Firing Houston's Skipper Was Easy, Getting Rid of Astros Owner Is the Tough Part

Richard ZowieCorrespondent ISeptember 23, 2009

PHOENIX - AUGUST 30:  Manager Cecil Cooper of the Houston Astros during the major league baseball game  against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on August 30, 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Diamondbacks defeated the Astros 4-3.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

It's officially over, the Cecil Cooper Project in Houston. Cooper, who had a decent Major League Baseball career, never could get things going as the Houston Astros manager. Coop took over late last season to replace the fired Phil Garner and made a well-publicized and ill-advised predicted the team would win 90 games this season.

Not even close, as a shaky starting rotation and a chronic inability to get clutch hits sunk Houston. Perhaps Cooper meant 70 games in 2009 and 20 in 2010. Currently, the Astros are 70-81 (with 11 games to go), 18.5 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals and tied with the Cincinnati Reds for fourth place in the N.L. Central.

Now it's up to interim manager Dave Clark, who had been third-base coach. If Clark has a leg up, it's that he was also successful a minor league manager in the Astros' organization and is a man who's respected.

Even now, some are calling for Jeff Bagwell or Craig Biggio to manage the team. With as dreadful as Houston's been playing, a part of me wonders if Houston should try to coax the feisty, fiery Earl Weaver out of retirement.

This is the time of year when Astros owner Drayton McLane will once again start talking about the budget and how Houston needs to unload high-priced players. You'll recall that veteran lefty pitcher Mike Hampton was one of those high-priced players that McLane unloaded years ago—Convinced Houston couldn't afford to re-sign him, McLane traded Hampton to the New York Mets.

Along with unloading high-priced players who haven't panned out and filling in the gaps by acquiring more over-the-hill players and mediocre players, maybe McLane should just consider selling the team to an owner who wants to invest in the team, an owner who swallows his pride and brings in baseball-savvy people to run the team.

Yes, I've griped in the past about the ugly Astros uniforms that they've worn now for 10 long years, but besides those, they have many other issues to address: a thin minor-league system, a weak approach to winter baseball meetings, a disturbing trend of letting go quality players (Andy Pettitte and Randy Wolf) and bringing in guys who haven't panned out (Russ Ortiz and Jason Jennings).