Drayton McLane finally did yesterday what knowledgeable baseball people have been urging him to do since 2007. He fired manager Cecil Cooper. Now there are some questions arising from this, like why was Cooper hired in the first place, and why did he wait until there were only 13 games left in the season to make the move -- especially since the team quit on Cooper earlier in the year and have been openly mocking Cooper and many of his decisions for most of Cooper's tenure as head coach.
But the biggest question will come down to this: who will be managing the Houston Astros in 2010?
Third base coach Dave Clark was named the interim manager yesterday -- and the Astros under Clark looked a lot like the Astros under Cooper, i.e. the team lost for the eighth straight time and showed absolutely no life. Clark's primary qualification for the job seems to be that the players really, really, really like him. His other qualification seems to be that he's been the team's third-base coach, and he's sucked as badly as a third-base coach as Cooper sucked while he was Phil Garner's bench coach. So while it's okay to let Clark run out the string, it's probably safe to say that if this guy is managing the team in 2010 then this team will probably suck just as bad as this current team.
The Houston Chronicle is reporting that, besides Clark, among the front-runners for the job are former Phillies manager Jim Fregosi; Al Pedrique, who was once an interim manager for the Arizona Diamondbacks; Manny Acta, who did a bang up job leading the Washington Nationals to suckitude; former Astros Brad Ausmus, who is still currently a player, Jeff Bagwell, and Craig Biggio.
Now if McLane really wants a god-awful crappy team next season, he'll hire one of these guys for the job. Fregosi led the then-California Angels to their first playoff spot in 1979, and he led the Philadelphia Phillies to the World Series in 1993 -- he was also the guy the Angels traded for Nolan Ryan. But he's not known for his ability to develop young players, and he's also known as a guy who tends to let the players run the clubhouse, and I would think the Astros are tired of guys like Carlos Lee leading the clubhouse.
Acta had the misfortune of managing the Nationals, who have been one of the worst teams in baseball since moving from Montreal to Washington. This was more the fault of a bungling front office than it was Acta, but seeing as how the Astros' front office has been a bunch of bungling fools since Gerry Hunsicker left, and seeing as how the Astros seem to be as bereft of talent as the Nationals, then Acta is the wrong guy. This guy might be able to win with talent, but he's proven that he can't win with old, washed-up veterans and a non-existent pitching rotation.
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Pedrique seems to be under consideration because he's already part of the Astros system. And frankly, seeing how awful the Astros organization has been this decade, that should be an automatic disqualification.
Jeff Bagwell has given no indication that he wants to manage. Brad Ausmus has yet to retire. And watching Craig Biggio's "me first" form of playing should be evidence that he shouldn't be a major-league manager. Besides, except for Biggio with a bunch of high school kids, none of these guys has any managing experience. We're talking Drayton McLane here, so their lack of managing experience doesn't matter because he probably thinks -- and is probably right -- that there would be enough fools out in the city who would buy tickets for Astros games because one of these guys was managing.
I think Ausmus would be a fantastic manager. Some of the best current managers are former catchers -- Mike Scioscia with the Angels, Joe Girardi with the Yankees, Joe Torre with the Dodgers, and Bruce Bochy with the Giants are just four that I can think of. But I also think he needs to actually earn a managing job. Let him go to the minors for a couple of years, or work as a bench coach. But his first job upon retiring as an active player shouldn't be as the manager of the Houston Astros.
But seeing as it's Drayton McLane doing the hiring, I'm sure that no matter who gets the job it will be the wrong person.