added 10/29/2009 by Dr. Bill McCurdy
Editor's note: This column is reposted, with permission, from Dr. McCurdy's blog, The Pecan Park Eagle.
When the Houston Astros announced Tuesday that Brad Mills would be the new field manager of the club in 2010, I was more than OK with it. I would have been all right with either Phil Garner or Dave Clark too, but both of those guys, especially Garner, were insiders to the organization and may have suffered already from one condition that the new manager is going to have to deal with next season, one way or another.
It might have been a lot harder for Garner, whom many of the current players already know well from his very recent tenure as the most vertically successful manager in Astros history. Dave Clark may have had a better shot at it, but even Dave has already suffered from being the interim manager for thirteen games at the tail end of this past awful 2009 season. It wasn’t the kind of formula for imbuing a man with much authority for the near future screen and scheme of things.
The "it" factor here is the influence of certain key veterans upon the rest of the team as producers and clubhouse politicians. I’m talking here about the impact of Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee, and Roy Oswalt. What each of these stars do, and fail to do, matters greatly. These guys can lead the younger players to get behind a manager from the start – or they can just as easily, no matter how subtly they do it, send out a message of disrespect for a manager that spreads like a virus.
And why not? After all, this has been “their” club for years – and they’re the guys who get paid the big bucks to make Houston a champion. Brad Mills may have played some third base, but he was no Mike Schmidt. Who is he to tell anybody in this family what to do?
Our Houston stars didn’t invent that dynamic. The resistance of elitists to control by others viewed as less qualified by talent and tenure is as old as the proverbial hills. It goes way back and way beyond baseball as one of the great destroyers of aspiring kingdoms and expiring dynasties. We just seem to have it at play in Houston baseball today, even though we’ve never won anything but a single National League pennant.
Let’s face it. The Houston Astros cannot win without good production from Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt, and Carlos Lee. They also cannot win if these key veterans fail to support Brad Mills as manager. Everybody, including us fans, loses if Brad Mills doesn’t have a clue as to how important these three guys are to both team production and morale.
Just as importantly, Brad Mills needs to come in with an honest strategy for gaining their confidence and support as early as possible. All three of these players are also smart guys – and should quickly see how important resolving this issue is to each of them and the club, as well. Pretending it doesn’t exist is both foolish and potentially fatal to future success in the National League.
That issue, my friends, is the one that 90% of the 2010 season now turns upon, in my humble opinion. Let’s all get behind Brad Mills and wish him and our Houston Astros the best outcome possible.