Tony D Is Making His Case

added 9/18/2012 by Bob Hulsey

While the Astros are interviewing for a new manager, the current interim manager is putting his best foot forward. As Chip Bailey of the Houston Chronicle points out, the Astros were 8-46 during consecutive months of July and August but, under Tony DeFrancesco, the Astros have been 8-7 during the first half of September. Yes, Tony D was 1-10 as Astros manager before the recent uptick but I'd note that many players get off to slow starts when first promoted to the majors. Why should managers be any different?

Imagine what Tony D could do without the automatic loss every sixth day when Fernando Abad (0-4) pitches even though he can't finish five innings to qualify for the win.

Not that the rest of the rotation is a guaranteed winner either. Three rotation starters began the year with Tony at AAA, one was a waiver claim last year and another was signed from the Mexican Leagues. And the last guy hasn't won since May.

Could anyone have guessed these Astros would win two of three from the first-place Reds on the road or three of four from the Phillies at home? The Phils came in on a seven-game winning streak and faint playoff hopes but left town thoroughly demoralized.

Does the Astros braintrust seriously think Larry Bowa could accomplish that with this roster? Could Bo Porter do that? Dave Martinez? Jim Riggleman? We'll never know and, hopefully, we'll never find out.

Despite the terrible record this summer, the Astros played hard for Brad Mills. They were in over their heads and they found ways to lose. These kids, many of whom probably realize that this is their last or only chance at a major league career, have given the effort. Perhaps some have even tried too hard.

I realize two weeks is a small sample size and many teams are working in call-ups from the minors that dilute the quality of opposing talent but the Astros are playing to win under DeFrancesco and that shouldn't be overlooked when determining who is best going forward to lead the players. A little success is just what many of them have needed.

My belief is that unless the Astros find somebody that is exactly what they're looking for, they should allow DeFrancesco an entire year to determine whether he is the right man for the job. His interim gig, unlike Dave Clark's back in 2009, is producing a different result than his predecessor although one could have predicted the results could not get any worse.

Our forum friend Spudder notes that many successful managers in baseball history were of Italian descent: Tony LaRussa, Joe Torre, Tommy Lasorda, Lou Piniella, Billy Martin, Terry Francona, Mike Scioscia, Joe Girardi. Several of these were also catchers, which makes sense since the catcher has to be involved in all facets of the game like nobody else on the field.

By luck or design, Tony DeFrancesco - a former catcher of Italian descent - is currently managing the Astros and they're showing improvement. Even better, Tony D was a successful minor league manager in the Oakland organization that preaches the Moneyball analytical system that General Manager Jeff Luhnow favors. Further, he has an understanding of the talent on hand like nobody else brought in from another system could know.

Luhnow and owner Jim Crane continue to mouth the words that they want a team that wins now while scrapping every veteran from the payroll and expecting AAA players to be competitive in the major leagues. If they are serious about a steady turnaround, Tony DeFrancesco should be their man for 2013. He lacks only two things to be a big league success - experience at the top level and a legitimate roster to compete with.

There's not much he can do about either of these but he's doing the best he can with the hand he has been dealt. That ought to be enough to deserve a longer shot to prove himself. Not that anyone is expecting a .500 team next year but climbing out of the 100-loss club should be an attainable goal for 2013 and it is looking like Tony DeFrancesco gives the Astros a good chance to accomplish that.

The old adage goes "sometimes the best trades are the ones you don't make". That works for managerial changes too. Right, Red Sox Nation?