As The Stomach Turns: Houston Astros Edition

Richard ZowieCorrespondent IOctober 14, 2009

WASHINGTON - JULY 18: Manager Phil Garner #3 of the Houston Astros watches the game against the Washington Nationals at RFK Stadium July 18, 2007 in Washington, DC. The Nationals won the game 7-6.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

You know: in the 1960s and 1970s there was The Carol Burnett Show and in an ongoing skit they'd do a spoof of the soap opera As The World Turns with As The Stomach Turns.

If the show were on now, they'd do a skit called As The Houston Astros' Fans' Stomachs Turn.

Phil Garner, the former Astro who managed Houston to its first and only World Series appearance, was fired and replaced by Cecil Cooper, who was fired this season. Cooper, a good hitter when in his Major League career, showed that as a manager he's, well, a good hitter.

So now, Cooper and his odd pitching changes and his clubhouse demeanor are gone, and now we're left wondering who will take charge next of Houston.

Jeff Bagwell or Craig Biggio? Those would be great choices, considering how much respect those guys have for the game and how much others respect them. However, that's not a guarantee for success. Fans and teammates alike loved Detroit Tigers shortstop Alan Trammell, who promptly flopped as Tigers manager.

Garner, who led the Astros to the 2005 World Series and then was fired in 2007 and replaced by Cooper?

Garner sounds good, and if he's hired, the question will remain among many: why was he hired in the first place? Was it a mistake? Did owner Drayton McLane order him to look hip by using that moustache dye that Keith Hernandez does commercials for?

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Manny Acta, who's grown up in the Astros organization? They say he has lots of passion about the team, which is good. But he also, of managers who've managed at least 350 games since 1950, had the worst record.

What's worse, the Washington Nationals Acta managed dealt with the same problems today's 'Stros face: weak pitching and fielding. It's similar to firing a manager of a restaurant plagued by employees who are chronically late and rehiring him at another restaurant where the employees there are already chronically late.

Jim Fregosi? Yes, yes, I know that Houston Chroniclecolumnist Richard Justice (nice first name, by the way) has been writing sonnets and poems and singing Fregosi's praises. The feisty Fregosi loves the game, is respected and managed the Philadelphia Phillies to their 1993 World Series run against the Toronto Blue Jays.

However, he's also 67, hasn't managed in nearly 10 years and had a losing record in his 15 seasons at the major-league level.

Dave Clark? Possibly. They say he takes guff from nobody and gets respect. Those two are starts.

All I know is this: Houston's had friendly managers (Art Howe), fiery managers (Hal Lanier and Terry Collins), cerebral managers (Larry Dierker) and managers who've been fired at other places (Jimy Williams). They've all resigned or were fired.

Whoever manages the Astros next will have to deal with Drayton McLane. This is to say a manager who won't shy away from being honest with McLane about what plagues the club and what absolutely has to be done to fix it.

Fregosi, who reportedly told McLane he'd knock the owner on his posterior end if the owner tried to punch him in the gut, would fit this bill very well. We have to hope the manager has enough savvy and demands enough respect that McLane will listen to him.

As for myself, I'll never forget how when Houston had Cooper as interim manager a few years ago and were looking to see whom they would hire, I actually called the Astros (as a fan) and made a suggestion.

"I see that Joe Girardi is available," I told the lady who answered the phone. "He's respected, he turned around a very shaky Florida Marlins franchise. Why not fly him in for an interview?"

A few days later, Houston announced it was making interim manager Cooper the permanent manager.

And now, Cooper's been fired while Girardi has the New York Yankees in the ALCS versus the Anaheim Angels.


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