Keep Dierker?

added 10/12/2001 by Susan and Darrell Pittman

We would first like to express our condolences to all those who have lost loved ones in the September 11 terrorist attacks against innocent civilians, and against civilization itself.

We fully support our president, our country, and our courageous military in the war to bring the perpetrators of this horror to justice, and to eradicate terrorism once and for all.

We salute the heroic rescue workers, many of whom gave up their own lives in an effort to save those of others.

We pray that the Lord turns the hearts of those who so badly misunderstand our society and our values, who  so dangerously underestimate our collective strength and resolve.

We also pray for the innocent citizens of Afghanistan, who are also victims of the Taliban.  May God keep them safe.

God Bless America

Susan and Darrell Pittman

Turning to baseball...

Fire Larry Dierker, or keep him?  That is the question posed in this edition of Double Play.

Susan's Take

Believe me, it's tough to choose sides on this.  A valid argument can be made for either.

Larry and his team have brought four Central Division Championships to Houston in five years.  But that is where it has ended every time.

Dierk is great at getting us to the post-season, but he doesn’t prepare the guys to play the post-season.  A quote in today’s Houston Chronicle about the situation on Wednesday, when everyone (it seemed) thought Berkman should have bunted to advance Baggy to second: 

"If I (called for the bunt), it would have been the first time Berkman has bunted in perhaps four or five years," Dierker said. "I feel like it would have almost automatically put him down two strikes in the count if we had tried."

Why wasn’t Berkman prepared to bunt?  If the post-season calls for small ball, then the manager should be preparing the team to play small ball.  Every hitter on the team should be practicing bunts.  You absolutely cannot hit for the train tracks every single time. And it seems that every in critical at-bat,  the batter is swinging with all his might for the fences, and falling short.   Sure, we all want to see the home runs, but you can’t win a 1-0 game if you don’t advance base-runners.  How many times have we been in situations lately with two runners on base and no outs, only to leave the two (or three) stranded? 

As I’m writing this, out of three innings in today's game in Atlanta, two runners been stranded twice.

Sure, we all want to see the superstars and the big plays, but the game is not always about the big plays.  It is about strategy and getting the job done.  It’s not about the power hitter.  It’s about moving men around the base and getting them home.

The question in my mind is:  Has the team done well because of Dierker, or in spite of him?

Let’s face it, we have tremendous talent on the team. but last year, and even earlier this year, Dierker would not pull struggling pitchers.  He let kept them in until it was too late.  He has been better in that regard lately, as evidenced by how quickly he pulled Jackson on Wednesday, but it was too little, too late. 

A quote from today’s Chronicle on the subject of today's starting shortstop.  Vizcaino has a better record against Atlanta’s starting pitcher, Burkett:

"This is the exact same thing we did during the regular season," Dierker said. "Certainly, there's more Lugo in our future than there is Vizcaino if we look two years down the road. We need to play Lugo and let him know he's our guy.

Lugo is our guy?  Perhaps so, if he goes back down to the minors to work on his fielding.  Sure, he has become more patient at the plate, but his errors were so very costly to us for the last two games, and before.  Maybe he has the potential, but he needs a lot of work.

As much as it hurts to say this (because I think that Dierker is a genuinely nice guy), I think it is time for a change of leadership.

I think that Dierker has done an awesome job in the regular season, but when push comes to shove, he can’t seem to get his team to perform in the clutch situations.  The Astros need a leader who can push them over that hump and advance them in the post-season.


Darrell's Take

Fire the manager with the franchise's highest winning percentage in club history (.553, 448-362)?  (That's ignoring Salty Parker, who managed one game in 1972 and won, giving him a 1.000 record)  The skipper who guided the team to four Division Championships in five seasons?

The manager who brought them back from a 72-90 season in 2000 to a 93-69 record in 2001?  That's the first time in MLB history that a team has gone from 90 wins, to 90 losses, and back to 90 wins in consecutive seasons.

How is it that the manager is at fault when the two guys who tie for third in the NL batting race (Berkman and Alou at .331) can't hit in the postseason?  Is he supposed to come out of the dugout and hit for them?

Exactly how is this his fault?

He put in Mike Jackson in Game 1 against Atlanta, who was a bona-fide closer for Cleveland, and had many excellent outings for the Astros this season, instead of Dotel.  9 times out of 10 he did that this year, it worked, and Jackson handed the ball over to either Dotel or Wagner with a lead intact.

He brought in Wagner in that same game in the eighth.  So what?  Isn't a closer supposed to be able to last two innings?  Wagner did it before in an extra-inning game this year.

There's a common criticism of Dierker that he's lost the players' confidence or respect, or doesn't motivate them.

Excuse me, aren't most of them highly-paid, people who make millions to play a game?  Shouldn't they be motivated to perform anyway, just for their own pride?

The plain fact is that the players didn't get the job done.  Larry can't pitch for them, and Larry can't bat for them.

This leaves open the question, what do we pay them for?  Are they professional enough to pony up and perform when it is required, or do we just need different players?

The players call themselves 'professionals'.  Most of the 'professionals' that I deal with day in and day out get the job done, and earn their pay.  For the fifth straight season, the Astros' 'professionals' have not.

You cannot blame their field boss for that.

This puts me firmly in the camp that it's not the manager who should be fired, it's the players.

If anything, fire the owner, who won't shell out for personnel that his Enron Field revenue affords him, even though the taxpayers subsidized his ballpark.


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