said differences that was his undoing. Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle, just after talking on the phone to Astros employees involved in the decision, said on my radio show that Arnsberg's behavior and attitude over the last few weeks had become increasingly difficult for the club to deal with.
And it all came to a head in the dugout on Monday night when Arnsberg openly argued with Mills in front of the players. Behind closed doors, we might call that constructive conflict. In front of other employees, we call it insubordination.
The former is often productive; the latter gets you fired. Hence, yesterday's announcement.
Arnsberg expounded upon his state of mind to MLB.com:
"The last couple of weeks have really been a bear for me going to the ballpark," Arnsberg said. "I'm always a fun-loving, free-spirited guy and get along with pretty much everybody. And it just hasn't been a whole lot of fun over the last two, three or four weeks. That's not why I intended on staying in this game. And so as far as it being a surprise? I'd have to weigh on the side of no, not really."
So now, what to watch in the wake of this decision:
1. Brett Myers The volatile righthander has been a very vocal supporter of Arnsberg going back to last season when Myers was one of the most underrated pitchers in baseball. His consistent work in 2010 netted Myers a $10 million per year deal going into 2011, but this season he's been keeping it lively in the bleachers, giving up a stomach-turning 18 bombs. Myers has the potential to make an already unpleasant clubhouse even more gloomy. The Mount Myers Eruption Watch starts....now.
2. Ed Wade Kaz Matsui, Pedro Feliz, Bill Hall, Brandon Lyon, Roy Oswalt's being the second-highest paid Astro this season, the incestuous Philly thing. I could keep going. To be fair, Wade inherited an impossible situation when he signed on here, but he chose to inherit it. In a bottom line business, he will leave the GM job with more respect than his predecessor Tim Purpura did, but make no mistake -- he will be asked to leave the job. Soon, most likely. (And just to level-set, dust-ridden air filters have left their job with more respect than Purpura did his.)
3. Doug Brocail The former Astros reliever and current special adviser takes the reins of the pitching staff from Arnsberg. As tough a guy as you'll find, Brocail inherits a situation where he can really only go up. He's playing with house money. Brocail will be judged, obviously, on overall staff improvement, but largely what he does with young arms Bud Norris and Jordan Lyles. If he can somehow get Myers straightened out in time to make him valuable at the trade deadline, that would be a bonus.
4. My next blog post This makes three straight days I've written about the Astros. This dwarfs Hunter Pence's 23-game hitting streak as "most unlikely streak involving the Astros."
Unless someone else gets fired, bet on that streak ending later today.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from noon to 3 p.m. weekdays and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.
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