Houston Astros' Slow Start Gives New Manager Brad Mills Maalox Moments

Richard ZowieCorrespondent IApril 10, 2010

HOUSTON - APRIL 05:   Manager Brad Mills #2 of the Houston Astros walks off the field during pregame against the San Francisco Giants on Opening Day at Minute Maid Park on April 5, 2010 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Today, in one of my two day jobs (I work about 30 hours weekly at a newspaper and about 24 hours at a gas station), I traveled around Birch Run and Clio, Mich., and asked folks this question: "Whom should the Detroit Lions take in the upcoming NFL draft?"

I might as well have asked the people what the Houston Astros should do to improve their team.

Many of the Lions fans said defensive players while others said offensive players. One man said they should draft new coaches while one man, not surprisingly, wondered if it's possible for them to draft new owners.

One lady said they should draft an entirely new team while another lady a former season ticket owner said the Lions have lots of holes to fill.

Sound familiar?

Houston's off to an 0-4 start, having been shut out twice. New manager Brad Mills is still looking for his first win as an Astros skipper.

I imagine he's probably made a few visits to Sam's Club in recent days to buy up Maalox in bulk. Perhaps he's even locked his office and after ensuring no reporters or bloggers (including yours truly) are within earshot, he's even sung that fun jingle: "NAUSEA! HEARTBURN! INDIGESTION! UPSET STOMACH! DIARRRRRRHEA!"

In a few weeks, during a road trip, some hotel clerk will ask Mills if he needs assistance with anything. Mills will probably respond: "Can you get a two-out single?"

Truth be told, I like Mills. From what I've read, he sounds like he has the skills and the pedigree to be an excellent manager.

In other words, he's not Cecil Cooper.

But still, I worry that in four and a half years, a press conference will be held around November 2014 with Drayton McLane announcing that after some careful thought and consideration, the club has chosen to part ways with Mills.

"He's just not working out," McLane will say, looking more tired and worn out than ever. "We're going to go in a new direction."

That direction will probably be consulting with whomever's passing as Miss Cleo these days and trying to set up a seance so that Billy Martin or Leo Durocher can manage the team from Baseball Heaven.

I don't know of many managers who have proven to be successful when they're given a Scotch-taped together pitching staff and a lineup that, when not struggling to make contact with the ball, can't seem to get anything done in the clutch.

Tommy Lasorda led the 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers to a stunning World Series triumph over the Oakland Athletics, but that team had a brilliant pitcher in Orel Hershiser and a feisty, moody leader in Kirk "Losing Absolutely SUCKS!" Gibson.

When it comes to pitching, I have no doubt Bud Norris will someday be a very successful MLB starter. But I wonder if he's ready.

I'm concerned he'll be kept at this level because Houston needs arms and he'll become a casualty of being forced into the MLB prematurely.

In last night's outing against the Phillies, Norris lasted less than three innings while giving up six hits and three runs and more walks than strikeouts. Houston had eight hits but went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

Perhaps my pessimism is premature. One reader, Clayton, believes so, and I hope Clayton's right.

Perhaps he is: Houston has opened the season against great teams in the San Francisco Giants and Philadelphia Phillies (the latter being the defending NL champions).

Yes, I'm disappointed Houston flailed so much at junkballer Barry Zito.

If it is indeed a rough start and Houston will start winning, then Mills will no doubt convince the Astros to have sometype of bizarre promotion like G-Astro-intestinal Night where the first 10,000 fans receive a free bottle of Maalox Mills' way of secretly trying to rid himself of his warehouse-sized stash he would no longer need.

I think it's more likely Houston will be around .500 this season. I hope that the management exercises due patience with Mills while working hard to give him something he can actually work with. Better pitching. Better hitting.

Installing air conditioning vents in the outfield and turning them on to blow out cool air whenever opposing teams like the St. Louis Albertpujols...er, Cardinals, are up to bat.

As far as tonight, even if Houston loses, at least they'll look good in the process. They'll be wearing their 1965 blue-and-orange shooting star jerseys, my favorite of all their uniforms.

Perhaps we'll be lucky and in a season or two, Houston will either permanently return to the shooting star look and return to their space exploration roots or at least wear a modernized version, perhaps with a royal blue instead of a dark navy blue.

Richard Zowie is an Astros blogger who's currently taking heartburn meds. Believe it or not, it has nothing to do with Houston's slow start. Post comments here or e-mail Richard at richardzowie@gmail.com .