Let me be the first to offer my condolences to Brad Mills. Now I'm sure Mills doesn't think he needs my condolences. After all, he just achieved his dream, which is becoming the manager of a major league baseball team.
But that team is the Houston Astros.
Mills, who accepted the job today, was actually the second choice of Astros management. But as in all things except Carlos Lee, Drayton McLane was too cheap to pay, and Manny Acta, the team's first choice, turned them down to take the manager's job with the Cleveland Indians.
The reporting is that Acta wanted a three-year deal, but the Astros were only willing to offer a two-year job, so Acta told Drayton to shove it and went to Cleveland.
Of course, it could also be that Acta -- who we were told had a great knowledge of the Astros personnel -- figured that he would have better luck managing a club with some talent on its roster than he would with the Astros.
Mills has never managed in the majors before, but he managed for 11 years in the minors, and for the past six years, he's been the bench coach for Terry Francona and the Boston Red Sox. And if he hasn't realized it yet (I'm sure that he soon will), the Astros are nowhere near the Boston Red Sox.
And that's why I want to offer up my condolences. Because Mills is used to dealing with people like Francona and Boston GM Theo Epstein. But in Houston, he's got to deal with the likes of Ed Wade and Drayton McLane.
Epstein is known as one of those general managers who believes in stats and is known for making trades that actually better his club. Epstein would have never signed Kaz Matsui to a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract. And when Manny Ramirez became too much of a distraction for the Red Sox, Epstein pulled off a trade that landed Jason Bay.
The Astros, meanwhile, are a team of slackers who, Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence aside, aren't much known for hustle. Epstein would have never let his bosses trade for the likes of Miguel Tejada, and along with never signing Matsui, it's doubtful that Epstein would have let his bosses sign Carlos Lee. Because while Boston has a Carlos Lee type hitter in David Ortiz, the Red Sox, unlike the Astros with Lee, never have to play Ortiz in the field.
Mills might think that Ramirez was a distraction with Boston, but wait until he has to deal with a left fielder who misses days in spring training because he is attending a rodeo. And every now and then, Ramirez would actually make an effort in left field, whereas the only time Lee ever shows effort is when it comes to getting to the post-game buffet.
And when Ramirez became too troublesome, he was traded. When Miguel Tejada got into jam after jam with the government, the Astros made him a team leader.
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.
Of course, a plus for Mills is that this is not the Red Sox. He's not going to have to deal with that annoying Red Sox Nation crap. he's not going to have to worry about his every move being questioned constantly on ESPN. And the fans have proven, by their embrace of the likes of Lee and Tejada, that they don't really care about a winning team.
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.
With this club, he's going to need it.
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