I was pretty happy when Cecil Cooper was given the job as Houston Astros manager. I'm not totally sure why. He seemed to have done a good job as the Astros bench coach. He had waited his time and was a baseball lifer.
I also had some pretty cool baseball cards of him as a kid.
Mostly, I believed he would bring some hard-nosed toughness to the team and the ability to relate to players.
He also was highly recommended by Bud Selig. If you are an Astros fan, you know how inspired Drayton McLane Jr. is by the MLB commish.
Maybe that should have been the red flag.
2009 is Cooper's second full season with the Astros. He started managing the team at the end of 2008. His record coming into this season with the team was 101-91. Add in this season so far, and he now stands at 157-150.
Hey, it's above .500—that ain't so bad, right?
The truth is, Cooper has been adequate. But adequate just isn't good enough. It is hard to figure out what he is really good at as a manager.
He likes to have his players steal bases. And he loves to hit and run. Of course, there are a lot of questions as to how productive and helpful those two aspects of the game are in this era of power hitting.
He wants his pitchers to throw strikes and not mess around with nibbling on the corners. Sound strategy indeed.
Here are areas where Cooper has been criticized:
Handling his relief pitchers.
Handling his starting pitchers.
Stealing at the wrong time. Using the hit and run at the wrong time.
Talking about players in the press.
Getting along with his veteran players.
Arguing with and being short tempered with the press.
Handing in a correct lineup card.
If the Astros were winning big and often, it would be easier to look over this many problems. But they are not.
Does anyone think the Cubs or Cardinals would be better with Cooper in charge? Okay, don't even think about comparing him to Tony La Russa or Lou Piniella. No way either team would come close to making that switch.
I think the biggest problem for Astros fans is the feeling of hopelessness. The team is just spinning in mediocrity. Fault certainly falls on ownership, management, the manager and the players.
The owner isn't going anywhere. The GM and his staff have done a much better job with the last two drafts and are finally replenishing a minor league system which had become devoid of high caliber prospects. You can't change all of your players at once, so most of them will be back.
The quickest way to bring hope back to the fans is by firing Cooper after the season and bringing in a new manager.
Sure, signing a big free agent or two would be nice, but this is Houston, and Drayton seems to want to keep the payroll where it is.
We will see the team get younger next year. Look for Tommy Manzella to be your starting shortstop. Hopefully, Chris Johnson will get a shot at being the starting third baseman. Jason Castro will also get a long look at catcher in spring training. Bud Norris has shown he will be at least the Astros third best starting pitcher next season.
But it is doubtful those players will push the team over the top. They will finally show that the Astros are looking to rebuild their aging roster.
And if Drayton wants to bring real hope for the future, he'll let Cecil Cooper go at the end of the season.