With the dismissal of manager Brad Mills over the weekend, the previous four manager's for the Houston Astros now all have something in common. They were all relieved of their managerial posts midseason and were replaced on the interim basis. Tony DeFrancesco is the latest to dub the interim title with a little over a month to go in the season. Below we will take a look back at how the four previous manager's fared, and the events leading up to their dismissal. We will also look at how the guys who replaced them mid-season fared. First up, Jimy Williams.
Williams took over as manager for the Astros at the beginning of the 2002 season. Expectations were big for the club as the team had made it to postseason play four out of the previous five season prior to Williams arrival. Williams led the Astros to a second place season in both the 2002 and 2003 seasons. Expectations for the 2004 season were especially high as the team had several big name stars on the team. The rotation included Roy Oswalt, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, and Wade Miller. However, Miller and Pettitte were both plagued by injuries that year. The offense struggled for most of that season even though it included several big name players as well including Carlos Beltran who was acquired midseason. All of this led to a 44-44 mark at the All Star Break.
Though rumors and speculation had been circulating about Williams job security for the past month or so things came to a head during the All Star Break. The festivities were held at Minute Maid Park that year, and fans gave a not so warm welcome during pre-game introductions when Williams name was announced. Williams was relieved of his duties the next day by GM Gerry Hunsicker. Though Hunsicker was admittedly upset the team's play and had stated repeatedly that this was a team that was built to win now, he stated that the events and timing leading up to Williams dismissal were unfortunate.
"My biggest regret was the fact that this week couldn't have been any more awkward for all of us," Hunsicker said. "The unfortunate reaction he got from the fans, and the speculation that became rampant in the last day or so was very unfortunate. He deserved better."
By Joel Anderson, The Associated Press
Along with Jimy Williams, pitching coach Burt Hooten and hitting coach Harry Spilman were also relieved of their duties and were replaced by Jim Hickey and Gary Gaetti. Phil Garner took over as manager on an interim basis for Jimy Williams and had about the best finish an interim manager could have to finish out a season.
Garner had previously been a manager for the Detroit Tigers and Milwaukee Brewers and was excited about the chance of managing for his former team the Houston Astros. Things clicked almost immediately for the team under the helm of Phil Garner. He led the team to a 48-26 record down the stretch and also returned the Astros to the playoffs where they would fall one game short of reaching the World Series. Needless to say Garner the interim label was removed after the season ended and Garner was named the permanent manager for the Astros after the team's magical end to the 2004 season. The 2005 season started in the same manner as the 2004 season did, and that was slow. The team once again put on a strong second half finish which became a recurring theme during Phil Garner's Astros tenure, and won the Wild Card. They made their first appearance in the fall classic but fell to the White Sox in the World Series.
The Astros got off to another slow start in 2006 and once again played better baseball in the second half. The team went on an impressive 10-2 finish to the season, but ultimately fell short of the division leaders by a game and a half. There was no late season magic for Garner and the Astros in the 2007 season, and the team finished 58-73 before Garner was relieved of his duties as Astros Manager and replaced by Cecil Cooper on an interim basis. General Manager Tim Purpura was also fired along with Phil Garner.
Mclane made some interesting remarks during the press release at the time citing that the move was two years in the making even though the team made it to the World Series less than two years ago.
"This was two years in the process," McLane said. "I've observed things, watched things, talked to literally hundreds of people as I go through. I went through the stands yesterday, and every game. I ask people, 'What do you think?' It's amazing what people will tell you. It's the impact others had on me, over a period of time."
Interestingly enough there was also another public disruption similar to the Jimy Williams All Star Break fiasco that may have sped up the process to replace Phil Garner and especially Tim Purpura. Purpura was heavily booed during a Jeff Bagwell uniform retirement ceremony, and both Garner and Purpura were dismissed shortly after though Mclane stated that the decision had already been made. Mclane also stated that he made the dismissal with a month left to go in the season so that he could get a closer look at Cecil Cooper who replaced Garner on the interim basis.
When Cooper took over as manager for the Astros the team was already in it's early stages of deterioration mode. Cooper finished out the 2007 season 15-16, a game under .500 which was good enough to convince Drayton Mclane and newly appointed General Manager Ed Wade that he was worthy of the full time job. Once again the interim label was removed, and Cooper was officially labeled the new manager of the Astros. The honeymoon period did not last all that long for Cooper though, and several players were outspoken about the lack of communication that went on in the Astros clubhouse.
Still the Astros went on to having a pretty decent 2008 season and finished with a record of 86-75. However, the 2009 season was not as impressive and the team went 70-79 under Cooper before he was fired and replaced on an interim basis by Dave Clark with only thirteen games left to play in the season. Dave Clark finished the season 4-9, and was considered a candidate for the full time gig but this time the Astros decided to go a different route and plucked manager Brad Mills from outside of the organization.
After Cecil Cooper's tenure, communication in the clubhouse was the key and Brad Mills fit the bill. Brad Mills was named the full time manager prior to the start of the 2010 season. By this time the team was in utter dissarray and the rebuilding project that would follow was just around the corner. We've talked in detail already about Mills time as manager here, so I will spare you that. Mills was replaced with a little over a month left in the season by Tony DeFrancesco who now carries the interim title.
So just how did the guys who took over during the season perform in their interim jobs? Well, Phil Garner was the first up and also had the best run with his 48-26 finish down the stretch. This was good enough to get him hired on a full time basis for the job. Cecil Cooper did not fare as well, but also inherited a different situation than Garner. He finished the season at 15-16, and that was also good enough to convince Drayton Mclane and Ed Wade to keep him around on a full time basis. When Dave Clark replaced Cooper he only had thirteen games left in the season and finished 4-9. There was nowhere near enough time to judge his body of work, but the Astros decided to go in a different direction and did not name Clark the manager.
That brings us to current manager Tony DeFrancesco. He will have a little more time in his interim role that Cooper did during the 2007 season. It took an almost .500 finish for Cooper to be named full-time manager, though the decision to go with Cooper was probably already made before the season ended. This year is different as it sounds like a very thorough managerial search will be conducted, and the general feeling as of now is that it is unlikely that DeFrancesco will take over the role on a full-time basis. A .500 finish with this current team would be just short of miraculous, and still may not be enough to give DeFrancesco the role.