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Searching for the Astros Skipper, Part One

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[We're pleased to bring aboard davoag to the Crawfish Boxes.  Dave has contributed some excellent fan posts this year and runs Minor Musings, too.  We've been impressed with his work and know you will be too.]

Ed Wade didn’t get much of a choice when Cecil Cooper was given the managerial job two years ago. Cooper had been in place for a while, was a favorite of Drayton and Bud Selig and was well thought of around the game. We know how that turned out. Wade is going to interview lots of people for this position before its all said and done, but let’s look at the guy with the manager’s cap on right now.

Dave Clark managed the Hooks from 2005 to 2007, with a record of 207-212. During that stretch, he managed a total of 43 current or former Astros, which means he wasn’t just coaching scrubs. Clark underperformed his expected victory total in two of the four years he managed in the Astros system. The only time he outperformed his expected record was in 2006, when he took the Hooks to the Texas League title.

In his time with the Astros, he has a 4-9 record but have a Pythagorean record of 3-10. The Astros won six more games than their Pythagorean record on the season, so it’s not out of line to say Clark fit right in with how the team was performing for Cooper. Add to that the small sample size of Clark’s performance and you can’t extrapolate much.

Clark signed with the Astros as a free agent before the 1998 season as a pinch-hit specialist. During that season, he hit .271 in 70 pinch-hit appearances before retiring in the off-season. He was a first round pick and played 13 seasons in the majors, but never made an all-star team or finished anywhere in the MVP voting. He did play in two postseasons, with the 1995 World Series champ Atlanta Braves and the 1998 Astros. He’s exactly the type of guy who can relate to the stars on the roster and to the journeymen.

The most important attribute with managers is their ability to communicate. As Richard Justice and Brian McTaggart pointed out numerous times on their respective blogs in the past few weeks, Cooper damaged himself most by not listening to players and his own coaches. It got so bad players were wearing shirts around the clubhouse which said, "Really?"

We, on the outside and on the internet, can’t really know how well Clark communicates in the clubhouse. What we can see is that he’s closer in age to the players and that the guys there now seem to genuinely like him. The word (from the two guys I mentioned above) is that the players want Clark back and there is something to be said for that. Phil Garner was not the most successful manager, but the players liked him and he helped the Astros to a World Series appearance.

Do I think the Astros will keep Clark as manager? Not really. Drayton needs to make a splash, much like he did with the Ivan Rodriguez signing this spring. Keeping Clark won’t do that, even if he is the right man for the job.