10 Questions: Houston Astros

Houston Astros baseball throwback logoThe remainder of the season looks bleary to Astros fans; both the manager and GM have been fired, and they’re stuck with an owner who wants to have tight control over personnel decisions.

To get an idea of what’s going on in the minds of Houston fans, I called on Lisa Gray of The Astros Dugout.

1. The Astros’ traditional second-half surge never materialized, and as a result both manager Phil Garner and GM Tim Purpura lost their jobs. Do you think Garner and Purpura deserved most of the blame?

– Phil was not a good manager and I wasn’t happy with him last year
– As for Purpura, it has been said by media that he had very very little control over anything in spite of the owner’s denials of this. However, he wasn’t able to pick up even cheap guys off the waiver wire or manage any simple trades. He wasn’t able to work around McLane. I blame the owner for most of the decisions made in the past 3 years, as most of them were strictly his own fault.
– I wrote at length about this in the HardBall Times

2. Who do you see as frontrunners for the GM position?

– unfortunately, Ed Wade
– if not him, whoever McLane thinks he can control best

Who is your personal favorite?

– Dan Evans or Logan White or Mike Arbuckle.

Do you think Drayton McLane will hire from within?

– I wouldn’t be surprised at all. Yesmen aren’t that hard to find.

Should he?

– If he wants to turn this franchise into the Orioles/Pirates

3. Does Cecil Cooper show any promise as a Major League manager — be it in Houston or elsewhere?

– He hasn’t done enough yet for me to judge him.
– However, anyone who is strongly pushed/endorsed as Cooper has been, by Bud Selig is someone I am immediately HIGHLY suspiscious of. Because I consider any “good” word said by Selig about anyone as the kiss of death, Cooper will have to work twice as hard as anyone else to earn MY endorsement. For some reason, McLane is extremely anxious to please Bud Selig on all matters and I would bet that Cooper WILL be manager next year unless he commits some heinous felony between now and the start of the year. This may also affect the hiring of a GM, as they may be told that a condition of emplayment is that they must accept Cooper as manager.

4. Brandon Backe is, um, back. How’s he looking?

– like a guy who had TJ surgery 12 months ago. Problems with control. Fortunately, we’re not going anywhere and I HOPE Cooper won’t be stupid and overuse him.

5. After undergoing season-ending elbow surgery, do you believe Jason Jennings will become a free agent, or will McLane try to re-sign him with the hopes he’ll justify “the trade” ?

– I’m having a very tough time getting a read on this. McLane is the one who ordered “The Trade” but Purpura took almost all the heat for it and Purpura is gone. Jason Jennings finished his 6 years so he IS a free agent whether or not McLane likes it, but I would guess it will depend on how much other teams offer Jennings. I would not be one little bit surprised if McLane thinks Jennings should take a lowball offer, but life ain’t like that and I am not sure he would agree to sign a guy to a long and expensive contract who is coming off elbow surgery and who didn’t tell the team for WEEKS that he was hurting.

If you were making the decision, what would you do?

– problem is that they have knowledge about Jennings’ elbow that I don’t have, such as how much more damage did they find?
– Astros fans seem to think he should be offered middle reliever money for a year, but he is going to get at the very VERY minimum Adam Eaton money (3 years for 24 million) and of course I’d just be gambling with someone else’s money. I would be open to a 3 year deal, provided there’s no no-trade. but I wouldn’t go over 11 million a year.

6. I imagine it’s safe to say that the Astros’ September is “open auditions” for 2008. Are there any youngsters in particular that you will be watching closely?

– J.R Towles, catcher. He wasn’t ever “projected” as a “real” prospect by the Organization, best I can tell, but he hit his way onto the AAA team and if he seems to handle himself well behind the plate and IF he catches, he might could be the starting catcher next year.
– Juan Gutierrez, RHP, starter who will most likely be relieving this monoth
– and unfortunately, that is just about all she wrote.

7. Ty Wigginton was a fan favorite when he came up with Mets. How are the Houston fans responding to his hard-nosed style of play?

– well, a whole lot of fans don’t care if a player can’t play defense worth a darn unless his name is Chris Burke and he is playing in center. As long as Wiggy keeps his batting average over .260, the fans won’t really care about anything else unless he strikes out looking instead of swinging. I can’t see him as a fan favorite. He’s just OK, mostly because he’s not Morgan Ensberg.

8. In addition to Jennings, Mark Loretta, Mike Lamb, Brad Ausmus, Orlando Palmeiro, and Trever Miller are potential free agents, and Craig Biggio is retiring. Do any of those “oldsters” come back in 2008, or is it rebuilding time?

– the Organization has made it more than clear to Mike Lamb that he shouldn’t let the door hit his butt on his way out. Ausmus has already been approached about being the backup next year and unless he gets a better offer from San Diego, he’ll be back. Miller will most likely be back because he’s a lefty. As for Palmeiro, I don’t really have a good read on how Cooper feels about him – Garner thought he was absolutely one of the most important players on the team. I would guess if they sign Rowand/Hunter to play center and move Pence to right, then they will use Luke Scott as the LH PH off the bench (what a WASTE, but they control his contract and they can do it) and Palmeiro will be let go.

9. Will Jason Lane ever come close to 2005, or was he a one-hit wonder? Time appears to be running out for the 30-year-old.

– I SERIOUSLY doubt he will be given another chance with the Astros. He might could catch on somewhere else.

10. Other than the Texans, who will you be rooting for down the stretch and into October?

– I detest football and wouldn’t ever root for ANY football team for ANY reason. That said, I would like to see the Brewers win. And I will always root for any NL team except the Cubs. But I will be totally stymied if the fall classic turned out to be Cubs vs Yankees/Red Sox, Fox’ greatest fantasy come true. I have no idea how I could possibly decide which team I hate least…

Thanks again to Lisa for her honest answers. Check out her great work at The Astros Dugout to learn all you need to know about the ‘stros.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.