New Manager A Blank Page

added 11/2/2009 by Bob Hulsey

As someone who has to rub two brain cells together occasionally to write a column, I wish the Astros had not chosen Brad Mills as their new manager. I had all those "Back to the Future" allusions ready if Phil Garner returned to the helm.

Thirteen games wasn't nearly enough time to exhaust all the Dave Clark Five material I could have employed if the interim boss had stayed on (in fact, the DC5 would have worked great as the new nickname for the starting rotation). So, you see, I'm not glad all over about the new skipper. I'll pick up the bits and pieces because...because I still have to find something to say about the guy who won "Who Wants To Manage The Astros".

It would be easier to comment on Mills if he'd done any managing sometime this century but he's been an assistant now for eleven seasons. It wouldn't shock me if some of the players Mills managed are now selling insurance or flipping burgers somewhere and baseball, to them, is something that just fills the mantle or a bookshelf. Other than the nights mild-mannered Terry Francona has been tossed out by an umpire, Mills hasn't had to make a serious baseball decision since Dole-Kemp bumper stickers were still noticeable around town.

So all that Ed Wade, Tal Smith and Drayton McLane had to go on regarding Mills was Wade's long ago remembrances of him and Francona's word that he'll be great. In fact, Francona seemed almost too happy that Mills got the job. I'd be more satisfied if Francona had uttered a few curse words about losing his bench coach and screamed "what are we going to do now?" at Theo Epstein.

There are two primary personalities that emerged from others' comments about Mills dug up by the press. First, they say he's a great person with solid people skills and everyone likes him. I seem to recall those same sort of comments spoken about Cecil Cooper when he replaced Garner. We all know how that turned out.

The other trait is that Mills is very meticulous and a great organizer. That sounds good as the ballclub lacked organization at times last year, such as when Cooper had one lineup card with Michael Bourn batting first and another with Kaz Matsui batting first and handed the wrong one to Ken Macha, the Brewers' manager. I'd presume that, at minimum, we won't see that repeated this season.

Mills, by his own admission, is not a colorful person. With his shaved head, he looks like a cross between Mister Clean and Colonel Klink. During his press conference, he spoke much the way Bill Virdon used to do thirty years ago. Very earnest and matter-of-fact. Getting a colorful quote from him might be like pulling the sword of Excalibur from the stone. (Such calmness will likely be tested, though, the next time Hunter Pence blows through a stop sign and gets thrown out by a city block or Carlos Lee takes three minutes to run to first.)

And that, in its own way, may be what got Mills the job. He's a blank slate for which everyone can project their own hopes and desires on his competence for the position. There's no recent record of managerial success to point to. But there are no failures either so if/when the ax falls, the front office can shrug their shoulders and say "it wasn't our fault; we went on the best information we had".

Mills earned the nickname "Sarge" from the Boston players, presumably for his orderliness. If he turns out to be a great manager, I'll be glad to give him a promotion. I'll call him "General Mills".

There. I feel better now.