Ever since joining the Astros Ed Wade has been under the microscope as team GM. Every week seems to offer someone defending or attacking Boffo's record in charge. Every week seems to produce articles spinning some new twist on what Wade is trying to accomplish with this team. This 38-82 team, waltzing to the worst record in baseball, the worst year in franchise history.
This year's crop of rookies, J.D. Martinez, Jose Altuve, Jimmy Paredes, J.B. Shuck and Jordan Lyles are up, just likeBrett Wallace, Chris Johnson and Jason Castro were this time last season. How are those guys doing? Oh, yeah.
I've read a lot of opining on the subject of front-office turmoil, and ignoring the pitiful win-loss record for a moment, it is difficult to discern a clear strategy. Some said that the Henry Sosa callup was purely motivated by Wade's need to showcase some of the pieces he acquired in July with Jim Crane due to take control of the franchise by the end of August. Sosa was one of the two pitchers acquired from the Giants for second-baseman Jeff Keppinger.
The move meant Wade had to clear a spot on the 40-man roster, leaving Tommy Manzella to be claimed off waivers by the Diamondbacks. Lucas Harrell is already on the roster, as is Aneury Rodriguez, the rule five pick, currently stewing in the bullpen. Even the good moves are tempered with bad ones. When they sent J.A. Happ down after poor start after poor start, they called up redoubtable Wesley Wright.
So far Martinez, Altuve and Paredes have hit the ground running. I'm waiting for Altuve's power to materialize, but scouting reports on Martinez's level swing seem to be unfounded, as he hit four home runs in his first week in the major leagues.
All of this makes you wonder, is Ed Wade running this team, and is Brad Mills having his hands tied behind his back by a GM making moves designed at ensuring he keeps his job rather than the good of the franchise?
He has acquired plenty of project arms for his bullpen, Mickey Storey, claimed off waivers from the Oakland A's, Josh Zeid, acquired in the Hunter Pence deal, Juan Abreu in the Michael Bourn trade and Jason Stoffel, the other player picked up from the Giants. This will allow Mills to cut some of the deadwood out of a shockingly terrible bullpen, and take the pressure off Mark Melancon and Wilton Lopez, sixth and seventh innings guys on a playoff team. Or perhaps we will be treated to a Brandon Lyon return, just so we can remember who gave him that 3-year $15m contract.
Good to see that Wade is proritising the important tasks, ignoring things such as putting together a competent rotation or a lineup that can hit home runs. Saying that, a bullpen that can save leads is not to be sneered at and with it we may be closer, if not at, our Pythagorean w-l record of 45-75, seven games higher than our actual record.
Mills meanwhile has his own problems to worry about, namely he's starting to make Cecil Cooper look good. I think fans could cope with the awful record if it weren't accompanied by bizarre outbursts by Mills. When the Astros lose, fans get angry. When Mills says Altuve will be a player who he will bunt a lot with, fans get pissed. Hyper inflated batting average or not this is a guy who had a .597 SLG% in the minors in 2011, had 10 HR, legged out 10 triples and 22 doubles in 87 games between Lancaster and Corpus Christi. He has power and Mills should allow him to flash it. Are you still confused every time Angel Sanchez gets at bats? Yeah, me too.
You also have to wonder how motivated Mills is wrapping up his second season as big league manager. This is not what he signed up for, babysitting a team full of rookies. As Timmy De Block said in last week's Crawfish Boxes podcast, Mills would probably make a decent manager on a good ballclub where he only had to shuffle players occasionally, but he has not appeared this season to relish the Jack McKeon role. Interference from the front office, if it is happening, must weary him further.
But who is calling the shots here? Brad Wade or Ed Mills? If the Astros re-sign Jason Michaels for 2012, who do you get mad at? If they make T.J. Steele their opening day center fielder for 2012, who do you blame? Tal Smith? Drayton McLane? At the rate MLB is going, he might still be the owner by the time next year's season gets underway. Damn you Frank McCourt. Why can't Bud Selig multitask?
I'm sure most GMs and managers work in harmony without treading on each others toes in the process, but is this happening with the Astros?
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