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On the Astros: Tom Lawless could be Houston's best interim manager ever

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Looking back at a varied history of Astros interim managers.

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

At 6-2 in his first eight games at the helm, only one Astros manager in history has a better winning percentage than Tom Lawless.

That man is Salty Parker, who managed exactly one game on August 26, 1972. The Astros won that game 6-5 at home against the Expos on a walkoff, two-run double by Cesar Cedeno off relief ace Mike Marshall.

Safe to say no other Astros manager in history will equal that.

But, Lawless could finish as Houston's most successful interim manager in history. There's a pretty easy reason, too. Interim managers generally take over bad teams. Not always, as Harry "the Hat" Walker proves. He was fired in '72 with a 67-54 record and the Astros in third place in the NL West. Parker managed one game before ceding control to Hall of Famer Leo Durocher, who finished the season 16-15.

But, Durocher wasn't the interim manager. He was named the full-time boss after Walker was fired and coached Houston to an 82-80 record in '73. Preston Gomez took over for Leo the Lip during the offseason.

Those 16 wins for Durocher appear to be the gold standard for interim managers. Tony DiFrancesa went 16-25 after taking over for Brad Mills in 2011. No one else came close to a winning record in the interim. Dave Clark was 4-9 in 2009. Matt Galante was 13-14 in 1999 after Larry Dierker suffered a Grand mal seizure in the dugout.

The rest of our replacement crop held onto the job, getting that interim tag removed.

Cecil Cooper went 15-16 in 2007, taking over for Phil Garner, who may be the gold standard for replacement managers. Ol' Scrap Iron, you might remember, went 48-26 in 2004, leading the Astros to their first-ever playoff series victory after he took over for Jimy Williams.

Lum Harris went 4-8 in 1964 before leading the Astros to 64 wins in 1965. Bob Lillis went 28-23 in 1982, taking over for Bill Virdon, but he also kept the job for three more years. Virdon was 17-17 in 1975 after taking over for Preston Gomez, but kept the job for another eight years. He's currently got the record for longest managerial tenure in franchise history.

That brings us finally back to Harry the Hat, who won one more game than Garner in relief of Grady Hatton, but lost three more games than he won.

If we assume that Lawless does not keep the job after the season (which may be a dangerous assumption if he keeps winning), he'd only need to win eight more games to cement his place at second on the career winning percentage list. To take the record for most victories in under 50 games as manager, he'd have to 11-5 down the stretch against the Angels, Indians, Rangers, Mariners and Mets.

That's not impossible, but it's also not likely. I like his chances to finish 14-10, forever chasing Salty Parker's perfect 1-0 record.