Between a rock and a hard place

added 3/24/2009 by Scott Barzilla

Imagine my surprise when I woke up this morning and read the front page of the Sports section. Cecil Cooper is forecasting a 90 win season for the Astros. This after saying the club was playing the worst baseball he had seen in 40 years only a week or so ago. Naturally, there were some intermediary comments that reconciled the two extremes, but most Astros fans (obviously not RyanEd) know Cooper is either exaggerating or delusional.

As a fellow coach (on a different level and different sport), I know he is neither. It is a coach's job to be positive. Even when you've gotten your doors blown off, you have to find something positive to hang your hat on. Sure, you can go out with the fellow coaches to the pub after the game and talk about how much you suck, but you better not let your players hear you say that.

Of course, some of the players are jumping on board as well. This is perfect. Even if the club gets off to a slow start, they know they are a traditional second half club. So, optimism is spilling over after four consecutive spring wins and a Hall of Fame catcher in the fold. Of course, there is one person that shouldn't be optimistic and that is Ed Wade. He should look at the club and see all its warts. Then again, no one would know what Wade is seeing since he has bluffed with all of the precision of the World Series of poker champion this spring.

This brings us to Cooper. Since I have been coaching, I always feel somewhat sorry for any coach unless that coach is Jimy Williams. Cooper certainly makes his share of mistakes and he flies off the handle too often, but as a coach I have to put myself in his shoes. He has a one year contract and an owner that is always talking about being a champion. This isn't a good combination.

Someone on their last legs as a manager will ultimately set up his rotation, lineup, bullpen, and bench in such a way that will maximize victories. That's great right? That's what a manager is supposed to do. That is, that's what he's supposed to do if he has a chance to win. A manager that can't win should set things up in a way to give the kids a chance to learn on the job. If we read between the lines, we know exactly how Cooper feels about those kids.

Ed Wade and Drayton McLane have set Cooper up to fail in many ways. They keep talking about how competitive they are and how much they want to be a champion, but the roster is anything but championship quality. Then, Cooper predictably talks the team up. So now, all Drayton and Ed have to do is say, "YOU said this was a 90 win club and they won 75 games. Obviously, YOU did something wrong. YOU don't get a contract." If the club feels Cooper is not the man for the job then a one year deal makes a lot of sense. If they have another guy in mind they might just be biding their time.

This is not fair to Cooper. If you want him to win now you have to give him the tools to win now. In my case, I took over a team that hadn't won a district game in a quarter century (at least). Guess what my expectations were. Therefore, even though I am officially on one year contracts, I could coach forever if I really wanted to. In Cooper's case, if the club would admit they have a clunker then they would extend his contract and tell him to play for the future.

As it stands, we can all laugh at the nonsense that is 90 wins. Maybe Cooper secretly has built a Delorean and can go back to 2003 for all of his principle players. That would be a shocker and would get him manager of the year awards. It might also get him the Nobel Prize for science. All of that is just as likely as this team winning 90 games. I suppose its all possible. Who could imagine there would be a music player the size of your thumb ten years ago?