The search for a new manager for the Astros has stretched on, and on, and on. It probably should- this team needs to take it slow and make a smart decision. The ghosts of Jimy Williams, Phil Garner and Cecil Cooper still hang above MMP. Stability is important in any line of work, and the Astros haven't had it in recent seasons. Better to go slow and make a prudent choice.
All that being said, the manager of a baseball team is more a figurehead in my mind than anything else. In game strategies can be (and are) over analyzed by beat writers, which riles up the fan base, and leads to grumblings that often times emanates all the way up the Drayton McLane's office on Crawford Street.
Now the search has been narrowed down to the final four. One of the finalists' specter still hangs over the ballpark- Phil Garner was well liked, led the team to the World Series, and looks like a manager. Good 'ol Scrap Iron. Lives in the Woodlands. Has a history with the team. Doesn't really wow you with any one characteristic though.
Dave Clark is Gerald Ford. He is a holdover from the Cooper administration, and I can't help but think of the past when I see his name. Perhaps his superior communication skills, along with his time spent managing in the lower levels of baseball will be enough to land him the job. My Magic 8 Ball says all signs point to no, however.
Brad Mills has seen championship baseball firsthand with the Red Sox, and has a past with GM Ed Wade. Mills was a bench coach for the Phillies in the 1990s. This fact alone is enough to give his candidacy a ton of legitimacy. The one advantage to Mills is that he is different. He is not a Houston guy, has been educated in a different baseball system, and doesn't stand to be brought down by his past (Garner) or his past ties (Clark).
Finally, we have Manny Acta. He is the front runner, and I hope the job becomes his. We can laud him for his sabermetric slant on managing or his ability to get people to work together. However this Acta quote, perhaps more than anything caught my attention. In response to his history up and down the Astros' organization, Acta quipped:
...that he had a star for a heart.
At certain times, passion is often times as important as in game tactics, communication, or knowledge. While all must be used in tandem, passion keeps men interested in playing a child's game during long road trips through Pittsburgh and Cincinnati and July. I don't know if Cecil Cooper conveyed the passion necessary to get his club to play inspired ball during the dog days of a major league season. Manny Acta does. He would be an excellent manager, as he embodies all the qualities I have mentioned that a manager needs to be successful. Hopefully he's given an opportunity here in Houston.